Word travels fast at the Blue Shamrock.
So when patrons at the pub on Market St heard that one of their own, Jay Perrin, had been signed to the UFC for a fight this weekend against Mario Bautista, they christened him “The New Pride of Lowell.”
The original pride of the Massachusetts city? None other than Micky Ward, who has more than a passing relation to the UFC’s newest bantamweight.
“He was in my parents’ wedding,” laughed Perrin. “He was my dad’s groomsman. I’ve known him and (Ward’s brother) Dicky (Eklund) my whole life.”
You hear that and assume that it was almost inevitable that Perrin would find his way into the fight business. But it wasn’t boxing that the “Savage” gravitated to at the age of 14, but mixed martial arts. And today, at 28, he’s at the pinnacle of his chosen profession.
An “overnight success” that has spent half his life chasing this dream.
“There are certain days, and I'm sure other fighters feel this way, especially during the COVID thing, where I was like, damn, I haven't learned a single skill other than this for 14 years. And what happens if it goes away? I have plans for after fighting and hopefully they work out, but sometimes I look in the mirror, and I go, damn I've been doing this for a long time.”
You could say that it all worked out for the best, considering that Perrin is now a UFC fighter, but that would be shortchanging the years when things didn’t work out, when the New Englander wondered if he would ever get that call. Those times are part of the story, especially after he lost a decision to Dwight Joseph on Dana White’s Contender Series in 2019.
“I fought on the Contender Series and I remember after just being on it, I thought that the world owed me something,” he said. And the fact of the matter is, it just doesn't. The world doesn't owe you anything, so with that mentality going forward, it was more like, I'm just gonna do what I gotta do until they call me. As much as I would have liked for the phone to ring, the expectation of it was very low. I'm in a really, really stacked division. There's thousands of '35ers that are very good; the Top 15 at '35 is crazy, so I really had to put in some impressive stuff. It took me a little bit to do, and I would have had more fights if COVID hadn't hit, but it's just the way that it was. Each fight, I just took it forward, and if I got the call after the next win, that was cool, but if not, then I'll just keep trucking along.”
Ah COVID, the pandemic that shook the world, affecting everyone in some way, shape or form. That applied to fighters even more, as they didn’t just have to be concerned about their health, but about the reality that gyms were closed and regional promotions were largely shut down. For Perrin, who got in one win in 2020 before the pandemic hit, everything stopped. And he couldn’t do anything about it.
“It's incredibly frustrating because it is out of your control,” Perrin said. “There's nothing you can do when the world shuts down. But at the same time, when you devote yourself to something for so long and that one thing has a very small window of opportunity in which you can do it, it's hard. I got depressed about it because I didn't think I would ever be able to fight again. At one point during the COVID thing, I got fat because I was just depressed and I couldn't train the way that I wanted to and it sent me into a bad spot. The time, you can't get it back.”
Ultimately, the world opened up and Perrin was going to be able to resume his career. Only now, it wouldn’t be at home. Jay Perrin was heading out west.
“I was teaching more than I was fighting,” he said. “That was kind of the role that I had been developing into and I realized that it's not what I wanted. I wanted to be a fighter - I'll be a coach later. But there were no shows really going on in New England. And I knew Vegas was opening up, and I had just turned 28, so it's kind of s**t or get off the pot time. I had a relationship with John Wood and Mark DellaGrotte helped me set that up and he said, hey, this is where you should be if you want to go. And that was basically it. I had some things going on in my personal life that I just needed to get away from and Vegas seemed like the move. The stars kind of aligned that way, and everything told me that it's time for me to move on and progress in my career. That was basically it.”
Perrin didn’t expect a call from the UFC so soon after his move to Las Vegas, but he was going to be ready for it if it came. And he is. Just don’t welcome him to the UFC. Not yet.
“I gotta win first,” he said. “All these people have this faith in me, and I want to make sure it's not misplaced.”
UFC Fight Night: Walker vs Hill took place on Saturday, February 19, 2022, live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive all of the action on UFC Fight Pass.