TUF 27 Finale: Steven Peterson Plans on Becoming a Household Name in the UFC

Steven Peterson will face Matt Bessette at the TUF 27 Finale
Steven Peterson (right) Credit: Keith Mills/Sherdog.com

Steven ‘Ocho’ Peterson didn’t get the win in his UFC debut, but he did make an impression in that Fight of the Night showing. Now, at The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale, he’s looking to build on that, while gunning for a finish.

Steven Peterson is one of a crop of hot prospects among the UFC’s lower weight classes at the moment. The former Legacy FC bantamweight champion is known for an exciting, never-back-down fight style, and he’s brought that to the UFC’s featherweight class. His UFC Fight Night 126 debut against short-notice replacement Brandon Davis was a war. Which makes his next bout, against Matt Bessette this Friday at The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale, must-see TV.

Speaking to Cageside Press ahead of the fight, ‘Ocho’ reflected on his debut, the fight against Bessette, scrapping the early weigh-ins and more.

“I went out there and did what I always do — put on a show, put on a war,” he said of the fight against Davis. “I could have done better. Not trying to come up with excuses, but that wasn’t my best performance. Sure it was exciting, but I should have put Brandon away. I’m not going to make that mistake again.”

Peterson had originally been booked against Humberto Bandenay that night, but VISA issues prevented the Peruvian fighter from making the date. That saw Davis, a Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series veteran, step in. The last minute change did throw a bit of a wrench in the works, but Peterson is still more than willing to take on all comers.

“I was training to fight a south paw, it changed up to an orthodox guy,” he said of the switch. “Bandenay is a kicker, Davis more of a puncher, a lot of head movement, so a totally different stylistic match-up. It is what it is.” Yet despite the experience, “I’ll fight anyone in there. On a week’s notice, it don’t matter.” It’s that kind of attitude that should see Steven Peterson continue to win over fans.

As for his upcoming bout, there’s no change to the approach. “I’ve just been training for Matt Bessette. It looks like he’s actually going to show up on fight night. He’s a game opponent. I’m excited to get in there and mix it up with him,” Peterson told us. Bessette has been on his radar for some time now. “I’ve been watching him a while, in CES, I’ve watched him rise through the ranks. He’s been fighting eleven years, I’ve been fighting ten years, so we’re both really experienced.”

Yet Bessette may be in a bit of a predicament. He was defeated by Enrique Barzola in his promotional debut at UFC 220. He also suffered a loss on the Contender Series, to Kurt Holobaugh. That, however, was overturned to a No Contest after Holobaugh admitted to using an IV to re-hydrate, which earned the fighter a suspension under the Nevada State Athletic Commission. While the loss is no longer reflected on Bessette’s record, appearances are what they are.

“His back’s up against the wall, so I know he’s going to come out — he’s not going to accept a loss,” Peterson said of his opponent. “Nobody really accepts a loss, but some guys will just, when it’s not going their way, they’ll just break. I don’t see him breaking in there, I see him being tough, and I’m going to have to really take the fight to him.” If his prediction proves accurate, fans could be in for another thrilling war on Friday. It’s the type of pairing that brings out the best in ‘Ocho.’

“The higher level my opponent, the better you’re going to see me perform,” said Peterson. “I can hang with anybody. You put me in there with a top 5, top 10 guy, I’m going to put on a war, regardless of who the opponent is or how dangerous they are.” He points out that Bessette has been finished a couple of times, and he’s looking to add to that count.

“I’m going to take him out in round one. Knockout,” he later predicted.

The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale comes a day before the UFC’s biggest card of the year, UFC 226. And in the midst of International Fight Week, the promotion’s annual extravaganza for fans and fighters. Peterson has no concerns about it being a distraction. He’s relishing the opportunity to take part, in fact. “I’m an entertainer. That’s what it’s about. It’s international Fight Week, there’s going to be fans from all over the world in Vegas,” he pointed out. “People that have never seen me before. So I’m just excited to show these people what I’m capable of, on the biggest platform, which is the UFC.”

He’ll attend the Fan Expo, despite cutting weight — “weight’s not too much of an issue, I’m on track. I’ll be out and about, enjoying the International Fight Week festivity,” he said.

Speaking of weight cuts, with recent news that the UFC would do away with the morning weigh-ins it brought in just a couple of years ago, Peterson was clear in his preference. And had a few suggestions as well. “I prefer the morning,” he told us. “I like to get it over with. Get in, get re-hydrated, just get rested for the actual fight.”

Yet much of it falls to personal preference. Peterson would rather see an extended weigh-in window, which could accommodate all fighters. “I wish there was more of an option. Shoot, why don’t they have a six hour, or twelve hour window if they’re going to have a two hour window? Just extend that window.”

“Some fighters like to cut their weight the day of,” he continued, “some fighters like to cut it the day before. I think there should be more options, as opposed to just having it set in stone.” Peterson himself cuts half the day before, and times the rest leading up to the actual weigh-ins: an hour for every two pounds or so.

Getting back to International Fight Week, a big component is the UFC Hall of Fame inductions, which this year will see Ronda Rousey, Matt Serra, and Urijah Faber among in inductees. The latter, of course, carried the flag for the lower weight classes for years. Asked if there’s anyone he’d like to see honored next, ‘Ocho’ tabbed former WEC and UFC lightweight champ Anthony Pettis. “I know he’s not at the top of his game right now, but he was and he is one of the pioneers of the lighter weight classes,” Peterson explained. “And he invented the Showtime Kick. Why not? He belongs there, he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”

“I’m going to work my way up the ranks, and Steven ‘Ocho’ Peterson is going to be a household name.”

Pettis was one of the guys Peterson looked up to when he was first getting into the sport. “Urijah Faber, Dominick Cruz, Anthony Pettis — those were some of the most dynamic fighters coming up. I loved watching them.” And given the opportunity, yes, he’d try out the Showtime Kick in a fight. “I’ve done it in the gym, so if the opportunity arises, hell yeah, I’ll go for it!”

On a more serious note, Peterson plans to build from his second fight in the UFC. The goal is to work his way up the ranks, and break into the top ten. “Maybe late next year. I’m not in a rush,” he said. “I’m here to stay, I’m not just going to be a couple of fights then cut, gone, forgot about.”

Frankly, it’s hard to imagine forgetting anyone whose fights are that entertaining.

“I’m in the UFC now, and I’m here to stay,” he finished. “I’m going to work my way up the ranks, and Steven ‘Ocho’ Peterson is going to be a household name.”

Don’t miss Steven Peterson taking on Matt Bessette on Friday, July 6 at The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale at the Pearl Theatre in Las Vegas, NV.