At 25 years old and with just seven pro fights to his name, Aleksa Camur is a work in progress.
As such, every fight, every training camp, every experience can – and should be – a learning lesson. So while a November Instagram post of Camur and his girlfriend at Universal Studios in Orlando would just be a vacation shot for most, for the Clevelander, it was a sign that he’s learning to enjoy the ride.
“I think I struggle with that the most out of everything,” said Camur. “I kind of noticed in my last fight, I was super strict on myself, and I didn't allow myself to have fun. That's one of the reasons I think everybody gets into the sport. An NFL player would go to work and have a blast. Why shouldn't I have a blast, too? I've been learning a lot about myself and I'm definitely ready to have a good time inside and outside the cage. There's no reason why I can't do both.”
That doesn’t mean the work stops, and it definitely doesn’t in the Strong Style gym, but there has to be a balance, so when the work for the day ends, a smile or two or some downtime with friends and family isn’t such a bad thing.
“We're strictly business in the gym, however we do like to have fun,” Camur said of his work in the gym that is home to former heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. “We do have our moments and I do think a lot of people take from Stipe in that way. Stipe is the top dog in the gym, obviously, and a lot of people look up to him and he rubs off on a lot of people and sets a good example. Everybody sees the way he carries himself outside the gym, before fights, during fights, and they take after him. I think what we do is good for the long-term - we're strictly business, we're good with fixing our mistakes, and the coaches are great with coaching such a disciplined team.”
But are the rest of the team members allowed to prank such a noted prankster as Miocic?
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“We're allowed, but the question is, who's gonna do it,” asks Camur. “Someone tells me to do it, I'm standing on the side.”
He laughs, content in knowing that while he may not be pranking the heavyweight icon anytime soon, Miocic does have his back in the gym and outside it. And as Camur prepares for a Saturday bout with Nicolae Negumereanu in Las Vegas, the focus is simply on getting back in the win column after the first loss of his career to William Knight last September. It was a tough decision defeat that Camur has no excuses for, but he does know that he is better than he was that night, so the waiting hasn’t been easy.
“I definitely wanted to get back earlier,” he said. “I believe shortly after the Universal trip, I started getting back into training and everything was good. I got an injury that put me out for a few months, which was upsetting, but we worked it back - I had to rehab it pretty good and I got in contact with some good people that are good with recovery stuff and I was able to get back into training and now we got this one. I gotta be grateful for what I have now, and I'm trying to keep the past behind me with injuries and what not and live in the present.”
In this new present (and future), Camur’s goals are clear: fight, fight and fight some more.
“I would love to be super active,” he said. “In a perfect world, I'm sure everybody would. I see myself as a Cowboy (Cerrone) type of fighter. I'd like to get to the point where I'm fighting multiple times a year. When I turned pro on the local circuit, I think I had a total of four fights in a year. It was a lot but I'd like to have that, especially in the UFC. I want to get as much cage experience as possible and I see myself as one of those fighters that want to be constantly rotating into the fight cards and constantly getting fights, getting cage time, and entertaining the people.”
That would be Cerrone-esque. More importantly, as he learns on the job at the highest level of the game, the more he fights, the better he’ll get, and that’s the point. That is a double-edged sword, though, because if he gets in four fights in the next 12 months in a wide open light heavyweight division and wins all of them, he could be in the top ten and talking about a title bout by this time next year. That’s a heady proposition for anyone.
“At the moment, if somebody were to ask me to fight for the belt, I would obviously say yes,” Camur said. “Would I be the most ready? I could probably be more ready than I am now if I'm fighting someone at the caliber of (champion Jan) Blachowicz. Clearly, there's so much improvement to be made, and I'm counting on the time between now and then to sharpen everything up. So I know I'm gonna get a good amount of fights, I'm gonna be training and be in those camps, I'm gonna learn about myself and I'm counting on that down time between now and getting to the top of the division to sharpen up. So I believe in this year and a half, if I go on a nice winning streak, I think for sure I'll be ready for that. I'm a teachable fighter, I'm a sponge, and I learn from my mistakes.”
The first one was not enjoying being 25 years old, in the biggest MMA show in the world, and having a bright future in that show. But he took care of that one. Now it’s on to bigger and better things.
“I want to make sure I make every second count and make some memories in there,” Camur said. “I want to create a legacy in the cage.”