"I’m here to fight. That’s what I do. I’m a fighter and I’m there anytime Joe Silva calls." - Ross Pearson
Ross Pearson had it all planned out. He was going to beat Abel Trujillo this Saturday night in Bangor, Maine, then call out fellow Ultimate Fighter alum Gray Maynard for an end of the year bout. It was a good plan, but everyone knows how plans go in mixed martial arts.
Usually, that means bad things for the planner, but in this case, the battling Brit got to be on the bright side of this equation. So after seeing a March rematch with Melvin Guillard get scrapped due to a knee injury and then being on the wrong end of one of the worst decisions in UFC history against Diego Sanchez in June, Pearson got some good news when it was announced that after Trujillo was forced out of this weekend’s UFC Fight Night bout due to injury, “The Real Deal” was going to get that year-end fight; only it was going to come about a lot sooner.
“Once (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva called me for the fight, I jumped at it straight away,” Pearson said of Saturday’s co-main event with Maynard. “It’s actually jumping two fights ahead. In this sport, you can’t turn down opportunities when you get a ranked opponent, and you’ve got to go for it.”
In terms of name recognition, Maynard, an established vet and two-time world title challenger, certainly has the edge over the up and coming Trujillo, and that’s the biggest perk for Pearson. But he also believes that stylistically, it’s almost the same fight he’s been preparing for these last few weeks.
“It actually works in my favor,” Pearson said. “Both are very athletic fighters and powerful brawlers, and I was expecting Abel to come out and push a heavy wrestling pace and use his striking to set up his wrestling. Gray Maynard is a very similar style of fighter to that, just he’s a little bit slower and he’s been around the game a little bit longer. He doesn’t blow out all his energy in 10 seconds; he’s going to try and pick you apart and try to use his skill against you.”
Yet no matter who is standing across the Octagon from Pearson in Bangor, he just wants to fight. That’s usually the case with the Sunderland native, but this time around that desire is even more urgent, as he wants to get the taste of his “loss” to Sanchez out of his mouth as soon as possible, and the only way you do that in this sport is by getting back in there and fighting.
“I’m here to fight,” he said. “That’s what I do. I’m a fighter and I’m there anytime Joe Silva calls. And it means something. I think the UFC appreciates the way I am as a fighter and they don’t have to worry. I’m always going to be there.”
So when Trujillo’s original opponent, Bobby Green, got moved from the card and into a July fight with Josh Thomson, in stepped Pearson on short notice, no problem at all. He did keep his camp in his native England this time as opposed to making the trip out to San Diego and back to work with his Alliance MMA team, but as far as the fight goes, it’s business as usual, and there are no ill effects in his psyche from his bout with Sanchez.
“It hasn’t knocked us one bit,” he said. “It’s only made us eager and more confident.”
He should be. Practically no one, save Sanchez and two judges, thought the former Ultimate Fighter season one winner beat Pearson in Albuquerque. Even Sanchez’ hometown fans booed the verdict, but Pearson took the defeat with a lot of class, knowing what really went on during those 15 minutes.
“I knew how I felt after the fight,” Pearson said. “Listen, I’ve won some fights before in my career and I’ve come out battered, bruised, hurt, and feeling ‘did I really win that fight?’ And after the Diego Sanchez fight, I came out a hundred percent convinced that I won that fight. I thought it was probably one of my smartest performances that I put on in my UFC career. I stuck to my game plan, I didn’t fall off track, everything my coaches asked for I did, and I think I beat Diego everywhere. So I was never down and I was never disappointed that I felt like I lost the fight. I knew that I won the fight; it was just two judges that saw it somehow differently. And I never let it get me down.”
The UFC didn’t let him get down either, as Pearson was paid his win bonus for the fight, and with the co-main event placement on this week’s card, he’s obviously being treated as if the decision went his way. So while having the loss on his record is an annoyance, the greater lessons Pearson took away will be ones he remembers as he makes his way to the top of the division.
“When I get the big fights and get to the top of the division, I will have been through and seen everything that could be thrown at me,” he said. “And I’m overcoming these things and not letting them beat me up and knock me back and make me get disappointed with the sport or lose my own self-confidence. It’s making me stronger, making me want it more, and making me want to put out better performances.”
Pretty impressive for a former bricklayer from Sunderland who just a few years ago was looking at the UFC from the outside and wondering what it would be like to fight in the Octagon. Now he’s an inspiration for a new breed of British fighters.
“When I’m back home and training with all the up and coming young guys who weren’t even fighting back when I was fighting on the local scene, they’re looking at me as inspiration and that means something to me,” he said. “It’s unbelievable how much I’ve achieved in such a short space of time, when not a lot of people from where I’m from even knew what this sport was.”
They know now. And they know Ross Pearson.