Andre Fili has been fighting the best featherweights in the world in the UFC since 2013. He has a clothing company, Outcasts & Underdogs. He plays in a band, Born Breach. And he recently did a standup comedy gig that was aired on UFC FIGHT PASS.
All at the age of 32, leading to the question, what’s left to do for the Sacramento fighter, who faces Bill Algeo on Saturday night in Las Vegas?
“Bull riding and surfing are the two things that I want to - I don't even want to say get good at - but I want to not suck at,” said Fili without hesitation. “So I'm gonna win the UFC featherweight world title, I'm gonna defend it a few times, I want to get on the analyst desk and do commentary for the UFC, and then I'm gonna live off my investments and my passive income and I'm gonna just travel the world and surf. I'm gonna surf and ride bulls and do all kinds of s**t that I want to do.”
It's a lofty set of goals, but Fili has never put limits on what he can do, so he won’t start now. It’s a refreshing attitude and way of life from a young man that has always been a participant and not a spectator. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a spectator, he says, but when he finds something that he wants to do, he’s all-in.
“The things that I do want to participate in, I want to participate in them in a way that's actually meaningful,” Fili said. “I don't want to be a hobbyist. When I go surf, I go surf with my friends who are pro surfers, and I'm a terrible surfer because I've only done it less than ten times. But when I do it, I'm harassing them about technique and how to read waves. I'm treating it like it's something I want to be good at. When I wrote that standup bit, professional comedians were offering to help me, and they had all these ideas about MMA jokes, and I said I don't want to do that. I want to write eight minutes' worth of material that makes people laugh and has nothing to do with MMA. It can stand on its own and be funny. I want it to be good for standup comedy, not good for a guy who is a fighter trying standup comedy. When I make music, I make music that you can put in a playlist with its contemporaries and it wouldn't stand out where you say, oh, this is a guy that fights. I want it to be good music.”
More importantly, despite all his varied interests and things that he wants to do when he’s not in the gym or engaging in a 15-minute MMA match, everything still comes down to his fighting career and where he wants to go with it.
“I'm more invested than I've ever been,” said Fili, who will be looking to snap a three-fight winless streak on Saturday and return to the win column for the first time since he decisioned Charles Jourdain in June of 2020. “I'm more disciplined than I've ever been. I'm better at fighting than I've ever been. I'm a leader on my team, and I lead by example and not just words. I'm putting in extra practices, I'm putting in harder, smarter practices, and I'm putting in more conceptual things that I'm figuring out. I have all the knowledge that I've stolen from the incredible guys I've been able to train with - Urijah (Faber) and everyone else - and I've mixed so much new school, hybrid s**t in that I'm helping the next generation with.”
And Fili’s confidence has not been dulled by his recent cold spell, which consists of a pair of losses against Bryce Mitchell and Joanderson Brito that bookended a stellar effort against Daniel Pineda that wound up as a no contest when Pineda was unable to continue after an accidental eye poke.
“I really am something special when it comes to fighting, and I haven't shown that in my performance consistently enough,” he said. “The guy who fought Pineda in that first round can beat any '45er in the world. My biggest thing now is consistently showing that. I'm a little embarrassed and a little ashamed that I haven't shown it consistently enough, that I've had these flashes of brilliance and that's not enough. Flashes of brilliance aren't enough to cement a legacy and it's time to start doing that. And I'm in a place where I think people have sort of accepted that I'm just an exciting mid-tier '45er and it makes me a little sick to my stomach. Nineteen-year-old me would put his head through a wall if he knew that I was 21-9 (with 1 NC). It's infuriating, to be completely honest. So from this point on, my objective to consistently perform to my potential, and when I do that, I really believe that I'm the best '45er alive.”
Nine years on the UFC roster means you’re one of the best 145-pound fighters on the planet. To be the best, he has to be consistent on a nightly basis and put together a string of wins. That begins against Algeo, a tough, veteran out who Fili will have to be on his Ps and Qs to beat in both skill and toughness. But that’s the thing, as “Touchy” Fili has shown both throughout his 18-fight UFC run, making him one of the most intriguing competitors in the division. Add in an old soul that makes him old school in a lot of ways, and it’s easy to imagine him hitting his marks. And if he does, Fili can be a crossover star with appeal not only to the hardcore fans from back in 1993, but the modern-day followers of the sport. How does this happen? He realizes that being set in one line of thinking never allows for growth, whether in a pro sport, or in life. So he’s willing to improvise and keep an open mind.
“I feel like a middle child as far as the generations,” said Fili. “I see what men used to be and I see what men mostly are now, and I think there's merits to the way that our generation has changed. I think there's something to be said for paying attention to mental health and something to be said for teaching young men to express themselves and communicate more effectively and ask for help. I think there's something to be said for equality between men and women. All these things are righteous causes and I think that it's something that my generation should be proud of that we're making these changes. I also think that it's important to remember that you gotta have some balls and you gotta have some grit and some heart, and it's okay to take care of yourself and your mental health and I'm glad that conversation is being opened up. But you also sometimes gotta bite down and be a f**king man and play through pain and sacrifice for your reward and all these things that I feel other generations before, though they didn't have much mental health-conscious stuff and there were plenty of problematic things, I think that generation had a lot of s**t figured out that my generation of young men has kinda gotten away from. And I'd like to see a happy medium between the two.”
Fili may have already found it for himself, and that means he’s more than halfway there to the goals in his professional life – mix the old and the new, and that hybrid could lead to glory. He knows that he may not make it, that there could be more lows before the highs come around, but to him, that’s the beauty of the whole thing.
“Fifteen or 25 minutes is all that people see,” Fili explains. “They don't see the sacrifice; they don't see the hard work. Khabib (Nurmagomedov) is a great example. He's 29-0 as a professional. People look at that and they're impressed because he smashed this or that person. When you do this long enough, the real impressive thing to me is that he showed up 29 times and was on 29 times. That's the impressive part. And that's the beauty in MMA in that there's such high highs and such low lows and you can't have one without the other. There's a reason why golfers don't hug their caddy before a shot; it’s because their lives aren't on the line. When we go in there, you hug your cornermen because you're about to do some s**t with real repercussions, with the possibility of the lowest lows or the highest highs. And I think that's what makes this so beautiful.”
Fili brings up a quote that he firmly believes.
“After fighting, everything gets the volume turned down.”
I don’t know about that when it comes to Andre Fili, who lives life on 11.
“I date a girl who's way too hot for me, I make music with guys who are way more talented musicians than me, I do standup comedy for the first time in a room full of 300 people and write stuff that is genuinely funny, not funny because I'm a fighter,” he said. “I see other people do things and I'm like, I can do them, and I set the goal way higher than I have any business setting it, and things work out.”
UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Song took place live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 17, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!