With stay-at-home orders issued, gyms shut down and the UFC schedule rapidly changing from week to week, Drew Dober was forced to adapt.
Originally expected to fight on May 2, Dober didn’t now what to expect after several shows were either postponed or cancelled along with a slew of fighters removed from events due to travel restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
None of this made it any easier for the 31-year-old lightweight veteran to prepare for a fight but then again the unique circumstances also gave him the chance to go back to his roots when he first started competing in MMA more than a decade ago.
“I was making jokes earlier in the quarantine that I’ve got to find training partners, I’ve got to find places to train, I’ve got to find the coaches,” Dober explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “It’s a lot of work but it kind of reminds me of growing up in Nebraska, trying to make it to the UFC.
“Big gyms in big cities have been spoiled as far as opportunities go so I’m just back to the Midwest mentality where we had to just make things happen.”
While he may not have enjoyed a gym filled with teammates and coaches, Dober did find one particular training partner that helped push him to the limit and back again.
That person was new UFC interim lightweight champion Justin Gaethje, who was training alongside Dober even before he was offered a chance to face Tony Ferguson this past weekend. Gaethje wanted to get in his rounds and Dober was preparing for a fight already so it made for the perfect storm between two hard-hitting lightweights.
“Imagine an empty gym, I just have my coach, he just has his coach and then we just beat each other’s ass for five rounds,” Dober said. “I’ve been having title fights with Gaethje all through quarantine.
“I’ve been ready to fight since May 2. Now the date was just pushed back, I’m ready right now and I’ll stay ready until that day.”
After trading punches with a savage like Gaethje, there’s not much Dober believes Alexander Hernandez can offer him on Wednesday night at UFC Jacksonville that he hasn’t already seen.
He just hopes Hernandez can match his enthusiasm when it comes time to fight.
“Alex Hernandez, when he’s feeling himself, when he’s feeling good, he pushes that pace,” Dober said. “He has some exciting fights. Now it’s just a matter of which Alex Hernandez shows up. I wasn’t a huge fan of his [Francisco] Trinaldo performance.
“I’m implementing my plan. I’m stepping forward. I’m engaging. I love exciting fights. The world championship is what I have in mind but I want to make a legacy of fantastic fights. I take risks. I make things exciting.”