Like it has been for many of us, the last year for newly signed UFC bantamweight Jesse Strader has been “a roller coaster.”
“It’s been full of ups and downs. A lot of downs with the no fighting, but here we are,” Strader (5-1) told Cageside Press ahead of his promotional debut this weekend at UFC Vegas 22 (UFC on ESPN 21). “We’re at a peak now. So I’m at one of those ups now.”
Strader got the call last Wednesday, offered a spot as a short-notice replacement against Montel Jackson. “I’ve kind of been expecting something to happen. So I’ve been ready. I’ve been ready for a fight,” said Strader. “Whether it was the UFC, or building up my record a little more somewhere else. But the fact of the matter is, we just couldn’t get anyone to take a fight with me.”
With any short-notice fight comes questions about weight cuts. But since Strader had an inkling that a fight might be coming, “the weight is exactly where it needs to be. I literally couldn’t be in more of a perfect place for this last-minute opportunity.”
Montel Jackson is a gifted fighter with a 3-2 record in the UFC, who entered the promotion off Dana White’s Contender Series. That’s exactly the kind of challenge Strader is ready for.
“There’s no easy fights in the UFC at all. Of course he’s tough, 9-2 I think. Coming off a loss, but I know he’s hungry,” observed the California native. “Probably wants to get that back. So I’m expecting a hungry, motivated fighter.”
When it comes to Jackson, he has a “good ground [game], good takedown defense, [and is] a tough opponent,” Strader added. “And nothing motivates me more than a game opponent.”
Strader’s been busy with more than his own fight. He’s also coaching Aaron Carter ahead of the pop star’s celebrity boxing bout against Lamar Odom this summer.
“It’s so crazy, man. Before I even got this call for the UFC, probably like a month ago, somebody tagged me in an Aaron Carter post, they’re like ‘oh Aaron Carter’s trying to fight in a celebrity boxing fight.'” Strader replied wishing the singer luck, adding that he’d be willing to step up if Carter needed a coach. Carter took him up on the offer, and Strader will be cornering him against Odom.
“Aaron Carter, he surprised me. He impressed me. He’s got a lot of haters that come out, and they message me, and it’s a lot of weird stalker-type things. But I really wasn’t sure. I really hadn’t heard or talked to him,” continued Strader. “So when I showed up, I was like ‘dude’s got some pop on his punches.’ The form is gonna tighten up, the technique is going to sharpen up. Everyone’s judging off of three sessions, but we’ve got three months to get this done. Honestly, I feel good about it.”
Strader’s take on celebrity fighting is simple: “If it brings attention to the fight game, then I’m all for it. It’s entertainment at the end of the day,” he stated. “But what I want to do is get Aaron Carter to perform really well and impress people. That’s my goal at the end of the day — I want to get him ready, I want to get him sharp.”
Watch our full interview with UFC Vegas 22 bantamweight Jesse Strader above. The event takes place this Saturday, March 20 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada.