For many fighters, booking a fight in Las Vegas would mark a major milestone in their careers.
Ovince Saint Preux has been there and done that, even once sharing the main event spotlight opposite Jon Jones in a five-round interim title fight at MGM Grand Garden Arena back in April 2016. Now he just wants to come home again.
The light heavyweight veteran is currently scheduled to fight Misha Cirkunov at UFC 235 in Las Vegas on March 2, but that matchup was announced before news broke that the Octagon would soon be heading to Saint Preux’s home state of Tennessee for UFC Nashville on March 23.
As much as “OSP” enjoys the bright lights of Vegas, if he has to choose, he’ll always lean towards fighting closer to Knoxville, where he’s lived and trained since the start of his fighting career.
“It’s my home and why not?” Saint Preux told MMA Fighting when asked why he’s trying to get his UFC 235 fight changed. “I love fighting in Vegas, but I guarantee you I’ll fight in Vegas again before I fight in Nashville. So every time that opportunity comes up to fight in Nashville, why not take it?”
Saint Preux’s fight with Cirkunov became official in early January and though he’d heard rumors that a Nashville card was in the works, he didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when a return to “Music City” was confirmed that Saint Preux felt like he was missing out.
He also worries that fans will miss out on getting to see a local star compete with Saint Preux’s fellow Tennesseans having recently competed or already been scheduled to compete elsewhere.
“To be honest right now we’ve got four fighters from the state of Tennessee that fight for the UFC,” Saint Preux said. “It’s myself, Scott Holtzman, we’re both Knoxville, Tennessee. Then you have Dustin Ortiz and Luke Sanders and they’re both Nashville, Tennesee, but Dustin Ortiz just got through fighting last weekend against Joseph Benavidez, and Scott Holtzman got a fight against Nik Lentz in Phoenix, which is the 17th. I think Luke Sanders is on that card too and I was thinking to myself, ‘Shoot, I wouldn’t mind pushing my fight a couple of weeks back just to fight on that [Nashville] card.’
“The state of Tennessee is where I started off my MMA career. I was involved in the first pro show that ever took place in the state of Tennessee, so fighting in Vegas is cool, but every time I get a chance to fight in Tennessee, that’s what I want to shoot for is to fight in Tennessee.”
With 18 UFC appearances on his resume, Saint Preux has always painted the picture of a model employee. He’s fought on four different continents and is no stranger to being called upon on short-notice or to having fights rescheduled for reasons beyond his control. Even now he’s not exactly rocking the boat, simply working through his manager to see if the UFC and Cirkunov will be open to moving their upcoming bout to Nashville, a city he’s competed in four previous times and as recently as April 2017.
Does Saint Preux feel like officials owe him any favors?
“I could say that,” Saint Preux said. “But they’re my bosses and at the end of the day do they really owe me a favor? Not necessarily. But like I said, there have been situations where — shoot, fighting (Mauricio) Shogun (Rua), I took a fight last minute. I was actually on the plane and didn’t even know who I was going to fight. I remember when I was supposed to fight Ilir Latifi in January and they moved the fight to February because he got hurt, and I was looking for a fight. Now a week before the fight, ‘Hey, we gotta move this fight.’
“When I fought Shogun the first time, same thing. I was supposed to be the co-main event, a week before the fight, next thing you know opponent changed. When I fought Volkan Oezdemir, I was supposed to fight Jan Blachowicz and that ended up changing two weeks before the fight. I’ve had a lot of things happen to me and I just roll with the punches.”
Missing out on a major card like UFC 235 doesn’t matter much to Saint Preux, who said his pay will be the same regardless of where he fights and he doesn’t mind missing out on the media frenzy that accompanies most pay-per-views, especially one that features a Jones title fight in the main event.
UFC Nashville is currently set to be headlined by a welterweight bout between Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson and Anthony Pettis. Should Saint Preux’s request for a rescheduling be granted, he’s not campaigning for a co-main event slot necessarily, but he’s certain that Tennessee will at least be represented on the ESPN+ main card.
“Literally, when the card got announced my Instagram blew up like, ‘I can’t believe you’re not on this card,’” Saint Preux said. “And guys were like how do not have any Tennessee guys on the card? If (UFC president) Dana (White) gives the okay, if (UFC matchmaker) Mick (Maynard) gives the okay, I’ll take it.”