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‘Reclusive’ Bobby Green ready to remind fans he’s a contender with busy 2019

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UFC on FOX 24 Weigh-ins
Bobby Green (pictured) fights Drakkar Klose in a lightweight bout Saturday at UFC on FOX 31 in Milwaukee
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Bobby Green is back. No, really this time.

It’s understandable if fans are a little skittish about banking on the man known as “King” to become an impact player in the lightweight division again, given his sporadic appearances in the Octagon over the last few years. Riddled with various injuries, including problems with his knee that knocked him out of a pair of 2018 bookings, Green has fought just four times in the last four years and logged just one win during that stretch.

The good news is that win came in his most recent outing, a unanimous decision nod over Erik Koch in January at UFC on FOX 27. That snapped a four-fight streak of futility and Green gets the chance to capitalize on that when he fights Drakkar Klose this Saturday at UFC on FOX 31 in Milwaukee at Fiserv Forum.

Green competes at 155 pounds, arguably the deepest division in the sport, and he told MMA Fighting that he wants to fight at least three times next year to remind everyone that he’s not far from the budding contender who capped off a 4-0 start with the UFC by defeating Josh Thomson back in 2014.

“That’s the plan,” Green said, looking ahead to 2019. “Fans are so quick to forget about you. They’ll forget about you quick. There’s so much new blood and so many people, they’ll forget about you quick.”

After his win over Thomson, Green was given opportunities to work his way to a title shot, but he couldn’t quite crack the top-10, losing three straight bouts to Edson Barboza, Dustin Poirier, and Rashid Magomedov. A split draw against Lando Vannata left Green in a slump that he was eager to put behind him, but after the win over Koch, more misfortune headed his way.

A knee injury knocked him out of a bout with Beneil Dariush at UFC 222, then the same thing happened when he was supposed to fight Clay Guida at UFC 225. Since the Barboza fight in November 2014, Green has withdrawn from five announced bouts, including other high-profile encounters with Al Iaquinta and Jorge Masvidal.

Green turned 32 in September, and as he enters his 11th year of pro competition, he’s confident that an emphasis on strength and conditioning — aspects of training he admits he neglected in the past — will go a long way to addressing his injury woes.

“Barboza, he kicked my quad off and then I’ve had some knee injuries. I finally figured it out,” Green said. “Me and my coaches, we’ve always thought as long as I worked on my skills, that I would be in shape and I would be ready for a fight. I can get in shape doing rounds versus having to do stuff like strength and conditioning. I wasn’t big on strength and conditioning.

“Now I’m realizing how important strength and conditioning is. I have the strength in my legs and these little muscles that keep all the stuff together.”

It was a traceable issue, not some mysterious streak of bad luck that Green and his team were helpless to stop. He believes that even with the rigors of wrestling training and sparring, freak injuries are avoidable now that he’s taking better care of himself.

Despite his stretches of inactivity, Green spoke positively of the UFC for being patient with him. He’s worked with matchmaker Sean Shelby since their Strikeforce days, when Green was establishing himself as a lightweight to watch. That’s kept Green in the mix even as his body has refused to cooperate.

“Shelby’s known me since Strikeforce and he knows that anytime that a fight falls out, call Bobby Green, he’ll take the fight,” Green said. “It doesn’t matter who it is, when it is, or where they at. He’ll take the fight. So I’ve always had that reputation with Sean.

“As of lately, I’ve had more injuries, I had two f*cking knee injuries in four months. It’s just been crazy and I’m really trying to be more busy than ever as I had to figure out what it was. Now that we’re addressing it daily, you’re going to see a lot more of me.”

Green’s absence has been amplified by his reticence when it comes to dealing with the media, though he does stay active on Instagram, frequently recording videos so he can speak directly to his fanbase.

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Outside of that Green describes himself as “reclusive” when it comes to dealing with most people. That’s made for some awkward interactions with his rivals, including Guida and Klose, the latter of whom he considers a friend and once shared management with.

“I thought me and Clay were cool,” Green said of Guida, who recently took Green to task for bowing out of their UFC 225 meeting, calling Green “a coward”. That’s a fight Green still wants, though he’s not looking to make the potential matchup more personal than it needs to be.

“I don’t need animosity to whoop your ass,” Green said. “I don’t need the animosity. We can fight and be happy or we can fight and be mad, it doesn’t matter. So I don’t know, that’s all in Clay’s court. I’m just dealing with what I’m being offered.”

Even Green’s recent social media shutdown of Klose has more to do with keeping things professional than any particular ill will towards Klose. It’s not an unfamiliar situation to Green, who beat Pat Healy back in 2013 when the two were under the same management, but he’d never actually met Healy and his relationship with Klose was considerably closer to the point that he didn’t think Klose would interested in fighting him.

Green had actually given Klose pointers on how to beat Vannata at UFC 226, but once they were booked to be opponents, that meant blocking Klose on Instagram and cutting off communication.

Going Zero Dark Thirty? That’s nothing new for Green. And whatever is next for him in 2019, that’s something much of the public is already used to.

“Yes and no,” Green said when asked if he made it a point to shut Klose out. “Yes, because I feel like I don’t want you being inside my life and seeing what I’m doing to prepare for you. I don’t want you to be a little spy and shit, like that’s what they were doing. A bunch of little spies watching my stuff and I can tell what they’re doing, I’m not stupid. Trying to troll me and get his fans to talk to me, I just block those guys. I don’t care, I don’t need that.

“Right now we’re fighting, I don’t want to talk to you, he’s been messaging me and blah blah blah. I don’t want to talk to you, bro, I’m trying to f*ck you up. I don’t want to talk. I’m gonna fight. So I don’t know. People say I’m such a talker. I’m a fighter first, I don’t talk much.”