After a stellar amateur career in which he went undefeated, current UFC bantamweight Ian “The Barn Owl” Loveland hit a rough patch when he turned pro.
Inconsistency plagued the up-and-coming Team Quest fighter, and through his first 14 fights he had only a .500 record.
On the verge of becoming a career small promotion fighter, Loveland began to put things together. Heading into UFC 128 on Saturday, he’s riding an impressive seven-fight winning streak.
“I just kind of grew up,” Loveland told MMAWeekly.com. “I got married, and you can’t behave the same way you can when you’re single. Just more maturity and for the first time I started putting fighting ahead of everything else, that’s the main thing.”
With maturity, Loveland went from being a reckless fighter at times to a fighter who could truly adapt and put the fight where it needed to be in order to secure victory.
“I’ve just kind of learned to slow things down and win fights rather than just going out there, fight, and hope I win,” he said.
Loveland also points out that his time in the UFC has helped him become a more developed fighter.
“It definitely lit a fire under my ass just even more,” he stated. “I think I was already on the right track and doing the right things, but since then I think I’ve taken it to another level in my training.”
After defeating Tyler Toner at “The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale” in December, Loveland’s task is even greater this time around as he faces top ranked Joseph Benavidez at UFC 128.
“I’ve got some reach on him and will probably be bigger and stronger than he is, so that will help me quite a bit,” said Loveland. “I think I’ve got a good strategy to fight guys with a lower center of gravity. I think my style of fighting kind of caters to that too.
“I think it’s a real good match-up not only for me to win, but to have an exciting fight and gain a bit more popularity too in the process.”
Having originally begun his training with Team Quest at 20 years old, Loveland’s body has matured. He feels his decision to move down to 135 has put him at the absolute peak of physicality.
“I feel a lot stronger and more athletic,” he stated. “I’m walking around lighter, leaner, and in better shape. All those years of training kind of shaped me up.”
A win over Benavidez will not only run his winning streak to eight fights in a row, but it could also set the table for him to face more of the elite in the bantamweight division.
“I certainly hope (it does), this is what I want,” he said. “You never know what match-ups you’re going to get, but once I beat Joseph, I’m pretty sure that they’re going to give me nothing but tough fights from there on out.
“I’m ready for it; especially dropping down to 135 pounds. I felt like I could be a competitive 145-pounder, but at 135 pounds I think I can do some really big things.”
Having gone through the growing pains of a young fighter early in his career, Loveland has begun to become a legitimate veteran force that could make waves in the UFC in the years to come.
“I just want to thank Team Quest, David Wood, Dave Jansen, Tyson Nam, Ryan Healy, Blaine Macintosh, and CrossFit Gresham,” concluded Loveland. “I’m going to put on a great fight for the fans and hopefully get Fight of the Night.”