Las Vegas, NV — After winning big off a slam on the Contender Series, Dustin Stoltzfus’ UFC debut fizzled.
Against Kyle Daukaus, Stoltzfus (13-2) fought to an uninspired unanimous decision loss at UFC 256.
It’s a hard loss to take anything away from, however, the middleweight explained during this week’s UFC Vegas 31 media day. “I hate making excuses for stuff, I really, really do, it pains me to even say it — but I was suffering from the long-term effects of COVID,” Stoltzfus explained. “I got tired within like a minute and a half. And that like never happens to me. Between just being exhausted and not being able to do what I usually do, and a bit of the panic that set in, the frustration of not being able to fight, it really put me on the defensive for most of the fight.”
And so the biggest takeaway from the bout, Stoltzfus continued, was to “take care of myself in training, and if I’m sick, then do something about it, not just put on my blinders and keep going, which is what I did.
Stoltzfus first contracted COVID in October, which led to his fight being bumped back two weeks. Despite feeling bad in training after getting back in the gym, he pushed through it, continually telling himself that he’d feel better by the time the fight arrived. He didn’t.
Now, it’s been eight months since Stoltzfus competed. “That was by design. I had decided as soon as the fight was over, I was not even going to think about scheduling a fight until I could train normally again.” In addition to COVID, Stoltzfus discovered a micro-nutrient deficiency, but since April, with the help of a supplement, things have returned to normal.
Now, the 29-year old from Pennsylvania goes up against jiu-jitsu ace Rodolfo Vieira. “I think Rodolfo is the best opponent that I could have wished for on the UFC roster, as far as his skills matching up to mine, and his name being as big as it is,” Stoltzfus told the media this week — which might come as a surprise to some, given Vieira collects gold medals the way some kids collect baseball cards.
“I think I have a really, really good chance to finish this fight, and to really show what I can do,” he continued, before acknowledging the danger Vieira poses. “Of course, especially in the first round, the guy’s an absolute beast on the ground. It could go pretty sour and he ends up choking me out. But I think I have a really really good chance in this fight, and I’m excited to show you all what I can do.”
Asked if there was any relief in having gotten his first UFC loss out of the way, Stoltzfus replied by agreeing that “there is a certain kind of relief that comes from having failed and having worked through that. That definitely is a phenomenon that I’ve experienced before. But it having been my debut and it going the way that it did, not so much a relief for me.” Rather, it’s a “little bit more pressure than it otherwise would have been.”
After all, Stoltzfus runs the risk of being choked out by Rodolfo Vieira this Saturday.
Watch the full UFC Vegas 31 media day scrum with Dustin Stoltzfus above. Stoltzfus faces Rodolfo Vieira this Saturday, July 17 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, NV.