by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Stepping into the Ultimate Fighting Championship the first time can be a nerve racking experience for any fighter, but when Rob Yundt debuts tonight, he’s already aware that he’s solidified his place as a favorite within the UFC for stepping up on three days notice to replace an ailing Alan Belcher to face Ricardo Almeida at UFC 81.
Yundt is an experienced fighter who has spent the majority of his career competing in the Alaska Fighting Championships, but when the call came in to take a fight on short notice, he didn’t hesitate for even a second.
“It’s not your ideal situation, especially coming off I had to make weight last Saturday as an alternate for ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ that’s kind of a pain in the ass,” said Yundt in an exclusive interview with MMAWeekly Radio. “I’ve been lifting weights all week and my manager called me, Ken Pavia, and he goes ‘what are you doing Saturday night?’ and I said ‘probably sleeping’ and he goes ‘you want to fight?’ and I says ‘(Expletive) yeah!’”
As Yundt explained, he was working as an alternate for the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter season seven in the middleweight division, but the Alaskan normally cuts from well over 200 pounds to make the adjustment to the 185-pound weight limit.
“I leaned down a lot since the show (Ultimate Fighter season 7),” Yundt stated. “You’re looking at fighting four or five times in six weeks and I leaned down a lot. I’m small right now. I dieted hard before that. I’m only dropping from about 195. This is the second time I’ve made weight in five days.”
Just before he got the call to step into the UFC, Yundt was working alongside friends Shad Lierley and Reese Andy, hoping possibly to land a spot on their team for the International Fight League.
Despite the short notice and the obvious cards that would seem to be stacked against him, Yundt stays positive and when the opportunity presented itself, he accepted without even knowing who he’d be facing.
“He (Ken Pavia) said ‘you want to fight?’ I said ‘yeah.’ He goes ‘you want to know who it is?’ and honestly I don’t care. It don’t matter to me,” commented Yundt. “A fight is a fight. I understand they’re bringing me in on short notice. Do I wish I had a 12-week camp under me? Oh yeah, of course I do. It would make things a lot better, but I’m going to go out there and put on a show, and give the fans what they want to see, and that’s a war.”
With little time to break down fight footage of his opponent, Ricardo Almeida, Yundt leaned on teammate Reese Andy who grappled Almeida previously and understands the challenge in front of him.
“He’s got real good takedown defense and pretty good takedowns, you know, nothing spectacular,” said Yundt. “His ground game is aggressive, he’s always hunting a submission. I’m always hunting to put an elbow in your face.
“He’s kind of a mirror image of me, just a little bit older and a lot more experienced, but my wrestling’s better. He’s definitely got a better jiu-jitsu game, but we both fight strong, we both fight going forward, we’re both in your face, willing to put you on your back and smash your teeth out.”
Originally, Belcher vs. Almeida was slated to be on the main televised portion of the UFC 81 pay-per-view, and while Yundt has heard that this fight will still make the main card, he just wants to get in there and mix it up.
“It doesn’t even matter to me,” he stated about his fight being televised. “I don’t care if its on main card or not, I’m just going to go out there and do my thing.”
Ultimately, if Yundt is able to step in on short notice and defeat the returning Almeida, he will be on the fast track of many upset winners, but again he stays humble and is focused on the fight and the fight alone.
“It’s a short trip to the top if I can knock this guy out or submit him or beat him, but I’m not really looking at it like that,” said Yundt. “I’m just going to go out there and do the best I can, lay it all on the line.”
Rob Yundt will make his UFC debut against Ricardo Almeida at UFC 81 in Las Vegas.