Although the main event for Saturday night’s event in Las Vegas between Dustin Poirier and Dan Hooker has people excited, another 155-pound bout has been circled on most fight cards as a potential show stealer.
Khama Worthy will look to build upon his impressive UFC debut finish of Devonte Smith this past August when he takes on Luis Pena at UFC on ESPN 12. The lightweight bout is currently slated in the featured prelim spot at the UFC APEX.
“The Deathstar” enters the contest on an impressive six-fight winning streak but has had a difficult time getting back in the octagon following his coming out party at UFC 241. Worthy was scheduled to face Ottman Azaitar, and then Michael Johnson on the April 18 iteration of UFC 249 before it was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.
Now that he has a fight on the books, the 33-year-old is hoping to make up for lost time on Saturday night against a tough out in Pena.
“I think he’s solid,” Worthy told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “He’s a cool dude, seems like a real laid-back type of guy. I think it will be a really interesting fight and I think he’s gonna come to fight. His name is ‘Violent Bob Ross,’ I mean, f*ck yeah! We’re going in there to throw down. That’s a good combination.
“I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully, if everything goes as planned and I don’t walk away with any injuries, I’d like to fight in July as well. Try and get two fights in, back-to-back.”
Always the active fighter, Worthy has only had three layoffs of 10 or 11 months in his decade-plus fighting career. He’s certainly not looking past Pena, but he has his sights set on a quick turnaround on “Fight Island” if he’s needed.
“I’m ready to take my King Kong ass to Kong Island and take my throne back,” Worthy said. “ want to get to Kong Island as soon as possible.”
It’ll be a tale of two atmospheres for Worthy in his UFC tenure. It’ll be his second consecutive featured prelim spot, but going from a packed house at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. to an empty APEX will certainly be a change of pace.
“I’m super geeked to see how it is,” Worthy explained. “I know when it gets to fight time, my brain shuts down and it gets into a computer mode so I don’t know if I’ll be paying attention to the sound it makes. But I know when you hear the crowd and stuff, that all plays in to how your brain operates and now I won’t be able to hear that. It’ll be interesting to see.
“I always talk a little bit of smack when I fight so we can talk a little bit. Like the Glover Teixeira fight (with Anthony Smith), that was funny. He was like, ‘I’m sorry, this is part of the game,’ that was weird. You can hear everything so it’s a different thought process.”
Standing across the octagon from Worthy will be Pena, a former contestant on The Ultimate Fighter who has put together a 4-2 UFC record. In his most recent bout, “Violent Bob Ross” picked up a unanimous decision win over short-notice opponent Steve Garcia at UFC Norfolk. Prior to that, the American Top Team trained lightweight was on the wrong end of a controversial split decision against Matt Frevola—a fight Worthy believes Pena won to this day.
One thing that has factored into the excitement of the matchup is that it will take place in the smaller cage. While most fans and media members have loved the action that takes place at the APEX, Dana White has often stated that the smaller cage “is an illusion” in regards to the pacing of the fights.
When asked about it, Worthy tends to agree with the boss.
“I don’t really care if it’s a big cage, small cage, whatever,” Worthy states. “I don’t think the cages are pushing the action, I think the times are pushing the action with what’s going on right now. The urgency is there. The people who are taking the fights, most of them are taken on two weeks notice. So I think people are approaching the fights differently and they’re just fighting differently.
“I think a lot of people are out of shape, too. That’s a difference. A lot of people are out of shape. They’re like, ‘Oh, f*ck. I took this fight,’ and they’re in there and don’t seem like they don’t even want to be there. And then there’s some guys, like the Fili (vs. Jourdain) fight, those guys were going at it. Good lord, they were trying to kill each other. I was watching that fight and rubbing my legs because of the leg kicks. They were beating the sh*t out of each other.
“This fight with me and Pena is gonna be the same way. It’s gonna be a grueling, exhausting, bloody, bone shattering kind of fight. I’ll be ready to do cryotherapy afterwards so I can fight in July.”
On Saturday night, Worthy looks to make it 2-0 in the UFC. When you have a performance like he had against Smith, there’s pressure to follow up. Worthy isn’t allowing any outside noise to impact his plans against a worthy adversary at UFC on ESPN 12.
“That’s the sucky part about breaking onto the scene the way that I did. People are like, ‘So you’re gonna kill this guy? I’m gonna bet all my money on the first round,’” Worthy explained. “Look, I’m going out there and I’m gonna do what I do best, and that’s win. It’s going to be entertaining because that’s the person that I am.
“How, exactly? I’m not too sure. I can win by submission, I can win by knockout, I can win with him not being able to come off the stool, I can win by gorilla slam, there’s lots of different ways that I can win. All I know is that I’m going out there to get the W.”