By Andy Cotterill
If you ask most people to describe the Ultimate Fighting Championship, they’ll likely tell you that it’s an organization that promotes the sport of mixed martial arts.
They’d be correct, of course, but it’s much more than that.
Amongst a growing number of competing global promotions, the UFC is still the place where fighters from across the globe aspire to ply their trade. They could conceivably make more money elsewhere, but that doesn’t matter…the UFC has the cachet, and it’s where most fighters want to be.
The UFC is where dreams can be made and dreams can be crushed, and both are seen live in vivid colour every single fight night. In the days following, many compelling stories emerge from both winning and losing sides.
But perhaps the most compelling of all are the stories of redemption.
Just over two years ago Canadian Middleweight Aaron Jeffery (10-2) lost his fight against Brendan Allen in UFC President Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) Season 3, and this Tuesday night in Season 5, he’s getting a second chance to make it into the world’s premiere MMA organization when he faces 8-1 Brazillian Caio Borralho.
Not every fighter gets called back to try again, in fact, it’s a rarity.
But since that loss in the year that the Covid-19 virus emerged Jeffery has won all 4 of his fights, 3 via TKO, and it’s just a bonus that the man who beat him is currently on a tear in the UFC proper.
Jeffery knows that this is a make-or-break opportunity for him, but remains pragmatic in his perspective about the possibility of another loss.
“I bounce back and forth between these two trains of thought.” Jeffery told MM-eh from his Air BNB in Las Vegas, where he and his girlfriend have been staying for 3 months while he trains at Syndicate MMA.
“My one thought is like maybe I have to consider another career, I’m pushing 30 and two losses in the Contender Series is bad and I’m probably not going to get signed, my life’s over. My other thought is like, does it really matter that much if I lose this fight? I’m in the same situation I’m in now, I’m still not in the UFC, I have one more fight on my record, and I just made a few thousand dollars to fight. I had some eyes on me and probably will get some attention even if I lose, so you can look at it either way.”
Some may read those words and think that it’s not what an athlete should be thinking, or especially saying out loud. But those are the people who repeat phrases like “Losing is not an option” as if that will better their chance at victory. Losing is always an option. It happens to all of us, in some small way, all of the time. Ignoring it doesn’t make the possibility go away.
Once you embrace the fact that losing is there, you can start to take the steps necessary to prevent it.
That’s just what Jeffery did all of those months ago when he made the trek with his Niagara Top Team (NTT) teamates down to Vegas, where they embedded themselves into the tightknit training group at Syndicate MMA.
This effort paid off in a big way for Jeffery’s teammate Jasmine Jasudavicius, who dominated her DWCS opponent two weeks ago, and had UFC President Dana White positively gushing over her gameness.
While Jeffery has always been known as a hard worker, his time at Syndicate has been a boon to his confidence in several ways.
“I’m the most experienced guy back home and I’m the bigger guy in the gym, right, so I don’t have a ton of hard rounds, so coming here and getting rounds with Sean, like I know on sparring day it’s going to be a war and I get that fight feel and I get some anxiety before sparring and it kind of like brings the fight out of you, so I think I needed to have that again in my training.”
The Sean he refers to is Sean Strickland, the 7th ranked UFC Middlweight who recently defeated Uriah Hall and is slated to face Luke Rockhold at UFC 268, where a win would most certainly place his name in conversation as a future championship contender.
Jeffery’s time in the cage with Strickland and TUF veteran John Poppie must have made a good impression, as Syndicate MMA Owner and Head Coach John Wood will be cornering him on Tuesday along with Jeffery’s NTT coach Chris Prickett.
For such a night you’d think that Jeffery would be amped up, or perhaps worried, but surprisingly he says that’s not the case.
“Honestly, I’m a pretty even-keeled guy. I feel the same going in to all of my fights. Every fight of your career is the biggest fight of your career, so it kinda all feels the same. It’s comforting to know that I’ve done all the work I’ve done and I’ve controlled everything I can.”