Nam Phan is only 31 years old, but the Californian has a lot of miles on his mixed martial arts odometer.
Phan, who made his MMA debut in October 2001, knows that he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning. These days, he’s looking for exciting fights more than anything else -- a desire which lines up well with his upcoming Bellator MMA debut against fellow puncher Mike Richman on Nov. 15 at Bellator 131.
“For a lot of guys these days, it’s about doing what you have to do to beat the top guys,” Phan recently told Sherdog.com. “For me, it’s not about beating the best guy. I want to go out there and have exciting fights. I’m an old man in the fighting game. I don’t have many more years. I want to make every fight I have be fun and exciting. I’m not going to go out there and try to win by pot-shotting and blanketing somebody. Let’s go out there and have some fun.
“Look at somebody like Conor McGregor. He talks a lot of trash and he’s on his way to a title shot, but he has entertaining fights and he has to win those fights, and he has so far. That’s what I want. I want to have entertaining, exciting fights, but you got to have chemistry, you know.”
Phan thinks he will have that chemistry with Richman, as the bantamweights share a propensity for keeping their fights standing and looking for finishes via strikes. The similarities even prompted Richman to predict that their fight in San Diego could be MMA’s version of Arturo Gatti versus Mickey Ward.
“I think it’s going to be a very good fight,” said Phan, who has fought under the UFC, WEC, Strikeforce, Sengoku and Pancrase banners during his career. “I don’t know if it’s going to be like Ward-Gatti. That’s saying a lot, but we’ll do our best. That’s what I like about him. He comes to win, not to stall. There’s a lot of good chemistry there, and he’s a good dance partner for me.”
The Phan-Richman fight will lead off Spike TV’s Bellator 131 broadcast, and Phan will be gunning for his third straight victory since being released by the Ultimate Fighting Championships back in March. He knocked out Kenichi Ito in the first round of a Grandslam MMA card in July and followed that with a first-round tapout via rear naked choke of Yuki Baba at a Pancrase event last month. The submission was his first since April 2010 and the sixth of his career.
Phan said fighting in Japan is something he’s always enjoyed and something he hopes to continue to do as long as Bellator will allow it.
“I love fighting in Japan,” said Phan, who has 14 finishes among his 20 professional victories. “I can’t wait to go back. I’m very close to a lot of fighters over there and I always love going back over there. It’s very fun. I do think I can still fight in Japan while I’m with Bellator, but I’d need to check on that. If there’s a gap in between fights for Bellator, most of the time they’ll understand and let you take a fight elsewhere. Most fighters aren’t millionaires, and Bellator will let you go fight somewhere else for extra cash.”
Zuffa released Phan following three straight unanimous decision losses and a 2-6 mark in the UFC, and Phan harbors no ill will towards the promotion. In fact, he understands why he got his walking papers and he said his move to 135 pounds should make him a better fighter.
“There’s no hard feelings against them at all,” Phan said. “Everyone’s dream is to fight for the UFC, and I got my chance to do that. I did my best. I made some decisions that I shouldn’t have made, but I also made some positive ones, too. I made the most money in my MMA career and I did my best, so there’s no hard feelings. I’ll tell you what, though: I love fighting at 135 [pounds] and I prefer fighting there. I try to keep my weight under 155 or 160 between fights, so 135 is a very ideal weight for me. Nothing lower or higher than that, just exactly at 135. I think it’s more of a fair fight for me. I’m not stronger or weaker than my opponents. At 145 in the UFC, they started having some monsters coming down in weight. When I fought Dennis Siver, I just thought, ‘Man, this guy is big.’”
Phan is facing another newcomer to the 135-pound division, as Richman made his bantamweight debut in his last fight, a first-round knockout of Ed West at Bellator 126 in September. Despite fighting only six weeks after his last bout, Phan does not see the short layoff as a big deal.
“Camp is so far, so good,” said Phan. “It’s a quick turnaround, so I’m just trying to stay in shape. I don’t really have much of a game plan for the fight. I think it’s just going to be two guys who are going to go in there and brawl it out and fight it out.”
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