Las Vegas, NV — After two tough outings against battled-tested opponents, A.J. Fletcher had his back against the wall going into UFC Vegas 69.
After a close opening frame, which saw Fletcher finish strong, he was able to pull off a guillotine submission in the second, notching his first victory inside the octagon.
The fight came after its fair share of drama during Friday’s weigh-ins, with Zimbabwean opponent Themba Gorimbo getting in his face. Fletcher, however, didn’t read too much into that.
“For me, it was more encouraging than anything. Themba’s a good guy, I know that’s out of character for him,” Fletcher (10-2) told media outlets including Cageside Press. “He means a lot to a lot of people back home.”
“I purposely didn’t look up his story because I wanted to somewhat dehumanize him this fight. I didn’t want to get caught up in the, ‘he’s this great guy who comes from this rough background, and yada yada yada,'” Fletcher continued. “I guess him doing that, for me, it showed that it was a little bit out of character. And to me that just showed that the lights, the cameras, being in the UFC, not that it was getting to him, but it was something on his mind.”
“To be honest, in the back, he was all cool with me. So to do one thing in front of the cameras and something else behind [the scenes], it just doesn’t add up. You stay in this game long enough, you see those kind of things.”
As much of a relief as notching his first win is in turns of job security, financially, the timing was crucial for A.J. Fletcher.
“It means a lot, man. I need the money. I have probably a hundred bucks in my bank account, and that’s probably going to be gone whenever this hotel charges me my fee,” the welterweight revealed. “So yeah, to have money in the bank account and not hit an overdraft fee will be huge.”
That said, Fletcher knew that a loss could have resulted in his exit from the company. “Definitely knew if I took this loss, I probably wouldn’t be in here for the next fight,” he stated.
Despite that, Fletcher also believes that life would have gone on, even life in fighting. “The UFC is the top of the game, it’s been my dream, but you never know what hand life is going to give you. And if it did give me a loss, I was going to keep going. This is my life, fighting is the way that I learned who I am. It’s the way that I become a better person.”
“Even if I took a loss, I wasn’t going to stop. Even if I was out of the UFC, I wasn’t going to stop. Once you commit to being I guess a lifer in this sport, it doesn’t really matter if you take three or four losses in a row. You just know you’re going to keep going. Whether that’s in the UFC, great, whether it’s not, great, I’m just going to keep going. It’s the way I want to live my life.”
What he learned from the bout, meanwhile, is that “I’m a riser. When my back’s against the wall, I claw out. I don’t shell up, I don’t hide from adversity. I had my back, and that’s a comforting feeling. The world’s getting crazy, it’s a good thing to know you have your own back, and I have a whole team of people that have my back as well. I’m just, I’m blessed.”
Watch the full UFC Vegas 69 post-fight media appearance by A.J. Fletcher above.