Brandon “Rukus” Thatch takes on Siyar Bahadurzada during the FOX Sports 1 prelims at UFC 196 in Las Vegas on Saturday, and after being out of the Octagon since July of last year, Thatch is quick to point out that he’s ready to go.
“This is probably one of the best camps I’ve had,” he said. “I had tons of athletes to work with and Team Elevation is constantly getting new guys to come and train with us. The level of skill and different looks we get every week is just ridiculous.”
Team Elevation has been in the press very much as of late, with former bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw joining the group amid an acrimonious split with Team Alpha Male. Thatch said that despite the attention, the team was able to stay focused and said that it made the fighters there even closer than they already were.
“Every time I train, I feel like I’m in a room full of big brothers who are beating me up every day, but at the same time showing me brotherly love, and I’m learning so much in the process.”
“Any time you’re getting into the gym to try to accomplish something, you’re going to need quality guys who not only push you but also that you want to hang around with, and we have that at Team Elevation. Training is fun for me. I don’t mind being there. I have a lot of fun and being a fighter, in and of itself, is hard enough, but it gets easier when you can’t wait to get to the gym. For me, this isn’t a job; this is my life.”
Coming off back-to-back losses, both Bahazurdada and Thatch will be leaving everything in the Octagon come fight night, as history often suggests three losses in a row could put a fighter’s job in jeopardy. Thatch says he’s done his homework on “The Great.”
“Siyar hits really hard, but that’s the only thing he’s really dangerous with,” he said. “I believe he is a one-dimensional fighter, and even still, I think I’m better on the feet anyway. He throws a big punch but I’m going to capitalize on his overall weak game and come out with the victory. I think every time you come into a fight off two losses your back is going to be against the wall but, at the same time, I think in every fight you should be fighting like it’s your last fight. You should be gunning for a win every time out. And that hasn’t changed for this fight.”
In his last outing, Thatch faced off against the wily veteran and jiu-jitsu ace Gunnar Nelson at UFC 189, and while he says he was ready with a good camp, a good game plan and was feeling great, he simply made an error that cost him the fight.
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“My last fight I got caught sleeping,” he says. “I made a huge mistake by backing up with my hands down and Gunnar Nelson is a seasoned veteran and he pounced on me. I made the mistake and he was game enough to recognize it, so my hat is off to him. I was very prepared for that fight. My training has increased since then and I’ve gotten better but, again, I know what I did wrong. I was in that fight and ready to go; I just made a huge mistake.”
At this level of competition, mistakes can be unforgiving, and Thatch knows as well as anyone who has suffered a loss due to a flub how much it hurts, but as cliché as it is, fighters learn more from losses than they do wins.
“Oh for sure,” he said. “I won’t be doing that again anytime soon.”
UFC 196 takes place in Las Vegas, and while Thatch likes plying his trade in the fight capital of the world, he says there are certain aspects of fight week in Vegas that can be trying on him.
“I enjoy fighting in Vegas but I don’t enjoy the pre-fight stuff in Vegas because there’s a ton of walking everywhere you go,” he says. “Those casinos are deceptively huge, and just when you think you’re there, you find yourself walking another 500 feet before you get to where you’re supposed to be going. Many times, by the time I’m ready to fight I’m banged up and I just want to get in there and go to work. I think I may get a Segway for this fight week (laughs).”
Whether or not fight fans will see “Rukus” gliding along on a Segway come fight week, they will definitely see him inside the Octagon in perhaps the most important fight of his career, with several implications for him and his opponent. Any time a fighter can score an impressive victory on national television, the possibilities for a big fight next are certainly much stronger, and that is a thought that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Thatch.
“If the UFC calls for a short notice fight you need to say ‘yes,’” he said. “These guys who gain 30 or 40 pounds in between fights aren’t doing themselves any favors. You have to stay within 15 or 25 pounds of fighting weight in order to take those short notice fights, and it takes discipline to do it. Right now, with all of the fights, the UFC is ripe with opportunities either due to sickness or injury or even just them having to make up more cards, so it’s imperative to be ready to go.”