When it appeared as if 2013 could be the low point of his career, veteran Kito Andrews closed out the year, quite possibly, on his highest note ever.
Early in the year, Andrews was riding an eight-fight winning streak, but when an attempt to join The Ultimate Fighter ended in the qualifying round followed by back-to-back losses for the first time in his career, things were definitely looking down for him.
Then a last-minute fight turned things around, as Andrews stepped into King of the Cage and dethroned welterweight champion Joshua Aveles with a second-round knockout on Nov. 30 to close out the year with a bang.
“He was more elusive than I anticipated,” said Andrews of Aveles. “He’s a real north and south kind of guy, so I didn’t expect him to be as quick as he was. He was able to surprise me with some of his punches and stuff and kind of had my number.
“I was starting to put stuff together later in the first round; faking my jab, putting some combos together. In the second round, I found my opportunity and caught him on the chin with a crisp right hand and put him kind of out and was able to jump on top of him and finish him.”
Andrews told MMAWeekly.com that the win over Aveles was definitely a watershed moment for him.
“I had so much going on in my life that I needed that win really bad,” he said. “It was a pivotal moment in my career.
“I’m an older fighter (at 35) and had two losses going into that fight and it was alien territory for me. I had to get that winning feeling back. It was really important for me to come out with the W.”
Andrews admits while he was down prior to the Aveles fight, he was not out.
“Those (negative) thoughts do come into your head, but adversity is what you need to grow as a fighter,” said Andrews. “I look at where I’m at athletically and skill-wise, and I know I’m at that place where all I need is a couple more wins to get to that next level.
“As disheartening as it is to lose, losing is not the end of the world. It’s how you bounce back and how you feel mentally that matters.”
After suffering a lull in 2013, Andrews is keen to keep things rolling in 2014, starting with a KOTC title rematch early in the year.
“The game plan is to fight and win a lot,” said Andrews. “Josh wants a rematch for the title, which is a beautiful situation for me because now I’ll get a full camp and will be able to train and go in with a clear mind and no distractions.
“So I’ll fight Josh on Feb. 22 in Scottsdale, Ariz., and from there I’m not really sure what’s next, but I’ll definitely have something coming up in the next couple of months if I keep racking these wins up.”