There were starts, there were stops, there were times when many wondered if Tom Breese was ever going to fight again. Yet last October, it only took the Birmingham middleweight one minute and 43 seconds to remind the world that he wasn’t going anywhere.
“I agree, it is my best performance so far and I flowed better than ever,” said Breese of his first-round knockout of KB Bhullar, an effort which earned him his third UFC Performance of the Night bonus. “My mental and physical preparation is always improving as I study and learn more in martial arts. I am a student of martial arts and will study many different subjects in order to improve.”
On this night in Abu Dhabi, it was Breese’s striking on display, as his southpaw jab was like a laser before a left hand set up the finishing sequence. It was the kind of win fans had been waiting to see since his last victory over Dan Kelly over two years prior, and between the TKO of Kelly and his win over Bhullar, there were hills to climb in and out of the Octagon. But one thing that stayed consistent was his desire to learn and become a better martial artist.
“I’ve been in a constant state of learning and improving since I started martial arts,” said Breese. “Things haven’t always gone to plan but I’ve gained invaluable wisdom from failure that has made me better. I’m also learning from great coaches. In 2020, I met some great teachers that have taken my skill set to another level and I’ve made big progress in gymnastics, Greco-Roman wrestling - which has improved my grappling all round - and boxing.”
And he’s still just 29 years old heading into Saturday’s meeting with Akhmedov, a fighter with a 5-1-1 record in his last seven, with the only loss a close one to former middleweight champion Chris Weidman last August.
“Omari is a veteran opponent currently ranked 13th in the division,” said Breese. “Short and stocky in stature, he often mixes striking and wrestling in bouts. I’m excited to test my skills against him.”
It’s the epitome of a pick ‘em bout, one where any little intangible can be the difference between victory and defeat. The intangible on Breese’s side? He’s not only competed on Fight Island before, but he’s been there twice during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the first time to corner his teammate Jai Herbert.
“Fight Island is very familiar, and the facilities and staff make it very easy to prepare for a bout,” said Breese, who sounds ready to go for this weekend’s matchup, which is a good thing, because should he go back to England with his hand raised, he might just take Akhmedov’s top 15 ranking.
“The future is mysterious,” he said. “The only thing I can control is my habits and I try to be a better version of myself all the time. I know I have the skills and athleticism to beat any middleweight. I plan on destroying every opponent I meet in the Octagon and then paying my respects after the bout.”
That might be the nicest way anyone’s ever talked about destroying an opponent, but that’s Tom Breese, a fighter with championship potential who may finally be on track to reaching that place everyone predicted for him.
“I am the best version of myself to date and looking forward to another year of learning and improvements,” he said. “I want to display beautiful martial arts skill in the Octagon and rise through the rankings. When I started martial arts 14 years ago, it’s always been my mission to become UFC champion and I am determined to succeed. Greatness only.”
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