Looking back on his two fights with the RFA so far, top 135-pound prospect “Cool Hand” Luke Sanders feels that they couldn’t have been more different.
Even though he won both bouts, his first fight with the RFA in March against Dan Moret proved to be far more difficult than his follow-up bout in August against Darrick Minner.
“The two fights this year have been pretty much polar opposites,” Sanders told MMAWeekly.com. “The first one (against Moret) was at 145 pounds and was a hard camp and everything. It was my first fight for RFA and my first time flying (to a show) and was a weird style match-up for me.
“The second one (against Minner at 135 pounds) was more comfortable. It was more of a challenge, but I got to showcase my skills a little more than the first one, where I had to be more reserved and game plan. The second fight was fun, (whereas) the first fight was a learning experience.”
Being undefeated and on the verge of capturing his first major MMA championship, Sanders admits that there is some pressure on him, but he’s very good at putting it aside and just focusing on what’s important to him.
“I try not to think about all that kind of stuff,” said Sanders. “I just try to focus on being the best fighter I can be and get better each fight.
“It’s cool to get recognition and stuff, but when I got into this sport I wanted to be the best, and I think I can be the best, so that’s what this is all about, finding that out. For me, I just want to see how good I can be.”
Friday in Broomfield, Colo., Sanders (8-0) will look to claim the RFA 135-pound title against fellow up-and-comer Jarred Mercado (12-1) in a bout that could easily turn out to be one of the year’s best in any promotion.
Unfortunately for Mercado, he cannot win the belt. He came in nearly five pounds overweight on Thursday, while Sanders was spot-on. The bout is still five rounds, and Sanders gets the belt if he wins, but it is a non-title effort for Mercado. The best he can do is play spoiler.
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“He’s a really tough fighter who is a strong wrestler and has a good record,” said Sanders of Mercado. “I have to be first and have to be last. I’ve got to make him fight me. I’m going to make it a fight and we’ll see how he likes it.”
Defeating Mercado will not only secure Sanders’ first major MMA championship, but he feels it would put him in line for making it to the biggest stage in MMA in 2015.
“With a win obviously comes a gold strap and hopefully a shot at the UFC in the new year,” said Sanders. “That’s my goal, to be in the UFC before the year’s end.”