What does it take to make a UFC champion? Some say it takes full time dedication with no distractions and no other mission.
But TUF 8 alum Phillipe Nover, a full time cardiac cath nurse in one of Brooklyn, New York’s busiest hospitals, thinks the current heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic - a full time EMT for Cleveland’s Bravest - has put an end to that notion while also inspiring “The Filipino Assassin” in the next, and perhaps biggest, fight of his career.
Nover will take on former bantamweight champion Renan Barao in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Cyborg vs Lansberg in Brasilia, Brazil on FOX Sports 1 Saturday night.
“I have never met Stipe, but I can’t wait to,” Nover said. “I’m sure as a first responder he’s seen some of the horrible things I’ve seen as a nurse, but to have that is something that not many in our game experience. It’s intense, but there’s also a sense of security that I think as I get older, I have come to really appreciate. When you’re in that position it takes so much pressure off of you as a fighter. And that’s how I feel right now too. You have to think long term and what you’re going to do when you’re 40 years old. There are jobs out there you can maintain while you’re an athlete. I have tremendous respect for Miocic and I would love to meet him. It’s inspiring to know that you can have a full time job and still be a world champion.”
Nover will experience what It’s like to fight a world champion inside the Octagon against Barao, although at a higher weight than where Barao once ruled.
“He is a true bantamweight, but there he holds the most consecutive wins in MMA,” Nover said. “He’s a super talented guy. He’s the most perfect opponent for me. He’s someone I’ve studied a lot. I know his weaknesses and I’m going to expose them. I think just being involved in this sport for so long and going through fights, you analyze things so differently than when you first start. At this point I feel like it’s finally my time.”
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At 32 years old, Nover believes he’s finally coming into his own. He’s been a martial artist since age ten, when he first got a taste for competition and winning. He says that he doesn’t fight for money or even glory. He fights because he loves to.
“It’s something that is just in my DNA,” he said. “Although I fought in the main event at the TUF finale, this will be my first co-main event and I’m super excited. This is the biggest moment of my career right now. I am the most mature I’ve ever been and I do feel this is the best I’ve ever been. Renan Barao is such a huge name and a win over him will propel me to the top of my division.”
“It’s something that is just in my DNA." --Phillipe Nover
Nover has always been somewhat of a nomad in training. On any given day one may see him in New Jersey with Team Frankie Edgar, in New York City at Renzo Gracie Academy, or even out on Long Island with Ray Longo. The one constant has been his corner, however, with Church Street Boxing’s Jason Strout and Lehigh wrestling great Dave Esposito from Edge as his full time coaches. Putting all of that together, he believes he has all the tools to make a run and to realize the potential UFC Dana White saw in him when he competed on The Ultimate Fighter.
“Look, I wasn’t ready for that,” Nover said. “And obviously I’ve had my ups and downs in my career. But here I am now. I’m not about to call anyone out until I’m on that microphone post victory, but I have people in mind who I want to fight. First things first and that’s beating Barao. I have to become the dragon that I once was. I have to just be me and let that old, hungry kid come out of me. Being a professional fighter is a real process. You have to risk every ounce of energy, muscle and cell in your body. It’s about reputation. It’s about your mental state. It’s about time. But it’s also about putting yourself out there and doing it.”
Fighting Barao in Brazil will not be an easy experience for Nover, but he says he embraces the boos and respects the fans’ sentiment.
“I’ve fought in enemy territory, and when fans boo me I laugh it off,” he said. “As long as I can listen to my corner and I’m mentally focused I will be fine. If the audience claps for me I’m happy but if they boo me I’m okay with that too. The real fans know that without me, they won’t be watching their favorite fighter in Barao. I think they understand that they want me to be healthy. They want me to show up. They want me to push their favorite fighter to fight his heart out. That’s what they’re there for. And that’s what Renan and I are there for.”