Greg Rebello isn’t your average Contender Series prospect.
It seems odd to refer to Rebello as a prospect at all given that at age 36 he’s older and much more experienced than the typical fighter vying for a UFC contract on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. But that’s exactly what Rebello will attempt to do tonight when he fights Josh Parisian in what will be his second crack at the biggest promotion in MMA.
Last summer, Rebello competed in week one of the Contender Series, where he fell via second-round KO to Zu Anyanwu. That opportunity had Rebello feeling conflicted heading into the show as he felt like the result would make or break him.
After seeing how competitive Anyanwu was in a split decision loss to Justin Ledet, Rebello realized that he maybe wasn’t as far off from the UFC as he thought.
“For me, when I was on last summer’s Contender Series, going into that fight I told everybody if I get beat up and I don’t belong here, I’m just going to hang the gloves up,” Rebello told MMA Fighting. “I’ve had a good career, I don’t have to prove anything to anybody. I lost the fight, but I lost because I felt like I made a mistake. I didn’t feel like he was the better fighter, I knew I could compete with him, and then after seeing him fight in the UFC, he did really well against a guy who in my eyes is like a top-10 guy in the world.
“So I know I can compete in there, so that’s why I stuck with it, took a little time off from sparring, went back to training and I wanted to get another fight ASAP. I wanted to get another run.”
Rebello’s decision to get back on the saddle proved to be a good one he went on to rattle off back-to-back KO victories after the loss to Anyanwu. He was last seen on AXS TV demolishing 98-fight veteran Travis Wiuff in just 23 seconds to capture a heavyweight title at CES 48.
He likes his chances, not just because he’s confident in his abilities, but because he believes that the roster needs heavyweights. It’s a division filled with aging contenders and Rebello sees himself as being able to compete with the best of the best, especially since he’s not as worn down as one might think given his resume.
“Obviously I’m 36, but a lot of the heavyweights are older than I am,” said Rebello. “I don’t have a lot of miles on my body. I would say that the first half of my fights would be considered amateur nowadays, when I first started there weren’t elbows or knees to the head. I didn’t fight five-minute rounds until my 15th fight and I didn’t fight with knees or elbows until my 15th fight. So I don’t have a lot of miles on my body.”
There’s no sense of entitlement on Rebello’s part either, even with a record of 24 wins and eight losses headed into Tuesday’s card. He knows that he lost on Contender Series last time and that it’s a hump he should still have to get over to prove he’s worthy of a spot on the UFC roster.
He’s also not picky about the opponent. Rebello was originally supposed to fight Oscar Ivan Cota, who was then replaced by Angel DeAnda. Only a few days before tonight’s Contender Series episode, Rebello learned he would be fighting Parisian.
“I don’t care who I fight, just give me another chance,” said Rebello, when initially asked about fighting Cota. “It really doesn’t matter to me.”
Feeling like he’s in the best shape of his life, Rebello has put retirement talk behind him, a decision that is made easier by the fact that his dedication to MMA hasn’t interfered with him being able to spend time with his wife and two kids. The Rebellos own a gym, he trains right down the road from his house, and every night when the work is done he gets to go home to his family.
“I feel good, I feel better than I did when I was 26 to be honest with you,” said Rebello. “I’m not thinking about [retirement] at all. I’m just thinking about this next fight and I’m not just happy to be here and happy to get this opportunity. I’m going out there to go after it.”
Rebello has been competing professionally since 2005 and making it to the UFC would open up a wide range of possibilities as far as opponents go.
Number one on his list? Fan favorite knockout artist Mark Hunt.
“I would say Mark Hunt,” said Rebello, when asked who his dream matchup would be. “He’s just always been one of my favorites and a lot of people say that I fight like him. I just really love his style. He’s shorter than I am, he’s not a huge heavyweight, but he’s very well conditioned, he’s got an awesome chin, and his striking is top-notch.
“You see how his game has evolved at such a late age — what is he, 43? And he’s still a top-5 guy in the world, he’s still doing the damn thing. I love Mark Hunt, I’m a huge fan.”