UFC bantamweight Kevin Natividad's journey back to the UFC octagon was not an easy one by any means. 'Quicksand' is scheduled to face fellow bantamweight Danaa Batgerel at UFC 261 pay-per-view-event on April 24, 2021. In an exclusive interview with John Hyon Ko of Sportskeeda, Kevin Natividad gave important insights on his preparation and the countless hurdles crossed for the fight.
Natividad (9-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) suffered a devastating knockout loss in his UFC debut against Miles Johns (11-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) in October 2020. The 28-year-old admitted that he was in a 'dark place' after the loss as self-doubt had sunk in due to the nature of the defeat. Natividad consulted sports psychologists to cope up with the situation and the consultation helped him to regain his confidence:
"I was a bit in a dark place, you know. But I guess anyone would be after a loss like that. But, I don't eve think it was really just a loss... It was a big like, self-esteem drop, you know. So I reached out to a sports psychologist and it's been helping me a lot," Kevin Natividad said.
But Kevin Natividad has a positive outlook for the loss suffered at UFC Vegas 12. Being undefeated in the UFC comes with big expectations and pressure. Even former champions like Matt Hughes, Rose Namajunas and Robert Whittaker have admitted to being relieved of the pressure after losing fights. Natividad finds himself in similar shoes in his upcoming fight against Danaa Batgerel. The Tempe native feels relieved of performance pressure since the debut loss and he can fight to his potential at UFC 261 without worrying about the outcome:
"After that kind of fight, I feel like expectations from me aren't super high. So, a lot of pressure on that is kind of released. Especially right now, I don't care about the end result. I don't really care about the outcome. So, I'm just ready to go out there and fight like it, you know," Kevin Natividad said.
Training at UFC Performance Institute helped Kevin Natividad fix issues in his training
Looking at his preparation for the Miles Johns fight in retrospect, Kevin Natividad understands that taking a boxing-heavy approach and training with the same set of training partners for a prolonged amount of time resulted in the knockout loss.
'Quicksand' told Sportskeeda that he had to undergo concussion testing after the fight as he could not remember portions of the fight night. Natividad later trained at UFC Performance Institute and Syndicate MMA. Natividad learned of the crucial changes he needed to make to his training before taking his next fight and implemented those in his subsequent training routine.
"A month after that fight... I had done some concussion testing and everything 'coz I had some lost time... i didn't remember a lot of things. After doing the concussion testing I stopped by Vegas and spent a lot of time at the UFC performance institute and over at Syndicate MMA... It kinda opened my eyes to what I was missing during my last training camp. I needed more training partners. So I made sure I did that before I got into my next fight," Kevin Natividad said.
Although knowing more about brain health and concussion was the primary reason behind Kevin Natividad's decision to train at UFC Performance Institute, he revealed that the time spent there helped him improve upon conditioning, strength training, and other aspects of training that were lacking in his game.
Kevin Natividad is set to face fellow bantamweight Danaa Batgerel on the preliminary card of the UFC 261 pay-per-view event. Scheduled to take place on April 24, the event will be broadcast live from the VyStars Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The event will bring a huge opportunity for Kevin Natividad and all the other fighters competing on the card as it will be the first UFC event to have a full audience attendance in the post-covid era.