Jared Gordon made headlines prior to his last appearance in August when he told the assembled reporters at his media availability that rather than bring him fulfillment, competing in mixed martial arts makes his life worse.
“In the comments, people were like, ‘Well go get a different job then!’ Gordon said with a chortle. “It went right over their heads.”
To be clear, the veteran lightweight, who squares off with Paddy Pimblett in the co-main event of UFC 282 this weekend at T-Mobile Arena, still very much loves the sport — he loves martial arts, competing, fighting for the UFC, and winning fights; they just don’t bring him the kind of lasting fulfillment that carries him much beyond a couple days after his fights.
“Three days after I win a fight, I’m like, ‘All right, now what? What do I do now?’” explained the 34-year-old. “You can’t ride on that glory forever, so it only makes you feel good for so long.
“If I fight Saturday, that’s fun, and on Sunday, you’re still excited; you’re wherever you are, you have the flight home, you’re staring at your Instagram and all your inboxes. And then the messages stop coming, the hype is over, and it’s Monday morning — my wife is going back to work, I’ve gotta pick up the wee-wee pads for my dog and walk my dog, and we’re back to regular life.
“The only thing that gives me real fulfilment is God, my family, my friends, and helping other people, and that’s why I fight: I want to use my platform to help people like me,” he added. “That’s why I do this, and on December 10th, I have a huge opportunity to make my platform even bigger, so that’s what I’m going to do.”
In a little more than a year, Pimblett has become the favorite call-out target of lightweights with ambitions of upward mobility within the 155-pound weight class — the popular new kid that many see as an express ticket to bigger opportunities, resulting in myriad competitors trying to pick a fight with the charismatic and streaking Liverpool native.
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As a result, some will see Gordon’s suggestion earlier this year that he and Pimblett square off as the New York native and South Florida resident getting in on the action and now holding the winning lottery ticket.
In reality, the idea of the two men facing off goes back a couple years, and was originally something Pimblett suggested.
“For me, it started on Fight Island,” began Gordon, outlining the journey that has led him to sharing the Octagon with the 27-year-old rising star this weekend in Las Vegas. “I fought his teammate, Chris Fishgold, and I won.
“I don’t know how long later it was that Paddy got signed to the UFC, but in an interview, the interviewer was asking him, ‘Who do you want to fight for your debut?’ and he named like three or four people. It was me, Herbert Burns, and one or two other guys. He wanted to fight me because I beat his teammate and he wanted to get that one back for his team. That didn’t happen in his debut, and then he fought two more times after that, and it’s been the same thing after every fight: he’s like, ‘I’d like to fight Jared Gordon next.’
“He fought Jordan Leavitt, and then I fought Leo Santos, and he was like, ‘If Jared wins his next fight, I’d like to fight him,’” continued Gordon. “It hasn’t been since he’s gotten really popular that I’ve been calling him out, and it’s not even been me — it was him that was calling me out.”
After a couple years of having the timing not work out properly, Gordon and Pimblett will finally share the Octagon together on Saturday, with the bout being elevated to the co-main event after the unfortunate injury to Jiri Prochazka and his light heavyweight title fight with Glover Teixeira being nixed.
Some people would call that good fortune.
Others would suggest it was just happenstance.
For Gordon, he sees it as a byproduct of simply doing the things that he was meant to do, and God taking care of the rest.
“It was just like the Bridge of Incidents,” said Gordon, referencing an idea related to manifestation coined by Neville Goddard, which refers to the events that lead to a desired outcome. “I just walk towards fulfilling certain things and this is just the way that it happened.
“We weren’t slated to be the co-main, but someone got injured and now they moved us up,” he added. “I’m not calling the shots here — I’m just walking in the direction that I think I should be walking, and it’s gotten me to this point, so here we are.”
Saturday night, he’ll walk into the Octagon against the burgeoning star, focused on handing Pimblett his first UFC defeat.
While no one can deny that the Liverpool man has a magnetic charm and genuine good heart, the question of where he fits within the division was being asked even before he made his promotional debut. In many instances, a fighter earning a trio of stoppage victories would silence the critics — or at least turn the volume down on their critiques — but it feels like the opposite has happened with Pimblett.
Each time he gets a win, the chorus of voices singing about the level of competition he’s faced and the mistakes that he’s made while still collecting a positive result have gotten louder, with many eager to see him dropped into a matchup like this one.
“I see a guy that is unpredictable,” Gordon said, when asked for his assessment of Pimblett. “He goes for it, he’s not afraid, he’s funky, but he also has a lot of holes. I’ve been working to exploit those holes and that’s what’s going to happen.
“I know I’m the more technically sound fighter, I know I’m the better fighter, but he’s unpredictable, so I’m just going to have to be cautious.
“I see it being gritty at first and then he starts to fade, and then I just smother him with pressure on the feet, pressure on top,” he added. “I know I’m levels above him and it’s going to show on Saturday.”
And if that is how things play out this weekend, hopefully the good vibes from such a high-profile victory will last beyond Sunday, prompting Gordon’s wife Christina to take Monday off so the two can really kick back and enjoy a couple extra days of revelry before getting back to the realities of everyday life.
“I hope so,” Gordon said with a laugh. “I’m hoping that we’re going to do something after I win.”