On September 14, the UFC heads to Vancouver with a pivotal lightweight bash between Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje as the main event. The rest of the UFC Fight Night event is stacked with top talent and highly touted prospects.
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Kyle Prepolec (12-6) made in his UFC debut in May, where he filled in on a week’s notice to face powerful welterweight Nordine Taleb. Despite losing the bout via unanimous decision, the Canadian handled the Octagon jitters and held his own against the 12-fight UFC veteran in Taleb.
“Nordine [Taleb] was a ten-fight UFC vet and it was a week’s notice, you’ve got to step up and take that opportunity,” Prepolec told The Body Lock’s John Hyon Ko before his upcoming bout on September 14.
“I’d rather take that risk and create that future [in the UFC]. I did everything I could and it’s helped me grow and evolve. Getting a great experience with a vet like him will help me in the long run for longevity [in] this sport.”
Ready to rumble
Every athlete wants to compete under the bright lights on the biggest stage, but few are actually willing to put in the work and suffer the consequences required to do so. The fact Kyle Prepolec stepped into the Octagon for the first time with less than seven days notice shows that he is willing to sacrifice to make in the big leagues.
The Canadian opened up about his performance in his UFC debut, stating that he felt he could’ve done a better job.
“I should’ve used more of the tools I have in my arsenal,” Propelec said to John Hyon Ko.
“I faked a couple of takedowns to get in close and get some shots in, [but] I should’ve mixed that up and went for takedowns. Every time he kicked I should’ve been rifling kicks back and throwing more.”
The past is in the past, and Prepolec is fully focused on his upcoming fight at UFC Vancouver, against the always durable Austin Hubbard. For this fight, he is returning to the lightweight division, which best suits his long 5-foot-10 frame. He has spent most of his career at 155 pounds, therefore the weight cut will not be an issue.
“I’m feeling great. To me, it’s just another fight [but] to showcase now on the worldwide stage. You know 155, I’ve been there pretty much most of my career other than the last couple.”
The lightweight division is arguably the deepest and most talent stacked weight class in the UFC. For Prepolec, this reason alone has had a huge influence as to why he’d like to compete in that division.
“You [have] the all-stars: Donald Cerrone, Justin Gaethje, Khabib [Nurmagomedov], Conor [McGregor], [Eddie] Alvarez. With all those guys, it’s just a division of sharks and if you can persevere and get past these guys you become one of the elites and one of the best fighters in the world. I feel like 155, and maybe a few other divisions, are the hardest divisions right now. [They’re] more watched and more exciting just because of how athletic and how creative [everyone is].”
Prepolec’s upcoming opponent, Austin Hubbard, also lost his debut for the UFC and is regarded by many as a prospect in his own right. Hubbard has ten professional victories, finishing six of them. The 29-year-old is fully aware of the challenge that awaits him on September 14, however, he doesn’t know an awful lot about his opponent.
“To be honest, I haven’t really watched his fight yet. I’ve had my teammates watch everything just cause I’d rather focus on adopting, growing, getting better at weaknesses and obviously increasing my strengths with my team.”
Michigan Top Team
Kyle Prepolec trains out of Ontario’s Maximum Training Center (MTC), and represents the gym with great pride. He spoke about some of his training partners who have molded him as a competitor and prepared him for September 14.
“There’s a lot of guys, like my buddy Shane Monaghan. He dissects a lot of the stuff but he’s also one of my main training partners as well. He’s a lighter guy but he’s really good at analyzing and figuring things out. Then I got the Laramie brothers – T.J Laramie, who’s a 145-pounder. He’s a former TKO champion, [a] very dominant champion. He has one of the best, I would say world-class takedowns and top control.”
Those with wishes of one day being recognized as one of the best in the world in the unforgiving sport of mixed martial arts sometimes have to make tough and rigorous journey’s to new gyms, countries, and sometimes even continents.
Prepolec trains in his home nation of Canada but sometimes crosses the border to hone his craft with the Michigan Top Team, who are responsible for producing fighters such as top 15 UFC bantamweight Cody Stamman. The gym was founded in 2013 by former UFC lightweight Daron Cruickshank, who now spends the majority of his time developing the next generation of athletes.
Despite having to travel to a different country for a wider variety of training, it is a sacrifice the 29-year-old is willing to make.
“I’ll try to go there at least once or twice a week, it’s right across the border. They have more bodies and a lot of elite guys there too. It’s good to change it up and see what styles work with who and to adapt to those guys like Daron Cruickshank, Jason Fischer [and] Cody Stamann, all of those who have been there, they’ve done that and they’re still striving and becoming elite fighters.”
Headlining the Vancouver card is none other than Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, one of the most experienced competitors in the game with many UFC records to his name including most wins and head kick knockouts.
Cerrone has reached heights that athletes across the world can only dream of. He has challenged for the title, broken records and fought the toughest guys in multiple weight classes while cashing in big, fat checks along the way.
Prepolec explained that he likes to mimic “Cowboy” as well as Pride legend Mirko Cro Cop.
“I like to mimic a Cerrone, Cro Cop kind of style. If I go to the ground, you don’t want to mess up at any point because when Cerrone’s on the ground he can tap you out from anything. Whether he’s on top or bottom, he’s crafty, he’s cagey and he’s nasty. When you strike with Cerrone, you better catch him because if you don’t catch him, he’s catching you. I wanna be like those guys – I wanna be like that.”
Steven specialises in MMA and Lethwei. He loves a good 1-2 down the middle.