UFC

Pearson stepping up

Ross Pearson has no intention of losing on Saturday.
Ross Pearson has no intention of losing on Saturday.
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A.J. Perez

A.J. Perez previously worked at USA Today, AOL and CBSSports.com, covering beats ranging from performance-enhancing drugs to the NHL. He has also been a finalist for an Associated Press Sports Editors award for investigative reporting. Follow him on Twitter.

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Ross Pearson stepped up as Saturday’s UFC on Fuel TV 9 card appeared set to crumble.

Pearson lobbied to get his bout against Ryan Couture — one in which Pearson could very well be battling for his future in the UFC's stacked lightweight division — to take over as the main event after Alexander Gustafsson was ruled out due to injury earlier this week.

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“I spoke to my coach and told him that if the UFC wants, I’d be available to go five rounds,” Pearson told FOXSports.com. “I’m fit. I’m in shape. I was ready if that’s what they decided to do.”

There would be no need as Ilir Latifi was tapped to replace his injured training partner Alexander Gustafsson in the main event. Latifi will face Gegard Mousasi.

But for the 28-year-old, the spotlight will remain just as intense.

Pearson gained fame as the lightweight winner of The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom. Success, however, wouldn’t come nearly as easy outside the TUF house, at least after he secured a six-figure UFC contract with a unanimous decision win over Andre Winner in the TUF finale in June 2009.

Pearson (10-6-0) has won back-to-back fights only once since and is 6-3 overall in the UFC. He is coming off a third-round TKO of George Sotiropoulos at UFC on FX 6 in December.

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“This is my 10th UFC fight,” Pearson said. “I’ve won some fights. I’ve lost some fights. I always tried to put on a good show, but it’s time that I go on a consistent run. I need to start pushing toward the top of the division.”

Pearson is easily the more accomplished of the two fighters in Saturday’s co-main event. Couture (6-1) didn’t turn pro until three years ago and this will be his UFC debut.

But Ryan Couture — son of MMA legend Randy Couture — has Pearson beat in name recognition.

“I definitely feel I’ll be the best opponent he’s been faced,” Pearson said. “If he’s anything like his dad, he’s going to come in prepared to fight. I’m not going to underestimate Ryan. I’m pretty sure some of his dad’s wisdom has worn off on him and he’ll be ready with a good game plan. I just have to solve it.”

Couture has been around MMA most of his life, even if he didn’t start training seriously in the sport until five years ago. Pearson was also exposed to combat sports at an early age, even if his father was a deep sea diver on oil rigs instead of an MMA trailblazer.

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Pearson's parents enrolled him in Tae Kwon Do at age 6.

“I had my black belt by the time I was 9,” Pearson said. “I watched all the Jean-Claude Van Damme, Steven Seagal and Bruce Lee movies. I wanted to get my black belt in every martial art.”

Pearson got his brown belt in judo as a teen and then set his sights on being a boxer, at least before his friends got him interested in MMA.

“I fell in love,” Pearson said. “It started out as a curiosity and then I realized I really wanted to do it.”

That led, eventually, to The Ultimate Fighter. Now, Pearson is facing a new reality in a sport league that UFC president Dana White said has 100 too many fighters in its ranks, a fact of which Pearson is all too aware.

“I am at the point in my career that it’s all or nothing.”

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