Steve Montgomery had a plan. With a 7-2 pro record that included knockouts over UFC veterans Colton Smith and Jason Gilliam, as well as a four-fight winning streak, the Florence, South Carolina native figured another big win over another UFC vet, Brock Jardine, would be his ticket to the Octagon.
“I really hoped that would be my last fight before the UFC,” Montgomery said. It might have been too, as he stopped Jardine in the second round last Halloween. But then the plan got a new wrinkle to it before it all fell apart.
“I ended up hearing from (Ricardo) Liborio, and he told me to stay in shape because of the show,” he said, referring to the American Top Team boss’ suggestion that he compete for the Florida squad on season 21 of The Ultimate Fighter. “So I really started thinking this (the Jardine bout) was going to be my last fight outside the UFC. What I didn’t expect was to have a seizure on the show and then have six months of madness.”
“I like to think of it as a sign and direction from the universe that I’m not in control, I’m just along for the ride.”
At least that ride is on some smooth road these days, as the 24-year-old awaits his UFC debut tomorrow night against fellow newcomer Tony Sims. Sure, it was a late notice call when visa issues altered the Hollywood, Florida card significantly, but Montgomery didn’t care in the least.
“I’ve been daydreaming about this happening,” he said. “Ever since I saw that the TUF Brazil card was moved to the Hard Rock and our finale was moved to Vegas, I just daydreamed all day long. I would daydream about Uriah Hall taking a fight with me or about replacing somebody or just happening to be on there, like what walkout song I would use or who would be there.”
If you recall what happened to Montgomery on The Ultimate Fighter, you would have assumed that all of the above was just a dream. While cutting weight for his bout on episode four, he suffered a seizure due to hyponatremia, a mixture of drinking too much water without taking in electrolytes with it. It was a frightening scene, one Montgomery doesn’t remember. What he does remember is waking up in an ambulance wondering what happened.
“I would have been a lot more nervous had Sabah (Homasi), my teammate, not been right there in the ambulance to tell me exactly what happened,” he said. “And then as soon as I get out of the ambulance and into the hospital, the hospital told me what happened and how minor it was and how lucky I was that it was only minor. So right away, before my nerves even had a chance to mess with my mind, I had people calming me, and (ATT owner) Dan (Lambert) stood by my side the whole time. He told me, ‘if you keep doing what you’re doing and you go fight on these local shows, my number one goal this year will be to get you in the UFC. I will not fail you.’ So I had such good support right off the bat that I didn’t even have time to get on a down note.”
He was prepared to go back to the local circuit to fight his way into the UFC, but even that was proving to be a Herculean task.
“The process was insane,” Montgomery said. “From my point of view, I had to fight once, maybe even twice, to get my record to 10-2 and show them I could fight healthy to even get a shot. So I’ve had probably six fight contracts signed, then they backed out, as well as another 30 opponents who we almost got to sign a contract. I had a show back out on me on weigh-ins May 22. I had a show on May 9 back out, so I’ve been getting ready to fight and peaking over and over this year, wishing that it wasn’t going to be on a local show. And to know that I don’t have to fight on a local show and I’m saved from that regional scene, it’s just such a blessing. It really is.”
All that’s left is to make that walk tomorrow night.
“For me, I already won,” he said. “I just have to go out there, have fun, and put on an amazing fight, which I’m going to. I always go for the finish. When I’m out there, I’m fighting on animal instinct. I’m not thinking ‘oh, if I get him on the cage for three minutes, I can win this.’ No. I better finish him or he’s gonna finish me.”
Sounds like a plan.