Alan Jouban eager to break back into a ‘wide-open’ welterweight division

On Saturday, Alan Jouban will return to competition refreshed and motivated.

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In 2015, UFC welterweight star Alan Jouban was on a mission to break into the top 10 at 170 pounds. Heading into his October fight against Albert Tumenov, Jouban’s only UFC loss was a controversial one against Warlley Alves back in 2014, so the goal seemed attainable.

That goal was delayed a bit when Jouban suffered a clear-cut loss to Tumenov, however. After the loss, he rested and occupied himself with modeling work until he was ready to train hard once again.

The couple months of rest was welcome, but it also made him hungry to compete.

"Sometimes I get so fixated on goals," he recently told FOX Sports, ahead of his Saturday UFC Fight Night: Brisbane bout against Brendan O’Reilly.

"I wanted to climb up the rankings so fast, that I think I got burnt out a little bit. I fought seven times in the past two years, and by the time I got to my last fight, I think I had an attitude of wanting to get it over with. That’s not a good mindset.

"Being away helped light that competitive fire, though. After a few months, you miss it, and you badly want to get back in there, train hard, and fight."

So, Jouban and his management team set a goal of returning to the Octagon by March. He’d hoped to fight March 5, but when that card filled up and the UFC offered him a fight halfway around the world in Australia, he jumped at the chance.

"Initially, I wasn’t hoping to have to travel so far to fight, but then I got excited about it. One of the best fight weeks I ever had was in San Diego. The whole time, we relaxed on the beach, it was pretty out, and I got great energy from it all," he said.

"So, the plan became to make this fight like that one. I’m excited to [be in] Brisbane — it is beautiful, and I’m feeling really positive heading into this fight."

Jouban has been re-energized by rest, training and also tumult in the welterweight division. Ever the ambitious grinder, he looks at recent events as a hopeful reminder that fortunes can change drastically, and quickly if you do what you need to.

"I feel like welterweight is suddenly wide-open," he explained.

"Just a few months ago, who would have thought that a guy like Stephen Thompson would be close to a title shot? He’s always been a great fighter, but he wasn’t getting the attention he deserved. Or, look at what happened with Nate Diaz. He was ready, took a short-notice fight and beat one of the biggest names in the sport, Conor McGregor.

"The division is wide-open, and I feel that when I do what I need to do — which is finish this fight — and continue improving, anything can happen."