For his first fight of 2018 at UFC 222 in March, welterweight Zak Ottow got to face one of the fighters he watched while he was coming up in the sport in Mike Pyle. But not only was the bout a chance to face a storied veteran, but Ottow also felt his career in the UFC could be on the line.
Heading into the bout with Pyle, Ottow had gone 2-2 in his previous UFC bouts, including three of those fights going to close split-decisions. Against Pyle, Ottow knew it was a make or break situation.
“I knew (Pyle) was getting towards the end of his career, so I knew it was a good opportunity to go out there and be aggressive and go for a finish,” Ottow told MMAWeekly.com. “I was able to assess the angle and lure him in to land that (knockout) shot. I made sure I secured my job and moved forward.
“I wasn’t told 100% outright, but with my manager and his experience and stuff, it kind of gave me a little heads up that we were in a must-win situation. The loser was probably going to go home for good. I went in with that mentality that I was going to be denied. “
Ottow (16-5) will look to keep his career moving forward when he takes on Sage Northcutt (10-2) in a UFC Fight Night 133 main card welterweight bout on Saturday in Boise, Idaho.
“I plan on staying aggressive and keeping the pressure on,” said Ottow. “With Mike we were out to break the body, but with Sage we’re out to break the mind.
“I want to bring the pressure, keep up the pace, and keep my transitions flowing. It’s not going to be a grappling match. It’s not going to be a striking match. It’s going to be an MMA fight. I’m sure I’ll be able to capitalize on an opportunity when I see it and get a finish in this fight.”
With Northcutt being one of the UFC’s most visible fighters, Ottow believes July 14 could be a great opportunity to gain a lot of exposure with a solid performance.
“I like the fact (Northcutt) has a lot of eyes on him, because that means I’ll have a lot of eyes on me,” Ottow said. “Because of his name power we’re on the main card, so hopefully a lot of people will be watching, and I’ll have that more many people excited about watching me.”
Feeling he’s coming into his prime, Ottow wants to make 2018 a foundational year that he can build off of for future success.
“At 31 years old I’m very comfortable with all the different disciplines there are in fighting, but at the same time I have a lot of miles left on my legs,” said Ottow. “I’m my athletic prime. I want to pick up some more wins this year, and then really make my push when I’m 32 or 33.”