When third-ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov was forced out of his UFC 187 lightweight bout against second-ranked Donald Cerrone due to injury, John Makdessi was presented with the opportunity to step in on short notice.
Makdessi fought on April 25, finishing UFC newcomer Shane Campbell in the first round at UFC 186. He agreed to replace Nurmagomedov without hesitation.
“It’s perfect because I just finished off training camp, I’m already in top shape, and I had a couple of days to rest my body. At the end of the day, I’m the type of fighter; I train all year long. I don’t believe in training camps. So I’m consistently training. So it’s actually the best thing that happened to me because that mentally keeps me sharp and gets me back to the grind and stay focused and just keep doing what I do best,” Makdessi recently told Submission Radio about stepping up on short notice.
To get to face a top five-ranked opponent on one of the year’s biggest pay-per-view events was too good of an opportunity to pass up for the 30-year-old Canadian.
“This is like a dream come true. I feel like I’m dreaming to be honest with you. I’ve been dreaming about this all my life to be on a big card, to be a part of a big event. This is what I’ve been working all my life for. I’m excited, (but) I’m staying calm and focused on the task at hand,” he said.
“I’m not going to make it too much big. At the end of the day, a fight is a fight. I’ve fought tough guys already. Shane Campbell; I fought a Muay Thai champion. So for me, that was a boost of confidence because I beat him at his own game. I tested my skills verses his skills, and also (he was) a much bigger guy. I fought him at a catchweight, 160 (pounds). He was coming off a winning streak. So I mean I’m not really worried,” Makdessi continued.
“I believe in my skills and I outwork everybody in the gym. I train very hard, I’m consistent, and I‘ve been competing all my life since the age of six. I was born for this. The difference between me and other fighters is that when they get hit, they panic. When I get hit, I stay calm and I just fight back,” he added.
Cerrone comes from a kickboxing background, but 15 of his 27 wins have come by submission. Makdessi expects Cerrone to try and take him down when they meet on the UFC 187 main card.
“I feel I’m the healthier guy. I take less damage. He went through a lot of wars, he got dropped a couple of times, so I’m expecting him to kind of, he’s going to try and come hard at me in the beginning, but then once he sees that he can’t touch me, I’m connecting with shots and I’m hurting him, he’s going to try and take me down,” said “The Bull.”
“I truly believe that he’s going to try and take me down, just like every other fighter. I turn strikers into wrestlers. When I’m hitting my opponent, I’m hitting through them. That’s how I train. And my mentality, that’s how I work in the gym. I’m going for a knockout. Every punch, every kick is 100-percent commitment. So that being said, I just truly believe that I’m on a different level mentally, physically. So I don’t really care what he’s going to do. I’m going to focus on what I’m going to do,” he added.
Makdessi believes he just has to be himself on May 23 to upset Cerrone.
“I really feel in my heart (that) the way I win the fight is fighting my fight, sticking to a process, and just trusting my instincts.”