UFC Vet Ross Pearson Discusses Return from Retirement, Probellum London Fight This Weekend

Ross Pearson Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

TUF 9 winner Ross Pearson will step back into the cage this weekend at Probellum: London, taking his first MMA fight since announcing his retirement earlier this year.

UFC veteran and Ultimate Fighter 9 winner Ross Pearson (20–16 1NC) will return to the cage for the first time since March this weekend. It’s not under the familiar UFC banner that Pearson is making his return, but rather for Probellum London, where he will headline opposite Davy Gallon.

“I never fell out of love with fighting. Fighting’s just in us. It’s who I am”

It was back in April, shortly after his final UFC bout, against Des Green, that Pearson announced his retirement on social media. Like many MMA retirements, however, Pearson’s didn’t stick

“I just think I pulled the trigger a little bit too early,” Pearson told Cageside Press this week. “I think that I was just a little bit frustrated, pissed off, fell out of love a little bit with the sport. I think those words of retirement came out of my mouth a little too soon.”

The retirement announcement, he clarified, was driven more by the business side of the sport than anything else. “I never fell out of love with fighting. Fighting’s just in us. It’s who I am, it’s just what I do. It was the business side, the career side, the ups, the downs, the frustration.”

It’s a roller coaster ride, he added, one that “I kind of got frustrated with.”

The urge to return built up gradually in the weeks and months following his UFC Philadelphia bout with Green. “I always had that feeling that it wouldn’t be long before I come back, because I’m the fighter that, it’s going to be hard to see it go by,” Pearson admitted. In hindsight, he probably should have announced the end of his UFC career, “not that I’d retired from competing.”

“I think I just jumped the gun a little bit. The emotion and frustration just got the better of us,” he added.

As for his family’s reaction, there was little surprise. Pearson’s wife Kristie is a former UFC octagon girl. “The UFC and fighting is what brought us together. She’s only ever known me to fight,” he noted. “It was a mutual agreement, it’s what I want to do, it’s what I see myself doing for another few years. And it’s how I see myself providing for my family the best way possible.”

It’s not as if Pearson hasn’t stayed active in the short time he was away from MMA. He runs his gym, Central Coast MMA & Boxing, out in West Gosford in New South Wales, Australia. “Obviously I’ve been training with my gym. We brought in a new jiu-jitsu coach, a new wrestling coach. We’ve got Jamie Mullarkey into the UFC now, so we’ve been doing a lot of time training with him, getting him ready.”

Working with Mullarkey helped Pearson realize “what level of fighter I am, and what I’m capable of doing. I’ve still got a lot more to show in this sport.”

To be clear, then, Pearson’s fight this Saturday is not a one-off. No longer with the UFC, Pearson noted that he’s “an open contracted fighter.” With that comes a certain amount of freedom. “I still want to pursue boxing, I may have opportunities in kickboxing. I still want to continue fighting mixed martial arts,” he said.

The boxing angle is a big one. Pearson won his first pro boxing match shortly after wrapping up his UFC career. The second-round TKO victory over Salar King will hopefully lead to more bouts in the ring. “I’ve just always had a passion for boxing,” said Pearson. “I just want to be able to cross over and compete in boxing, and then turn around and compete and do a mixed martial arts training camp, and see how far I can take it in both combat sports.”

Moving forward, then, any promotion Pearson fights for will have to allow for that. Pearson, meanwhile, is open to fighting anywhere. “You pay me the right money, I’ll get right in there and fight anyone.”

First up, Davy Gallon, who Pearson described as “durable. Decent, well-rounded.” Gallon is no slouch, coming in off a win back in March and with a record of 17-7-2.

“He knows the game, he’s a worthy opponent and a tough challenge,” observed Pearson, who added that “I didn’t want to come back and fight a guy who wasn’t at that level. I wanted to come back and test myself against good, solid guys who want to come and fight. That’s what Probellum offered, and that’s what we did.”

Ross Pearson UFC
Ross Pearson, UFC Calgary weigh-in Credit: Jay Anderson/Cageside Press

The bout will go down at 74kg, a catchweight after a prior opponent dropped out. With Gallon stepping in on a few week’s notice, the catchweight was a mutual decision. “Makes sense for both of us,” said Pearson. “I don’t really want to cut a lot of weight, he probably doesn’t either.”

“I think cutting weight is stupid anyway,” he added, noting that when he’s in camp, he’s usually about 77 or 78kg. While cutting is never easy, he continued, “I kind of know my body now. I kind of know where I am. I’ve done that many training camps now where I know where I should be and how my body feels.” After this fight, he revealed, the plan is to compete at lightweight.

As for what you can expect Saturday at Probellum London, Pearson suggested that “I think I’m going to be just a little bit too aggressive in the pocket. Punching, kicking, taking down, mixing it up a little bit. He’s very kickboxer oriented. He’s a very patient fighter. He looks for the right shot at the right time.”

Pearson feels the key to victory, then, is to “put pressure on him. Mixing up my levels, mixing up my combinations and setups and feints. I just think my output’s a little higher than his, and I should be able to get him out of there.”

In a career as lengthy as Pearson’s, there are of course a lot of highs and lows. “The standout moment was probably when I beat George Sotiropoulos,” said Pearson, reflecting on a journey that began, professionally, in 2004. “That was probably my time to shine and go on a run, and really make a name and push the top ten, top fifteen guys in the world.” That win came in 2012, and marked his return to the lightweight division after a brief stint at featherweight. “I just had a lot of bad luck after that fight. A lot of mishaps and things that went wrong. The no contest, the Diego Sanchez fight. These things just disturb your run.”

Looking at the success of his past opponents, however, Pearson does take a bit of a confidence boost from it. “I know what level of fighter I am. I’m one of the best fighters in the world. There’s only Dan Hooker that’s knocked us out. I’ve been beaten by some of the best fighters in the world, by split decision losses.”

“I’ve lost decisions that I probably should have won. Just a couple of things went wrong. That’s the luck of the draw sometimes,” he continued. “Sometimes it just falls that way. But I know the level of fighter I am, I know my skill set level, I know what is inside, and what I’ve got in my heart, in my hands, in my feet, my technical ability. I’m one of the best fighters in the world.”

Pearson is looking to make a statement this weekend, he finished. He’s looking for a stoppage, be it KO, TKO, or sub. Alluding to a couple of potential opportunities in December, Pearson refused to look past Gallon, however. “Whether or not I do that all depends on Saturday night.”

Ross Pearson returns against Davy Gallon this Saturday, November 16 in the main event of Probellum London at the Brentwood Centre in London, England.