I was actually hoping a big performance over in London against Thales Leites would open up an opportunity for me to have a quick turnaround to fight on the UFC Rotterdam card. That was definitely something I was pushing for. But once the main card was confirmed for Holland, I didn’t know what was happening. Then the phone rang.
I really didn’t have any expectations to be on the UFC 200 card when I was fighting last, but when the call came to fight it was easy to answer. After fighting MMA professionally for 13 years and having had 46 fights across Europe, Japan and North America – to finally be fighting in Las Vegas is incredible.
After a big win, opportunities like this come up and I’m really looking forward to fighting in Las Vegas for the first time – something that’s alluded me throughout my career. This is the reason why I am in the UFC, for nights like this.
I had hoped to be fighting Anderson Silva or Michael Bisping next, opponents I have either been scheduled to fight or been linked with in the last year or so, but those fights will have to wait. First I have Derek Brunson to deal with – and he’s another tough guy with big aspirations of his own.
Looking back, I let myself down against Uriah Hall in September. It was a setback. I was actually largely happy with my performance in the opening round but I remember just being so desperate to finish the fight. It was a big mistake. I wanted to take him out in spectacular fashion – and that attitude backfired.
I put that loss behind me quickly with the win in London. I actually wanted to fight Bisping, as he’s a big name, but I was just happy to be fighting. Thales Leites, like Brunson, is a dangerous opponent. He’s not much of a big name, but a tough guy, so I was happy with my performance – even if the fans weren’t. I was under pressure in that fight. I mean, what guy wants to lose two fights in a row? I’ve never lost back-to-back fights in my career.
I was exactly what I said I would be against Leites, too. I was smart, sharp and accurate. I won every round and I left him beaten and bruised. What more can I do? He didn’t want to engage with me. There were times he almost refused to fight. I can’t make a fight entertaining on my own, but I got the victory and I want to move forward.
I don’t expect Brunson to be so negative in Las Vegas. It should be a special atmosphere and a big night of fights. I just plan on being the biggest winner on the night and making a case for the next shot at the championship belt with my performance.
Honestly, I believe I’m two, maybe three wins away form a UFC title shot right now. I win this next fight with Brunson, win again before the end of the year against a top five guy and then I’m ready for my chance at the start of the new year. Things can happen quickly, so I just have to be the guy who’s winning when the opportunity arises.
Make no mistake, I want a title shot. No disrespect to Brunson, but I know a win at UFC 200 will still not get me that fight. The only way I get that is by beating a big name, so I’ll be pushing my name forward come UFC 200.
This article was first published in the June 2016 edition of Fighters Only.