Constantinos Philippou, against Jorge Rivera at UFC 133 this Saturday, is hoping that the third time is the charm.
Originally, Philippou was featured on the eleventh season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” as a middleweight hopeful. He was eliminated in the opening round by Jospeh Henle. It looked like his aspirations for entering the world’s largest mixed martial arts stage would have to be put on hold.
Philippou continued to plug away on the regional circuit, where he became a staple for the popular Ring of Combat promotion, defeating notables Victor O’Donnell and Uriah Hall. While the Cyprus native was gearing up for another pivotal moment of his career, the infamous UFC call came, and on just five-days notice, he was back in the fold.
“I had no idea. I actually had a fight scheduled a month later for Bellator and I was taking a couple of weeks off thinking I’m going to have enough time to prepare for that fight, and it was actually five days notice that (the UFC) called me,” said Philippou, recalling his short notice venture at UFC 128 last March.
The now Merrick, N.Y., transplant was filling in for an injured Dan Miller, taking on scrappy wrestler Nick Catone. The upside was that Philippou would earn the favor of the UFC brass by stepping up. The downside was knowing that he wasn’t adequately prepared for such a momentous opportunity.
“I was happy that I was fighting for the UFC, but not happy that I was out of shape, but I kind of had no choice because you never know,” he told MMAWeekly.com.
“You say no, then who’s to say that they’re going to call you again? So I had to take it.”
The former pro boxer (who came up just short in 2005 for the famed New York Golden Gloves tournament after just two months in the U.S.) had adequate time for prepare for his next match-up, despite yet again serving as a late replacement. Philippou filled in for an injured Riki Fukuda, opposite Rafael Natal in a pivotal bout for both men. Natal was winless in his first two UFC contests, losing a decision to Rich Attonito in his Octagon debut before going to a draw with Jesse Bongfeldt last December. And if that wasn’t enough, Natal is somewhat of an acquaintance.
Philippou is trained under the tutelage of both Ray Longo and Matt Serra, the former UFC welterweight champion. Serra began his career under Renzo Gracie, who awarded him his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. Serra’s loyalty is unwavering, so when he first heard word that Philippou was taking on Natal, he was a little disappointed to say the least. Why? Because Natal is a student under the prolific Gracie fighter.
“Matt wasn’t really happy with me taking the fight, but I really feel that it was a good fight for me, although Matt didn’t agree with me,” recalled the 31-year-old.
“I had to take it. I felt that it was a good fight for me. When I told Matt, he wasn’t happy about it, but it was ultimately my decision so I took the fight.”
In a strange turn of fate, Philippou was once again shuffled in the deck when Alessio Sakara had withdrawn from his UFC 133 bout with Jorge Rivera due to injury. Philippou was pulled from the fight with Natal and will now be taking on a tested veteran and former contender on the main card of a UFC pay-per-view.
“This time is different. I had a few weeks. I’ve had enough time to prepare. Even though they switched my opponent last minute, it doesn’t matter. As long as I’m in shape, I don’t care who I fight. I think this is good for me. I’m going to win this one,” said Philippou, who is not short on confidence heading into the match-up.
“It’s obviously the biggest fight of my life. When I win this fight, it will be a huge step for me, and finally I’ll get to show (the UFC) who I really am, that I can actually fight, because the last two times I showed them that I basically sucked. Nobody really knows if I’m a good fighter yet because both times that they actually saw me, I was out of shape and I didn’t have anything to show. So I’m hoping this time I get to show what I’ve got.”
“Definitely this fight is not going the distance. I’m hoping second or third round I get to finish Jorge Rivera.”
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