With 12 UFC appearances under his belt, Drew Dober is still improving each time he steps into the Octagon.
The 30-year-old fighter went 6-5 with one no contest in those bouts, alternating between the lightweight and welterweight division. Now seemingly committed to 155 pounds, Dober returns to the cage on June 29 for a fight against Marco Polo Reyes in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Before his fight at UFC Minneapolis, Dober talked with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock about his last UFC outing, continuously improving, training with Elevation Fight Team and the status of his teammate Neil Magny.
Drew Dober vs. Beneil Dariush
Dober’s most recent Octagon appearance didn’t go his way. Against fellow UFC veteran Beneil Dariush, Dober’s striking dictated the pace of the first round. He tagged Dariush on the chin numerous times throughout the opening five minutes of the fight.
The second round was a different story. Dober was out of his element grappling with the BJJ black belt. As the second round neared a close, Dariush locked up an armbar that forced Dober to tap.
“It’s pretty night and day,” Dober said. “That first round was picture perfect, and the second round was not the greatest.”
Dober feels that he showed an ability to “stand and trade with anyone in the division” in the first round, but he learned that all it takes is one miscalculation to wind up on the wrong end of a stoppage loss.
“Towards the end of the round I just made some critical game plan errors, and at that level or at this level, you can’t make those mistakes,” Dober said. “He’s a veteran, so he saw the opportunity, I made the mistake, he took advantage of the mistake, and that submission was pretty slick.”
Dariush said on the mic after the win that he felt Dober’s arm pop multiple times. Dober confirmed that statement and added that he managed to escape with only minor pain and stiffness.
“It definitely popped,” Dober said. “I pride myself in my heart, my durability and my resilience, and so I got two arms. I’ll hit you with the one that’s not broken.”
Back to the drawing board
Following the loss, Dober spent a week away from the sport, heading to Costa Rica with his girlfriend. Once he got back, he watched his fight on tape with his coaches to pinpoint areas needing the most improvement.
“I always want to improve,” Dober said. “The Drew Dober of yesterday is not going to be the Drew Dober of tomorrow.”
His striking proved to be his best asset in the fight against Dariush, but Dober said he isn’t focused on developing just one aspect of his game.
“In the jiu-jitsu department I made some mistakes, in the wrestling department I made some mistakes and even the striking department, like there was things I could have improved on,” Dober said.
In his upcoming bout against Polo Reyes, Dober expects an entertaining brawl. He is prepared to stand and trade shots with his opponent to wow the crowd, but Dober also wants to leave with a victory. He plans to be “a little bit more strategical about [his] brawling” in order to get back in the win column.
While this fight is unlikely to test his development as a grappler, Dober is still dedicated to getting better in all areas.
“I worry less about my opponent in my next fight and more about what I’m doing, how can I improve,” Dober said. “I want to be an Olympic wrestler, a black belt in jiu-jitsu, and a world-class striker. At the end of the day, I want to be the best at everything.”
Elevation Fight Team
Dober carries out his pursuit of becoming a well-rounded martial artist at Elevation Fight Team in Colorado. There, he trains with established fighters such as Justin Gaethje and Neil Magny, as well as up-and-comers like Austin Hubbard, who made his UFC debut in May.
“With Team Elevation, we have like the core group of guys, but we have some guys bouncing in and out,” Dober explained. “We have an open-gym policy, so if anyone’s in Denver, Colorado, come check out Team Elevation. [You’re] more than welcome to come join us.”
Welcoming unknown fighters to gyms can be troublesome. For people like Dober, there is some risk involved in training with lesser-known athletes who want to prove a point in the gym by taking out a UFC fighter in sparring.
Dober says he’s never encountered issues in his time training with outsiders. He is always selective in finding sparring partners, which eliminates the chances of a new fighter coming in and swinging for the fences against him in the gym. In training camp, Dober competes with people at the highest level, such as Gaethje, in order to better himself before a fight.
Still, working alongside the prospects in the gym provides motivation for the top fighters like Dober.
“I love it,” Dober said. “You bring some hungry wolves into the pack, and they want to make something of themselves, and so it’s just constantly testing you.”
“Denver is for the athlete. It’s how athletes can get better. And nobody’s trying to own you, no one is trying to kick other people out. It’s just open to knowledge, and that’s what I love about it.”
Drew Dober on Neil Magny’s USADA situation
One of Dober’s teammates is currently sidelined from competing due to a failed USADA test. Neil Magny was scheduled to compete at UFC Rochester against Vicente Luque, but an out-of-competition positive test for Di-Hydroxy-LGD-4033 forced the UFC to remove him from the card.
Magny got ahead of the issue, posting on social media about the positive test.
“I know without a doubt that I have done everything according to the standards set by USADA,” Magny said in his post. “I have faith in USADA that this situation will resolved in a timely manner and that I will be cleared of any wrong doing.”
The news came as a shock to Dober.
“I mean this guy, he takes like fish oil and a multivitamin,” Dober said. “He just doesn’t take supplements. I mean look at him, he’s not like a super-muscular specimen.”
Knowing what he knows about Magny’s lifestyle, Dober was disappointed to see people accuse Magny of being a cheater just because of the positive test. It also made Dober more cognizant of every single thing he puts into his body.
“It’s just scary. Like as an athlete, we want to be the best versions of ourselves and we’re just taking protein powder and that’s not even safe anymore,” Dober said. “After Neil’s shenanigans, I just had to throw away everything that I had supplement-wise, and I’m just trying to figure out what would be my next option.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.