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CODY CHOVANCEK: PRESSURE MAKES DIAMONDS | UFC FIGHT PASS

Undefeated Canadian Aims To Claim Bantamweight Gold At Unified MMA 57 Before Following Teammates Into The UFC

Over the last couple years, Cody Chovancek has watched as a number of his teammates from Niagara Top Team in St. Catharines, Ontario have made the jump to the UFC and made an instant impression inside the famed Octagon.

In 2021, Jasmine Jasudavicius and Mike Malott each earned victories on Dana White’s Contender Seres (DWCS) and contracts to compete on the biggest stage in the sport, winning their respective debuts and posting positive overall results through their first two full years on the UFC roster. Last fall, fellow bantamweight Serhiy Sidey followed suit, debuting earlier this year at UFC 297 in an outstanding back-and-forth battle with his DWCS opponent, Ramon Taveras.

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“It’s so attainable,” said Chovancek, who takes on Gage Gill for the Unified MMA bantamweight title on Friday night in Toronto at Unified MMA 57, when asked about the inspiration and motivation he draws from watching his teammates flourish. “You put in the hard work, you go out there and you just keep grinding.

“There’s no secrets in this game — it’s just hard work, and that’s exactly what I see them do. I watch all the top people in the gym and they’re always consistent, always working hard, always striving to be better.

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"It’s so inspirational and it happens so fast,” continued the Petrolia native, who carries a perfect 6-0 mark into Friday’s clash with Gill. “My coaches say these things to the team every day and it happens so fast. I remember when Jas was just a couple pro fights in and then BOOM — she’s on Contender Series, and then BOOM — she’s fighting in the UFC.

“It happens so fast, and you’ve got to be ready for those opportunities, always striving to be better.”

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Coming off a 73-second knockout win over Harley King in his most recent appearance at Unified MMA 54 back in December, Chovancek was hoping to find his own way onto a UFC series earlier this year, applying for a spot on a cast of Season 32 of The Ultimate Fighter, where he would have competed up a division at featherweight.

The opportunity to spend several weeks sharing a house with 15 other hopefuls didn’t materialize, but the unbeaten prospect recognizes that he’s got an even greater opportunity in front of him this weekend.

“Didn’t get the call, but it is what it is,” he said in regard to his TUF ambitions. “The season is at ’45 and I had made the transition down to ’35. I knocked out a guy in just over a minute, I thought that would be enough, but maybe because it’s at ’45 (I didn’t get the call).

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“I think a lot of the featherweights they have on, correct me if I’m wrong, have pretty big records; most of them have a lot more experience and they wanted me to get another win, so that’s what I’m planning on doing next weekend. Hometown crowd, fighting for a belt on what is anticipated to be the biggest pro MMA show in Ontario — it’s super-humbling and I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Part of a two-event doubleheader for Unified MMA on Friday, June 14 and airing exclusively on UFC FIGHT PASS, Unified MMA 57 provides Chovancek with his first opportunity to headline a major regional event and his first championship opportunity, as well as the chance to return to action and further illustrate why he’s considered one of the top emerging talents in both Canada and the bantamweight division.

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It’s the type of opportunity that can test a young fighter’s mettle and provide early insights into how they may handle high-pressure situations somewhere down the line in their careers, but just a couple days out from making the walk again, the self-proclaimed “Best Fisherman in MMA” is excited, but also at ease.

“It feels great, and there is good reason, too,” he said when asked about the opportunity in front of him on Friday and being one of the top emerging talents in Canada. “I’m always trying to give the fans what they want to see and I’m putting in the work. I know I’m the next guy coming up, and I’m gonna go out there and prove it next weekend.

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“People are talking about the pressure, but pressure makes diamonds,” he added with a smile. “I love the moment. I truly enjoy getting out there to fight.

“The hard work is done, the weight is good, and now I get to go out there and beat somebody up for a belt and little bit of money, so let’s go.”

Just like most hopefuls competing in the regional circuit, Chovancek has designs on following the path his teammates have already laid out through the Contender Series and onto the UFC but understands that he first needs to handle business on Friday when he steps in with Gill.

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Similarly unbeaten in six pro starts, the 25-year-old Louisiana native is coming off his own first-round finish last time out, having stopped DeAndre Anderson at CFFC 127 last November to maintain his perfect finishing rate.

“I think he’s a fast starter and he’s aggressive,” Chovancek said of Gill. “He’s padded his record a little bit with lesser competition than I’ve fought, but I think he’s an aggressive striker, a great fighter. He’s well-rounded, but I think his style plays perfectly into my style; this is a great matchup for me.

“I think (a win here) solidifies my spot on Contender Series,” he added, laying out his vision of what the second half of the year looks like. “This fight could be a fight on Contender Series. You see some of the fights on there and a lot of the time it’s undefeated guys with similar records — 5-0, 6-0.

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“That’s what I’m hoping for, but I’ll be ready to defend the title if that doesn’t happen. I want to stay active.”

First up, he needs to go out and hand Gill his first career loss, claim the vacant Unified MMA bantamweight title, and bring it back to the Niagara Top Team gym, where it will be slotted into position as the most recent title won by a member of the team, though that might cause him a couple issues in his relationship with fellow NTT fighter Danielle Lentini.

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“All camp, all I see is gold; all I’ve been dreaming about is going out, getting that belt, coming back to the gym, and hanging it on the wall,” said Chovancek when asked about experiencing that title-winning moment inside the cage on Friday. “We’ve got a nice little spot where whoever won the last belt, it sits there, so front row.

“It’s actually my girlfriend’s belt that is up there right now,” he noted, “so it’s gonna be kind of funny to take her’s down and put mine up there.”