Dan Ige has faced many challenges throughout his nearly decade long MMA career, but as he gets ready to compete this Saturday, there’s another challenge looming; fatherhood.
Ige will face Gavin Tucker in a featherweight main card matchup this Saturday at UFC Vegas 21. The event takes place at the UFC APEX and will be headlined by a welterweight bout between Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad.
Originally, Ige was scheduled to face Ryan Hall at the event before Hall was forced to withdraw due to an injury. In his last fight before becoming a dad, Ige didn’t think twice about staying on the card.
“It was a little bit unfortunate because I was the guy, I wanted to be the guy to step up, fight him and shut his game down,” Ige told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “Unfortunately, he got injured and he sent me a message when it happened and it was just an unfortunate event. That’s the sport we’re in. We can’t control everything in our lives and our training.
“My mind was set on competing because I’m gonna become a father [very soon] so it really doesn’t matter who shows up on Saturday. I’m gonna fight somebody and it happens to be Gavin Tucker at this moment and that’s what I’m gonna prepare for.”
“50k” is looking to get back to his victorious ways after having his six-fight winning streak snapped by Calvin Kattar in the main event of UFC on ESPN 13. Ige wouldn’t change a thing in terms of getting his opportunity to jump the queue in a loaded 145-pound division and was very excited to be able to take on the enigma that is Hall.
In MMA, things don’t always turn out the way you plan them and Ige says he isn’t changing much in his approach to Saturday despite having a vastly different opponent from a stylistic perspective.
“It doesn’t change anything, to be honest,” Ige said. “Gavin Tucker is a solid fighter and it’s gonna bring the best out of me. It’s a fun, intriguing matchup because he’s gonna engage while Ryan Hall is more of a puzzle. I was excited to go out and figure out the Rubik’s Cube but we’ve got a different puzzle on Saturday with Gavin Tucker and I’m excited to solve this one as well.”
Xtreme Couture coach Eric Nicksick told MMA Fighting that he is already seeing a difference in Ige with fatherhood coming in a matter of days. When asked about his motivation when it comes to his career, the top-10 145er agrees with his coach, although that was never something that has held him back.
“Yeah, 100 percent and it’s hard to tell because I don’t have a kid yet, but I feel it,” Ige explained. “I feel like I’m already a dad and I feel like that aura, that energy is there. Coming home after a hard day training, a hard day of work and then seeing my wife pregnant and carrying our child, it just gives me a little extra energy to go out and compete every single day and get better every day.
“It’s not like I never had a why before because I always have: I’m big on writing down goals and having a plan to attack, but now I feel like this is my calling. This is how I provide and I really can’t wait to be a dad, a fighting dad.
“I’m ready for the grind, man. I’ve had to grind my whole life but this is a different grind for sure.”
After losing his first career fight to Rick Glenn at UFC 215, Tucker took nearly two years off before returning at UFC 240 in July 2019 to stop Seung Woo Choi via submission in the third round. The 34-year-old went on to win his next two fights—a submission win over Justin Jaynes and a unanimous decision win over Billy Quarantillo at UFC 256.
While the matchup itself has Ige fired up, he’s also quite enthused about stepping into the octagon with someone who is of similar size and stature for the first time in a while.
“Stylistically, it’s a great matchup and a fun matchup,” Ige said. “When you look at Gavin and look at myself, we’re pretty similar—especially in our attributes, our strengths. He’s almost a mirror of myself: he’s a southpaw, pressure fighter, black belt in jiu-jitsu, great striking, great boxing, great kicks. It’s gonna be fun.
“For once, I get to fight somebody with my stature. I feel like every time I fight someone they’re like 6’5” and I finally get to someone that’s actually a little bit shorter than me and I have a reach advantage so that’s gonna be awesome.
“I’m a pace setter and I have a guy that’s ready to match my pace, that’s willing to go blow for blow, takedown for takedown, strike for strike. It’s gonna be a fun fight for the fans and I look forward to competing with Gavin.”
Putting his No. 9 spot at 145 pounds on the line, along with fatherhood knocking on the door, Ige has his sights set on coming home with every potential dollar he can make on Saturday while giving fans something to talk about at the same time.
“I’m definitely gonna go out there and put it all on the line,” Ige stated. “I talked to my wife right before I got into quarantine and I told her I’m coming home with both paychecks, and a potential $50,000. That’s the goal.”