Ovince Saint Preux may be competing at heavyweight for his co-main event outing against Tanner Boser at UFC Vegas 30 on Saturday, but he is not staying in the division for too long.
Saint Preux usually competes at light heavyweight, having found enough success to get a number of impressive wins — and an interim title shot opportunity — during his tenure in the UFC. However, the light heavyweight staple decided to move up in weight last year for a chance to compete at heavyweight. His introduction was not as warm as expected though and he was beaten by Ben Rothwell via split decision at UFC on ESPN+ 29 in May.
Saint Preux did not stick around for another fight at heavyweight and instead came back to his divisional home, earning a knockout win over Alonzo Menifield and suffering a setback against Jamahal Hill in his return. His next fight was expected to be against Maxim Grishin at UFC Vegas 30, but Grishin would not be able to compete after dealing with some visa issues. So, Saint Preux was in need of an opponent and he did indeed get one in Boser — just not in the weight class he initially wanted.
Speaking with Mike Heck of MMA Fighting on a recent episode of What the Heck, Saint Preux explains why he ultimately said yes to another fight at heavyweight despite his hesitation to commit to an extended stay in the division.
“I had to think about it. It took me about a day to actually come up with the decision and what not,” said Saint Preux. “Initially, Maxim had a visa issue and it couldn’t happen and I was like, ‘you know what, I’m not going to fight. I’m just not worried about it’. Then, my manager Oren [Hodak] came up to me and said something about a fight at heavyweight and I was like, ‘Nope, I’m definitely not fighting at heavyweight’ because the last heavyweight I fought I was like it was too much.
“But then again, I sat down and he told me this is the guy they are talking about and I sat down and I looked at it,” continued Saint Preux. “I was like well he’s not one of the bigger heavyweights. And I told myself I would entertain the heavyweight division again if the opportunity presented itself. To be honest, after sleeping on it for a night and talking to people, I just woke up the next morning and got all that detail together and was like, ‘let’s do it’.”
Saint Preux accepted the fight with Boser and was confident knowing that he is the type of fighter he most certainly can beat. He watched the fight Boser had with Ilir Latifi at UFC Vegas 28 and made note of what his upcoming opponent does well and how he should approach him.
“Stylistically, yeah,” said Saint Preux. “The reason being because Tanner is a not bigger heavyweight. He does have a lot of output, which is really good for a heavyweight. But along with that output, the cardio comes down tremendously and what not. Watching him against Ilir, I know I got to watch out for certain things. He likes to kick. He’s got a heavy right hand. As long as I can watch out for those, I’ve been preparing myself for those types of fights, anyways.”
Saint Preux knows that with a win over Boser, the temptation to remain at heavyweight will be strong, especially if he looks really good on fight night. But, he remains firm in his commitment to make this a temporary move, citing a particular experience in training with several heavyweights, including current UFC champion Francis Ngannou.
One session with Ngannou was all Saint Preux needed to double down on his decision to stay at 205 pounds.
“I’ve trained with heavyweights before — with Francis Ngannou — and hell no,” said Saint Preux. “Seeing him in person, I’m like. ‘Damn, that’s a big ass dude’ and I’ve played football all my life. I’ve seen big people, but seeing him in person I’m like, ‘Man, that’s a big dude’. Then actually getting to train with him too and when he’s like, ‘Okay, little brother, come here and just boom’. Why did he just make me feel like a little b—ch? Like he literally threw me and I was like, ‘Okay, cool’. Pretty much, I know how to stay in my lane.
“Those guys are big for a reason and the heavyweights — people say they don’t move as fast, but they do hit hard. Me, I’m a numbers person. If you’re a heavyweight, you throw 20 punches in the UFC and at least five of them are going to land and it don’t take nothing but one of them to put you out.”
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