Andre Fili has regained the hunger he once had for his MMA career.
After hitting a rough patch with the sport, the Team Alpha Male product is back to appreciating and enjoying his job. Fili, who fights this Saturday at UFC 214 in Anaheim, Calif., entered the UFC with a bang in 2013, dismantling Jeremy Larsen on short notice within two rounds at UFC 166. With a violent and fan-friendly debut, the 23-year-old competitor was quickly labeled a prospect in the UFC’s featherweight division.
However, following his impressive start, the promising 145-pounder delivered mixed results in the promotion, compiling a record of 3-3 over a span of four years. Fili attributes that rough patch in the sport to just simply losing the love for MMA, and treating fighting like if it were a regular job.
“I guess a big factor is that I started treating this like a job and I wasn’t in love with it anymore,” Fili told MMA Fighting. “I was just kind of doing it to pay the bills and it was what I’ve always done. I wasn’t waking up excited to go fight, but now I’m back to how I was when I was 20 years old. I’m experienced, I’m older and I know how to do everything right, but I have kind of re-found that fire and that hunger. It just comes down to loving what you do, and I love getting into fist fights.
“I fell back to appreciating that and not taking it for granted, and yeah, on top of falling in love back to fighting, I’ve been consistent, I’ve been working my ass off. Those two things combined with having that passion and working your ass off towards it, that’s the recipe. There is no secret recipe for success. That’s it, working your ass off and being passionate about what you’re doing. I’m back to that sweet spot and it feels good.”
In his last outing in October, Fili outpointed then top-15 featherweight Hacran Dias in a unanimous decision. The victory over Dias felt like a turning point for the 27-year-old Fili. To continue building off his notable win, the California-based fighter was then matched up with another ranked opponent in Dooho Choi for UFC 214. Unfortunately, those plans took an unexpected turn, as Choi was forced to withdraw from the card.
For a while, Fili remained without an opponent, but just last week UFC newcomer Calvin Kattar stepped in to replace Choi. So despite losing a ranked match-up, Fili is just glad to have someone to fight with come Saturday night.
“I was told I was going to be on that card fighting a really good opponent, a really good match up for me,” Fili explained. “People were really excited about the fight but then Choi pulled out of the fight, and I was kind of in a f*cking limbo there for a pretty long while. People were asking me if I was still going to be on the card and I didn’t have answers. So it feels good to have an opponent, to know that I’m going to be on the card and to get to fight on the West Coast, it feels good. But the camp was really just the same, or even better honestly, because I just trusted the process, I wasn’t wrapped up into the actual fight. I just focused on what I can control.”
Kattar might be new to the UFC, but not to MMA. “The Boston Finisher” is 16-2 as a professional fighter and hasn’t lost a fight in his last eight outings. So while Kattar may not have a name in the sport, Fili finds him to be a UFC caliber opponent.
“I’ve seen a little bit,” Fili said. “I haven’t studied a whole lot, but I’ve seen a little bit of what he does and what he likes to do. He’s a tough guy that likes to box and he’s pretty well-rounded everywhere. I really appreciate him stepping up and taking the fight. He’s a game fighter, he’s a UFC caliber fighter. This might be his debut, but he’s a UFC caliber fighter, so I’m excited to get in a fight ad mix it up and put on a show for people.”