“It’s all about perspective.”
Those are the words Serhiy Sidey uttered as he discussed going from suffering his first professional loss against Mateo Alejandro Vogel to the world shutting down two weeks later due to the coronavirus pandemic last spring.
Rather than dwell on the defeat and lament the lack of opportunities available on the Canadian regional mixed martial arts scene, the 25-year-old Burlington, Ontario native looked at the extended period without events and without chances to step into the cage as an opportunity to study the mistakes he made in that fight and work to erase them, while sharpening the rest of his weapons in preparation for his inevitable return.
“I rewatched that fight a million times with my coaches and we found all the little, minor mistakes I was making and we took the time to develop the skill set,” explained Sidey, who returns to action on Friday night, defending his BFL bantamweight title against Ali Wasuk in the main event of BFL 70, which airs exclusively on UFC FIGHT PASS. “Having the pandemic happen really gave me time to work on my skills.
“Usually it’s fight, take a little time to develop skills, and take another fight, but taking that much time off allowed me to level-up my skill set,” he added. “It’s all about perspective.”
That line, those four words — “It’s all about perspective” — are a big part of what makes Sidey such an intriguing prospect and promising fighter to track as he heads into his first title defense this weekend.
There is a maturity to his approach, to his understanding and appreciation of where he’s at in his career, the opportunities in front of him, and the benefits that come from spending nearly a decade training alongside some of the top Canadian talents in the sport, including Ultimate Fighter alum Josh Hill and Contender Series veteran Anthony Romero.
Lots of people speak in clichés about setbacks being opportunities for comebacks and finding the silver lining in every situation, but translating those words into action and truly using each obstacle positioned in front of you as a genuine chance to grow are the things that distinguish great fighters from good fighters, and over the last couple years, Sidey has done that.
He was supposed to face Wasuk in June in a battle for the vacant BFL bantamweight title, but the Coquitlam native failed to make it to weigh-ins the morning before the fight, resulting in the fight being scrapped and the work Sidey had done to prepare for the contest be for naught. Instead of wallowing in frustrating, he flew home and got right back in the gym, and when Battlefield called with an opportunity to fight Gerico “Gio” Platon at the end of September, he was primed to make the most of it.
“Honestly, I love the feeling of going to somebody else’s hometown, somebody else’s place and getting that gold from them, bringing it back to my city,” said Sidey, who returned to Vancouver and submitted Platon in under 90 seconds to claim the bantamweight title. “It was a cool experience.
“I really enjoyed that feeling of being in enemy territory. I had three of my friends in the crowd and everyone else was my opponent’s supporters, but man, when it was time to go, I was in the zone and I shone really bright under those lights.”
Rather than linger in the moment and daydream about championship-victory celebrations and time off, Sidey almost immediately started thinking about the next step — not because he didn’t want to relish his triumph, but because of those four words — “it’s all about perspective” — and he completely understood the situation at hand.
“As soon as I won that fight with Gio and I was in the back room, I was already thinking about the next fight and I wanted this fight with Ali,” recalled Sidey, the invader from Ontario who claimed gold in British Columbia by defeating a promising local and knew he’d be matched up with another as soon as the opportunity presented itself. “I came home and rested up for a few days, but I took zero injuries in that fight, so as soon as I recovered, I was right back to camp.
“I feel really good and really excited to go out there and do it again, especially because of that long layoff.”
Despite what happened the last time he was scheduled to face off with Wasuk, the bantamweight titleholder isn’t worried about it happening again this time around.
“I’m definitely excited and I know he’ll make weight this time,” he said of his opponent. “I know he’s got a good team around him, and they’re not going to make any mistakes again. I’m sure he’s going to be on-point with that.
“I think Ali is a well-rounded opponent,” continued Sidey, breaking down what Wasuk brings to the table and how he sees Friday’s main event playing out. “I know he tries to take the fights to the ground from up on the cage, and look for those submission finishes, but that’s what I’ve been developing for the last two years.”
Where some competitors would wilt under the weight of traveling across the country and competing in front of a partisan crowd, Sidey relishes the opportunity, demonstrating the maturity and perspective that guides his every professional step.
“Only so many people get these opportunities, so I want to take full advantage of them and I’m very grateful for them,” he explained. “I didn’t feel any pressure; I felt excitement more than anything. I know that at the end of the day, when I get these kinds of opportunities, I have to go for it 100 percent because I might not get them again.
“I love chasing that feeling of fighting and being on such a big stage, under those lights. I’m addicted to chasing that feeling so I’m really excited to go back in there.”
And he wants to use his first title defense in Friday’s BFL 70 main event as a chance to introduce himself to a wider audience and put himself in a position to take another step forward in his career next year.
“I’m definitely looking for a finish,” he said plainly, stating a fact more than offering a prediction or a hopeful projection. “I want something big; another big highlight finish. I want a performance that is going to get some attention on me.
“(After getting this win), I would love to maybe win one more, do it in impressive fashion, and either get something with the Contender Series or keep fighting, defending my title until I get that shot.
“My ultimate goal is to be in the UFC. I’m really grateful to be a champion in BFL, but my goal is to be the UFC and that’s the only thing I’m focused on. Whatever it takes to get there, I’m going to keep going until I get there.”