by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
The UFC lightweight division is soon to become one of the most jam-packed in the history of MMA.
After rebooting this past year, the 155lb weight class has seen the return of veterans, the arrival of new talent, and soon – thanks to the cast of The Ultimate Fighter 5 and the UFC’s acquisition of PRIDE – a whole new infusion of soon to be hitting the famed Octagon.
So for the fighters who are currently working their way up the ranks, now is the time to make their case known, lest yet they might find themselves among the logjam that’s soon to develop in what is going to be the deepest weight class in MMA.
Among those fighters who are poised to make their move is Kurt Pellegrino of The Armory.
Kurt, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu standout, has been rejuvenated since returning to his natural 155lb division, winning two in a row, including an impressive submission victory over tough Cleuder “Junior” Assuncao at UFC 64 last October.
After time off to tend to the birth of his first child, Pellegrino returns on April 5th to The Palms Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada for Ultimate Fight Night, to face off against late replacement Nate Mohr.
“I feel excellent,” said Kurt of how he’s feeling heading into his first action of the year. “[I feel] better than I did for my last fight. I’m very excited and ready to throw down.”
One of the reasons why Pellegrino is feeling so well is because unlike his last UFC fight, making weight is no longer an issue after coming down from a short stint at welterweight.
“For my last fight I was more concerned with making sure I could make the weight, and train the right way,” explained Kurt. “I felt great when I fought Junior too, it only lasted two minutes, but I’m sure if it would have been beyond that I would have been fine with conditioning.”
Pellegrino added, “With this fight, the weight’s not even a problem. I’ve been 165 for the last two weeks and still have a week to go, so my conditioning is probably the best I’ve ever seen it and I’m looking forward to fighting.”
Kurt is now slated to face Nate Mohr, after initial opponent Wander Braga was forced to drop out of the fight. According to Pellegrino, while there’s some letdown because he won’t be able to face Braga, he’s nonetheless still excited to be returning to action, regardless of opposition.
“I’m disappointed, I was really looking forward to fighting Wander Braga, and I’m sure he was looking forward to fighting me too,” admitted Kurt. “I was doing a lot of stand-up for this fight and so I’m not really going to go off my gameplan at all.”
“I’m going to keep this fight standing. I know this kid’s a real good kickboxer, but I’m not really too worried about it, because I train with Hermes [Franca] and he hits like a Mac truck and kicks like a freight train, so I’m pretty much covered there,” continued Pellegrino.
With an already deep 155lb division in the UFC about to get a lot deeper with the addition of the TUF 5 cast and the addition of PRIDE’s lightweights, it would be understandable if Kurt would feel lost in the shuffle, but he doesn’t. In fact, Pellegrino feels his time to step up into the spotlight is just around the corner.
“I feel like my spot in the UFC is really good,” commented Pellegrino. “I think I’m at best in the Top 5 to the belt. I think I’m underrated and after I beat Nate I’d love to fight someone in the Top 5 or like Joe Stevenson if he wins or Melvin [Guillard] if he wins [later that night].”
Kurt further stated, “Once I beat them I’ll get recognized a lot more. I know what my skills are and know where my level is, I’m a bad match-up for pretty much anyone in the 155lb division.”
Not only is Pellegrino confident in his own standing in the UFC’s lightweight division, but he feels that soon his Armory teammate Hermes Franca will be at the top of the division after facing off against UFC Lightweight Champion Sean Sherk at UFC 72.
“I’m not saying this because I train with the guy every day, I’ve never been so confident for him,” said Kurt of Franca. “I believe that Hermes is going to knock Sean out.”
“Hermes has too many weapons. Sean’s a great wrestler, you can never take that away, but Hermes is going to come out punching and swinging. It’s going to be an exciting fight, but I predict a knockout,” continued Pellegrino.
So when all is said and done, by the time autumn rolls around, it could be a very good year for the Armory if Kurt and Hermes have their say.
But first things first, Pellegrino has to take care of business at The Palms Resort & Casino on April 5th against Nate Mohr, and he urges everyone to see it any way they can.
“For all the UFC fans, come out to The Palms and check it out,” concluded Kurt. “Anyone that can’t make it out, check it out on Spike TV. I really appreciate Sprawl and the Submission Specialists sponsors, my wife for taking care of me so much, and of course my home, The Armory, thank you.”