Tennessee, aside from a few exceptions, has never been considered a mixed martial arts hotbed. If everything goes according to plan for Andy Uhrich inside Bellator MMA, he will buck the trend.
Uhrich will take on Ultimate Fighting Championship, Strikeforce and EliteXC veteran Paul Daley in the Bellator 148 main event on Friday at the Save Mart Center in Fresno, California. The bout represents a critical juncture in his career. Never before has Uhrich faced an opponent with as a high a profile as Daley. The confident Uhrich is quick to scoff at the doubters.
“I am not afraid of anybody in this world who bleeds and breathes just like me,” Uhrich told Sherdog.com. “There’s no secret to this. It’s just like working for a paycheck. You wake up in the morning, you go to work, you do your job the best that you can, you take pride in what you do and at the end of the day, you earn your keep. It’s just like training and fighting. That’s how I look at this.
“I take the blue-collar approach,” he added. “I get up every morning and go to work. I don’t lack any confidence. I may not have as many fights as he does, but records and numbers are just things written on paper; they don’t mean anything. The work I put in is the difference.”
Many rising contenders have made similar comments before fighting Daley, who possesses some of the best pure striking skills in the sport. The Brit has experience on his side, as he has slugged it out with a number of well-known opponents, including Nick Diaz, Tyron Woodley and Josh Koscheck. Daley has won eight of his past nine bouts.
Uhrich saw an opportunity like this coming a long time ago, and he claims to be ready to take the plunge and score the upset.
“He’s a very skilled guy. He’s got a lot of experience,” Uhrich said, “but I always thought that maybe we’d eventually cross paths, with us both being at 170 [pounds] and with him being in Bellator. When I got that call and they said I was going to fight him, I said to myself, ‘Well, here is the fight you thought was going to happen all along, so let’s go.’”
The consensus among many observers has the “Stunner” forgoing the standup with Daley, a ferocious kickboxer who sports 27 knockouts among his 37 victories. Uhrich laughs at the suggestion.
“Those are things that journalists and fans say, and that’s cool,” he said. “It’s not just about speed or power with striking, and most people who watch this sport don’t understand that. With me, as long as I get him uncomfortable and get him off his timing, I’ll be just fine. Anybody can stand and strike with anybody because it’s all just timing, angles and movement; it’s not just about speed and power.”
Uhrich works daily on diversifying his game.
“A lot of fighters are mentally weak,” he said. “With that said, if you have a game plan, you need to have backup plans. If my main game plan for Paul Daley was get in there and take him down and I kept trying to do that but he prevented me from doing that, I would need to change it up. If not, then I would be mentally [expletive] out there and he’d probably knock me out.”
Uhrich does not seem fazed by the spotlight. He embraces the chance to show the strides he has made.
“I had a lot of changes in my life over the past few years,” Uhrich said. “I had a falling out with my previous trainer so I changed gyms. I had some personal stuff going on, too. So with this new gym, I’m on a three-fight winning streak and I feel great. I feel comfortable. Life and the fight game is all about timing, and right now, I feel as though this is the best time for me. I’ve been doing this for nine years and this is the most confident I’ve ever felt. I’ve never been happier with anything in this sport than how I feel right now.”
After besting Bobby Cooper at a Titan Fighting Championship event in March, Uhrich had three fights fall through in 2015. Though he has been inactive for 10 months now, he sounds unconcerned with potential rust.
“The only difference with me is that I didn’t get to actually fight,” Uhrich said. “I was supposed to fight dudes in May, July and August, but they all fell through for different reasons. I’m always in the gym anyway, so I’m ready. I have a chance to really make a name for myself against Paul, so now it’s just up to me to prove it and do my job.”