Huge opportunity for Canadian John Makdessi at UFC 187
Montrealer John Makdessi poses during an official weigh-in for UFC 124 at the Bell Centre on Dec. 10, 2010. (JOEL LEMAY/QMI AGENCY)
When Donald Cerrone on Wednesday was asked about his opponent at UFC 187, he described Canadian John Makdessi as being in a “win-win-win-win” situation.
Makdessi’s not an idiot, and he’s pretty comfortable with Cerrone’s assessment.
After all, it’s only been a couple of weeks since the Montrealer-by-way-of-Halifax ended a year-long octagon sabbatical with an emphatic first-round TKO of Shane Campbell at UFC 186 in Montreal.
A couple days later, Makdessi got a call from UFC brass offering him the chance to sub-in against Cerrone, the lightweight division’s No. 3-ranked contender and a fan favourite who was left without an opponent after Khabib Nurmagomedov pulled out of UFC 187 with an injury.
Calls like that don’t come along often -- many fighters never get them at all -- so Makdessi gave a quick ‘Yes’ before diving headfirst back into training.
“For me, it’s been a long road with a lot of ups and downs,” Makdessi said. “I’m crawling, I want to start running. Financially, I want to take care of my family and have more financial security. I’m hungry, I have a good team and at the end of the day I have to make the moves. Nobody’s going to make the moves for me.”
Makdessi fully understands what Saturday night’s fight represents.
It’s a chance to beat one of the lightweight division’s elite athletes and force his way onto the lips of fight fans and UFC brass.
If Makdessi gets dominated, it’ll be pretty much exactly what everyone expected. If he loses but puts on a good show, he’ll earn the respect of his both fans and his peers. If he pulls off the upset? Makdessi will be jumping the lightweight line and going from being an unranked minnow to swimming with the biggest fish in the division.
For a guy who required a year off after losing to Alan Patrick in order to recover from injuries suffered in the octagon, and get his life in general, it’s a slightly surreal turnaround.
“There are a lot of nerves, a lot of crazy feelings, a lot of emotions,” the 30-year-old said. “It’s crazy, but I do believe in destiny. I believe in life you can only go with the flow. I can’t force anything, just gotta go with the flow with everything.
“(After the Patrick loss) I just lost the love for the sport. I went through a lot of struggles mentally and I just feel like, right now, as a human being I’m never perfect … but my goal is to win every day. If I put in 100% effort every day and progress, I’m happy.”
Makdessi also has been forced to endure his fair share of slings and arrows since being announced as Nurmagomedov’s replacement.
The original fight was hotly anticipated by fans, and there’s been no shortage of vitriol thrown at the Canadian’s way since he stepped in.
Coupled with a bitter legal battle waging between Gegard Mousasi and Fear the Fighter, the company Makdessi’s brother used to own and that Mousasi’s accused of owing him a substantial amount of money, and it’s been a month full of distractions.
Cerrone, for his part, has been nothing but respectful of Makdessi for stepping up and taking the fight on short notice, and the Tristar Gym fighter is eager to prove he’s more than just a sacrificial lamb that’s being fed to Cerrone on the American’s route to a title shot.
Makdessi also insists he’s tuning out the distractions, as it’s nothing worse than what he’s dealt with before.
“Right now I’m just trying to stay calm, tunnel vision, just focusing on the task at hand,” he said. “It’s an amazing opportunity the UFC gave me, I’ve been dreaming about this all my life. I dedicated my whole life to martial arts.
“I always fought tough guys … I was always a smaller guy, underestimated, underrated, and I love being the underdog. All my life I’ve beat the odds. I had to fight through everything, my whole life I struggled, nothing came easy for me.
“This is another challenge, a big obstacle, and I’m ready for it.”