Ross Pearson may have began his career in the UFC by winning the title of "The Ultimate Fighter" as a lightweight, but the British striker has found his true home in the UFC featherweight division.
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At UFC 141 last December, the 18-fight veteran debuted in a weight class brimming with talent, earning a victory against Junior Assuncao by way of unanimous decision and, though he has just one featherweight victory under his belt, Pearson believes he has the tools to jump directly into the title hunt. The former "Ultimate Fighter" winner is ready to face the division’s best and feels he has the size and power to become a force in his new weight class. HeavyMMA caught up with Pearson at a recent UFC event, and he spoke about his intentions at 145 pounds.
“Going into the fight with Assuncao, I felt great,” Pearson said. “It was my first fight at this weight, and I was excited to get the opportunity to fight on a big card. It was New Year’s Eve in Vegas at the MGM (Grand Garden Arena), and I was excited. It was a huge step in my career because I’ve found a new path to go down, and there are a lot of new challenges ahead.
“I always had it in the back of my head and wondered if I could make the weight and how I would perform. I’ll fight anyone; it’s just the way I am. I’ll fight at 145, 155, 170, it doesn’t matter to me what weight it is at. Making 145 pounds was a challenge to me, personally. I performed well at that weight and I believe I can be a champion in that weight class. I believe I can be a champion at 155 pounds as well, but the decision to drop down was about the progression and evolution of my career. I want to stay active and I need to keep progressing inside the cage.”
The UFC featherweight division may be ruled by pound-for-pound staple Jose Aldo, but the weight class is still in the process of developing a solid list of contenders. Over the past six months that picture has started to materialize, and Pearson feels it’s the perfect time to make his way toward the top, culminating with a match-up with the fierce Brazilian champ.
“One of the main reasons I decided to make a home at 145 pounds is because I feel I’m one of the biggest, strongest and most powerful guys in that division,” Pearson said. “There are a lot of guys at 155 lbs., whereas at featherweight it is wide open. I can fit right into the top of the division straight away. I’m a bad match-up for anyone there and I come to fight. At 145, I’m the biggest, strongest, nastiest guy in there.
“I think I match up great with Jose Aldo. I have just as good Muay Thai and boxing as he does. Maybe he has the edge in jiu-jitsu and wrestling, but that is what the sport is all about. Going out there and putting on exciting fights. I guarantee no one else will stand in his face and fight him the way I will. No one in this division will stand and throw down with Aldo, but I will. I respect him as a fighter and he’s doing great things for this division, but I believe I’m the next one in that spot and would love the opportunity to prove it."
While Pearson’s next opponent remains uncertain, he makes it no secret he is looking to return to action as quickly as possible. Following his win at UFC 141, rumors surfaced suggesting Pearson would rematch Dennis Siver, but Pearson quickly put those whispers to rest via his Twitter account. With the rematch shot down, he now looks ahead in his path toward the title, and it seems all but a certainty the Sunderland native will face a top-ranked opponent in his next outing.
“The fight with Dennis Siver was something which was blown out of proportion,” Pearson said. “I was never even offered that fight. I woke up one morning, it was all over the Internet, and I wasn’t sure what was going on. If the fight had been offered to me and the setting was right for it to be a big fight, sure, I would have done it. He is facing Diego Nunes now and that should be a good fight. Hopefully Siver and I will get to do it again sometime down the road, but the news about us fighting was completely false.
“I’m looking to get back in there as soon as possible. I’m in good shape now and I can make the weight over the course of the camp, so when they call me I’ll be ready to go. I can’t wait to see who is coming up next and I’m ready to get back in there.”