This weekend was supposed to be an opportunity for some downtime for Sean Strickland. But, instead of enjoying a little R&R, the middleweight contender has answered the call and is all set to compete in the main event of UFC Vegas 67.
It means Strickland is completing a remarkable turnaround as he follows up on his main event appearance in the final UFC show of 2022 with another headline spot in the first UFC event of 2023.
Chatting to the media at the UFC Apex ahead of his short-notice light heavyweight clash with French contender Nassourdine Imavov, Strickland explained how he came to be sat on the dais fielding questions, when he could have been strapping on a snowboard and hitting the slopes.
“I was currently planning a snowboarding trip and then Mick (Maynard, UFC matchmaker) calls me and I’m like, ‘Oh, Mick is going to ask me to do something I don’t want to do,'” he began.
“So he calls me and he’s like, ‘Hey, you want this fight?’ I’m like, ‘God damn it, Mick! I haven’t done anything for a month. I’ve been sitting on my ass! I’ve been planning a snowboarding trip.’
“Then his suave Australian motherf*****g ass says, ‘We’ll pay you a decent amount of money,’ and I said, ‘Well god damn it, I’m your f*****g huckleberry. Let’s go f*****g fight a man!'”
It’s an opportunity for Strickland to immediately erase the memory of his last two bouts, which saw him fall to back-to-back defeats for the first time in his 30-fight professional MMA career.
He was brutally knocked out by a championship-bound Alex Pereira at UFC 276, then he was outpointed via split decision in a very close five-round main event at UFC Fight Night 216 in December.
It’s left Strickland, who was on the cusp of a title shot at 185 pounds, looking to reset as he gets ready to step back into the line of fire in the first UFC event of the year.
Standing across the cage is French contender Nassourdine Imavov, the No. 12 middleweight contender who was originally set to face 13-ranked Kelvin Gastelum before Gastelum was ruled out of the bout just before fight week got underway.
In stepped Strickland, who didn’t really have anything positive to say about his opponent as he stoked the fires ahead of fight night in Las Vegas.
“I’m not even you going to try to f*****g say that name, man,” Strickland said of Imavov.
“Let’s call him the Frenchie. And if we’ve learned anything about the French – what are the French best at? Giving up. So, I haven’t really watched him fight.
“I know he likes to bang, he throws big punches, but he’s still f*****g French, man. That’s a hard thing to move past. There’s a lot of history of cowardice to move on from when you’re f*****g French.
“So maybe he’s in there to prove a statement. Maybe he’s going to say that his country has f*****g finally left the cowardice behind, but I don’t f*****g know. Only thing the French are good at is having affairs and giving up and losing fights. But we’ll f*****g find out. Maybe he’s different.”