by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight Kurt Pellegrino is the midst of his own personal transition period.
After years of training and fighting out of Florida, under the eye of other people, Pellegrino has struck out on a new path, returning to his native New Jersey in hopes of rebuilding a career that has always seemingly been on the cusp of something big, but never quite breaking through.
Eager to put the memory of his most recent outing behind him, he has stepped up to face an equally difficult challenge in Thiago Tavares at the upcoming UFC 88 in Atlanta.
“I’m real excited to get my feet back in the octagon,” stated Pellegrino. “I’m looking to erase that loss (to Nate Diaz at UFC Fight Night 13 in April) with a big win over Thiago.
“That’s why I suggested this fight; was to move on and not fight a lesser opponent, but in my eyes, fight an extremely dangerous and tough fighter.”
As he puts it, having a good showing and getting back on the winning track against Tavares is imperative for his career.
“It’s really important; because that’s not the Kurt Pellegrino I wanted everyone to see (against Diaz),” he stated. “Everyone said I looked great in that fight, but I really don’t believe them, because how I felt heading in to the fight (with) complications going on.
“This is by far the healthiest Kurt, whether I win or lose against Thiago – and losing is definitely not in my mind as an option – this is really the best I’ve ever felt.”
Pellegrino’s reinvigoration comes much to the credit of his move back to New Jersey and the new team he’s surrounded himself with.
“Now I control my own state, I run my own school and control my destiny,” he exclaimed. “I brought in the best people in the world to help me with this fight, and Sept. 6, people will see that.
“I’ve got a great team with me now, with my agent, Dean Albrecht. I’ve brought in Kevin Kern, Kenny Florian’s strength and conditioning coach, and I’ve been mentoring under Kenny Florian, who is my new coach and is going to be in my corner.”
When it comes to his match-up against Tavares, Pellegrino sees a lot of similarities, making for he feels could be an intriguing fight.
“I call this the mirror fight,” he said. “Thiago’s got good hands, good kicks, jiu-jitsu and is above average in the weight class.
“This fight has the making of being a phenomenal fight, that’s why I took it. If I want to beat someone, I want to beat myself; and I consider Thiago the closest person in the UFC to myself.”
With three losses in the UFC, it’s hard to gauge exactly where he stands in the lightweight division. Pellegrino feels that this fight could very well be the determining factor to where he’s headed.
“I always keep steamrolling ahead, and fate will only tell me where I go from now,” he stated. “Of course, everyone wants to keep winning and be the UFC champion; I just want to perform to the best of my abilities.
“If that gets me to the top, then let’s rock ‘n roll, but right now I can’t even look ahead of me, because I have Thiago in front of me. Once I beat him, I’ll be able to answer that question; but right now I have to beat him even to answer that question.”
Recognizing what needed to change and then making the most possible effort to do so, Kurt Pellegrino is re-working his career, one fight at a time, starting with UFC 88.
“First of all I really want to thank the person that made this happen for me, my wife,” he concluded. “I want to thank my school, Kurt Pellegrino Mixed Martial Arts (www.PellegrinoMMA.com); Kevin Kerns, Sharron Wentworth, Kenny Florian, Gil Torres, and every single one of my idiot crew in Jersey.
“All you guys sitting there watching, this is the best Kurt you’re going to see, and after this, you’re going to see an even better one. So you guys check it out, and thank you so much for your love and support.”