23-year-old karateka Justin Scoggins launched himself into the flyweight stratosphere with a poised performance against fellow divisional young gun Ray Borg on February 6.
The stunning and sophisticated striking display over three rounds that he put forth would see most athletes pause for some sort of celebration, but the South Carolinian told the UFC he wanted to get straight back to business. His reward will come in the shape of Ben Nguyen when they face off in Brisbane on March 20 (March 19 in the USA).
“Luckily, UFC heard me after the fight,” Scoggins explained. “I told them that I wanted to get right back in there.
“The way the UFC is, you just keep winning and putting in good performances and they know when you’re ready. They know when they want to put you in there for title fights. I’m just going to keep knocking down everyone that’s in front of me. I really think it’s inevitable that I’ll get a shot at the title.”
There was a real flair for creativity about Scoggins’s last outing against Borg. The flyweight young gun flowed through his vast array of techniques in both stances, which completely stupefied Borg. The Kempo karate black belt believes he let everyone know that he is “on the radar” in terms of the flyweight conversation after his trip to Las Vegas in early February.
“I think it was one of my better performances, but for me, I don’t think it will be remembered as one of my best performances. I do feel like I sent a big message and I let everyone know that I’m on the radar. I’m ready to start fighting the top guys. I’m ready to fight whoever UFC put in front of me to get to the title shot. I know I’m going to get there.”
UFC audiences have seen the power of a strong mind in the Octagon through the ascent of European trailblazer Conor McGregor. In a sport where the results can be both elating and devastating, just speaking to Scoggins, you can tell he is gearing everything, physically and mentally, towards his ultimate goal – the UFC’s flyweight championship.
“At flyweight, I think I can bring more attention to the division than anybody. I feel like I’m bringing more attention to the division than the champion at the moment. It’s definitely my time. I’ve put in the work, I’m still putting in the work, I’m getting straight back into the Octagon and I’m fighting. I want everyone to know that I’m on a tear right now. I’m full steam ahead and I’m coming for that world title.”
Demetrious Johnson has stood at the top of the UFC’s 125 lbs division for over three years despite seven challenges to his championship status. While Scoggins undoubtedly respects the skillset of ‘Mighty Mouse’, he believes his creativity and his ability to react in the moment will be the difference between the two if they eventually meet.
“DJ is very technically sound, but I do see the holes (in his game). Those holes can be hard to fix because when you drill things a certain way, they become ingrained in you. You get really solid and systematic, but you lose the flow of being able to create.
“Sometimes I’m creating moves during a fight based on my reaction in the moment. These are movements that I’ve never trained, I just feel it as the fight is happening. I just feel like the systematic approach stifles creativity, and I know I can flow a lot better than most people can during a fight. Especially in this division, I don’t think anybody is reacting in the moment like I am. I don’t want to have a strict game plan every time I get in there.”
On the subject of dreams and aspirations for Scoggins, there is one place in particular that the flyweight would like to perform. As far as he is concerned, UFC hosting an event in Carolina would be a guaranteed “great show.” Based on what we’ve seen from Scoggins and his former karate instructor, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, of late, most people would probably be inclined to agree with him.
“A UFC show in Carolina is definitely something that’s on my mind. I’ve heard some guys talking about it from the UFC before. When they talk about where they want to put some shows on, they’re talking about Carolina as a potential location. I’d love to bring the UFC to South Carolina because I know we would have a lot of people come out and we would put on a great show. The fans in South Carolina are crazy.”
Peter Carroll is a longtime MMA journalist who writes for the Irish Mirror, FIGHTLAND and SevereMMA.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PetesyCarroll