A three-year layoff is never easy to recover from, as former Strikeforce middleweight Cory Devela recently learned.
Having left the sport in 2010, Devela returned to MMA in October and scored a first-round TKO of Byron Sutton at CageSport 28. But the fight was far from easy.
“I was out of shape, I could tell, and I know for the most part I performed sloppy, but it was definitely the right decision to (return to fighting),” said Devela.
“My performance on top I could have had been a little cleaner, but I dropped a couple elbows on him and cut his face open. I believe I should have picked and chose a little bit better, so I ended up making myself look kind of sloppy when I was on top.”
Devela told MMAWeekly.com his decision to return to fighting after he left due to a shoulder injury and to do contracting work with the military overseas was for one simple reason: he missed competing.
“It’s been eating away from me that I needed to get back into it,” he said. “Any true athlete will tell you that you need some kind of competition in my life. So it had to happen.”
With his win in October, Devela (12-5) has put him in a position to challenge Brent Knopp (4-0) for the CageSport middleweight championship on Saturday, Dec. 7 in Tacoma, Wash.
“I know he’s a heavy-handed fighter and he’s 5-0 now, but I don’t think he’s fought anybody like me,” said Devela of Knopp. “I’m a very unorthodox fighter and have fought at a much higher caliber than many of the guys he’s faced have competed at.
“My last three losses are to guys who are by no means nobodies – everybody I’ve lost to is in the UFC or has been in the UFC. I don’t think Brent’s there yet, and I’m definitely going to show that.”
While Devela has more experience than Knopp does, one area where they are both relatively similar is in a lack of having to fight a full 25 minutes in a bout.
“I’ve never gone five five-minute rounds before,” said Devela. “I’ve done a few three five-minute rounders before, like against Bobby Voelker. I did that with a broken nose, so I think five rounds shouldn’t be a problem for me. I don’t see myself giving out. I’ll be able to fight until the last minute.”
While some fighters might return to MMA for financial reasons, Devela is set in that area of his life, so right now he fights because he enjoys it and will continue fighting as long as it’s something he wants to do.
“Most fighters do this and it’s their one and only job. I actually have a great job doing operations for a local garbage company, so this for me is just fun,” he said. “For me, I feel like I can devote a lot more time to where my faults lie because I don’t need the paycheck anymore, and it’s put me at a new place in my head.
“I want to take it one day at a time. I’d love to fight in the UFC or get back to that level sometime, but at this moment, I’m just having fun.”