Career firsts are always special and fighter Nicolas Dalby must have butterflies in his stomach when he takes to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) octagon on Sunday - his first co-main event.
The fighter, who hails from Denmark, will take on Gabriel Bonfim of Brazil in the welterweight division in the UFC Fight Night, headlined by the heavyweight tie between Jailton Almeida and veteran Derrick Lewis.
Dalby, popularly known as The Danish Dynamite, who has been an MMA professional since 2010, made his UFC debut in 2015 and would be high on confidence with three successive wins.
The 38-year-old is currently ranked 31st among welterweight fighters with a record of 22-4-1, including a no-contest in 2020 after his opponent Jesse Ronson failed a drug test.
Bonfim, on the other hand, is unbeaten in his pro career with 15 wins but is just two fights old in UFC, and a veteran like Dalby might be a tricky test for the Brazilian. Both martial artists’ fighting performances are diametrically opposite.
While Bonfim’s sample-size of fights is too small, all 11 of Dalby’s fights have lasted the full quota of three rounds. Bonfim has submitted both of his opponents in the first round.
In this exclusive interaction with Sportstar, Dalby reveals his training routine, the atmosphere around him ahead of his maiden co-main event bout, the impact of social media in the current UFC environment and much more.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q. You are coming into the fight with three wins on the trot. How confident are you ahead of the bout, and did you make any specific changes to your training regime?
When training for a fight, I don’t care much about my previous performances. Every new fight is a new puzzle to solve. Of course, it adds confidence that I’m able to convert my training inside the octagon, but it doesn’t add any pressure. It is more of a confirmation that I’m doing things the right way.
My coaches watch a lot of videos but I don’t rely on them that much. Depending upon who we meet, I’m saying we because we are a team, we put together a game plan. It all depends on what type of fighter we are meeting. We try to factor in all the characteristics of the guy that I will be facing, starting from his technical abilities to his personality.
Q. This will be your first co-main event in your UFC career. Does that add a layer of anxiety to your preparation?
This co-main event is an amazing opportunity for me to be able to showcase my skills before an even greater audience. I don’t feel any pressure about it, but rather see it as an opportunity to show what I can do.
Q. All of your fights in UFC have lasted the full quota of three rounds. Is that your strategy to take fights deep or is this a mere coincidence?
I mean, we always go into a fight wanting to finish it. But first and foremost, we want to win it. I have extremely good cardio, so I will always be stronger than my opponents in the later rounds, but it’s not like a specific strategy to go for a decision instead of a finish.
Q. UFC involves a lot more than just physical prowess. Mental stability is equally important and you will be fighting Bonfim in his backyard, with the crowd obviously against you. How are you planning to tackle it?
I enjoy fighting somebody on their home turf. It’s an amazing opportunity. The crowd is always energetic, especially in Brazil. They might be against me, but it’s still energy. And for me, energy, no matter if it’s negative or positive, I kind of use it as fuel to perform even better. So, bring it on. I’m here and I’m ready to fight and being able to fight him against his crowd is just going to make it even more sweet.
Q. You’ve been a pro since 2010, that’s a whopping 13 years in the sport. What are some of the changes you are noticing and what are your thoughts about social media’s influence in today’s UFC environment?
I think the sport has become more professional. People are training more science-based. I think it’s in the DNA of MMA to be curious and to always try and develop not just technically but also physically and mentally. That’s maybe one of the positives.
I’m not sure if there are any negatives. You might be seeing an increase of pressure to be talked about on social media where, when I came forward, it didn’t matter as much. But it doesn’t take back as well. If you can manage to use your social media in a way that boosts you, that’s good. But it doesn’t hold back for the less social media-savvy fighters. I’m not even sure that’s a negative. It’s become a bit more of a popularity contest outside of the octagon than it was before.
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