Everyone has their own fight. Matt Sayles had his in the octagon Saturday against Kyle Nelson, but his brother’s struggles were never far from his mind.
Ottawa, ON — On a card stacked with Canadian fighters — ten of them, in fact — at UFC Ottawa on Saturday, Matt Sayles had the unenviable task of taking on Kyle ‘The Monster’ Nelson on enemy turf, just down the highway from Nelson’s home in Huntsville, Ontario. That Sayles was not alone in that position was no doubt of little comfort. Yet in the end, he got the job done.
That was not the battle he was concerned with following the fight, however. After addressing the bout back stage with reporters including Cageside Press, Sayles spoke, openly and honestly, about a brother living on the streets, struggling with addiction.
A far bigger fight than fifteen minutes in the octagon.
Sayles had a message for his brother Saturday: “If you see this Steven, I love you.”
“Sadly, my brother is homeless and struggles with addiction,” he explained. “A lot of my family has before. He was actually shot and almost lost his life on the streets. So dealing with that, coming off a loss, it was tough to see him go through that, so I’m just glad to get that W.”
When it comes to helping those who might not want it, Sayles’ advice is to “just stay tough. If they’re not ready for the help, you can’t help them. Just show them the love anyway because you don’t know if they’ll be there tomorrow.”
These sorts of struggles, suggested Sayles, have shaped his approach to fighting. “Since the beginning, fighting, it’s been my goal to make it a platform and share my feelings with the world and be raw with it. Be who I am and hopefully inspire others to follow the same footsteps,” he explained.
And there was never a thought of pulling out of the fight, despite the heartbreaking situation. “I didn’t want to let something like that drag me down. If he sees this, Steven, you can be here too man.”
As for the fight itself, Nelson weathered an early storm, and many were surprised the fight wasn’t stopped at that point, with the Canadian covering up. “I was [expecting a stoppage],” Sayles admitted. “He went for the leg lock and I was able to stay heavy on top of him. I thought for sure I’d be able to put him away. I just punched my heart out. Literally. In the second round, I felt it. Not putting him away, I was a little upset with, but I was able to get the job done.”
In the end, the submission came later in the bout. Sayles said he was confident and hungry coming into the night, looking to avenge a loss in his debut. A loss that left him with a torn retina.
“I think for the fans, it’s a great fight,” he said of his overall performance. “It shows a lot of what I’m about. That second round was tough, I had to battle through adversity. He had a really good, deep choke in there and I was able to defend it. That’s what I’m about. I can come through the worst of it and still come back and get a win. I’m just glad it when that way because now the fans know what I’m about.”
“Throughout this camp and before, that’s one submission I’m good at,” he noted of the finish. The arm-triangle choke, once finally in place, left little room for escape. “He was off-balance from that shot on the underhook. I was able to step over to mount when I saw the opportunity. I was thinking, ‘strike, strike, strike.’ His arm just came across and my left arm was underneath, then I recognized the position and just went for it and gave it my all and finished him.”
There was some question after as to whether Nelson had gone out, despite tapping. “I saw him get up after and start stumbling around. I heard him wheezing and breathing. He tapped, but I didn’t let go right away because the ref didn’t pull me off. Possibly, those chokes are really tight and you never know,” Sayles recalled. “I did see him after and he looked a little wobbly but you don’t know. Your brain’s really messed up after a fight so I couldn’t say for sure.”
With his first UFC win under his belt, Sayles, now 8-2, intends to get back to work. After a little time to wind down. “I want to go home. I want to eat. Enjoy my time with my family for a week and get right back into the gym and hopefully get back in here in three-four months and get another W. There’s no particular opponent I have my eyes set on. Whoever the UFC gives me, I plan on beating and working my way up the ladder fairly.”