A little over a year ago, Eric Spicely didn’t know what his future in the UFC looked like, or even if he had one. Today, the middleweight prospect is in Las Vegas with two Octagon wins in his back pocket and the realization that he might be sticking around for a while.
“That’s the goal,” said Spicely, who faces Gerald Meerschaert on Friday’s TUF 26 Finale card. “I would definitely love to continue this life that I have. I’ve been at the P.I. (UFC Performance Institute) now for three months, doing my camp here, and it’s absolutely amazing. It’s a game changer for sure. I get to train, then come here and work out and I don’t have to think about anything. It’s all set out for you and I think it’s really going to show this fight.”
In September of 2016, the optimism was still there but the opportunities may not have been. Spicely lost his Octagon debut to Sam Alvey two months earlier, and only the sale of the UFC and its subsequent paperwork allowed him to pick up a short-notice fight against Brazilian banger Thiago Santos. In Brazil. Spicely won that fight, then another over Alessio DiChirico, and despite a loss to Antonio Carlos Junior in June, he is as secure as he’s ever been heading into this week’s bout.
“There’s been no stress this whole camp,” he said. “I’m from the east coast, and there, you gotta drive an hour here or an hour and a half there to go to this gym or get your strength and conditioning in and then get your sparring done in another place. This is all in one place. I’ve been in Vegas for four months now. I drive ten minutes down the road and I’ll be at the venue, I get to sleep in my own bed, and I think it’s gonna translate because I have no stress.”
So is it safe to say the east coast has lost the New Englander forever?
“I’m a pretty diehard east coast guy, but it’s real easy living out here,” he laughs. “It’s not bad. The P.I. is a game changer, and if you’re under contract, I don’t know how you wouldn’t come out here. I understand it’s real tough if you have a family and stuff, but it’s amazing. It’s really changed our outlook on how to train and how to recover.”
Yet while the training outlook has changed for the 31-year-old Syndicate MMA team member, what hasn’t been shaken by the ups and downs of the fight game is Spicely’s outlook on life. The master of the glass half full concept, this is a fighter who will find a ray of sunshine in a cloudy sky.
“I’m the kind of person that builds strong bonds with people,” he said. “I brought Andrew Sanchez out here from The Ultimate Fighter. We bonded on the show and we’ve been friends ever since and training partners. He came out here, he’s been here for three months and he trusts me that this is a good place to be and will help him in his career. He’s always telling me, ‘You’re friends with everybody,’ and that’s the energy I like to put out in the world. I don’t want to talk crap to anybody or put anybody down; I just want to fight, and I want my friends to fight and win and get paid and be healthy and keep this life going. It’s not forever, so hopefully we can all enjoy it while we can.”
Given a history that included pro wrestling in New England and selling pickles in New York, Spicely has seen and lived more life than most, and though he always seemed on the path to doing something outside of the norm, if someone told him ten years ago that he would be a member of the UFC roster, he doesn’t think he’d believe them.
“Actually one of my first jiu-jitsu coaches, we’d always watch the UFC and he’s like, ‘You’re gonna be in there one day, doing this,’” Spicely recalled. “And I said, ‘No way.’ I hadn’t really started MMA, I was just getting into it and doing more jiu-jitsu than anything else, but he always told me that and always believed, and I did finally get here. It’s definitely surreal, but I’m appreciative of where I am and I want to hold on to that place and I don’t want to let that slip away, which is why I think I work so hard.”
Now he’s starting to see that hard work pay off, and when you add in a positive attitude, Eric Spicely may have just found himself a home among the best middleweight fighters in the world. And that’s just fine with him.
“I’ve always had good role models,” he said. “I’ve always looked up to guys like Georges St-Pierre and Demian Maia, and you get what you put into it. If you put negativity into it, you can’t really run off of that. Everyone has bad days in training and everyone has bad camps and bad fights, but positivity really helps you bounce back from that and keep going. It’s just like anything. If you put positivity and a hundred percent into anything, you’re gonna get it back.”