While he’s split his two fights so far in 2019, bantamweight Steven Graham is nonetheless happy with how his year has turned out so far.
Following a loss to James Gallagher at Bellator 217 in February, Graham was able to overcome a slow start in his follow-up bout in September versus Johnny Marigo at LFA 76 and pick up a majority decision victory.
“2019 didn’t quite go the way I anticipated, but it has gone really good,” Graham told MMAWeekly.com. “I’ve become a whole lot better fighter. Mentally I’m so much better. I’ve grown a lot and I’m a lot better and glad to be back on track.
“I started off a little bit slower than I wanted to (against Marigo). That would be my biggest critique that I didn’t start off the way that I wanted to. I got hit very early, dropped, but pretty much other than that I controlled 12 minutes of the 15 minute fight.”
It’s his ability to whether the storm and come out with a win that is one of the things Graham is most pleased with in terms of his development this year.
“The biggest thing is confidence mentally,” said Graham. “I think that’s the biggest thing I grew from the Bellator fight. The adversity I’m able to handle and the things that I’m able to deal with.
“I’ve always had the skills and technical abilities, but you have to know you can do it. I know I can do it now. I know what level I can actually get to.”
On Saturday in Kansas City, Mo., Graham (7-4) will look to close out his 2019 on a high note when he faces Aaron Highfill (5-3) in a main card 135-pound bout at Shamrock FC 326.
“Honestly I’m really happy I get to fight at home,” Graham said. “I haven’t got to fight at home in three years. It’s nice to not have to travel too much, especially when you’re cutting weight and everything.
“What I have to do is just be me. I have to go do exactly what I have to do. I’m the better fighter in every aspect of this fight. I mix everything up better. I’m going to put a pace on (Highfill) that he can’t hang with.”
For Graham it’s finding a medium between going fight by fight and making year-long goals that will benefit him the most in 2020.
“I kind of do a little bit of both,” said Graham. “My manager and I have talked about a few things. Bellator has told me if I go out and get a few more wins that’d they come back and give me another shot.
“It all comes down to timing and everything. It has to be the right time for everybody. Obviously, nothing is set in stone. I would love to fight for LFA after this, then after that go back to Bellator. That would be optimal for me, I think.”