Happy New Year, mates! Santa’s coming a week late with the best gift of the holiday season: UFC 182. For most hardcore fans, and even pro fighters, this weekend’s card is the best of the last twelve months. Not only for the mega-hyped bout between Jones and Cormier—but for the co-main event between Myles Jury and Donald Cerrone.
The stakes are high as they get. Myles, at just 26, carries into the cage a stellar 15-0 record, with eleven by way of first round finish. While veteran and fan-favorite Donald Cerrone enters on a five-fight win streak, the last three over division stalwarts Eddie Alvarez, Jim Miller, and Edson Barboza.
With this fight both Jury and Cerrone seeks their place at the banquet table, where only the elite three or four of every division dine—getting the most media promotion, the best slots on the best cards, flown in to watch cage-side the championship fights—while the wannabes claw for scraps.
In many ways, this fight is more compelling than the premier bout, because win or lose both Jones and Cormier will headline cards for years to come. But the loser of Cerrone vs. Jury will likely slide back to the middle ranks, all talk of title shots silenced for a time. The winner, however, will no question sit at the post-fight scrum and demand a crack at the belt.
“That’s the fight I’m most looking forward to,” Tom Watson, UFC Middleweight told me during our float-tank session. “I’m friends with Cerrone, I’ve trained with him, but Myles has the tools to rule the division. This fight is big for both of them.”
Confession time: for those who don’t know, I’m friends with Jury. We first met during his stint on The Ultimate Fighter Season 15, and since then we’ve hung out, surfed, trained jiu jitsu, etc.
So in no way am I neutral. At the same time, I’m also a Cowboy fan. With his late-career resurgence ala Robbie Lawler, how can you not love the guy? Plus, he lives on a remote ranch in New Mexico, rock climbs, and races motorcycles through the desert. He’s a dude’s dude.
Still, Myles is my boy, and I hope he wins. Like, I’m really obsessing on the fight—so during the madness of Fight Week—which, keep in mind, occurs during New Year’s week in Vegas—I cornered Myles to glean his strategy, and his state of mind.
As Cerrone is a Muay Thai master, known for vicious knees from the clinch, I wondered how Jury prepared. “My team brought in Muay Thai fighters that were identical to Cerrone's body, style, movement, reactions, range,” he told me, “and they pretty much nailed him to a T, but better. We flew them in for sparring days, and now it’s like I’ve already fought Cerrone numerous times during camp.”
I pushed for details on strategy—keep it standing, force Cerrone against the cage, or take him to the mat—but, at least for the record, Myles kept mum.
Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
So I asked about the pressure. As in, this isn’t just the biggest fight of his career, it’s also the most prestigious event the UFC promotes every year. And with second billing, he and Cerrone are shouldering a large portion of the media load. Which means countless appearances, interviews with outlets from all over the world, photo shoots, etc.—while trying to make weight and keep his head in the game. But Myles just shrugs off any notion of pressure.
“It's about time,” he told me, “I could’ve gotten here sooner if I ran my mouth for attention, but my fights will always do the talking. From the beginning I’ve trusted things to come together at the right time. This fight, and my entire training camp, have come together perfectly. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Next critical area (as I’ve written about here), the weight cut:
“It’s going well. I try and eat healthy year round, so it’s a lifestyle. At the same time, during camp it’s also a science, where I’m dropping X amount every week. While the final week is tough, I know when I step on the scale I’m where I need to be. Then for the re-load, I take my IV [rehydration] bags, drink a lot of water, eat some fruit, maybe a couple bites of an organic pizza, and a healthy treat.”
The conversation eventually drifted to Jones/Cormier, which illustrates the thing about most fighters—they follow the action more than we ever could. Spending so much time in the gym, they hear the industry gossip, speculate on future match-ups, pick winners and losers. “It's a tough fight, as they're both dangerous in their own ways. I’m not that emotionally invested, but I hope Cormier wins.”
Jones vs Cormier. Cerrone vs. Jury. Hector Lombard. Danny Castillo. Gonna be an amazing weekend. Until then, here’s a short-vid of Myles kicking my ass and touring the Art of Jiu Jitsu academy:
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