Brad Pickett ready to capitalize on UFC/WEC merger with win over Menjivar
Few fighters stand to benefit more from the upcoming Zuffa company merger than Brad Pickett, but his immediate concern is not allowing the distractions of extra fame and fortune trip him as he approaches the final hurdle.
The 32-year-old from East London fights Canadian Ivan Menjivar on Thursday night at the final WEC show before the brand is incorporated by the UFC, taking the featherweight and bantamweight fighters with them. For the chosen few who make the move, there is the promise of greater fight purses, improved bonuses, bigger sponsorships and, for Pickett, the chance to fight in his home country at the top of his profession.
Of course, with greater reward comes increased competition and the pressure on fighters to win in order to keep their jobs will be at it’s highest in the coming months as Dana White and company trim their already bulging rosters. While Pickett, 2-1 in this three WEC fights, has a crowd-pleasing style that should ensure his immediate employment win, lose or draw, the American Top Team member is taking nothing for granted.
“If it’s a local show on Portsmouth pier or the UFC, I always train hard. That’s the type of person I am,” he said. “I want to win. No matter where it is. There is a bit more on this one though. I’m on a five-fight deal with the WEC and this is my fourth fight, so after this one you’d normally negotiate going into the last. I’m just hoping they’ll keep me for the UFC.”
“At the end of the day, it’s a winning business and I just lost my last fight. I know my last fight was a close one and it was a good fight, but you need to win fights. I was very excited when I heard about the merger, but I’m not there yet so I can’t get carried away. Anything can happen from now to then. Until I’m actually in there with the cage door shut behind me and the logo on my gloves, I’m not technically fighting in the UFC.”
Standing in his immediate way is the vastly experienced Menjivar, once ranked in the upper echelons of the featherweight division in the days before Versus made 145 lb fighters fashionable. After giving up competing in 2006 to focus on supporting his family, he continued to train with elite fighters including Georges St-Pierre at the Tristar Gym in Canada and is now back hoping to cash in on MMA’s ever increasing mainstream popularity.
If a month sometimes feel like a lifetime in the sport’s fast-paced news cycle, then the four years since Menjivar’s last high-profile bout is an eternity. While Pickett is aware of the size of the task in front of him, he fears his opponent’s low profile could downplay the significance of a potential victory.
“He’s a good MMA guy and also he’s a really big name among the people who are in the know, but to the casual fan – because he’s been out for such a long time – a lot of people don’t know who he is,” he said. “So, for me, if I beat this guy there’s not a lot of rewards. People will say I’ve beat up a bloke they’ve never heard of, but he’s tough, he’s a legit, solid fighter and it’s going to be a tough fight.”
“I know he’s a world class opponent, he was ranked in the top 10 for a long time at 145 when he was fighting,” he added. “I know he’s legit so, for me, if I beat him it will be the biggest victory of my career I believe.”
After his bout, Pickett will watch bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz defend his belt against Scott Jorgensen, who narrowly defeated him in August to earn the title shot. The sport’s fine margin means that a close judging decision is the difference between him potentially fighting in a main event on this card and the reality of an untelevised prelim.
“I learned that I’m up there in that fight. I’m there or thereabouts,” he said. “I fell just short, but I believe, at that sort of level, on your day you can beat anyone or be beat by anyone. I could fight Scott Jorgensen 10 times and I could win six and lose four, for example. That’s how it goes at that level and it’s just about who turns up on the night.”
“Stylistically I matched up quite well. He just has a bit better wrestling than me and it showed up in the fight. He got takedowns in key moments of the fight and stole the rounds basically. I don’t think he whooped me in the fight at all. Even thought it was a unanimous decision it wasn’t like I got my bum kicked.”
Pickett is determined to make sure Thursday is one of his ‘on’ nights as the curtains come down on World Extreme Cagefighting for the final time.
“It’s nice to fight on the last WEC,” he said. “At the moment though it’s a business to me, I’m just fighting. It doesn’t matter if it’s the WEC or the UFC, I’m fighting and trying to compete with the best in the world.”
Zuffa are planning on running shows in Ireland in Scotland in the first half of 2011 and either would seem like a natural starting point for Pickett’s UFC career, if given the opportunity.
However, it could indeed be Portsmouth pier for all he cares, as long as he has the chance to prove he deserves a place among the bantamweight elite.