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Fear of losing not entirely behind Sean Strickland, but UFC Moncton win is a start

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MONCTON, Canada – As he headed into the last fight of his contract on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 138, Sean Strickland wanted to make a statement.

“There’s so many guys that want to be UFC fighters that you have to earn your keep in this sport,” Strickland told reporters, including MMAjunkie, backstage at Avenir Centre. “And that’s all I was trying to do, is earn my keep.”

Strickland sure did his part there. In a welterweight bout that closed out the night’s FS2-televised preliminary card, Strickland (20-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC) became the first person to knockout Nordine Taleb (14-6 MMA, 6-4 UFC) in nearly 11 years.

Strickland doesn’t yet know what free agency will bring. But, while he acknowledges there are other promotions out there that can also offer solid compensation, he says that his dreaming growing up was to be a UFC fighter and that he’s been living it.

“I love being a UFC fighter,” Strickland said. “I will fight somebody who’s ranked, I will fight somebody who’s not ranked. I don’t care. As long as I get to keep doing what I’m doing, I’ll fight anybody. I just love fighting.”

Other than the statement he sent out, it would appear Saturday’s win also meant a statement of sorts for Strickland, himself.

Strickland came into the bout with Taleb off a knockout loss of his own, to Brazilian standout Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos. Now 2-2 in his past four, he’s struggled to keep his consistency since early 2017, when a loss to Kamaru Usman snapped a three-fight winning streak.

Training is evidently not a problem for the veteran, whose idea of celebration after his win is heading to Las Vegas to … train some more? Not only does Strickland love training, he’s confident he’s pretty good at it. So where’s the disconnect between what happens at the gym and in the cage?

“I’m one of the hardest training guys in the UFC, and I’ve been in all of the best camps, I’ll tell you that from experience,” Strickland said. “In the gym, I’m phenomenal. There’s not one guy at the gym that can beat me, every gym I go to. But when I fight, I’m so afraid of losing, I’m so afraid of failure, it’s a ceiling I put over myself. After my last fight, getting clipped like that.

“Knowing that I got clipped because I was so afraid to fight – because that’s what it was. He clipped me because I was afraid to fight. Going into this fight, I just said, ‘I don’t even care if I get knocked out. I’m coming here to fight, prove how good I am.’”

These obstacles, he says, haven’t been entirely overcome. But it was certainly a nice start.

“I never started training to be a fighter – I got kind of pushed into that. I was just a punk kid who was angry,” Strickland said. “And then I got pushed into fighting. And when I fight, I put so many obstacles in front of myself being afraid of losing that I – it holds me back.

“And overcoming it, I’m learning how to overcome it. This fight, going in there, was me trying to overcome that barrier. What you’ve seen, it wasn’t even me at my best. The wall is still there. I’m just trying to break it through.”

A win for Strickland, of course, meant a loss for Taleb – who made it clear then and afterward that he was not happy with what he believes was an early stoppage. (via Twitter)

The way Strickland sees it, though, it would have been just a matter of time until they reached the same outcome.

“I will tell you right now, the look in his eyes, I would have just kept hitting him,” Strickland said. “If he would have got up, I would have hit him again, he would have fallen down, I’d hit him again. If it was an early stoppage, it would have been stopped just a few seconds later.”

To hear from Strickland, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 138, check out the UFC Events section of the site.



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