“I’m not cool enough,” Brendan Allen said, shaking his head, when I asked him about progress on getting Louisiana State University (LSU) purple and gold fight shorts to wear inside the Octagon. “I don’t have enough followers, I guess.”
While his 34,000 plus followers on Instagram may not be enough to get his wardrobe request pushed through, his current five-fight winning streak is plenty good enough to make the surging middleweight from “The Boot” a dark horse contender in the middleweight division as he heads into his first scheduled UFC main event this weekend opposite Paul Craig.
One of five former LFA middleweight titleholders currently active on the UFC roster, the 27-year-old Allen was always viewed as a promising talent as he rose through the ranks and punched his ticket to the biggest stage in the sport with a first-round submission win over Aaron Jeffery on Season 3 of Dana White’s Contender Series.
He hit the ground running, posting three straight victories before stoppage losses to current champ Sean Strickland and Top 15 mainstay Chris Curtis bookended a four-fight, 13-month stretch from mid-November 2020 to the close of 2021. Since then, “All In” has been “all win,” as he heads into Saturday’s meeting with the Scottish submission ace riding a five-right winning streak.
“I could say that those things shouldn’t have happened, but it happened, right?” Allen began, addressing his current form and extended run of success. “I can’t change it — all I can do is move on, grow, and try to get better at every aspect of fighting because it evolves so fast, guys get better so fast.
Brendan Allen Sit Down Interview With Brendan Fitzgerald
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Brendan Allen Sit Down Interview With Brendan Fitzgerald
“I don’t train where I live, so I have to evolve differently,” he added, “which leads to a different approach than most guys, especially age-for-age, fight-for-fight.”
Anyone that has watched his career unfold inside the Octagon will be quick to admit that Allen has definitely looked different during the last two years. Genuine confidence has replaced bravado, patience replaced impatience, and the results speak for themselves.
Over the last two years, Allen has earned five victories, four finishes, and three straight wins by way of rear naked choke, elevating him to No. 10 in the middleweight rankings, a position he feels is still too low given his performance.
When asked if he was able to pinpoint specific changes or shifts in his approach that have triggered his run of positive results, the Kill Cliff FC representative pointed to the ongoing work that he does with a sports psychologist, focusing on the way he speaks to himself and the pressure he puts on himself heading into each appearance.
“Probably just my mentality — dealing with the emotional rollercoaster that fights bring, and dealing with it in a healthy manner, rather than however I was doing it before because it wasn’t working,” Allen said, identifying the pieces he’s worked on the most outside of the Octagon. “I think it has led to me being able to perform close to how I do in training, and showing more of me every time, which people view as growth.
“It’s mostly self-talk and being able to have more mindfulness in regards to being able to catch things before they spiral,” continued the surging fighter, who carries a 22-5 record into his clash with Craig at the UFC APEX this weekend. “How I speak to myself, the pressure I put on myself, in and out of the cage.
“Pressure and self-talk are the big two, and the mindfulness helped with both of those.”
Allen has been on a mission to reach this point since touching down in the UFC, and his efforts towards becoming the best version of himself aren’t going to stop now that he’s broken into the Top 10 and put together a healthy winning streak inside the Octagon.
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Never one to get caught up in things like serving as the main event or having his picture on a fight poster, the proud father has always been more goal-oriented, but with a more of a focus on the here and now.
“Honestly, I haven’t ever really sat back and thought of it; I’m pretty go-with-the-flow and mind my business,” answered Allen, when I asked him about reaching the level many forecasted him to reach as he worked his way through the regional ranks and into the UFC. “I don’t really look back too, too much.
“I try to focus on the present, and the future, which sometimes gets me in trouble in every aspect of my life because when I’m thinking about the future, I’m not present. I have goals that I’ve set and I try to maneuver my way to reach those goals.”
While he’s not worried about what he’s done thus far, Allen will at least acknowledge that he’s getting closer to achieving his goals with each additional victory, and that he sees a win over Craig this weekend as just another step towards the UFC middleweight title.
“100 percent,” he said confidently when asked whether he’s happy with the progress he’s making towards his goals. “I think I win this, win one more, and then I should get a title shot if everything works out properly.
“Being champion is a big goal, obviously, and I’m close. I feel like I can see it. Win this one, and then I can smell it. Win another one, and then I’m the champion.
“It’s just a matter of time,” he added. “That’s my outlook, that’s how I plan it, but I have to stay focused, stay in the present, and see what happens next weekend because I don’t know what’s going to happen.
“Obviously I hope that I win. I’ve prepared as best as I can, and we’ll let the cards fall where they fall. I don’t know the outcome — I just know that I’m going to go out there and do the best that I can do.”
Standing in the way of that next forward step this weekend is Craig, who relocated to the middleweight division last time out with a second-round stoppage win over Andre Muniz after amassing an 8-6-1 record in 15 starts at light heavyweight, including notable wins over former title challenger Magomed Ankalaev and former champ Jamahal Hill.
But the burly Scotsman felt outgunned and outmatched in the 205-pound ranks, believing his size and talents played better at middleweight, and it certainly looked that way in July against Muniz, where he dominated the Brazilian, who Allen beat earlier in the year when the two were elevated to the main event after a bout between Nikita Krylov and Ryan Spann was scuttled on the day of the event.
“He’s tough, he’s fought good guys, and it’s up to me to make him quit,” Allen said in regards to his opponent on Saturday night. “I think I’m better everywhere. He probably thinks he’s better in some places, and if he’s delusional, he’ll think he’s better everywhere, but I know I’m better everywhere.
“It’s just about me going and being me, fighting like me. As long as I do that and I’m focused, I get him out of there before five, for sure, and I think I get him out of there before three, but it’s all up to me.
“It’s not about him at all in my eyes,” he continued. “The show is not about him. The main event is not about him. Nothing about this is about him — that’s how I view it — so it’s about me going out there and be Brendan.
RELATED: Talking With Paul Craig
“I don’t need to be anybody else; being Brendan Allen is good enough, and that’s what I need to go do.”
“Being Brendan Allen” has produced five straight victories, a Top 10 ranking, and a UFC main event, and if that winning streak gets extended to six this weekend in Las Vegas, Allen will be happy to head back to “The Bayou State” to be a dad, do some hunting and enjoy all the holidays that are on the horizon, which sounds like a pretty nice way to spend the next couple months.
“It’s not a bad setup as long as I win,” he said, smirking. “As long as I win, everything is good; life is good.”
Don't miss a moment of UFC Fight Night: Allen vs Craig, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prelims start at 2pm ET/11am PT, while the main card kicks off at 5pm ET/2pm PT.