When it comes to nicknames in mixed martial arts, things tend to go one of three ways: you’re either another in the long line of pit bulls, gangsters, or assassins of some type; someone that has tried way too hard to come up with something unique that stands out; or a member of the somewhat exclusive club of competitors that has both an original, but not ridiculous, moniker.
Steven “Ocho” Peterson is a card-carrying member of that last group.
“I grew up in Los Angeles, got into a lot of street fights out there, and moved to McKinney, Texas, when I was 15,” he began, explaining the origins of his one-of-a-kind nickname. “I joined the football team and was No. 8, and some of the kids were picking on me, calling me “Ocho” and pushing me around.
“With that mentality from L.A., I got into a fight, threw some punches, and from then on out, the whole school knew me as ‘Ocho.’”
The whole MMA world does, as well, and Saturday night, “Ocho” will finally make his first appearance of 2023 when he takes on Brazil’s Lucas Alexander a little over five hours south of his hometown in San Antonio.
Given that the first 20 fights of Peterson’s professional mixed martial arts career took place in the state of Texas, it’s not really a big surprise that the veteran featherweight isn’t really all that bothered by where his debut appearance of the year is taking place.
He is, however, pumped up to finally be stepping back into the Octagon.
“I’m just ready to fight,” said Peterson, who faces off with Brazilian sophomore Lucas Alexander as part of this weekend’s preliminary card. “I don’t care where it is. It’s good to have a hometown crowd, but it really doesn’t matter.”
It’s been a little more than a year since the 32-year-old last stepped into the cage, pairing up with Julian Erosa to deliver one of the most entertaining back-and-forth battles of 2022 that resulted in Peterson’s two-fight run of success being halted, but his stock still rising.
That fight, which rightfully earned Fight of the Night honors and should have appeared on more year-end “Best of” lists last year, wasn’t the first time Peterson has been involved in the kind of knockdown, drag-out contest that pro wrestling announcer Jim Ross would readily describe as a “slobberknocker” over the course of his career.
He has a tendency to end up in those types of scuffles more often than not, leading to his reputation as an all-action fighter and someone that can be counted on to deliver excitement each and every time he makes the walk to the Octagon.
“I just don’t like down time,” Peterson said when asked about what seems like a natural inclination towards being involved in grimy, hard-fought battles more often than naught. “When I’m in there, I’m working and I like to go right to work; I don’t like to play around or waste time on the clock.
“I like to go out there and try to take my opponent out, and when you put me in there with somebody else that likes to do the same, it’s going to be a war.”
That was the case with Erosa, and that could very well be the case with Alexander this weekend.
The 27-year-old Alexander, who lives in the Orlando area and trains under Julien Williams with the team at Fusion X-Cel, made his promotional debut on short-notice in October, stepping in to face fellow Brazilian Joanderson Brito. He was submitted in just over two minutes, which snapped a five-fight winning streak that included a second-round stoppage win over UFC vet Jacob Kilburn.
“He’s definitely going to be unpredictable,” Peterson said of Alexander, who carries a 7-3 overall record into Saturday’s contest. “He’s a scrapper that is definitely going to go in there and throw down, and I feel like that is right up my alley; I enjoy those kinds of fights.
“I do have quite an advantage when it comes to experience,” added the Fortis MMA man, who has gone 19-10 in his career and 3-3 since joining the UFC roster in the summer of 2018. “I’ve seen a lot of different looks — and I think I’ll be more prepared when we get in there.”
There is an understandable, yet no less ironic, dichotomy that often presents itself in all forms of combat sports, as athletes universally yearn for the opportunity to compete when they’ve been out for any amount of time, yet the aim is always to spend as little time as humanly possible in there once that arduous time away finally comes to an end.
Peterson finds himself at the intersection of those two contrasting desires right now as he counts down the days and hours until he and Alexander share the Octagon this weekend.
“I look forward to a dominant victory,” said Peterson, who is straight to the point with his thoughts. “I’m not going in there to play around — I’m looking to get straight to work, and I expect to go out there and handle business in impressive fashion. I want to take him out as soon as possible.
“I don’t believe he’s on the same level as me. I believe I belong amongst the Top 20, Top 15 in the world — I think I showed that in my fights with Alex Caceres and Julian Erosa — and I’m trying to get right back up there.
“I don’t want to play around in there and give this kid a chance; I want to go in there and take him out.”
And if Peterson gets that expeditious finish that illustrates his superiority on Saturday, you’re never going to guess what he wants to do next.
“I want to go in there, get the job done as quickly as possible, and get right back in there,” he said, illustrating the dichotomy perfectly. “I want to have at least three fights this year, and we’re already three months into the year, so it’s time to get to work
“I’d like to have another one back-to-back if everything goes as I plan for it to and I’m healthy after this fight. I want to get right back in there and get another one before summer.”
UFC Fight Night: Vera vs Sandhagen took place live from the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas on March 25, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!