Rick Story is a quiet storm.
The UFC welterweight has smashed his way up the ranks, using punishing body shots and powerful double-legged takedowns to amass a five-fight winning streak that has him poised to join the upper echelon of the division. While some MMA fans may not know who he is now, Story has every intention of making his introduction in violent fashion when he faces Thiago Alves at UFC 130 in Las Vegas.
With Alves being one of the most feared strikers in the fight game, he is typically an opponent to be avoided. Not only did Story specifically ask for the fight, he’s looking forward to the collision.
“I called him out. I went on some websites and put it out there. My coach and manager Pat White told Joe Silva that I wanted [Thiago], and they gave me who I asked for. Ultimately, he accepted the fight so here we are.”
In his short career, Story has faced every challenge head on, and there is no question Alves will be his toughest test to date. The Brazilian striker is revered for his explosive stand-up and powerful Muay Thai, but Story is looking forward to going after “The Pitbull” with everything in his arsenal.
“I believe it’s only expected for somebody like me who is trying to make his way through the ranks. I think winning five straight is reason enough for me to get a fight like the one I have with Alves. It was going to happen sooner or later and I’m glad that now is the time.
“I go into every fight thinking that it is going to be my biggest test, and Thiago’s level is up there. He’s up there for a reason and earned his way to that spot, but there is always a time when someone is at the top of the mountain and there is always a time when somebody falls. I’m on my way up and I’m going to be working to make sure he’s on his way down.”
There are few fighters who can match Alves’ resume. Prior to facing Georges St. Pierre for the welterweight title at UFC 100, the 27-year-old rattled off seven straight victories, including five stoppages. As impressive as it may be, Story feels there it was more a matter of progression than dominance.
“As far as Alves putting people away, when he was doing the bulk of his finishing, MMA had yet to experience the change it’s now seeing, and people weren’t used to the type of striking Alves brought to the table. Opponents didn’t know what to do, but as the sport has progressed, more and more people are prepared for it.
“The evolution of this sport is still happening right now, and fighters are getting more and more advanced with their technique. I’ll tell you that if he’s not brushing up on his wrestling skills just as hard as he’s working on his Muay Thai skills, somebody like me will be working hard to put him down.”
Alves appeared to be putting past issues to rest until old ghosts re-emerged. In one of the biggest fights of his career, Alves missed weight for his fight with Jon Fitch at UFC 117. It was the second time he’d come in heavy, and prompting UFC President Dana White to call for Alves to move to the middleweight division.
He was ultimately given one more chance, and looked rejuvenated earning a victory in his most recent outing against John Howard. While only time will tell if Alves has gotten back on track, Story isn’t entirely convinced.
“He’s had issues in the past and I’m a firm believer that history repeats itself. If you look at situations in the past where he has been put on the ground and taken into deeper waters, his cardio has been suspect. If he has his new and improved outlook on life then it might not be a factor. Hopefully he’s been training hard to go deep into the fight.”
Alves has made it public that he plans on making short work of the former Southern Oregon wrestling standout, kicking up a bit of dust in the pre-fight build up. Story doesn’t mind playing the role of underdog, but issued a stern message to the Brazilian about what to expect when the cage door closes on Saturday night.
“I really hope that [he’s] overlooking me because he’s going to be in for a rude awakening. I just hope that he is, and if that turns out to be the case then he’s made a huge mistake. I’ve heard that he wants to put me out quick so he can earn back his spot on the `real card,’ and all that is just more motivation in my ears and makes me want to train my ass off. It’s definitely added motivation.
“The entire reason I’m in this sport is to reach the top and stay at the top. There is no other reason to do it if you are not working to be the best. If I’m going to do something, I want to be the best at it and I want to be recognized as the best. Knowing that winning this fight is going to get me closer to that title shot is extra motivation.”
Story doesn’t mind flying under the radar, and isn’t going to start any self-promotional campaigns to get him where he wants to go. While a quality quote may increase your profile, Story only sees one way of making it to the top.
“I am a firm believer that hard work gets you to where you want to be. From what I’ve done so far, the track record proves itself. If trash talking is part of what’s going on, I’ll do it. It’s not that I don’t like doing it, I just don’t like coming across as cocky or arrogant.
“Some people mistake being confident as arrogance, but there is definitely a fine line there. If you are proving yourself and you are winning fights, there is no reason for anyone to argue it. I don’t need to go in and puff my chest up to anyone; anything that comes out of my mouth, I stand behind and there is a reason why I said it.
“I’m usually pretty soft spoken and I don’t go out looking for trouble, but if someone has something to say to me, I’m going to respond. It’s not out of my personality by any means, but I do care how people perceive me. I don’t want to be someone people don’t want to approach. I want people to respect my opinion and the things I say and just know that I mean business.”
A victory over Alves at UFC 130 would undoubtedly be a defining moment in Story’s budding career. Despite his impressive win streak, he’s yet to break through with UFC fans and defeating an established star like Alves will certainly help to accomplish that goal.
“When the fans see me beat Alves, it is going to turn a lot of heads. I’m looking around the internet and seeing what is being said, and I’m a pretty big underdog. That’s expected because people have seen him fight, where as I’m someone that they haven’t seen. He’s fought on the main card many times and even fought for the title so of course people think he’s going to win.
“If someone comes up from out of the blue like I’m doing, it’s going to surprise people. Joe Silva puts together good fights and I don’t think he would have lined us up if he didn’t think it would be an exciting matchup. After I win this fight, people are going to know who I am and everybody will have to be ready for me.”