In a division that is in need of new contenders, the name Ovince Saint Preux carries a little import. Not only has he won back-to-back fights by first round knockout, but he’s gone 6-1 since coming over to the UFC in the Strikeforce purchase. In fact, his only loss in the last three-and-a-half years came against Ryan Bader a year ago in Bangor, Maine.
And as he gets set to fight Glover Teixeira at UFC Fight Night 74 in Nashville, Tenn. on Aug. 8, he thinks that listless loss might have helped him in the long run.
On Monday Saint Preux was a guest on The MMA Hour, and he said that since that time he has figured some things out.
"It actually, the loss actually did me good because I ended up reinventing myself," he told Ariel Helwani.
"I didn’t feel myself at all [for that fight]. I did not. My training wasn’t going like I wanted. I was BSing through my whole training and stuff. [Bader and I] fought on the same card in Vancouver. From that fight we literally flew into town Sunday, and Monday morning I’m getting a phone call saying that I’m fighting Bader in Bangor. Of course it’s a main event fight, so I’m going to take it."
Saint Preux said that fight taught him some things about sticking with what works.
"That in itself was a big learning experience," he said. "I stopped doing everything I was previously doing. I was doing a lot of new stuff for when I fought Bader. So I went back to the basics [afterwards]. I went back to the boxing gym, I got my timing back on and all of that showed when I fought Shogun, my timing was perfect. When I fought Cummins my timing was perfect."
Saint Preux (18-6) knocked Mauricio Rua out in Brazil in what he says was the highlight of his career so far. He followed that up with a first-round knockout against Patrick Cummins at UFC on FOX 15 in New Jersey. Because every victory he’s had since debuting against Gian Villante at UFC 159 has been a finish, his name was being bandied about a little bit as a title contender.
With new 205-pound champion Daniel Cormier drawing Alexander Gustafsson next, and with Bader riding a four-fight winning streak waiting in the wings, OSP says he still has some work to do to get his shot. But, then again he says you never know.
"You know, the 205-pound division right now is wide open," he said. "The beauty about the UFC is you don’t have to be in the top…you don’t have to be in the No. 1 contender’s spot to fight for the title. It’s primarily like Dana [White] says, whatever fight the fans want to see, that’s the fight you’re going to get. Even with the fight against Cormier a lot of people were throwing my name out there, and I was like, if the opportunity would have presented itself, I would have took the fight. But at the same time, fans want to see good knockouts, and apparently I’m one of the favorites for knocking people out."
The 32-year-old former University of Tennessee football player went through a lot of ups and downs early in his MMA career, but some of the downs were because he was taking fights willy-nilly. He began his career with a couple of losses, and he fought three times in three weeks in 2009, a stretch where he went 1-2.
Since that time he has gone 15-2 with against an escalating scale of competition through Strikeforce and eventually the UFC. In fact, he made his Strikeforce debut on a Challengers card in Nashville against Chris Hawk in April 2010 – the card that erupted in a brawl later between Jake Shields’ camp and Jason Miller.
Fast forward five years,and Saint Preux is closing in on a title shot.
He says he thinks that a good showing against Teixeira could potentially catapult him right near the top. Yet even if that’s not the case, he’s in it for the long haul.
"It’s just one of those things where, I get this fight and I think I need one more fight and I should be good," he said. "Depending how I finish this fight, it might be after this fight. I’m not hoping for anything, but at the same time I just got to go out there and, like I said, I don’t care how long it takes. It could be two years from now. It could be three months from now. I’m definitely working my way up. I’m climbing up that ladder and that’s what I’m going to continue doing."