Nam Phan will make his Bellator MMA debut on Nov. 15. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
As recently as March of this year, Nam Phan was unsure of what was going to happen with his mixed martial arts career.
The 31-year-old bantamweight had just been released from his contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and was wondering if he would get another shot on the big stage. Though he was a popular fighter within the Las Vegas-based organization, capturing two “Fight of the Night” awards, three consecutive losses spelled the end for his time inside the Octagon.
According to Phan, personal distractions led to a lack of focus and turned him into a different fighter. But, after eradicating the toxicity in his life, Phan resumed training and hasn’t looked back.
“I’ve cut some people out of my life that were distracting me, so everything’s good,” an elated Phan told Sherdog.com in a recent interview. “I feel better than ever. So far, so good. I have learned how to cut weight better and my training has gotten better than it’s ever been.”
The results of the changes in his life speak for themselves. The Californian has reeled off back-to-back wins in Japanese organizations -- both by first-round stoppage -- and has now been granted a second lease on life in a big-time MMA promotion.
Last month, Phan signed an exclusive, multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA, for whom he will debut Nov. 15 against Mike Richman on the main card of the much-publicized Bellator 131. To say Phan is ecstatic about fighting on the big stage again would be an understatement, and he knows full well how crucial the fight will be.
“I look at every one of my fights as being critical, but because this one is on the big show, it’s even more critical,” he said. “The more fights you win, it obviously enhances your career. You get more money, more exposure, and I have to keep it going. Losing definitely hurts, so every fight is more important than ever. This one is the most important to me right now.”
Phan also knows the dangers of fighting someone like Richman, a durable veteran who can knock someone out just as quickly as he can submit him. Richman is an aggressive foe, but Phan is prepared to take the fight to him and put on a show.
“It’s very important to have a [spectacular] win,” he stated. “In all of my fights, I want to put on a good show. Every fight I treat it like it’s my last and create some fireworks out there.”
Of course, simply charging at an opponent like Richman with guns ablaze would be foolhardy. Then again, Phan said, it’s not so easy to game plan for someone like “The Marine,” because he does everything well. Phan might have no option but to swing away.
“His style is very complicated, and it’s hard to prepare for that,” Phan said. “He’s got good striking, good grappling. He’s got good takedowns, and once you take him down, it’s not so easy to keep him there. It’s actually kind of hard to create a strategy for him, so I’m just going to go in there and start throwing and have a good time.”
If Phan can get past Richman -- or, better yet, score a highlight-reel win -- Bellator likely will have big plans for his immediate future. But, Nam said, he’s focused solely on his opponent and is determined to get back what he once had in the UFC: high expectations for him to eventually capture a world title.
While he has “great admiration and respect” for Richman serving the country as part of the U.S. Marine Corps, Phan understands that he has a job to do, and that is to be victorious inside the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. Phan professed that he is more motivated than rejuvenated to excel in what essentially is his second MMA career, but first, he must send “The Marine” back to the barracks.
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