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Odoms' Traditional Touch for a Changing Game

"If you want to be considered as one of the top fighters in the world, you have to be involved with the UFC." - Richard Odoms

No two fighters arrive to the biggest stage in mixed martial arts on the same path, just as goals and ambitions cannot be weighed out on the same scale. Every opportunity means something different and depends on the individual facing down the biggest moment of their professional career.

The first step of Richard Odoms’ dream coming true was receiving the call to compete under the UFC banner, and the second half will be when the Octagon door closes behind him in Sacramento later this month. The 39-year-old San Antonio-based fighter’s journey to his official UFC debut is as non-typical as they come in the current era of mixed martial arts, but the determination of “The Black Eagle” for victory is on par all the same.

He’s coming to the tumultuous waters of the heavyweight division with a proven knuckle game and a stylistic touch of traditional martial arts. Odoms believes he brings something different to the table in the land of heavy hitters, and he plans on putting those talents on display at UFC 177 on August 30.

“I’m ready to go,” Odoms said. “I’m excited to be on the card, but I don’t know how you prepare for something like this. All I can do is go in there and do my job to the best of my ability. If you are a professional mixed martial artist, the UFC is where all the top fighters are. If you want to be considered as one of the top fighters in the world, you have to be involved with the UFC. Being able to walk out to that cage and compete, put on your best performance and get the win; that would be an awesome accomplishment.”

When the Texan takes his first step into the Octagon, he’ll be looking to bring the fight to his opponent Ruslan Magomedov. The 27-year-old Dagestan-born fighter has amassed an impressive record in a relatively short amount of time, as he’s found victory in 12 of his 13 showings since his professional debut back in 2010.

Magomedov will also be riding a seven-fight winning streak coming into Sacramento and his recent run includes victories over two former UFC heavyweight champions in Ricco Rodriguez and Tim Sylvia. His most recent showing resulted in a successful promotional debut back in May, and Magomedov will be looking to keep his momentum rolling on August 30.

Odoms plans to derail the Russian’s trajectory and stamp a mark of his own on the heavyweight division.

“Magomedov is a very skilled fighter,” Odoms said. “He’s a sharp boxer, has a lot of striking skills and does have some submissions in his game. I feel this fight is going to be a stand-up war with a lot of back and forth. As far as situations go, he’s a boxer and I’ve been a boxer. I’ve been working on my wrestling game so that’s not going to be anything new to me. The kicks he throws, those come from Taekwondo, and that is my background, so it’s going to come down to who the better man is on that night. That is the person who is going to win.

“I think my willingness to engage will be a factor, but I think my movement will also be something different for this division. I feel I’m bringing a lot of expertise and a lot of skills to the different situations. I have the background to be able to handle those things. It’s my time to come in there and do well inside the Octagon.”

While Odoms’ debut will be a “dream come true” moment for the heavyweight striker, it will also mark what he hopes will be a great new chapter in his career in combat sports. Suddenly, where he was once a rising talent in the heavyweight boxing ranks, an injury forced him out of the “sweet science,” and into the fold of traditional martial arts. Odoms found a rhythm in the South Korean-based art of Taekwondo and settled into his new passion.

Nevertheless, his love for competition propelled him to push forward, and he began seeking out different avenues to test his skills. That road eventually led to an introduction to mixed martial arts, and he’s had his foot on the proverbial gas pedal ever since.

“I was a professional boxer to begin with, and I stopped doing that,” Odoms recalled. “So I chose to go back to martial arts and Taekwondo. From there I did kickboxing and Toughman competitions and things like that, but then mixed martial arts started to become a more interesting option for me. At the beginning, I really didn’t know too much. I had my Taekwondo background, but with grappling and things of that sort, it was really out there. But as things progressed in MMA, now it’s more of a sport and it’s more about skills. My overall knowledge began to increase and I really dove into mixed martial arts.

“Traditional martial arts have really changed this game. Now, you see martial artists jumping off the cage and throwing these phenomenal kicks. It all looks crazy, but they have been doing those kicks for years. It’s not something someone just made up. These traditional kicks are becoming a big part of people’s striking games, and they add little adjustments to switch things up. Those personal touches people are putting on traditional techniques really give them a ‘Wow’ factor and make people wonder how they did it. It definitely makes the fighting more interesting. It’s a great time for martial arts all around.”