by Matt Hill – MMAWeekly.com
Some think that he simply doesn’t have a chance. Others call him the “definitive underdog.” Still others wonder why the UFC brass chose to put a fairly unknown fighter in with the winner of The Ultimate Fighter Season 2 and the man who is likely next in line for a shot at the UFC’s lightweight title.
On August 25th, Kurt Pellegrino will get the chance of a lifetime when he steps into the Octagon with UFC TUF guy Joe Stevenson, the man who many consider to be the #1 contender in the organization’s lightweight division. He is currently ranked #10 in the lightweight division in MMAWeekly.com’s World MMA Rankings.
Kurt Pellegrino isn’t coming into this fight to be Stevenson’s stepping stone to the crown, though. He is coming in to prove a point, primarily to himself and then to everyone else. Kurt wants to prove that he deserves to hold a place atop his division and he knows that a win over Stevenson would likely put him directly into lightweight title contention.
Kurt, on MMAWeekly Radio, said, “Joe Stevenson in my eyes – as a fan and as a fighter – is 100 percent the #1 contender at 155 pounds.
“When they gave me this fight I really couldn’t believe that I was going to fight someone who is the #1 contender to a belt. I was kind of taken aback at it. I didn’t know if I was just the pawn that’s going to get hit by the king, or what. I don’t know if they really believed in me, so I’m really trying to prove to myself and prove to everyone else that I belong where I am.”
For Pellegrino to attain that verification, though, he is going to have to do it from the underdog position, a role that Kurt doesn’t particularly care for.
He said, “It’s cool that the crowd might be into it if I start winning, but it’s kind of aggravating being the underdog… every time I talk to people and I tell them who I’m fighting everyone kind of looks at me and says, ‘Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.’”
But just because the name ‘Pellegrino’ might not be at the tip of every casual fan’s lips like a ‘Chuck Liddell’ or a ‘Randy Couture’ doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve his chance for recognition. It’s not as though an unaccomplished man named Kurt Pellegrino simply walked up to Dana White’s doorstep and asked for a fight with a big-named fighter. He earned that right by defeating his last two UFC opponents by submission in the first round.
And, for Pellegrino, wins by submission come as little surprise since he trains daily with Hermes Franca, the latest UFC lightweight title contender and a well known BJJ instructor and practitioner.
Pellegrino trains with Franca, as well as many other talented fighters at ‘The Armory,’ a fight school located in beautiful Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Pellegrino said of his training, “Everything’s going great… my camp is going good, I’m looking good.” He continued, “I get a lot out of it. There’s a lot of good guys running through there and coming down here, so I couldn’t be happier.”
As part of such a close-knit team, Pellegrino usually relies on his teammates – especially his friend and training partner Hermes Franca – for support both in and out of the Octagon.
Due to a recent steroid-related suspension, though, Franca will be unable to corner Pellegrino in his fight with Stevenson. Although Franca was cleared to apply as a corner in California, where he is currently suspended as a fighter, Nevada regulations, the state in which Pellegrino will face Stevenson, do not allow for a suspended fighter to perform the applicable duties of a cornerman.
For many fighters this sudden change in scenery could have a devastating impact on his or her psyche in the cage, but Pellegrino thinks about the situation in a different light.
“When I’m fighting in the cage, my face is the only one taking the punches, you know, so when I’m in there I don’t know how much I listen to whoever is telling me what to do anyway. It’s difficult that he [Franca] is not going to be there, but I’ve just got to keep my head on straight. I’ve got a lot of good guys that I’m around… I’ll be okay, I’ll be great,” Pellegrino said.
When asked what he wants from the UFC if he were to beat Stevenson, Pellegrino said,
“I believe that I should fight for a title… whether it’s Sean Sherk or the winner of Din Thomas and Kenny Florian.”
Before Pellegrino thinks about a title fight, though, he first must think about Joe ‘Daddy’ Stevenson, the man who fights as much to feed his kids as he does to show his skills. Pellegrino is confident that he will put on a good performance against ‘Daddy,’ though, and he gave fans a hint of what they can expect when he and Stevenson step into the cage on the 25th.
“I just know one thing… the fight between me and Joe will not; it will not be a decision. It’s going to be a knockout or a submission for sure, or a referee stoppage,” Pellegrino said. “I just don’t see a fight like me and Joe Stevenson going the distance, you know? I don’t see it.”