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INTERVIEW: PHILLIPE NOVER ON HIS UFC RETURN IN THE PHILLIPPINES

John Michael Edwards

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Best known as one of the finalists on The Ultimate Fighter: Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir, Phillipe Nover makes his return to the Octagon after a five-year absence to take on “The Korean Bulldozer” Yui Chul Nam this weekend at UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Faber.

In this interview, I asked him about how it feels to fight in the Philippines, his time outside of the UFC and much more.

 

Hello Phillipe, how’s it going?

Hey man, everything’s going great!

Thanks for taking the time out of your training to do this interview.

No problem.  I definitely enjoy getting my name out there for anybody who’s interested and I appreciate you putting it out there for me also.

Obvious starter question, but how does it feel to be back in the UFC?

Phillipe Nover: It’s a dream come true, but it’s a dream I’ve been working on for the last five years since I got the letter that dismissed me from the UFC. I kept that and filed it away and I’ve always kept it in the back of my mind that I would get the phone call again one day if I keep the drive going. It feels great, it feels amazing and I think it’s my time again.

You’ve mentioned before how your mom is a big part of your life. When you told her that you would be fighting in The Phillippines, what was her reaction?

Phillipe Nover: My mom, she didn’t really understand what it entailed. She didn’t understand if I was in the UFC or if I was just fighting in the Philippines for a different organisation or what the deal was, but when I finally explained it to her she was excited for me but at the same time,  I know deep down I think she really doesn’t want me to fight anymore because of the risk of injuries and the thought of her son getting hurt. She’s a big supporter and she’s going to fly out to watch the event live.

As a Filipino-American does having the chance to fight in Manila hold a special place in your heart?

Phillipe Nover: Absolutely! Fighting in Manila has always been a dream ever since day one when I got in the UFC in 2008. When I got on the show I really promoted my Filipino heritage on T.V., eating balut, cooking Filipino food, writing Tagalog on my gear.  I just wanted to give the fan base out there from the Philippines something because we love fighting, we’re really supportive of each other and it’s always been a dream to me, and here it is.  I get a second chance at my UFC shot and I actually get to fulfill one of my dreams by fighting in the Philippines in front of my 250 family members and friends, it’s just an absolutely amazing experience.

Does fighting there make you feel extra pressure from the community or do you place any extra pressure on yourself because of this?

Phillipe Nover: I definitely felt pressure earlier in my career. I was definitely a younger, less experienced fighter and in the cage I definitely felt the pressure years ago. Now I feel like once I get to the Phillippines and get on with my weight cut, walk into the Mall of Asia Arena with twenty thousand people I’m just going to be so excited and I’m going to get right into my zone.  It’s going to be an exciting moment in my life and there are pressures and stresses that are good and I’m going to take it as that and just feel the crowd because this is where I need to be, this is where I worked so hard to be so I’m going to absorb everything a feel good about it.

Are you still nursing or have you taken time off to train full-time?

Phillipe Nover: You know what, actually I am the stereotypical Filipino working eighteen different jobs…haha. Yea, I have a full-time job working for cardiac care. I do my three days a week, twelve-hour shifts and in the past year I’ve worked overtime, I’m on call and I have two other nursing jobs ones in a pathology lab and the others a cat scan/MRI place. Now I’ve pretty much lowered all of my hours to focus more on my training and if there is some down time with that, I’ll schedule shifts here and there. Typically it’s just my three twelve-hour shifts and I train either before or after that and the four days a week I have off I’m training all day. This is how I’ve been doing it for the past few years and I feel good with it. If there’s one advantage, whenever there’s an injury going on in can just go to work and say “Hey, doc, my foot’s hurting, can I get an X-Ray” and the like. It’s like I have a 24/7 medical team that’s got my back…haha.

Did you have your fight camp in NYC or did you go elsewhere to prepare?

Phillipe Nover: I kept my fight camp in N.Y. to train with the same guys I’ve been with for the past five years. Jason Strout, my striking coach, I’ve been with for a few years now, is an excellent coach.  He’s coached a few champions, most recently he coached Liam McGery, the new Bellator light-heavyweight champion, David Branch, the World Series of Fighting middleweight title holder, and Marcos Galvao the bantamweight champ in Bellator, also, along with about 5-10 other pro MMA, kickboxers and boxers down at Church Street Boxing. I also train at Renzo Gracie’s under John Danaher and wrestling under Dave Esposito. I linked up with Frankie Edgar as well, he’s over in Jersey at Ricardo Almeida’s school, we are pretty good friends so we trained together once or twice a week.

What do you know and think about your upcoming opponent, Yui Chul Nam?

Phillipe Nover: He’s a solid fighter and a confident striker and entertainer. He’s a bit of a brawler, they call him the bulldozer for a reason, but he’s fought pretty exclusively on the Asian circuit and he’s yet to fight an American or someone of my caliber. He’s got a good record, but I’m more than confident that I’m going to beat this guy.

Since this is your first featherweight fight how are you handling the drop in weight?

Phillipe Nover: My last fight was a catch-weight fight at 151lbs and I felt really well and the weight came off pretty easily. I did a mock weight cut in early March and it didn’t go as well as planned, but I got pretty close, so I just had to walk around a little bit lighter than I usually do. I’m going to be really strong and fast at 145lbs I think. My career at 155lbs was good at the time, but now guys cut a lot more weight and are a lot taller. A lot of the 155lbs guys I train with walk around near 180lbs, it’s crazy.

What do you feel could have done better in your first stint that you’ll be better with this time?

Phillipe Nover: There’s so much that I’ve changed in my life since my debut in 2008, that if my present self fought my past self I would beat the living crap out of him, that’s for sure…haha. I’ve definitely matured as a fighter. I’m training with professional coaches and other professional fighters and I’m a very strategic fighter now, just overall better with my striking and wrestling. I had zero wrestling when I first came into the UFC and from then until now I’ve been wrestling religiously, now it’s an asset along with the knowledge of cage fighting because it’s different from fighting in a ring. I’m so much better than I was, and you’re going to see it on May 16th.

How do you feel your time outside of the UFC has been beneficial to you?

Phillipe Nover: It gave me a chance to start over and get better. Leaving the UFC was heartbreaking for me at first but then I realized that I wasn’t really ready for it at the time. I did well on the show but when I got to the big show I started to believe my own hype, but the skill level wasn’t really there. I didn’t have the coaching staff and the training partners that I do currently and now I’m more than ready.

Was there a particular fight or fighter that encouraged you to get into MMA?

Phillipe Nover: I can say there’s a fighter that discouraged me from getting into MMA…haha. When I was younger and the first UFC was in ’93 or ’94, my dad was watching and he asked me if I’d ever seen something like this and it was Royce Gracie.  I’m watching this little guy beating all of these huge guys and I told him “I’d never do that dad, never”…haha. That was my first experience with MMA, but as far as who inspired me, just my original training partners at the time. Back in ’03 when I had my first fight, we were more into traditional martial arts, doing karate tournaments, kickboxing tournaments, then this thing called MMA popped up and we were like “this is the ultimate challenge” and I saw my friends competing in it and doing well so I told myself “let me give this a try”.

So, my original partners initially inspired me, but beyond them I’d say Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre, my friend Frankie Edgar, he inspires me all the time.

As far as what’s going on with Anderson Silva, whether or not he’s been on PEDs [Performance Enhancing Drugs] his whole career or not, the guys an absolute stud because I know for sure that if any regular human being was on PEDs, they couldn’t achieve what he has achieved. I don’t think PEDs is what allowed him to be a champion, that comes from talent and discipline. If he did them, then its very wrong and it’s a strike on him, but I would not take that respect from him that he is one of the best in the world. Currently, my favorite fighter is GSP. I know he’s somewhat retired, but he’s talked about possibly coming back. He held the belt for so long and he is super talented. He keeps a really solid game plan, his striking to takedowns are superb, he won every fight strategically, he’s a hard worker, and I definitely hope he comes back if he wants to or he can just can just sit on his millions and relax without losing more brain cells, you know, he’s certainly earned it…haha.

I absolutely agree with that.  Once again, thanks for granting me this interview and good luck on your fight and I will definitely reach out to you afterward.

Phillipe Nover:  Anytime.  Thanks again.  Anytime you want an interview, I’ll be more than excited to do it.  We’ll definitely have to chit chat after I dismantle this guy…haha.

If you’d like to keep tabs or get in touch with Phillipe you can  follow him on twitter @PhillipeNover.

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Dana White gives update on Conor McGregor and the lightweight division

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The top end of the UFC’s lightweight division is thriving. Dustin Poirer defeated former division champion Anthony Pettis, in dominant fashion. Tony Ferguson won the lightweight division’s interim title by carving Kevin Lee from his back. Safe to say, no everyday person would ever want to see Khabib Nurmagomedov down a damp and dark alley. Don’t forget, the gutsy performance of Eddie Alvarez stealing Justin Gaethje’s undefeated record away.  The division is thriving like gas attempting to escape a shaken champagne bottle.

On Friday, UFC President, Dana White, spoke to Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports, about a number of topics. One, which came up fairly quickly; Conor McGregor and his stranglehold on the lightweight belt. The pair began talking about recent performances inside the octagon when the illustrious name of, Khabib Nurmagomedov, came up. White claimed, “Conor always finds a way to win. When he hits you, you go…”. Then speaking of the potential bout between Nurmagomedov and McGregor, “I love that matchup but, Tony Ferguson is the interim champion. Conor and I haven’t really figured out when he’s coming back and what’s going on…”. He continued, “I don’t think Conor wants to fight until August, but if he waits until August or September, that’s around two years since the belt has been defended and that can’t happen”.

Iole followed up by asking, due to circumstances, does McGregor owe it to the sport to defend his title? The UFC president agreed, “And to the other fighters. Not only to the sport but, to the other fighters. This is a game of time… when you’re a professional athlete, time is your enemy and we can’t let this thing go on forever and not give other guys the opportunity. Tony Ferguson has been around for a long time and has earned his dues, Khabib has earned his dues… Conor has done very well, he’s made a lot of money, and if he decides that he doesn’t want to fight again for another however long that’s up to him… but, the belt has to move on… we gotta figure some stuff out here in the next couple months”.

It only makes sense that the UFC wants progression in the one-hundred and fifty-five lb. division. Even without their massive revenue generator, the division must move on. Athletes like Nurmagomedov may be relatively unknown outside the MMA community in the United States but, his official Instagram page holds 3.2 million followers.  While Tony Ferguson may not hold online notoriety, he does have an exciting style. A style that could win a good many of fans, the more exposure he receives.

For White, one of these two men must fight for the division’s championship title. When asked about what is next, he stated, “As long as Conor is willing to fight by March, we could do Khabib versus Tony and then the winner fights Conor… or Conor doesn’t wanna fight and wants to sit out till next fall. Then we would have to make Khabib vs. Tony for the title”.

Time can be the only truth serum in this particular situation. The UFC brass has spoken of forcing McGregor to vacate his lightweight title for some time. Yet, nothing has happened. On the other hand, it would be more than surprising to see the division’s belt sit on the shelf for another year. Considering it all, including the status of contenders and depth of the division, the bottleneck created by one man never ceases to amaze.

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Exclusive: Neil Magny: “It’s going to come down to fighting tooth and nail”

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On Saturday, December 30th, Neil Magny steps back into the Octagon as he takes on the returning Carlos Condit. Magny’s had a rough past couple of months as the 6’3 welterweight has alternated wins and losses as well as fighting a lot less than usual. Magny was known as one of the most active fighters on the UFC roster until injuries started to take away from his time in the cage.

Welcoming Magny back to the cage is a man who is also making his return after a long layoff, Carlos Condit. Fans and even Magny have been waiting a long time for the fight to come together.

I love this fight, this a fight I’ve been chasing for nearly two years now,” Magny told MMA Latest. “The fight’s going to be happening this Saturday and I’m excited for it.”

Condit hasn’t competed since he lost to Demian Maia back in August 2016. The Jackson-Wink product lost via first round rear-naked choke, the loss prompted a semi-retirement that left everyone unsure if he would ever return. The time spent away from the cage could potentially bring upon the universally hated “ring-rust”.

Not at all,” Magny said as he shot down any talks of ring-rust. “I mean, if anything, I would be more affected by ring rust than he is. I mean, I’m a guy who likes to compete all throughout the years. This is the least amount of fights I’ve had in a year- in awhile- I don’t think the ring rust will be a factor at all and I can’t let that allow me to think that this fight will be easier because of that.”

With Condit’s return being the big story in this fight, it’s easy to think Magny’s been swept under the rug. The fan-favorite has been loved for his tendency to turn every fight into a brawl and putting everything on the line. The hype and excitement haven’t lead Magny to believe he’s being overlooked.

Not all,” Magny says with a shrug. “I don’t feel like I’m being overlooked in this fight at all. There’s a lot of pressure, a lot of hype around Condit going into this fight. But yeah I don’t consider it a bad thing at all. I know I’m focused on what I need to do and I spend most of my time focusing on that rather than the other possibilities or what media attention is drawn to that kind of thing.”

Condit’s tendency to turn his fights into brawls is something Magny’s comfortable with, as technique and advantages tend to fly out the window. The Colorado native is honest about where his strengths are.

This is a fight where it’s going to be a fight and turn into a brawl and were going to fight tooth and nail,” Magny said. “Going into this fight I don’t have the grappling advantage, the submission advantage, I don’t have the significant striking advantage. So anywhere this fight goes it’s not going to be one guy just outclassing the other guy. I know it’s going to come down to fighting tooth and nail or anything that will win this fight. So that’s something that I’m looking forward to the most- going out there and allowing this fight to go down successfully.”

Magny’s rough patch continued in his last fight when he lost to former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos by submission. While a good chunk of fighters have a tendency to dwell on losses, Magny’s moved on and, more importantly, he’s learned from his mistakes.

I could backtrack and pick the fight apart and find a thousand things I did wrong and things I could’ve done differently,” Magny begin to explain. “But at the end of the day, it is what it is. There’s nothing I can do to change the outcome of the fight, all I can do is make sure I’m as prepared as I can be for this fight. That’s what I’ve been spending my time focusing on as well as covering every angle going into this fight mentally, physically, and emotionally. Everything I need to do to be successful in this fight I’ll do it.”

Although Magny’s moved on from the loss, that hasn’t stopped him from making changes in his lead up to fights.

Since my last fight one of the main things I changed in my training camp was the use of a sports physiatrist,” Magny said. “I noticed for these last four fights I got myself into tough positions all three have been lackluster fights that I wasn’t too proud of. Coming into this fight we’ll be sure to work on all angles and we’ll see if the talks and working with a sports physiologist will make a difference. I have no idea but the thing about it is that I want to be as prepared as possible.”

Welterweight contender Kamaru Usman claimed that Magny was going to fight him, that is until Magny accepted the fight with Condit.

No, nothing was ever set for Usman and I to ever fight,” Magny said. “I was in a position where I was coming off a loss and it didn’t matter who I fought next. I was just eager to get that nasty taste out of my mouth from the last fight. So he’s done his usual call me out on Twitter call me out on Instagram wherever he could I was just like ‘meh whatever, if you really want to fight me I’m available, I’m interested in doing it right away’ so why not take the matchup sooner and get the taste out of my mouth.”

Although the fight with Usman isn’t happening, the fight with Condit definitely is. So what does Magny predict?

I see me going out there and just winning any way I see,” Magny said. “Whether its a decision where we go back and forth and go all out war, or me getting the TKO, submission, or knockout. I mean, I’m just looking forward to going out there and getting my hand raised.”

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UFC 219’s Dan Hooker: Fighting in Perth Would Be an “Ideal Situation.”

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New Zealander Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker is somewhat of a UFC veteran these days. On the 30th December Hooker will make his eighth UFC appearance, facing Marc Diakiese at UFC 219 in Las Vegas.

The card is a marquee event with some of the biggest names in the sport competing, but Hooker isn’t letting the magnitude of the event affect his preparation.

“It’s something you can look back on tell people you fought on a big card in Las Vegas, so it’s a milestone,” the Kiwi explained. “But when you’re focused on it you have to take every fight as just another fight. You can’t let the moment overwhelm you, or distract you.”

Hooker admitted to not knowing much about his opponent, Englishman, Diakiese, when the fight was announced. “I hadn’t seen him fight before we got matched, but he’s a big name in the UK so I’m looking forward to it”

Twenty-seven year old Hooker is just happy to fight. He had planned on fighting in Sydney this past November. “I had an infection in my knee which ruled me out of Sydney. I’m glad they can get me on [a card] before the end of the year.”

The Kiwi last fought at home on the UFC Auckland card in June, defeating veteran Ross Pearson with a devastating knee that KO’d his foe in round two. A fight that proved he belonged with the best in the world.

“It’s where I believe my skills are at. I’m showing everyone else what I know I’m capable of,” he said of the fight. “I think I’m capable of much more so I’m looking forward to getting back in there and doing it all again.”

The Pearson bout was Hooker’s first in the UFC’s lightweight division, having fought his first six bouts at featherweight, ten pounds below at 145 pounds. Hooker now intends to make 155 his home, and isn’t concerned about size difference.

“I’m not going back to 145, 155 is where it’s at. I’m more likely to go up than down,” Hooker said. “I just feel my skills have caught up, even if someone is carrying more size than me, I can beat them with my skill.”

There has been scrutiny in recent times due to weight cutting in the sport and new rules have been implemented by the UFC and various commissions to make to process safer. But not much is different, according to Hooker.

“It hasn’t changed anything. The bigger guys are still here and still cutting the same amount of weight.” Hooker also expressed his concern that more divisions would do more harm than good.

“You might get the opposite effect where guys are coming down even further, thinking its not ten pounds of weight, it’s only five pounds. Everyone needs to move up a weight class and fight at their natural weight. Lifestyle wise and longevity wise it’s going to pay off.”

A big reason why 155 is where it’s at is because of Conor McGregor. McGregor is currently the champion in Hooker’s division, yet he has been inactive for over a year and shows no signs in returning any time soon. Hooker isn’t holding his breath on the prospect of the Irishman fighting again.

“I’m not getting off the couch with a 100 million dollars in the bank, I’ll tell you that. I’ve never seen a fat lion running around chasing antelope in the desert, it just doesn’t happen,” Hooker joked.

While Hooker doesn’t see the UFC stripping McGregor anytime soon, he’s indifferent about the use of interim belts in the UFC. Tony Ferguson is the current interim champion in the lightweight division and Hooker thinks he should be next in line.

“The UFC have offered Tony [Ferguson] to defend his interim title. Defending an interim title is where I draw the line. It should be your golden ticket to a title shot, or don’t hand it out”

Interim titles aside, the stage is set for the New Zealander at UFC 219 in front of a large global audience. He aims to make his way up the lightweight ladder towards a prestigious top 15 spot on the roster.

Hooker is one of a few New Zealand based fighters making a run in the UFC. Shane Young made his debut this year, as did Luke Jumeau. Both often train alongside Hooker at City Kickboxing in Auckland. Hooker also suggested that the undefeated striker, Israel Adesanya will be next Kiwi fighter to join the UFC roster.

“The New Zealand market has quite a big talent pool and we’re able to get multiple New Zealand fighters in the UFC. It’s a really good sign.”

As for 2018, Hooker isn’t looking too far ahead as the nature of the sport of MMA means an injury can be just around the corner. If Hooker does come out unscathed – and victorious – then he has a plan in mind.

“I’d like to fight as soon as possible. I’d like to catch up to the Aussies and New Zealanders who got to fight in Sydney and will be fighting in Perth. If I can catch up in Perth then that would be the ideal situation.”

The Perth card would certainly make sense for Hooker. A win against Diakiese would give him his first win streak of his UFC career and set him up for even bigger fights in 2018. For now, Hooker is focused on his English opponent and ending his year on a high.

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