While the majority of fans, including multi-time UFC champion Daniel Cormier, were impressed with Brandon Royval’s UFC debut, the fighter himself still wasn’t overly enthused days later.
Royval defeated former flyweight title challenger Tim Elliott via second-round submission at UFC on ESPN 9 this past Saturday. The performance earned “Raw Dawg” a $50,000 bonus for being one half of the event’s “Fight of the Night,” but it still left him with a bad taste in his mouth.
“I went back and watched it,” Royval told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “I don’t like watching it at all.”
Following the win, Royval was visibly dejected in regards to how he performed. Despite Cormier repeatedly praising him, the former LFA flyweight champion wasn’t having it. In fact, days later when MMA Fighting gave kudos to both competitors involved, that trend continued.
“I guess you might feel differently about it but I feel like I went out there and got the sh*t kicked out of me until he got tired,” Royval said. “As weird as it sounds, I got manhandled for seven minutes straight and I could feel him getting tired.
“Statistically, every time I’ve gone back to my corner between rounds one and two, I’ve lost. That was the first time I went back to the corner after the first round and said, ‘There’s no way I’m gonna lose this fight.’ I could feel him, I could hear him breathing heavy. I wasn’t tired at all, really. But even in the second round, I got taken down a bunch more times. When you try to compare yourself against the best of the division, that wasn’t enough. That didn’t cut it.”
While it makes a mark to finish a fight quickly and in a dominant fashion, there’s a lot to be said about overcoming adversity and coming through on the other side. It wasn’t the way the 27-year-old drew it up, but he’s beginning to realize that the experience he accumulated throughout the eight-plus minutes of the fight will pay dividends.
“I think that is a good point,” Royval said. “Cage experience is a lot and there’s a lot of things that I’ve never had to deal with. I’ve had numerous fights that lasted under a minute so it was something that I needed because I have a really hard time walking into that cage sometimes. The walk to that cage is always a really hard walk for me so I’ve gotta get more comfortable with that and handle my emotions.
“I don’t want to learn those lessons in the UFC, I want to be past that. I felt that cage difference and experience. He walked around and looked so comfortable across the cage. Me? I looked like I didn’t belong there. I was looking around like, ‘I can’t believe that I’m here, don’t f*ck this one up, man.’”
The uncertainty Royval felt this past Saturday night as he made the walk wasn’t anything new. In fact, it’s something he’s dealt with throughout his 15-fight professional career. As he steps into the cage, it’s a feeling of, “I guess we have to do this, now.”
“Right before a fight, I swear on my life, I’m like, ‘I hate this f*ckin’ sport,’” Royval said. “Right before I walk out, I just hate everything about it. I don’t want anything to do with this sport anymore, but then I win and I’m like, ‘Give me a fight tomorrow.’ It’s so stupid, but when I was walking out there, I turned to my coach and said, ‘I hate doing this so much. I can’t believe I do this. I should’ve finished college. What am I doing?’”
In an interview with MMA Fighting before the flyweight bout, the Factory X standout declared that he was shooting for a performance bonus. The main reason for that is so he could put his notice in and become a full-time fighter.
Royval has worked at a juvenile detention center in Colorado for a number of years, which along with being a professional fighter, created a hectic schedule. The Colorado native revealed that he would work overnights before heading to his first training session of the day.
Now that he got his first UFC win—and a bonus to boot—Royval is going to add extra sleep to his nightly routine.
“I put my two weeks in (on Tuesday),” Royval stated. “I’ve been working since I was 15 years old. I was so uncomfortable with it, but I think they saw it coming anyways because they watched the fight. I asked if I could go part-time because me and my bosses get along really well.
“I’m not trying to be douchey but I’m super good at it. I can relate to some of the kids, I know how to speak to them. I know how to mind my manners and, if worse comes to worse, I know that they’re not punking me around. There’s always that, ‘He knows how to fight, we can’t just go punch him in the face,’ so I have a little of that backdrop. But they were trying to work with me a little bit but all that they wanted me to work was going to interfere with my schedule. I know they can’t make a special schedule just for me, so I knew that was going to lead to me quitting the job long term.”
When Dana White spoke to the media at the post-fight press conference, the UFC president seemed to have been torn when it came to handing out those elusive $50,000 checks. White rarely questions himself, but after he announced that Royval and Elliott would get the nod for “Fight of the Night,” it was met with a surprising reaction.
A contingent of fans believed the fight between Billy Quarantillo and Spike Carlyle should’ve received that distinction. In the end, no one was more surprised than Royval.
“Oh yeah, bro, I was going crazy watching that fight,” Royval laughingly said. “When homeboy got up and walked to his corner, and Billy f*ckin socked his ass, I was like, ‘Oh, sh*t.’
“At the end of the night, I didn’t think they’d announce my name for any of that stuff. That fight was great, I thought Gilbert Burns had a great fight. He looked so great. I definitely played on the heart strings and I didn’t want it to come off that way. I was just more disappointed in myself. I didn’t earn it. I wasn’t begging for $50,000 at all.
“But I was so happy to hear that they were getting a kickback because I felt bad. I felt like I robbed them a little bit being an emotional person.”
In a crazy sport like MMA, as soon as one fight ends, people are excited to know what’s next for the winners. After a successful entry into the biggest promotion in the world, Royval is open to all comers, but he wants to use his time advantageously before making his sophomore appearance.
“I’ll fight anybody in the flyweight division,” Royval said. “I just feel like I need to get better. I think the UFC’s gonna be pushing fights left and right, so depending who I get, I want to be able to take them right away. As far as right now, I just want to get super good and be dialed it completely. I have the opportunity of a lifetime, and now that this is my full-time job, I need to start making big improvements.
“I’m already ranked no. 11. That’s crazy! I’m not gonna be fighting any bums. I’m not fighting any easy fights so I need to make drastic improvements to separate myself from the herd.”