Brad "One Punch" Pickett reached two milestones of sorts in the past few days.
This past Saturday night, when Demetrious Johnson became the first UFC flyweight champion, Pickett now has the distinction of being the person who beat the champion in both men's debut under the Zuffa umbrella. It took place in an exciting prelim fight on April 24, 2010, in Sacramento, Calif., the night of the first and as it turned out only pay-per-view show of the World Extreme Cagefighting promotion.
Then on Monday, Pickett celebrated his 34th birthday. While everyone is different, as a fighter, 34 becomes a concerning number. If one hasn't taken a lot of wear and tear, it doesn't constitute being out of your prime. But the number is warning signal that it may be your last chance to make something happen and that you have to start accepting that fighting has a shelf life.
Pickett (21-6), this coming Saturday, a native of London, England, returns to home soil at the UFC on Fuel show from Nottingham, England. He faces Yves Jabouin (18-7) of Montreal, an explosive all-around striker and knockout artist, in a bantamweight battle between two men looking to leap that one step up and get in with the top five in the class.
"It's not going to be putting anymore pressure on me," Pickett said regarding his birthday being any kind of a wake-up call. "If anything, I'd like to be a little more active. You have athletes this age at the top in all sports. It all depends on how your body feels, it's not my age.
"It's not really the age of your body, but how your body reacts to a hard training camp."
In his fight with Johnson, which went back-and-forth, he was able to do what only one person, bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, was able to do, in scoring a win. In his case, part of the difference was a size edge. But it leads to obvious speculation with Johnson now the best in the world at 125, about if Pickett would contemplate moving down and trying to challenge for the title.
"Obviously for me to make 125 pounds, I wouldn't be the same fighter," he said. "I'd have to be dropping a lot of weight. If I started at 145, I could make 125. But I'm very lean at the moment. To lose an extra ten pounds would be detrimental to my health. I'd have to walk around at 145, and I'm 155 to 160 pounds. It would be harder. I'm not exactly a small 135-pounder."
As far as fighting on familiar grounds is concerned, he said there are as many good things about it as not so good.
"There are pros and cons," he said. "I don't mind fighting anywhere. I've got experience fighting all over the world. The pros, I have more friends and family who will be able to come to watch me. The cons is that I put more pressure on myself. More people I know are watching, so that's more people that if I lose I'm going to let them down."
Pickett in his WEC and then UFC tenure has gained a reputation for someone who is going to deliver a crowd-pleasing fight almost every time. In his five fights, he's had three fight of the night bonuses, and the fight with Johnson that he won via decision would have gotten the best fight bonus on most UFC cards. Unfortunately, it was on a night with the first and somewhat legendary Leonard Garcia vs. Korean Zombie Chan Sung Jung fight, which was fight of the year in 2010 in almost everyone's awards.
Matched with Jabouin, he's got the opponent to deliver that kind of a fight again.
"He's very well rounded," Pickett said. "He's a very good athlete. He's very athletic. I'm the same type of person. I played a lot of different sports (Pickett was a high level youth soccer player before having knee problems). He's got good fast-twich and good stand-up.
"We can both go anywhere and the fans will probably see a very entertaining fight."
Pickett's momentum as far as reaching the top tier was stopped when he ran into future interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao, who finished him with a choke in the first round on Nov. 3, 2011.
"I need to beat Yves Jabouin this Saturday. If I'd have beaten Renan Barao, I'd be in the position I want to be in. It's up to me to get that streak going from there."
He dubbed that fight a learning experience.
"He was a lot more competitive than I thought he would be," said Pickett. "I kind of didn't want to take him down because I respected his ground game. So the next time if I did fight him again, I'd mix it up. It was back-and-forth in the first round. I got caught with a big knee. That stuff happens. You get hit hard with a knee to the face, and by the time I recovered, I was in a bad position."
Still, as someone who was in with Barao, he predicts if and when the showdown between Barao and champion Cruz takes place, he's favoring Cruz.
"To be honest at the moment, I'd go for Cruz," he said. "He's got such an awkward style to train for. I don't think he would finish Barao. He's probably not going to finish him. He's not very good at finishing, but he's very good at winning rounds. I see it going like his fight with Urijah (Faber)."