Tyson Pedro, who fights Ilir Latifi this Saturday on the main card of UFC 215: Johnson vs Borg, is yet to taste defeat in his six professional fights.
But the light heavyweight says sparring with his teammates at the famed Jackson-Wink MMA Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico stops him from being fixated on the ‘0’ on his record.
When you’re training with fighters of that caliber, it’s a fact of life that sometimes you’re going to come out second best.
“I’ve had a couple of sparring sessions in here that have messed me up, but it’s not about the losses. That’s why I’m not worried about losses; I take losses every day,” said Pedro ahead of his fight at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “I’m always tapping out, I’m always getting caught with punches. Every day I’m taking a loss, so that’s how you’re learning and getting better and that’s why it doesn’t worry me.”
At least on paper, Pedro’s last opponent seemed to have a real chance at blemishing the Australian’s record. Then undefeated, submission specialist Paul Craig was vocal before their fight about Pedro being “too inexperienced” to win.
The experience gap never appeared to be a factor, as the 25-year-old Pedro stunned Craig on the feet before trapping him in a crucifix and finishing him with elbows for a TKO victory at 4:10 into the first round.
Pedro didn’t take the bait and respond to his opponent’s pre-fight comments. Perhaps that’s a sign that Pedro has no insecurity about his abilities, despite his perceived inexperience.
“(What Paul Craig said) surprised me, and it caught me off guard, because I’ve never had anybody talk crap. It was sort of funny for me because I knew how much he was underestimating me, so it didn’t get under my buttons too much.”
The “inexperienced” critique is one Pedro has heard before, having made his UFC debut in just his fifth professional fight. Pedro’s answer to that criticism has always been that he’s more experienced than his record shows.
If being named after Mike Tyson wasn’t enough of a giveaway, Pedro was raised to be a fighter. Pedro’s father, Australian MMA pioneer John Pedro, started him in martial arts at age four.
But Pedro does admit he’s still working on being the same fighter in the UFC Octagon as he is in the gym, and that’s at least one thing he expects to change as he gets more big fight experience.
“At the moment, I’m better in the gym. And that’s why I’ve been hesitant in moving as fast as I am because I’m not showing my full capability in the fights. But I think once it all comes out and I’m fighting like I’m sparring, (they are) going to be very exciting fights.”
Come Saturday, Pedro will fight his most seasoned opponent yet in Ilir “The Sledgehammer” Latifi. The 34-year-old Swede has a 13-5, 1 NC record and made his professional MMA debut in 2008.
But Latifi is not just a grizzled veteran there to make a rising prospect look good. Ranked number 10 in the UFC’s light heavyweight division, Latifi is well rounded and a knockout puncher, making him a dangerous fighter in his own right.
Latifi is also a training partner of Alexander Gustafsson, ranked number two in the UFC’s light heavyweight division. Pedro, who sees similarities between himself and Gustafsson, thinks that might give Latifi an interesting edge.
“(Latifi is) a strong killer, he knocks people out with either hand, they call him the Sledgehammer for a reason. He’s been sparring with Gustafsson, and I guess I’ve got a similar height and style to him so it will be pretty cool to see how he’s worked out to try and figure me out,” said Pedro. “But I don’t think I’ve got footage out there with my fights, or doing what I think I can actually do, so it will be cool to see how he’s worked out this fight.”
Part of the reason for that lack of footage is that Pedro is yet to see the second round of a professional fight, having finished all his opponents in the first round.
At least for the pundits, it’s a mystery how Pedro will perform in the later rounds of a fight. But Pedro plans to keep it that way this Saturday.
“I always try to look and finish it as fast as I can, not for any reason, if it goes to the third round it goes to the third round, but if the finish is there, why wait until the third round?”