There’s no picking and choosing your opponents in the UFC’s stacked lightweight division, a fact of life that suits Drakkar Klose just fine.
Klose (yes, his first name comes from the cologne) meets Lando Vannata on the preliminary portion of UFC 226 this Saturday, which takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. It will be Klose’s first fight since dropping a unanimous decision to David Teymur last December, the first loss of Klose’s professional career.
Though Vannata is coming off of split draw and has only recorded one win in four Octagon appearances, “Groovy” has carried a certain mystique ever since he nearly finished Tony Ferguson in his UFC debut in July 2016 and for his wheel kick knockout of John Makdessi at UFC 206.
Given how unorthodox and unpredictable Vannata can be, it’s fair to say he’s still viewed as a dangerous prospect, but Klose believes it’s he who will walk out of UFC 226 with all of the hype.
“I’m never like that,” Klose told MMA Fighting. “Whoever they give me, I’m down to fight them. I fear no man. I’ve just gotta go out there and just be me and go swag out. I do it in the gym, sometimes when we get in there we kind of hold back and I don’t think I’ve hit my full potential yet. I’ve only been doing this since 2011, so I still have a lot to grow and still a lot to showcase.”
If his health had been permitting, Klose would have fought Vannata even sooner. The 30-year-old currently trains out of the MMA Lab in Glendale, Ariz., and the UFC was considering a bout between the two lightweights when they visited the city in April. Klose was still banged up from the Teymur fight, but was quick to sign on the dotted line when the opportunity to fight Vannata was again floated his way.
To prepare for Vannata’s unique style, Klose has been training with former UFC lightweight champion and current Bellator standout Benson Henderson, among others at the Lab.
“I’ve been going a lot with Benson, a lot of the guys that just do like — Alex Caceres — the movement, that’s the only thing that’s going to be different, just the movement,” said Klose. “But throwing punches and all that, that’s all the same.”
Prior to the Teymur loss, which happened in Klose’s home state of Michigan, Klose was developing a reputation as a spoiler. His UFC debut came on two-weeks’ notice, a unanimous decision win over Devin Powell, and then last July he went on to earn a split decision and hand Marc Diakiese his first loss.
Though he’s been lumped together with the other lightweight up-and-comers, Klose has angled for bouts with veterans like Ross Pearson and Clay Guida, only to see both bouts fail to materialize. However, he knows that no matter who his opponent is, it’s about time he stops going to the scorecards, something he’s done in his past five fights.
“Winning is everything, but this fight I have to go out there and make a statement,” said Klose. “I have to get my name out there. I’ve gotta make this fight the way I want it, the way I’ve been dreaming about it. Go out there and finish him and everything else will fall in line.”
As if Klose doesn’t have enough on his plate, he and his girlfriend Andrea are expecting their first child, a boy, later this month. He’s already preparing for the change in mindset that comes with fighting for more than just himself.
While he looks forward to fatherhood, he plans to juggle his domestic responsibilities with his responsibilities at the gym rather than take time off. A strong performance this weekend might get him back on the winning track and at 155 pounds it will take even more work to stay there.
“I plan on getting this fight done in the second round, injury-free, and maybe a month later try to get back in there,” said Klose.
“Especially this division, 155, you have to stay relevant. There’s so many fights. You get knocked out one week, everyone forgets about it because there’s another fight coming around, so it’s all about staying relevant in this game.”