With the UFC APEX Octagon directly behind him, Dan Ige picked up the microphone to do his interview with UFC.com. He paused, closed his eyes, and then took a deep breath.
It wasn’t the type of deep breath you take when you’re nervous or when you’re dreading something, but the type you deliver when you’re soaking in the moment. And that’s exactly what Ige was doing.
“It feels weird to say, but I feel like a completely different person,” Ige started. “I feel like I’m a 0-0 fighter again. I’m starting with a clean slate in life. I just feel good. I feel grounded.”
Dan Ige vs Movsar Evloev | Co-Main Event Preview
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Dan Ige vs Movsar Evloev | Co-Main Event Preview
After coming up short in three of his last four UFC bouts, Ige knew he had to identify what was missing. Those three losses came at the hands of some of the best in the world: Calvin Kattar, Chan Sung Jung, and Josh Emmett. But that’s no excuse in Ige’s eyes.
Ige believes he absolutely could have defeated those men. He wasn’t the better fighter on that day, but he doesn’t doubt for a second that he is one of the best featherweight fighters on the planet.
With that in mind, Ige took a half-year off to mentally reset and find the fire he had lost.
“I had to go back and remember why I fight. I love this,” Ige said. “I’m resetting. I’m 0-0 again, this is all new for me. I’m just out there having fun. When I was on a six-fight winning streak and I had the company and the machine behind me and they were pumping me up, hyping me up, and giving me main events, you can buy into your own hype. That’s a dangerous thing to do.”
Ige learned that lesson the hard way and now he’s pleased to extend the same courtesy to his UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Rozenstruik opponent, Movsar Evloev.
“He’s 15-0, I’m sure he’s buying into his own hype a little bit, and he truly believes he’s going to go out there and beat me,” Ige said. “But I’m going to have to go out there and teach him a lesson just like I’ve been taught lessons. I’ve been up there and fought the best guys in the world, but this is no different than any other fight.”
Ige has been impressed with what Evloev has shown in his five UFC victories, pointing out Evloev’s poise and patience as two of his best attributes. Even though he respects Evloev’s skill set, Ige isn’t sure why the odds have him as a 4-1 underdog for their co-main event bout.
Frankly, he isn’t happy with it.
“I feel a little disrespected,” Ige said. “The odds have me as a big underdog and that’s just insane because this guy is just another human and I’m not going to let him do whatever he wants.
“Honestly, I don’t want to take away anything from his accomplishments; he’s fought pretty good guys, but he hasn’t faced the level of competition that I’ve faced. I’m out there willing to test myself against the best. I’m sure that no one in the Top 15 wants to fight an undefeated Russian that not a lot of people know about, but I’m that guy.”
As “that guy,” Ige wants to push Evloev like he’s never been pushed before. There were moments where Hakeem Dawodu challenged Evloev at UFC 263, but Evloev was never in major danger during their bout.
Ige is going to make sure that changes on Saturday.
“What haven’t we seen? We haven’t seen him face adversity. I’m surprised because a lot of these guys go in to fight him and they aren’t even in shape. They come in and gas out. They frickin’ quit on the ground, they are flabby, they are out of shape, flat footed and that’s not me. I’m in the best shape of my life,” Ige said. “I got two frickin’ lunchboxes for hands and two mailboxes for feet and he’s going to run into something. I’m going to be the guy. My name is adversity and I’m going to show him adversity.”
It’s those moments where the fight is up for grabs that Ige believes he breaks fighters, and he wants to see how Evloev handles that situation.
“That’s the beauty of this sport,” Ige said. “It all comes down to one night and I can’t wait to go out there and show that I am one of the best fighters in the world.
“I’m not putting this pressure on myself to go in there and get a big knockout or get a sweet victory or anything. What I’m looking for is to go out there and be free, because when I’m free, I’m at my best. If I can go out there and have fun, be present, be in the moment, let loose, take risks, and have fun with it, I can’t be beat.”
UFC Fight Night: Volkov vs Rozenstruik, took place on Saturday, June 4, 2022, live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!