"I think this is the right time to do it. It’s been a long time coming and it was something I think that had to happen just based on how those first two fights went." - Sam Stout
The key to a fighter’s success often lies in his ability to not live in the past. UFC lightweight Sam Stout is a successful professional fighter, not getting too high after victories or too low after losses. So he’s not exactly the type to be popping his old fights into the DVD player when family or friends come over the house.
“It’s not something that’s usually my idea, but if somebody asks me…” he laughs. “And sometimes if I got a girl over the house on a date and she wants to see it… (Laughs) I definitely always throw on ones that I win though.”
One loss he might not be too bothered to show is his 2007 rematch with the man he will be facing for a third time this Friday night, Spencer Fisher. Stout had won their first bout at UFC 58 in 2006, eking out an exciting three round split decision. When they met again, fans assumed there was no way that could meet the excitement level of their first fight, but then they went and surpassed it. The second time around, it was Fisher taking the decision, and while there was certainly a demand for a rubber match, it’s taken five years to get here. It’s a long wait for some redemption, but Stout knew it was eventually going to happen.
“I always kinda knew in the back of my mind it would happen at some point,” said the native of London, Ontario, Canada. “It was still something that right up until this fight got announced, I wouldn’t go a month or I wouldn’t show up at one Expo or appearance where somebody didn’t comment on that fight. It was something that I always wanted, so I just think it was a matter of doing it at the right time that made sense for both of us in our careers. We’ve both had highs and lows, and it just made perfect sense at this point. He’s coming off a loss to Thiago Tavares, and so am I, and it had to be at a point where we were both coming off a win or a loss. So what better time is there to do it than now?”
Yet while no one is complaining about the two lightweight bangers locking up one more time, the truth is that Stout and Fisher are in different places in their careers at this point. The 28-year old Stout has won four of his last six, picking up four post-fight bonuses along the way. Fisher, 36, has only one win in his last five fights, and he has hinted at retirement in the lead up to the bout. But Stout can’t and won’t get complacent. Instead, he’s done what most fighters in his position won’t do – he’s looking to the past to get ready for the future. In this case, he’s studying the 2007 version of Fisher to prepare for Friday’s fight.
“The way I’ve been looking at it for this fight is, the last time I fought Spencer was in 2007, and in my opinion, that was the best Spencer Fisher that ever stepped into the Octagon,” said Stout. “He looked better that day than I’ve seen him since, so that’s the Spencer Fisher I’ve been preparing for, and in my mind, I know he’s got better jitz now, I know he’s worked with Jeff Joslin and has been traveling around and working on improving his game, but physically, I think that’s the best he’s ever looked, and that’s the Spencer Fisher I’m prepared for.”
Stout (18-7-1) sounds raring to go for the first big fight of the summer, and that’s a good thing considering where he was at after some dark clouds rolled into his life last August with the sudden death of his coach, mentor, and brother-in-law, Shawn Tompkins. The blow was a devastating one to the entire fight community, but no one felt it more than Stout, who pulled himself out of an October 2011 fight with Dennis Siver because he just wasn’t ready mentally or emotionally.
“He meant a whole lot to me, and I had so much confidence in him going into the cage and in my camps,” said Stout of his coach. “If he told me to eat lima beans I’d eat lima beans, if he told me to throw a right cross, I’d throw a right cross, if he told me to take somebody down, I would try and take them down, even if that’s not my strength. I had so much confidence in his knowledge of the sport and his coaching ability that that’s not something you can replace easily. It was definitely difficult, and it still is difficult every day, but I’m learning to deal with it, and I think I’m a lot more prepared this time than I was back in January when I fought Tavares.”
In Stout’s return at UFC 142, he looked out of sorts in the first round against Brazil’s Thiago Tavares, but he fought back well in the next two frames, only to lose a close decision. Was it too soon for him to return? Stout doesn’t believe so.
“I don’t think it was too soon,” he said. “I think it would have been too soon if I would have taken the Siver fight in October; there just wasn’t enough time for me. Shawn’s passing happened right when I would have been starting my camp for Siver, and mentally, I was just a mess. And even in the Tavares fight, I don’t think I was at my sharpest mentally, but that was something I knew that whether I waited five months or if I waited two years, the first fight back without Shawn was gonna be a very difficult one for me, I knew that. I wish the fight with Tavares would have gone differently, and looking back at it there were definitely things I could have done differently. But I’m glad it went the way it went in the fact that I got it out of the way and I put that behind me. I feel like there’s a weight off my shoulders to know that I can still make it through and still compete at this high level, even though I don’t have my coach, my mentor, my brother Shawn Tompkins in my corner.”
Having Stout back at a hundred percent, physically and mentally, is good news for fans of the striker dubbed “Hands of Stone,” and bad news for the lightweights that have to scrap with him on fight night. And not that the 155-pound division needed anymore of a logjam at the top, but with a couple good wins, Stout could very well be joining that pack.
“I always say it’s not based on whether you win or not, it’s how you win and how you look in your win,” he said. “There’s such a logjam at the front, and there’s so many guys that are separated by a fraction of a percent. It’s not like there’s someone in this division like a Georges St-Pierre or Anderson Silva that’s just cleaning house. You got a bunch of guys that are clawing their way to the top and they’re all climbing over each other. The title’s changing hands quite a bit, and it’s an exciting division in that sense. So I don’t think I’m really that far off. If I make my game five or ten percent better, I’ll be one of the guys clawing my way to the top with them.”
But first there’s the business of Spencer Fisher and the conclusion of one of MMA’s great trilogies. No matter where either fighter is in his life or career, it’s likely that whenever they meet, there will be blood spilled. Sam Stout knows what is expected of him and Fisher, and he’s looking forward to delivering on all counts.
“There’s always a lot of pressure in this sport, but whenever you’re talking about a trilogy in any combat sport, it’s a pretty rare thing,” he said. “So there’s definitely extra pressure on me, but I think this is the right time to do it. It’s been a long time coming and it was something I think that had to happen just based on how those first two fights went. I’m looking forward to it.”