In his sophomore outing in the UFC, Matt Bessette is facing off against Steven ‘Ocho’ Peterson at the TUF 27 Finale. It’s a potential barn-burner with Fight of the Night written all over it.
Matt Bessette (22–8 (1)) won’t have much time for the International Fight Week festivities this week. Heading into The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale, he’s already dealt with fifteen hours of travel and a missed flight. After arriving in Las Vegas? Photo shoots and obligations for the UFC, plus sweating out the last few pounds of his weight cut.
Yet that having been said, he doesn’t care where he fights. The distractions don’t bother him. The featherweight, who came close to making it onto The Ultimate Fighter in 2011, is simply happy to be here. “I don’t care if I’m on UFC 220, that was a huge card. I don’t care if I’m that, or Ultimate Fighter finale, or a regular Fight Night. As long as Matt Bessette gets to walk into the UFC octagon and smash somebody, I’m a happy guy.”
He gets the chance this time against Steven Peterson. Last time, it was Enrique Barzola at the aforementioned UFC 220. There were some simple takeaways from the bout, a short-notice decision loss. “One thing I took away that’s really positive is, I’m really good,” he explained. Bessette didn’t have a full camp for his debut. His opponent? “He was in top condition, he’s a really great wrestler, he’s pretty fast, and I had one week. I had one week to lose six extra pounds more than I normally do.” Health issues, even his broken thumb from back on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Sereis (a loss later overturned to a No Contest when opponent Kurt Holobaugh was found to have used an illegal IV), also contributed.
Despite that, “I still went out there and put on a good performance,” he added. “With all those things against me, I think, considering that, I did really well.”
Yet that having been said, like many an athlete, Bessette turned a critical eye towards himself. There were a few things he didn’t like about his performance at UFC 220. “How conditioned I was at that point, or whatever other factors were playing against me. I needed to fix a couple of things, and we fixed everything we needed to fix,” he told us Tuesday, just days out from his fight at the TUF 27 Finale. “And I’ll continue to fix them after this fight as well. But I’m in a much, much better position technically, mentally, and physically than the last fight.”
One thing he didn’t have to deal with in his debut was nerves. Perhaps in part because of that Contender Series run. “Everybody talks about their UFC jitters, I had none of them. They didn’t even exist. I think part of it was the Contender Series,” Bessette suggested. “I’d already worked with the UFC. The same people I worked with for my first UFC fight, I worked with for the Contender Series. It was almost the same thing.”
“I think it’s going to be really violent, really exciting, he’s going to bleed a lot.”
Adding to his comfort level, “I always do better in front of big crowds,” he said. “When there’s a few people there, I feel nervous some some reason. But when there’s a bunch, I feel like ‘okay, this is normal. Now I can just go out there and perform.'” Case in point, his fight against Diego Nunes in Bellator MMA. “We know how that one ended.”
In case you missed that one, a belated spoiler: Bessette got the better of the UFC/WEC veteran.
Looking ahead to Steven Peterson, Bessette sees a fighter cut from the same cloth. With perhaps a key difference. “He fights like I do. It’s controlled aggression,” ‘The Mangler’ explained. “Or well, for me it’s controlled aggression. I don’t know how controlled he is,” he added with a laugh.
When it comes to the fight itself, Matt Bessette envisions a bloodbath. “I think it’s going to be really violent, really exciting, he’s going to bleed a lot,” he predicted. “If I bleed, it’s not going to be much but he’s going to bleed a lot. If the doctor doesn’t stop it because of how bloody he is, I plan to put him away with strikes or a submission.”
And stay away, pesky judges. “I don’t want to go to a decision again, I don’t want to at all,” exclaimed Bessette. “I’d rather get Fight of the Night finishing him than Fight of the Night going to a decision. I just don’t like decisions.” For one simple reason: “I like going home at the end of the day knowing that I did it, and nobody else decided whether I was the better fighter or not.”
“Everybody I’ve ever fought starts to drown.”
When we spoke to Bessette’s opponent a few days back, his take was that ‘The Mangler’ wasn’t a guy who would break. Bessette, a former CES featherweight champion, had a similar appraisal of ‘Ocho.’
“I don’t think he’s going to break. My intention is not to break him,” he said. After all, their styles are just so similar. “But I will say that everybody I’ve ever fought, they start to drown,” added Bessette. “No matter if they fully drown or not, they struggle. Everybody. Everybody I’ve ever fought starts to drown.”
“If I don’t get to drown him, it’s about taking advantage of my openings when he starts to struggling,” he continued. “But you know, he’s not a guy to quit. That’s why I wanted this fight. That’s why he wants this fight. It’s going to be a barn burner. If we both don’t leave with fifty thousand, I plan to leave with fifty thousand because of a Performance bonus on my end.”
Bessette, a Hartford native, is not all about the money, however. He’s also about giving back, joining up with heavyweight Justin Wren’s Fight for the Forgotten cause. As for how that came about, “I initially saw him I think on the [Joe] Rogan podcast,” Bessette recalled. “I was like ‘wow, holy s***, this guy is unbelievable!'” The featherweight then read up on Wren, picking up The Big Pygmy’s book, and was “blown away.”
To Bessette, anybody who could have the kinds of gifts Wren does, then go on to “completely change his life around just to be selflessly helping others that he does not know,” — that simply got Bessette. “I think that’s an amazing, amazing thing,” he told us.
“Anything, any small thing that I could do,” he said, “for one it made me feel really good about helping, even if it was a little bit. But two, it’s a great cause that he’s behind. It’s an amazing, amazing cause that he’s behind. And if I can be a small part of it along the way, and help others along the way to be a small part of it, then I’m doing somebody’s work. I’m doing the right thing.”
Don’t miss Matt Bessette face off against Steven Peterson at The Ultimate Fighter 27 Finale this Friday, July 6 in Las Vegas, NV. And Bessette suggested one last piece of advice: “don’t blink!”