If not for the fact that he was only a year old when the UFC debuted in 1993, Brandon Royval would have been a heck of a fighter back in the days with no rules, no rounds and no time limits.
Fighting under PRIDE rules would have been a nice fit, too, but the Colorado native was just 14 when the storied Japanese promotion held its last event in 2007.
A boy can dream though, can’t he?
“I think I would be one of those fighters that benefitted really well with PRIDE rules,” muses Royval.
How did we get to such a topic? Well, as the sixth-ranked flyweight contender prepares for a Saturday night showdown with No.9-ranked Matt Schnell, we discussed him snapping a two-fight losing streak with a split decision victory over Rogerio Bontorin in January.
“I was happy I won it, but it was too close for comfort, and I want to get a finish,” said Royval, who won a fight by decision for the first time since 2018. “I want to finish people. I feel like that's always been my style and my prowess, and I get that I'm in the Top 5 or fighting Top 5 or Top 10 opponents, but I came out here to be dangerous. I don't want to go out here and be an athlete and win rounds and be competitive. I want to go out there and put it on people and make statements.”
With no rounds, Royval would be in fights that could only be won decisively. With PRIDE rules, the fighter who did the most damage won. In short, the 29-year-old “Raw Dawg” is in this business to finish his business in less than 15 minutes, so point-fighting is not his thing.
“There's not enough fighters and a lot of athletes out there,” he said before putting an addendum to that statement. “Maybe not the flyweight division. I think in the flyweight division, we have to keep things exciting because the division almost got cut already, so I think they do a really good job of keeping the exciting flyweights in the UFC, for the most part.”
The way Royval sees it, Schnell is a member of that “most part” group, and it’s why when “Danger” lost a fight with Alex Perez for the umpteenth time before the two could even throw hands, Royval raised his hand immediately.
“I was pretty much right next to (UFC matchmaker) Mick Maynard when it happened,” said Royval of seeing the latest Schnell-Perez fight scrapped. “We were at the same event, so I ran into him, and I was like, 'I'll take that fight ASAP.' I was hoping for it to be that next month. I want to get more experience under my belt, I want to earn my way up and I want to fight in front of a crowd, and I didn't like the way that Bontorin fight went, so I just wanted to get that sour taste out of my mouth as quick as possible.”
Oddly enough (or maybe not so odd in a world that has dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic for the last two-plus years), UFC 274 will mark Royval’s first UFC fight to take place in a packed arena.
“This is a dream come true for me,” he said. It’s also an opportunity to hear a crowd that would have been standing and cheering for him in his previous bouts, particularly his Fight of the Night wins over Tim Elliott and Kai Kara-France. This time around, he has another willing dance partner, but on a card filled with some of the most exciting fighters to ever grace the Octagon, getting another bonus might be a tall order, right?
“I’m gonna go steal the show and it's gonna be the raw dawg show after I'm done with it,” he said. “I'm gonna go out there and make a statement and go out there and have fun. I'm gonna try to get all the bonuses and walk out with my pockets heavy.”
Old school style. In this sport, those who dare win, even if that’s not what the judges say at the end of the night. If a fighter goes out there to fight, the rewards are often greater than for those content to play a sporting event for three rounds.
“It’s the fighter versus the sports person in the sense of what do you think of rounds,” asks Royval. “Am I going out there to win this round and then go win the next round and if I can get two rounds in then I'm gonna win the fight for the most part? Or am I just trying to go out there and finish this guy and get him the f**k out of there? And I think that's what the difference with me is. I think a fighter can win rounds and I think fighters do win rounds and stuff, but I don't think a real fighter makes winning rounds a priority. I think the priority is finishing fights.”
But here comes the million-dollar question…can a fighter with Royval’s philosophy win a world title?
“That's a question I've always asked myself,” he admits. “I know where I can lose fights. I can lose fights on points, and that's where I've lost fights, getting held down or out positioned and controlled. No one looked for a kill, and if anybody was, I was gonna get it, and the other person was just looking to pass time. That's how I'm gonna lose if I'm gonna lose.
"So now I have to scramble my ass off. If I want to keep the same style that I keep instead of trying to wrestle and then get on top and then hold people down and all that stuff, I'm gonna have to outscramble my opponents at all times. I have to get them tired and last longer than they do. So I always wonder that, but I think so. I think I can win the world title and beat any flyweight in the division right now.”
That’s a fighter. Royval agrees, adding a definition for good measure.
“A fighter is someone who's looking for the kill at all times and who's ready to put themselves in the fire because they know they're gonna come out unscathed.”
UFC 274: Oliveira vs Gaethje took place on Saturday, May 7, 2022, live from a sold out Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!