When it comes to having the home field advantage, so to speak, in the UFC, few have it as good as natives of Australia. And it’s not just the fact that a loyal fanbase will pack the arena and cheer them on to victory, but that they don’t have to take the sometime horrific plane ride to get to the beautiful “Land Down Under.”
One of those Aussie standouts, Sydney’s Anthony Perosh, is certainly not going to apologize for it.
“All I can say is payback’s a bitch,” laughs Perosh, who, truth be told, is only a 10 minute drive away from the Allphones Arena where he will face Nick Penner on this week’s UFC on FX 2 card. “The last time I fought in England (at UFC 138 last November), it was a 24 hour flight. I guess it’s like with any sport. When you’re at home, everything’s easier. Your coach is here, your family’s here, your friends are here, and everything is here. Having a home crowd match is always a bonus.”
If recent history is any indication, Perosh isn’t in need of any extra advantages, as a return to the light heavyweight division in 2011 has seen him undergo a career resurrection (at least UFC wise), as he’s won two in a row, submitting both Tom Blackledge and Cyrille Diabate. It’s a far cry from his first go round in the Octagon in 2006, when dropped back-to-back heavyweight bouts to Jeff Monson and Christian Wellisch.
“For whatever reason, maybe my stint in the UFC in 2006 might have been a bit premature,” he said. “I didn’t really find a weight division I was comfortable at because I was heavyweight back then, and now I’m a light heavyweight and a much better light heavyweight. I didn’t have all the coaches and training back then, and at the same time I had my business to run. I got that up and running, and then when everything was sorted, I knuckled down and started fighting and winning.”
5-3 in MMA after the decision defeat to Wellisch at UFC 66, Perosh - a highly decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who owns 10 Australian titles and two Bronze medals from the World BJJ Championships – slowly worked his way back onto the UFC’s radar, winning five of his next seven bouts. Yet it was a fight week illness to Ben Rothwell that got Perosh a return call, and though he was stopped by Mirko Cro Cop on just a couple days’ notice at UFC 110 two years ago, it was the foot in the door he needed. Now with two straight victories, he’s kicking that door down.
“Everything I’ve done, I’ve always put my mind to it a hundred percent,” said Perosh. “I don’t go into anything half-assed and I do believe in myself. I know my weaknesses too. My weakness is in striking and some other parts and I made sure I found those coaches and found the sparring partners and do what it takes to actually compete and win in the UFC. So I’m gonna just take it one win at a time. I’m aiming for my third win in a row, and after that I’ll hopefully get even a bigger challenge.”
This week’s foe, once-beaten Canadian Nick Penner, is a newcomer to the Octagon and to Perosh, who doesn’t necessarily see that blind spot as a disadvantage, primarily because he’s fought much of his career focusing on his own game and not that of his opponent.
“When I was fighting on local shows, I didn’t know that much about my opponents, and my first win in the UFC against Tom Blackledge, I didn’t know too much about him, so I’m not worried,” he said. “I know a little bit about him (Penner), but I’m not too worried. I have goals for my training camp and a strategy for my fight, so my goal is to do that on the night.”
If Perosh appears to be calm, cool, and collected, that’s because he is. Credit for that doesn’t just go to his grappling background or his 18 pro fights over nine years in the game. It may just be because at 39, he’s not going to get rattled by much in or out of the Octagon.
“I don’t even look at the age,” he said. “I keep telling people I’ll retire if my body can’t keep up with the training. That’s the hard bit. It’s not actually the fighting, it’s the training. And if my body can’t keep up with the training and if I can’t get fight fit, then I’ll give it away. I’m not gonna hang around.”
But he’s not going to go away without a fight either, especially considering the time it took to get to this point. When Perosh turned pro in 2003, the idea of the UFC putting on events in Australia was just a dream. It was a dream he embraced though.
“I’m a forever optimist, so I was hoping,” he said. “Even from the fact that Australia is a big sporting nation and Australia doesn’t want to be left behind in anything. We’re already this big island in the middle of the ocean with nothing surrounding us, and we always try to keep up with everything. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sport or finance or whatever, we always want to be in there, and I think MMA was just a natural progression.”
And almost seven years after that first fight (actually first three fights, as Perosh won his first three bouts in a single night tournament), he got to see the Octagon in his home country when UFC 110 rolled in. This week’s event will mark the third in as many years on home shores, and Perosh is starting to see the sport break through to some people who would never have been exposed to it otherwise.
“I definitely see it from a school point of view,” said Perosh, who runs Sinosic Perosh Martial Arts with friend and UFC vet Elvis Sinosic. “People pick up the phone and call my school, and a lot more people are asking for MMA rather than BJJ or kickboxing, so that’s a big plus. Secondly, all other martial artists are interested in MMA. It’s not just BJJ or kickboxing; Taekwondo, Karate, and Kung Fu, they love it as well. But I still think it’s lacking a little bit in the general public. It hasn’t really hit free TV like it has over there (in the US), and the general public are still a little bit in the dark.”
That’s nothing a few more wins from one of the country’s favorite sons can’t cure, and that’s just what Perosh has planned for 2012.
“Three more wins, and that will put me in the top ten.”
Anthony Perosh - The Toughest 39-Year Old You Know
"Everything I’ve done, I’ve always put my mind to it a hundred percent. I don’t go into anything half-assed and I do believe in myself." - Anthony Perosh