Brendan Allen knows that he’s a UFC caliber fighter. He has a chance to prove that to the rest of the world on Dana White’s Contender Series on July 16.
For him to do so, he needs to manifest the fighter he is in the gym when he steps under the lights and cameras inside the UFC Apex facility.
Allen has had a successful MMA career up to this point. The middleweight prospect compiled an 11-3 professional record and is the current holder of the Legacy Fighting Alliance’s middleweight belt — a title that has often worked as a stepping stone to the UFC.
Despite his impressive run, Allen won’t be satisfied until he reaches the heights he knows he can get to. Speaking with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock, Allen said that the real him — the one who shines within the yellow and black walls of Roufusport MMA Academy — has yet to be fully unleashed in the cage.
The 23-year-old fighter sees progress in each of his recent fights, but there’s still room to grow. And while not utilizing all of one’s tools in a fight could be seen as a detriment, Allen views it as an advantage.
“You don’t really get the real me off of tape, so it’s hard to prepare for me,” Allen said. “Every fight I open up more and more and try to be a little bit more exciting every time.”
Growing from losses
“All In” is currently riding a three-fight winning streak, and though his resume reads like a fighter deserving of a crack at the big time, the three losses on his record are enough to keep Allen up at night.
“I never got to really take too much away from those losses just because that wasn’t the guy that trains [at Roufusport],” Allen said. “I don’t do those things in the gym, so I didn’t understand why I was doing them in the fight.”
The blemishes on his record all came from quality fighters. Allen suffered his first defeat in his third pro fight against Trevin Giles, a fighter who has since signed and had success with the UFC.
Allen then strung together five-straight wins to earn a shot at the vacant LFA middleweight title, where he once again faced off against a familiar face for UFC fans. Allen dropped a unanimous decision loss to Eryk Anders in his first shot at the belt.
Bouncing back with a triangle choke victory, Allen kept his spot at the top of the division. In his next fight, he received a second title shot against yet another future UFC fighter, Anthony Hernandez.
Out of all three defeats, Allen’s unanimous decision loss to Hernandez is the one that bothers him the most. He feels that “a mental lapse” caused his downfall in a bout he believed he had the physical advantage in.
“I don’t want to lose that way again because I feel I lost to myself, not to another man,” Allen said. “It’s easier for me if I lose straight up. I lose to a better man that’s a better fighter, I gave it my all, I did what I could do, I just come up short. I can accept that and I can live with that. But it’s hard for me to live with and move on and to forget that [mental mistakes are] how I lost, and it always weighs on me.”
Brendan Allen vs. Aaron Jeffery
The losses hurt, but they have motivated Allen to mature as a fighter in his young career. Against Aaron Jeffery on Contender Series, in Allen’s first fight since February, he has the opportunity to showcase what he’s learned.
Jeffery is a 26-year-old Canadian middleweight with a 6-1 professional record. Allen feels that his opponent is “a tough kid,” but once the two are locked in the Octagon, “All In” will surprise him.
“He hasn’t fought anybody like me,” Allen said. “It’s definitely going to be weird for him.”
Allen’s pro experience heavily favors him in the fight, which leads him to believe that Jeffery’s lack of fight time could weigh on his mental fortitude.
“I’ve been there before. I know there can be some doubt playing in the back of your head,” Allen said. “He seems like he’s got a pressure on him.”
For this fight, Allen is solely focused on controlling what he can control to avoid that feeling of doubt creeping in.
“I’m relaxed. I feel very comfortable. I feel very confident in myself and my abilities and what we’ve been working on, and that’s what I’m going to stick to,” Allen said. “There’s no pressure on myself, at least that I’m putting on myself.”
Brendan Allen fights for his family
With his fight taking place on the fourth week of Contender Series, Allen has had plenty of time to mentally prepare himself for the moment he takes the stage. He watched the previous episodes and took in the views of the UFC’s new venue. Now that he’s seen it and some of the novelty has worn off, he wants to be there himself.
“I’ll fight whenever. It’s just a fight to me,” Allen said. “I feel like I should be in the UFC already, so I’m not going to be like all these guys going out there that’s like, ‘Oh it’s the Contender Series,’ you know, ‘I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that.’ All I have to do is win.”
One of the ways he keeps his thoughts in check is by reminding himself who he competes for. When training for a fight at Roufusport, Allen is forced to break away from his family in Louisiana. Being away from his pregnant wife, his niece, his brother and his parents makes fight preparation difficult, but it also puts things into perspective for the young middleweight.
“It does give me focus. It does make me push harder with them not being here,” Allen said. “There’s no excuse for me to not go out and do something, get extra work in.”
Contender Series highlights prospects of all backgrounds. Some fight because that’s all they know. Others do it for the thrill of competition or for the money. For Allen, it’s all about the people back at home.
“I’m just trying to provide a better life for my family with something that I enjoy.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.