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'I don't think he's a guy that really wants to fight' - Brendan Allen talks Kevin Holland, UFC 261 and the return of fans [Exclusive]

Brendan Allen talks Kevin Holland, UFC 261 opponent Karl Roberson and the return of fans
Brendan Allen talks Kevin Holland, UFC 261 opponent Karl Roberson and the return of fans
SENIOR ANALYST
Modified 27 Mar 2021
Exclusive

Some fighters are affected by defeat. A winning streak can turn into a losing one. An unbeaten UFC record could collapse into a negative one. For Brendan Allen, that isn’t a possibility. The 25 year old remains "all in" for his career in the cage.

The word prospect barely touches the surface with Brendan Allen. It doesn’t do him justice. Halfway through his twenties, he already has 15 MMA wins with 13 finishes. Dominant wins over Tom Breese and Kyle Daukaus were impressive; a submission win over one-half of UFC Vegas 22’s main event, Kevin Holland, was a statement.

Tasting UFC defeat

Brendan Allen’s unbeaten start to his UFC career came to an end in November. Sean Strickland [22-3] took home a Performance of the Night bonus after finishing Allen in the second round. I spoke with Allen a month out from his first walk to the Octagon in 2021. The American told me he won’t be making many changes off the back of his first UFC loss:

“I think there were things that we trained to do for a different opponent, and there were things I still train to do that I should have done, there were reads that I should have picked up on within the fight with Strickland,” Brendan Allen said, taking responsibility for the loss.
UFC Fight Night: Allen v Strickland
UFC Fight Night: Allen v Strickland

Since debuting as a teenager, Brendan Allen has tasted defeat on just four occasions. The South Carolina native fought for various promotions before signing with the UFC. After fights for Legacy FC, Mid City Fight Productions and Valor Fights, it was a two-year stint fighting under the LFA banner that drew attention to Brendan Allen. The middleweight maintains he’s never lost because an opponent has been better than him.

“I don’t think I’ve ever lost to a guy based off of just pure skill, where a guy was just better than me. I’ve lost to myself,” Brendan Allen stated with clear frustration at the blemishes on his record. “And (against) Strickland, I just got caught, he caught me. That fight doesn’t go that way nine times out of 10, but it was the one time.”

The defeat to Strickland is something Brendan Allen wants to get retribution for. The former LFA middleweight champion is hoping to get through his fight and be available to step in on short notice to rematch Strickland, should Krzysztof Jotko pull out.

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“Hopefully after I beat Karl (Roberson) I’m going to stay in shape, and hopefully Jotko gets hurt or pulls for whatever reason and I’m going to be ready to go for the next weekend,” Brendan Allen paused before making his feelings for Strickland clear, “I’m going to break his jaw.”

Looking to eliminate that as a possibility is Brendan Allen's opponent at UFC 261, Karl Roberson.

UFC 261: Brendan Allen vs. Karl Roberson

On a stacked UFC 261 card, Brendan Allen will face fellow DWCS alumni Karl Roberson. “Baby K” had a two-fight winning streak halted when middleweight contender Marvin Vettori submitted him. When asked how his pre-fight camp had been going, Allen was enthusiastic about his preparation.

“It’s good. We’ve got a lot of good guys in the room, as always at Sanford, (and) good coaches. It couldn’t be any better, I’m just taking care of my body and trying to be the best ‘me’ come fight night.”
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Ahead of what will be Brendan Allen’s first fight at a UFC pay-per-view, he’s confident he isn’t facing a top guy after observing Roberson’s defeat at UFC on ESPN 10.

“I don’t know what happened (against Vettori) but he tanks pretty quick. I don’t know, maybe he was wrapped up in all the c**p that Vettori talks before the fight or in the lead up, I don’t know what the case was, but he didn’t look like a top guy at that time.”

Despite that result, Brendan Allen is aware of the threat Roberson still poses.

“I know he has good striking and I expect him to come out for this fight more prepared, ready to prove something and just the best guy he’s been. But with that being said, I’m going to come and make a statement as well so, we’ll see who’s really better on fight night.”

Over the past year, a lot of talk has centered around fighters missing weight and their punishment. Against Vettori, Roberson weighed in at 190.5 lb, 4.5 pounds over the limit. I asked Brendan Allen if that affected his decision to accept the fight.

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“Not at all, he can weigh whatever he wants. If he weighs in over that’s great for me, I’ll just get more money. I’ve seen a picture of him from a couple of days ago, someone showed me. He looked pretty skinny, so I think he’ll be alright, I think he’s going to come in, like I said, the best version he’s ever been. So, for me to go out there and put him away, which I want to do; I’m planning to do, I think that’s a big statement for myself.”

Despite accumulating 15 wins, Brendan Allen has only left his victories to the judges twice; just once in the UFC. With eight submissions and five knockouts, it’s clear Allen has always been capable of a stoppage but admits he’s been too keen to look for one in his past few fights. At UFC 261, Brendan Allen says if it comes, it comes.

“I’m just going to let it come. I’m going to win every transition, every scramble, every exchange, and as long as I do that, I’ll be good to go. I’m going to win the fight, as long as I do those things and they add up, I’ll be just fine, and I’ll win the fight. If the finish comes, it’ll come. I got to the point where I was really looking for that in the last few fights and it didn’t happen.”

Brendan Allen went on to explain how a string of finishes had perhaps convinced him a stoppage was an inevitability in every fight.

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“The win will come whether it’s a decision or a finish. I feel like that’s kind of how I used to look at it, and the after so many finishes in a row it just gets to the point where you’re like ‘ alright, I’m going to finish this guy.’ It just kind of reminds me where I need to be and the things that I was good at, or things that I thought, and you know, to just get back to myself and having fun.”

The return of fans

Canelo Alvarez v Sergey Kovalev
Canelo Alvarez v Sergey Kovalev

This month, UFC President Dana White made the announcement we’ve all been waiting for. Fans are back. At the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida, 15,000 fight fans will watch UFC action in the flesh for the first time in over a year. To say we’re excited would be an understatement.

Brendan Allen’s last two fights have taken place without a crowd at the UFC Apex. Allen told me he’s excited to walk out on fight night and feel the energy of the fans.

“I think it’ll feel... It’s been fighting without fans for a while now so, it’ll feel good to feel the crowd again and feed off the energy a little bit, I think it’ll be good and a nice change of pace.”
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Despite everyone’s desire to return to full arenas and sold-out events, the adjusted setup at the Apex has brought some new dynamics. From Dustin Poirier telling Dan Hooker to “listen to Bisping” after hearing the commentary, to Ricky Simon flexing after catching Cormier’s comments cage side, fighters have clearly had more awareness of the commentary team and the words of their coaches. For Brendan Allen, the return of crowds will be refreshing.

“You can hear more, but to me, it’s just another day when I fight.”

Not seeing much benefit from the Apex atmosphere, Brendan Allen is keen to hear crowds again.

“It’ll be nice to feed off the crowd for the walkout and things like that. It’s cool to feel that different energy when I’m walking out.”

Kevin Holland

Kevin Holland was a strong contender for fighter of the year in 2020. With five consecutive wins, "Trail Blazer” earned himself a main event slot this month against Derek Brunson. In 2019, Brendan Allen beat him. After a performance last weekend that drew criticism, I asked Allen what he made of Holland.

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“I like Holland as a person, I think he’s pretty funny. But all that aside, I think there’s a time where you’ve got to just fight,” Brendan Allen said, before questioning Holland’s desire to fight. “To me, I don’t think he’s a guy that really wants to fight. When it’s time to put your big boy pants on and get down and dirty, I don’t think he wants to do that. I think he’ll look for a way out if he’s given the option.”

Brendan Allen defeated Holland by submission in the second round of their fight. The 25 year old believes he was too aggressive for Holland to handle.

“I feel like that’s what I did in our fight, gave him an option and he took that option. He can give it, but he can’t really take it with the guy that really put it on him. I guess in the grand scheme of things I just don’t think he’s a guy that is down to get gritty.”

After Holland's defeat to Derek Brunson at UFC Vegas 22, Brendan Allen might only be a few wins away from being side-by-side with his former opponent in the rankings. Allen says he is open to a rematch.

“I’ll fight him tomorrow for his spot. I don’t care, I’m not (like) these guys that I’ve lost to that say they’ll rematch me and then find an excuse not to. I’ll fight any of my wins or any of my losses any day, especially for my wins. The beating that was happening will only get worse, we’ll pick up where we left of. It makes no difference; I’ll finish him again.”
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Brendan Allen returns to the Octagon next month at UFC 261, against Karl Roberson.

Published 27 Mar 2021, 00:56 IST
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