Drew Dober is amped up for 2019. The UFC lightweight is riding a three-fight win streak and signed with a new sports agency group (Ballengee Group) to kick off the new year.
This weekend he’ll be taking on Beneil Dariush on the main card of UFC Fight Night 146 in Wichita.
Realizing he belonged
Dober entered the Octagon for the first time in 2013. He had amassed a record of 14-4 and was riding a five-fight win streak when he got the call to fight Sean Spencer on short notice. His debut and the subsequent fight didn’t go his way. Dober was then paired up against former WEC lightweight champion, Jamie Varner. Dober believes that was the fight that changed him for the better.
“I entered the UFC with not the greatest record. I was 0-2 and had the opportunity to fight a previous world champion and a guy that I watched growing up. So I was all over that opportunity. And that win kind of proved to myself that it’s my time now and it’s my time to kind of come into my own and make waves.”
Nowadays Dober knows he’s right where he should be. His current winning streak over some stern competition is evidence of that. Dober credits this to being able to “in the moment.” He was once plagued by what he called “gym anxiety.” The Nebraska native is a self-described perfectionist. The drive to constantly have it all figured out would lead Dober to find himself burdened by issues that were not only not pressing, but issues that may never even arise. During his training and fights, he’d be thinking about his next sparring session or a later round or last week, or… Dober was clearly anywhere but “in the moment.” He’s recently been working with a new mental coach who has taught him to reel his thoughts back in should they wander off into the ether.
“So going into the fight with Jon Tuck, while I was in the locker room, all I was thinking about was the locker room. When I was in the pit, when I heard my name called, when I heard my intro music. When I saw the fans and the lights; I can truly appreciate it and be in that moment, and be in the now, cause I’m not gonna knock out Jon Tuck while I’m entering the cage. So why am I worrying about it?”
This Saturday, Wichita, Kansas will host Dober’s next big moment. He’ll be taking on the dangerous Beneil Dariush. While Dober does think highly of Dariush, he’ll leave any admiration for his opponent cageside before their tilt.
“I had the privilege of watching him fight live and I’ve always admired him. I think one of his biggest strengths is his composure. You know, he always keeps a calm, relaxed look on his face. And I mean, he maintains that output throughout the entire fight. Of course, his Muay Thai is good. I think [he’s] a black belt in jiu-jitsu, so he poses a lot of problems. But, I feel I’m better in like every aspect of the sport. Jon Tuck was a black belt in Jujitsu and it didn’t phase me. That’s the moment where I’m at now. Where it’s just like I can admire people but I can no longer give them the respect and the cage.”
Sparring with a gangster
Dober is appreciative of the fact that training in Colorado affords him the opportunity to evolve in hi-tech environments that use cutting-edge technology. He’s working with Resilience Code and teamed up with Landow Performance (who works with Olympic athletes, NFL stars and TJ Dillashaw) to get his training down to a science. The rest of his time is spent on the mats with some of the best in the sport. As he puts it, this allows plenty of opportunities for him to get beaten up.
“I’m always working with Neil Magny, Justin Gaethje; he and I have some tough rounds. Austin (Hubbard) who is now the LFA champion at lightweight. We got Carrington Banks who was on The Ultimate Fighter.”
When asked about his rounds with the human meat grinder that is Justin Gaethje, Dober explained that they were the smashups one would expect them to be.
“I mean, I think people would pay money and bring popcorn for our sparring sessions. The dude’s a gangster. He spars like he fights. It’s pretty entertaining and I pride myself in being entertaining too as well. So it’s, it’s definitely a lot of fun. But we’re friends. We’re teammates first so we try to take care of each other. We don’t want to trade concussions too often.”
Dober thinks it’s inevitable that some of his future fights will take place at 165-pounds, the UFC’s unicorn of a weight class that was on everyone’s mind last year.
“It has to happen eventually. I think right now the UFC loves holding onto that nostalgia of that 170 division. But once more and more athletes are coming into MMA and more and more talent, they’re going to [add it]. They’re going to need to have more opportunities to feed these superstars and having a weight class every 10 pounds is a brilliant way to do that. And you have guys that are too small for 170 but too big for 155. Me being one of them.”
With everything going right for Dober, he’s enthusiastic when asked about 2019. The 30-year-old realizes the time for being an athlete is short and hopes to spend a lot more time in the cage and in the limelight this year.
“I just want to take every possible moment to showcase my abilities. So let’s try to get four or five fights in this year.”
You can watch John Hyon Ko’s full interview with Drew Dober below, and subscribe to Kumite TV for more interviews:
Brandon is a long-time fan of combat sports who has covered them for various outlets since 2017.