Active doesn’t seem like a strong enough description for the year Ovince St. Preux had in 2010.
Nick Diaz was active, stepping into the Strikeforce cage three times. Daniel Roberts was active, fighting four times in 2010; once on a regional card in Tulsa, Oklahoma and three times in the UFC Octagon. That’s why describing what St. Preux did as active sells short his accomplishments.
The 28-year-old doubled up Diaz and bested Roberts by two, competing six times last year. He split his time between smaller shows in Griffin, Georgia and Lloydminster, Saskatchewan and making an impact under the Strikeforce banner.
He won all of those fights. The first of those wins evened his record at 4-4. The final three put everyone on notice that “OSP” is a dark horse contender in the light heavyweight division.
Having fought six times in 2010 – and having accumulated all 14 of his fights in a span of 28 months – stepping into the cage for only the second time in 2011 after a six month break has got to feel a little strange, right?
“To be quite honest, yeah it does,” St. Preux said with a laugh, speaking with HeavyMMA earlier in the month. “I’m not gonna lie — it does, but I’m excited just to get back in there.”
Friday night, the streaking 205 pound competitor steps in against Joe Cason, a relative unknown with a 9-1 record, on the main card of the first Strikeforce Challengers series event at The Palms. After earning victories over Abongo Humphrey, Benji Radach and Antwain Britt in his last three fights, St. Preux sees the risks involved with facing a lesser known opponent like Cason. He also sees a little of himself in his opponent.
“It’s definitely dangerous. To be quite honest, I was in the same situation last year when I took on a lot of my fights. It’s one of those things where my name is starting to get out there, and he wants to make a name for himself just like I did about a year ago. It’s one of those things I’m taking into consideration a lot.”
Some fighters would look at a return to the Challengers series and being matched up with an opponent like Cason as a step backwards. St. Preux has certainly done enough to make a case for competing on the larger Strikeforce events and facing more recognizable competition, but he’s not complaining.
Instead, he’s happy to finally be getting back into the cage, and embracing the positives about the Challengers series having found a permanent home at The Palms.
“I’m thinking of it as an opportunity to get another fight, but I’m also looking at the fight venue itself. With it being in Vegas, I tell everybody that when you’re talking about fights and they’re happening in Vegas, that’s where everything happens. I’m definitely excited about the fight. I’m definitely looking forward to it. It’s in Vegas and that’s where MMA is made.
“It’s one of those things where I look at like now I’m fighting in the boss’s backyard. They’re there and can see you in action, they can intertwine with everybody. With it being in Vegas and stuff like that, you typically have people that probably wouldn’t be watching it. I think it’s going to draw more of a crowd now.”
A promotion to the main stage and opportunities against the bigger names in the light heavyweight division feel long overdue. When you combine the lack of depth at the top end of the 205 pound ranks with St. Preux’s run of success, it’s hard to say why he hasn’t been given the chance to take the next step as of yet.
Britt has just lost a #1 contender bout to Rafael Feijao prior to facing St. Preux, losing to the man who would win the light heavyweight title three months later. EliteXC veteran Radach was decimated over three rounds, as was Humphrey, but still St. Preux waits for confirmation of a step up in competition.
It looked like his opportunity had come earlier in the summer. Reports surfaced that former University of Tennessee linebacker would be the one to welcome Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal back to the cage as part of the June 18 event in Dallas. The bout never materialized, and to this day, St. Preux isn’t sure what happened.
“To be quite honest, I don’t know,” admitted the 10-4 fighter with a chuckle. “I was going to training one day, one thing led to another, and a reporter called me and was like, `How do you feel about fighting King Mo?’
“I was like, `What are you talking about?’ and he said, `Haven’t you heard? You’re fighting King Mo on June 18.’ When they told me that I thought it was kind of funny because typically the fighters and the managers find out about everything first, and I didn’t know anything.
“It was one of them deals; some source must have leaked somewhere. I didn’t hear nothing about it. If it was to happen, I would have taken the fight. Usually before I think about taking anything, I talk to my trainer; whatever he says goes.”
It’s a philosophy that has worked well to this point, and a routine that St. Preux doesn’t plan on changing up any time soon.
“All I do is just go to the gym and train. He tells me,`Here’s the game plan. Here’s who you’re going to be fighting. This is what you need to work on.’ I just listen to what he says, and thus far, everything he’s been telling me, he hasn’t done me wrong at all.”
A win on Friday night would give the Knoxville native eight straight victories and a 5-0 record under the Strikeforce banner. While St. Preux admits he looks forward to making the move to the bigger stage, he happy to keep on doing things the way he has up until now.
“I’m just climbing up the ladder, slowly but surely. I’m taking my time with it; I’ve got patience and stuff. I think my time will come. 2010 I’ve been patient, kind of put my name out there and stuff, and 2011 I’m going to continue to do that. Slowly and surely, climbing up the ladder.”