It’s one thing to fight as often as you can to rack up valuable experience as you try developing into the best fighter you can be. Fighting numerous top contenders time and again is a completely different challenge, but one that can provide the most beneficial results.
That’s the case for Devin Clark, who is on the outside looking in the light heavyweight rankings but has competed against three fighters in the Top 5 of the division: Aleksandar Rakic, Jan Błachowicz and Anthony Smith.
Despite losing all three of those bouts, there was plenty for Clark to take away from putting his skills to the test against elite level competition.
“It’s all experience,” Clark said. “A lot of those are losses against the top guys, they’re losses but I learned a lot from them because not only were they losses, but I did have some good points in those fights where I could have won those fights. So, it just reminds me how good I am and how good I can be. I just have to keep the tools sharp, stay focused and get the wins.”
All that experience, paired with moving to Denver, Colorado, to join Team Elevation, helped Clark develop skills that have revolutionized him as a fighter. His first fight with his new team was only four months ago at UFC Fight Night: Luque vs Muhammad 2, where Clark was coming off two consecutive losses and entering the last fight on his contract against William Knight.
With pressure mounting and a future contract with the promotion potentially on the line, “Brown Bear” needed a win. Clark succeeded, and then some, finishing Knight with an elbow in the clinch followed by a devastating left hook with one minute left in the third round.
“There was [a sense of urgency],” Clark said about his feelings before his bout with Knight. “That was the last fight on the contract, I was coming off two losses, I needed a win, some say I needed a finish, and I ended up getting the finish without really trying for the finish, it just kind of happened.”
“That fight, it was my first camp with Team Elevation, and it just shows all the stuff that I practiced was working and all the stuff we talked about and the stuff that we started doing had a reason.”
Now in his second camp with his new team heading into his UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Cruz bout against Azamat Murzakanov, Clark feels his relationships with his coaches and training partners are starting to click, and the developmental stage is at an all-time high.
One of the biggest areas for him to improve on was staying focused throughout the entire training camp and concentrating on doing the right things and, most importantly, getting the win.
“That’s where we usually get in trouble; when I get unfocused in these fights,” Clark said. “Especially the big fights. And then I end up losing for whatever reason. Hopefully those days are behind me.”
His next opponent, Murzakanov, is in the early stages of his Octagon career. Competing in only his 12th professional mixed martial arts bout, and second in the UFC, Murzakanov has yet to face the level of competition Clark has inside the promotion. However, his undefeated 11-0 record with nine finishes does make you wonder if his skills are on par with Clark and the contenders in the UFC light heavyweight division.
Clark is eager to test those skills and be the first person to leave a mark on Murzakanov’s unblemished record.
“It is nice because these guys don’t know they can lose until they do lose,” Clark said of beating an undefeated opponent. “I’ve been there, too, where I’ve had my first loss. After being undefeated I got signed to the UFC and then I lost my first fight in the UFC.”
“He’s 33, so he does have some experience, he’s not a kid coming in here, but he is a bit of rookie here in the UFC and I think we can take advantage of that a little bit. I also have to be aware that he is very dangerous and he’s undefeated for a reason.”
Even though Clark has seen plenty of improvements in his time with Team Elevation and throughout his UFC career, in general, he understands that he’s not perfect and he needs to prepare for the tough situations that might present themselves if Murzakanov can land a debilitating strike.
“Prepare to get hit,” Clark said of his training for this fight. “If I go in there and think I’m not going to get hit, he’s not going to touch me, I’m an idiot. He’s going to try to kill me, and he’ll get some hits in, but I have to be tough and have patience. If I’m getting beat up a little bit, I just have to have patience, redirect and take the fight where I want to take the fight, not let him gain control.
“I believe that’s where that experience comes in. Being in the UFC going against the top guys in the world, you do get hurt and you do have to make adjustments during the fight.”
UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Cruz took place live from Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California on August 13, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive all the action on UFC Fight Pass!