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Ovince Saint Preux emphatic about opportunity to face Jon Jones: 'I'm prepared to sacrifice everything'

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Ovince Saint Preux's life changed in the most mundane of ways. That is, what changed was monumental, but how it happened was not.

As UFC light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier fell out of his main event bout against Jon Jones at UFC 197 due to injury, the opportunity was presented to the man affectionately known as OSP.

And how did it come to pass that OSP got word the fight was going to be his?

"I was just out running some errands and stuff. I actually pulled up to the drive-thru. I was at KFC," the Haitian-American confessed on Monday's The MMA Hour.

"Then after that the lady asked me what I wanted. I went ahead and paid the lady, then kinda took off. I didn't want the food anymore. I was like, 'I think I'm going to have to start to do an extreme diet.'"

That's probably a safe bet. The bout is less than three weeks away, something that makes the challenge even more daunting than it already is. But to hear OSP tell it, he's as upbeat as one could be despite the weight of the world on his shoulders.

"I'm feeling pretty confident. I'm feeling really good. My coaches are throwing me into the deep end of the waters. It's going to be like that for the next two weeks and I'm well prepared for it.

"Fights like this don't come around that often," he noted. "An opportunity presented itself. I'm definitely taking advantage of it."

To Saint Preux, that's the key consideration. Late notice is not an optimum way to take a fight, but it may be the only way to get a fight like this.

"It's something that we wanted," he said of he and his team. "It's something that we're pretty excited about. Like I said, it's one of the opportunities that won't come. It's either me stick around for another two years and so and try to wait for this opportunity to come again or me just jump on it right now. I'd rather jump on it right now."

Saint Preux acknowledged there are some major changes that have to and are happening to get him ready for April 23. That said, he claimed he's not out of shape. On Friday, he said he ran a sub-7-minute mile for 3 miles. His weight is slightly high, but nothing too out of the ordinary.

"I'm actually in pretty good shape," he claimed. "I want to make sure I'm pushing myself for a five-round fight."

Perhaps most interestingly, OSP said he "knew" this was going to happen, that he would get the call to replace Cormier.

"I don't know. It was funny. All last week I just had a little funny feeling. It was because of the Cormier situation." Like others, Saint Preux heard Cormier was seen as being injured at a wrestling tournament. That got his wheels turning about becoming a replacement. From there, he realized he had to be the best choice after a process of elimination. "Just kinda looking up and down the field at our weight class, to see what would happen. My name was probably the best choice for that fight. I was prepared for it."

Saint Preux, 32, is older and wiser now. He said he's been mentally preparing to face Jones for years, which means he's been looking forward to it for as many years. Add in the prestige of it all and there's not much to dislike.

"My opportunity started when he actually had the belt. It's just one of them things where he fought guys and the way he went about doing that, he's going down in history as probably, pound-for-pound, one of the best fighters ever in the UFC. For me, stepping in there, actually fighting him," he argued. "Look, that's a hell of a story to tell my kids."

He also knows the odds are against him, literally. Many places rate him as a +400 underdog, meaning oddsmakers give him very little chance of accomplishing anything. Does that mean the former University of Tennessee linebacker is deterred? Not really.

"Personally, I don't get bothered by stuff like at all. I'm pretty cool, calm, relaxed," he noted. "People that have been around me, people that have been here since day one with me, my coach Eric Trainer - even with -- those are the people I need in my corner. Everybody else, you're always going to hear things online whether it's good or bad. Me, I just shrug my shoulders and laugh."

OSP also doesn't think Jones is going to be too distracted by the chaos in his life. Jones spent parts of last week in a local jail for alleged probation violation. He's out now, but amidst that and the larger turmoil of his career, many of have speculated the former champion isn't in the right frame of mind. OSP disagreed.

"You've got a lot of situations going on, but the thing about Jon, he makes himself mentally prepared for every situation, especially when it comes to fights," he said. "I think his head is going to be there in the fight, but that's the biggest thing about myself, too, is mentally I can get to myself. My last fight proved I didn't get to myself. It's something my coach caught onto. We were able to fix that.

"A lot of people don't realize you need to get the mental training in, too, because that's just as hard, too. When I first started, it was extremely frustrating. Now, I'm pretty much cool, calm, collected. Even now, I'm mentally of what's going on, but I know these next two weeks is going to be hell. At the same time, it's something that I needed. Something that I want. I'm prepared to sacrifice everything."

As if things weren't hurried and weird already, Cormier - who is on good terms with OSP - actually invited OSP to train at his gym, American Kickboxing Academy (AKA). Cormier offered to shoulder expenses, share training partners, coaches and more. OSP seemed delighted by the offer, but ultimately passed.

"I appreciate the invitation and everything, all the hospitality. Even going back to Strikeforce days with Bob Cook. I definitely appreciate the invitation, but I think with everything we got going on over here, my coach came up with a solid game plan. I think we're definitely going to be OK."

And speaking of those Strikeforce days, they hold relevancy now. There was a time during his run there where OSP almost retired from or quit the sport. Things were OK, but not great. Mostly, he was alone. When he reflects back on that time and thinks about where he is now, it's easy to see why Saint Preux almost quit, but ultimately decided against it.

"I gave myself a year. I was like, 'if I can't turn this around in a year, I'm going to probably call it quits,'" he said. "The reason that happened was because when I first started off, it's just one of them things where the talent level was always there. It's just I was always working out on my own, I was doing the cardio on my own. I was always pushing myself on my own. As people, you can only push yourself to a certain. You're going to push yourself to the max. That's why you need a personal trainer, you need someone to push you.

After that, Saint Preux got his with current strength and conditioning coach (among others) and hasn't looked back since.

"He just basically lit me up and after that, I started lighting everybody else up."

Now less than three weeks away from the biggest opportunity of his career, OSP is happy about the circumstances that brought him to this moment. More than that, though, he's ready for what's ahead. He's looking to the future. And with that comes imagining what the future looks like.

He has no room for negativity or doubt or anything else that'd get in the way. He's not allowing himself to be the one who mentally forces error or doubt inside his head. All he's making room for are the dreams he's held onto - through good times and bad - and the ones he wants to make a reality.

"Every time I wake up, I have to tell myself that," Saint Preux said of beating Jones. "Every time I go to sleep, I have to tell myself that. I'm dreaming about that. Every movie that I put on is some type of movie that is telling me that I'm fighting for glory. If I doubt myself in any which way, I already lost the fight before I got there.

"I'm doing a lot of imagery and visualization. Every time that happens within every scenario, it doesn't matter what happens," he claimed. "I have my hand raised at the end."

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