A little over a year ago, Canadian welterweight Sean Pierson had gotten his dream gig – a shot in the UFC after more than a decade of toil in a sport that wasn’t even legal in his home province of Ontario.
Since then, he’s split two fights in the Octagon, fought in front of the largest crowd in UFC history (and in Ontario no less), has become a spokesperson for the organization’s anti-bullying campaign, and is getting ready for his Las Vegas debut this Friday against Dong Hyun Kim. It could be enough to make a man a little jaded. But not this man.
“Everybody asks how your life has changed,” said Pierson. “And it’s the little things. I feel like I don’t work anymore, and it’s not because I don’t work, but when you do what you love, it’s not considered work. When I come into the office every day and train, I don’t necessarily think I’m working. And that’s the biggest thing for me. I could be going through the grocery store, and a couple people want to take pictures of me, and I’m no celebrity, obviously. But in my own little hometown and here in Toronto I’ve got a fanbase, so it’s a little bit weird for me. And the fact that I am a role model for a lot of my students and kids around is showing that if you try and put your head down and work hard, you can accomplish your dreams. That, to me, is huge, and I’ve succeeded in life just being a strong role model for some people. So I’m real happy with that.”
Maybe it’s that Canadian affability, but more likely it’s the idea that at 35, Pierson appreciates the little things more than some 21-year old hot shot who has come firing out of the gates, tearing through everything in his path. For a husband and family man who has struggled for years to get this point while working a full-time gig for Dell Computers to put food on the table, every ray of sunshine in his professional life is one to be savored, not scoffed at. Even in his second Octagon fight, against Jake Ellenberger at UFC 129 in April, he’s able to look at the positives of the situation, and not solely at his knockout loss. Yeah, it stinks to lose, but being part of history while competing in front of over 55,000 fans tempered that harsh blow.
“It was an honor and a privilege and a great time overall,” said Pierson, who was looking to follow up his UFC 124 win over Matt Riddle with a second UFC victory before being caught by the power punching Ellenberger in the first round. “You look at it and everybody goes ‘oh, you lost the fight,’ but life doesn’t suck. I’m in the UFC. And that’s all I gotta say. I had a dream, I chased the dream, I’m living the dream. That’s what it really comes down to. You’re gonna win some, you’re gonna lose some, and I’m just gonna go out there every time and do my best and try and put a show on for the fans.”
The victory over Riddle would have been a lock for Fight of the Night honors if the decision on that award was in the hands of the UFC brass and not the viewers who voted on the one-sided Georges St-Pierre win over Josh Koscheck, and despite being known for his wrestling background, Pierson showed no signs of backing down in the face of Ellenberger’s heat, so putting on a show has become second nature for Pierson. But as a father of a young son, there are other aspects to his life, so when asked to join in the UFC’s initiative to address bullying while in Toronto for UFC 140 earlier this month, Pierson jumped at the chance.
“It’s an honor for me,” he said. “One, being a father, any kind of stuff that involves kids, it’s hard for it not to hit home, wondering is my son gonna be okay growing up, and this and that. And you go to all these different charities when it comes to kids and I didn’t realize how hard it hits me now that I do have a son versus before. It always meant a lot; it just hits you a lot harder now.”
“I grew up with positive role models, but I understand that a lot of kids don’t, so I just want to be there to show people that there are people out here that care for you and that there are ways out,” he continues. “The big difference when people were being bullied when we were younger and now is that it’s a little harder to get away from now. With things like Facebook and Twitter, there are more ways to be bullied, and it hits a bigger crowd than it did before. If you were bullied in school in your classroom, when you’re not in school it wasn’t affecting you as much. And I’m using that loosely, because I don’t know. But nowadays, you go home and open up your computer, you’re gonna see it again and again and again, and it’s never-ending.”
Pierson’s presence at these anti-bullying gatherings added to a list of positives that make it impossible not to cheer for the Scarborough native, and with his first pro fight outside of Canada coming up, it’s time for him to start letting the world in on the secret of the newly dubbed “Punisher.”
“Obviously most of my fanbase is probably Canadian and I realize that most of my fans are really my friends just acting as fans,” he laughs. “But hopefully I can put on some exciting fights and start building a strong US fanbase, and wherever I fight, I’m hoping the fans like what I put out there. I wear my heart on my sleeve pretty much, and I go out there, throw bombs, and I just try to fight.”
He’s likely to get a fight out of Korea’s Kim, an aggressive battler looking to bounce back from a knockout loss of his own against Carlos Condit in July. It was the first defeat of Kim’s career, and while he will enter the Octagon as the favorite on Friday, don’t expect that to rattle Mr. Sean Pierson, a confident Canadian eager to introduce himself to Las Vegas fight fans.
“He’s a great grappler with great takedowns and underrated boxing, and I think he poses a lot of problems for me,” said Pierson of Kim. “But at the same time, I think I’ve got some tricks that are certainly gonna cause some problems for him too, and that’s what’s gonna make this fight interesting. On paper a lot of people are counting me out and I’m a big underdog I assume, but the one thing I know is that I’m not an easy fight for anybody. I’m gonna go out there, upset his plans, and come out and bump myself up those rankings.”
Pierson Amped Up For Vegas Debut Against Kim
"On paper a lot of people are counting me out and I’m a big underdog I assume, but the one thing I know is that I’m not an easy fight for anybody." - Sean Pierson