Juan Adams isn’t at the top of the UFC’s heavyweight division just yet, but he sees that it has some problems to work out before he makes his presence felt.
Adams is making waves in the division despite only having one Octagon appearance under his belt. “The Kraken” won his debut after earning a contract through Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. He defeated Chris de la Rocha via third-round TKO to improve his professional record to a perfect 5-0.
Now, Adams has his second UFC bout lined up. The heavyweight will square off against Arjan Bhullar at UFC Fight Night 150 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Before his bout, Adams spoke with John Hyon Ko of The Body Lock about his opponent, fight preparations and the current state of the heavyweight division.
Juan Adams vs. Arjan Bhullar
Adams is still relatively new to the sport, considering his first professional bout took place in June of 2017 at LFA 14. Still, the abilities he has flashed coupled with his 6-foot-5, 295-pound frame have led to difficulties finding opponents despite his numerous callouts.
“It took me five months to get a fight, and even once we got this fight, [Bhullar] took like two or three days to sign the contract,” Adams said. “I’ve asked to fight Greg Hardy. Before we were in the UFC actually I’ve asked to fight him and they’ve kind of been avoiding me.”
Though confident in his own skill set, Adams admits that he is still coming into his own as a fighter.
“I just signed, so I’m going to be in the company for a while, and I’m only going to get better the more time I’m in here and the more time I devote to training,” Adams said. “I’m only getting better every day, so the best time to fight me is sooner rather than later. Like, I’m never going to be any worse than I am right now.”
By the time “The Kraken” steps into the cage in Ottawa, it will have been four months and 20 days since his debut. He’s taking on an opponent that he believes does not have the attributes required to defeat him.
“Unremarkable is the best word I can use for [Bhullar’s UFC run]. None of his fights stand out to me,” Adams said. “You obviously have to respect his record a little bit, respect that he’s been there a long time, respect that he’s been a competitor for a long time, but from a physical standpoint, I just don’t think he matches up with me in any way, shape or form.”
Adams added that he also admires Bhullar’s efforts as a trailblazer. Bhullar is the first Indo-Canadian fighter to compete in the UFC, and he represents his heritage by wearing a turban on his walk to the cage.
“You have to respect what he’s done and what he’s doing for his people and all that,” Adams said. “But you know, when we step in that cage, it’s me versus him, and, you know, accolades don’t really matter. It’s all about what you’re bringing that night.”
Preparing for fight night
Adams’ size gives him an advantage come fight time, but getting down to the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds is not a simple feat.
“The Kraken,” with the help of his strength and conditioning coach, maintains a strict regiment to make the fight week cut manageable. Adams trains three times a day and consumes just 2,000 to 2,500 calories a day to shrink down and maintain a weight of about 285 pounds.
His coach, who Adams credits for teaching him how to cook healthy food, is currently pursuing a degree in exercise physiology and human nutrition and will be wrapping up his final exams after being in Adams’ corner for the bout in Ottawa.
The process before even entering the cage and fighting has been stressful, but Adams reflects positively on it.
“This is a full-time job,” he said. “This is my career now, so I just have to make the most of it.”
Besides staying in shape, Adams also had to deal with an eye issue following his debut. He was not allowed to wear contacts for his bout, which called for adjustments to be made when he stepped in the Octagon.
Adams opted to get photorefractive keratectomy (PRK) to correct his vision. He said he chose PRK over LASIK because it “is pretty much universally accepted,” while some athletic commissions won’t sanction fighters who have undergone LASIK to compete.
“The Kraken” was cleared for contact two weeks after the surgery, and he returned to training eager to continue his development as an athlete. His main focus in camp leading up to the Bhullar fight has been “power production and muscular endurance.”
“I had a little bit of an adrenaline dump last fight. They kind of saw me take my foot off the gas a little bit,” Adams said. “We don’t want to do that this time. You know, we don’t want there to be any question of my cardio or what kind of shape I’m in.”
While he’s focused on the little parts of his game that need to be corrected, Adams hasn’t lost sight of the bigger picture.
“The big goal this camp is just to be better at something,” he said. “We just want to get better overall. We never want to get to a point where we’re coasting.”
Juan Adams on the current UFC heavyweight division
Adams acknowledges that he needs time to make through the rankings, but he is paying close attention to the situation at the top of the heavyweight division.
Champion Daniel Cormier does not currently have a fight scheduled despite rumors swirling about Brock Lesnar’s return or Jon Jones’ move to heavyweight. Cormier last fought in November, defeating Derrick Lewis in his first title defense.
Adams doesn’t have an issue with Cormier’s inactivity in recent months.
“I don’t think DC’s done anything wrong by not defending a title when there’s really no one to defend against,” Adams said.
“The Kraken” believes that while fighters such as Stipe Miocic, Junior Dos Santos, Francis Ngannou and Curtis Blaydes are all very close to the title, “there’s no clear number one contender right now.”
Adams isn’t exactly on board with the idea of Lesnar, whose last official win came on July 3, 2010, coming back from WWE to get an immediate shot at the belt either, though he understands the UFC’s motivation if that is the direction it chooses to go.
“It’s good and bad,” Adams said of Lesnar’s potential bout with Cormier. “It’s bad in the sense that, you know, it sets a precedent for people not really earning a title shot. It sets a precedent for the rankings not mattering, and it doesn’t really lean towards a true meritocracy. But at the same time, you know, it’s a business, so you got to treat it like that.”
The former champion Miocic has remained inactive since losing his belt to Cormier in July of 2018. As the record holder for most title defenses in UFC heavyweight history, he has held out in hopes to get a rematch with the current champion, a strategy that Adams thinks is not working well for him.
“I do think that’s a huge mistake because DC’s made it pretty clear he’s retiring after one more fight, and he’s also made it clear that he’s going to hold out for money fights. Stipe versus DC isn’t a money fight,” Adams said. “All Stipe is really doing is decreasing his stock right now. It’s one of those things where it’s a gamble, and if it pays off, great, but it’s been pretty clear that it’s not going to pay off.”
The heavyweight prospect went on to say that Miocic’s unwillingness to fight is an issue for the entire division.
“If anyone’s holding the division up, I would say it’s Stipe more so than DC,” Adams said. “In the time that it’s been, he could have fought two, possibly even three times already and reestablish himself as the clear number one contender, but he didn’t do that … He’s on a one fight losing streak right now. He lost his last fight, so that doesn’t really bode well or increase your chances for a title shot.”
Shane Connelly is a journalism student at Penn State with a passion for sharing the stories of MMA fighters.