Brendan Allen has tunnel vision.
The 24-year-old middleweight, who returns to action Saturday in a bout against Ian Heinisch that was originally supposed to take place back in the summer, has logged three straight victories since graduating to the UFC through the Contender Series. In the process, the Louisiana native has established himself as not only one of the top emerging talents in the middleweight division, but on the roster as a whole, with this weekend’s clash with Heinisch carrying the potential to catapult him into the Top 15 a little more than a year after he made the trek into the Octagon for the first time.
Those are solid accomplishments, and the impressive nature of his rookie campaign in the UFC cage only becomes greater when you take a closer look at the results that carry him into this weekend’s bout looking to extend his overall winning streak to eight.
After dispatching fellow hopeful Aaron Jeffrey on the Contender Series, Allen scored a second-round submission win over Kevin Holland in his debut, following it up four months later with a first-round stoppage win over Tom Breese. When Heinisch was forced out of their initial meeting at the end of June, Allen rolled with the punches and recorded a unanimous decision victory over talented newcomer Kyle Daukaus, handing the Philadelphia native the first loss of his professional career.
Most 24-year-olds — most everyone, really — would happily take a few minutes to reflect on their accomplishments and take pride in what they’d achieved, but as it is becoming increasingly clear each time he steps into the Octagon, Allen is not like most of his contemporaries.
“It’s cool to see those things, but I don’t pay any attention to it,” he said of the three strong performances that carry him into Saturday’s meeting with Heinisch in Las Vegas. “It doesn’t mean anything to me right now. Every fight is my biggest fight, no matter whom it’s against and it doesn’t matter what you’ve done.
“I guess it’s cool, but honestly, I don’t really care. It’s done, it’s happened, and it has no impact on my life.
I just have to go out there every time and win; it’s that simple,” he added. “As long as I’m winning, I’m doing what I need to do. As long as I’m winning, everything is good.”
That isn’t entirely true.
Following his bout with Daukaus — a fight he won by unanimous decision, with scores of 29-28, 29-27, and 30-27 — “All In” expressed a great deal of frustration with his performance.
“It wasn’t my best performance,” he told Jon Anik at the outset of his post-fight interview. “I’m not too happy with myself, but I’ll be back better.”
Allen called his effort “lazy,” pointing to the swollen mass below his left eye as the price you pay for fighting that way, while promising to put the frustrating effort behind him and show improvement next time out.
“The frustration I had all stemmed from myself; it didn’t have anything to do with anyone else,” he explained when asked about his post-fight comments. “I thought I had gotten rid of the person that just wanted to knock somebody’s head off — I thought I got rid of that person four or five fights ago — but to go out there and do exactly that, it was really disappointing to myself.
“I felt like I was way better striking than him and I didn’t show that,” Allen continued. “It was super-frustrating that I let myself get into the mindset of “take what he has and give him back something even harder” when we were striking. I knew I wanted to prove a point, but the way I went about it was the wrong way to do it.”
Fighting without emotion and utilizing his full complement of tools has been a focus for Allen since his loss to Anthony Hernandez on January 26, 2018.
That night, with the LFA middleweight title hanging in the balance, he came out on the wrong side of the scorecards after putting forth an effort that left him annoyed and irritated, believing that he was capable of so much more.
He felt something similar following the bout with Daukaus.
“It’s good to learn something coming out of a win, for sure,” he acknowledged, begrudgingly finding a silver lining amidst his frustrations. “It was nothing to do with skill because there wasn’t any point where I was worried. I don’t think the fight was close.
“I feel I should have put him away in the first when I dropped him, but I guess I needed that (frustrating performance) to put me back to where I want to be mentally in terms of my thought process in order to fight somebody like this.”
An unexpected new wrinkle emerged as Allen readied to begin his preparations for his fight with Heinisch that has helped him get into the right frame of mind as he looks to extend his UFC record to 4-0 and potentially crack the Top 15 in the middleweight division.
Though he lives in Louisiana, Allen has always spent his training camps in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, working under highly respected coach Duke Roufus alongside a host of UFC veterans.
But with this fight against Heinisch coming together relatively quickly and his main training partner, Gerald Meerschaert, fresh off a 15-second knockout loss that would keep him from assisting Allen, the rising middleweight prospect opted to shift his preparations to Sanford MMA, the state-of-the-art new facility that houses the team that previously operated out of Hard Knocks 365 in South Florida under the leadership of Henri Hooft.
“I came down here to visit some friends and I couldn’t train because of my fractures and healing,” said Allen, who came away from his bout with Daukaus with three broken bones in his face, about how the shift to Sanford MMA came about. “I went to the gym to watch a friend of mine and after Gerald’s last fight, I had to make an adjustment due to a lack of training partners.
“It came together through Jared Gordon — he was my in to the team and the one who linked me up with Henri,” he added. “It was entirely circumstantial; it had nothing to do with the last fight whatsoever. It was circumstantial — something that came together quickly, and I had to pivot.”
After looking at his initial training camp with the Sanford MMA team as a trial process — a chance to gauge the fit, see how he meshed with the members of the team, and how practices were run — the laser-focused Louisiana native intends to make the permanent shift to preparing with the squad that includes fellow UFC middleweights Derek Brunson and Phil Hawes, as well as promotional newcomer Michael Chandler and welterweight contender Gilbert Burns.
“I’ve been asked if it’s permanent and, as of this point, I think it is,” said Allen. “I didn’t think about that coming into it, to be honest — I was just trying to focus on preparing for this fight. I didn’t know if I would like it, if they would accept me; there were so many variables.
“Now that I’m here and everything has gone so great and everyone has taken me in, I feel like this is a great fit for me. I think it’s a permanent move for me at this point.”
And with a great training camp behind him, it’s just about time for Allen to get back to business inside the Octagon.
He’s been chasing this fight with Heinisch since the two competed under the Legacy Fighting Alliance banner earlier in their careers and was disappointed when the pairing came apart back in the summer.
There is a little bit of heat between the two and words have been exchanged in the past, but as he prepares to make the walk to the cage in order to settle things with Heinisch and take the next step forward in his career, Allen is ready to let his actions on Saturday night speak for him.
“People ask me questions and I answer,” he said in his bayou-tinged tone. “I’m not talking trash; it’s just how I feel. You’re always going to get an honest answer from me. But I don’t really have anything to say.
“It’s going to happen so long as he shows up and does whatever he says he’s going to do this time, but I don’t have anything to say in regards to him,” he added. “I’m going to let it show on Fight Night.
“If he’s the better man, so be it, but I don’t think that is going to be the case.”