Pundits would analyze Sean Strickland’s UFC 293 title win over Israel Adesanya and attribute the victory to several factors. Some may point out his Philly Shell approach. Adesanya’s coach Eugene Bareman credited the newly-minted champ for his relentless counters, which, according to him, became a “mental block” for ‘The Last Stylebender.’
But if you ask Strickland’s coach, Eric Nicksick, there is one X-factor that many likely won’t expect.
Nicksick credits Sean Strickland’s girlfriend as the ‘MVP’
In his recent guest appearance on the MMA Hour, Nicksick revealed how Strickland’s girlfriend played a considerable role in their victory and the evolution of his fighter.
“She was the MVP, to be honest with you. She deserved a lot of this credit, because I said publicly that… I told her right after the win, I gave her a big old hug and I was, like, ‘You showed him it’s OK to love and be loved. And you’ve provided him an opportunity to open his heart, to be coached, to be coachable.’
“She changed that man’s life.”
Nicksick saw a different Sean Strickland during the lead-up to UFC 293, noting behavior that was way out of left field.
“There’s such a different dynamic, that it actually works. She keeps him in check,” Nicksick said of Strickland’s girlfriend, whom he described as ‘the sweetest girl in the world.’
“He’s walking around the hotel, ‘My love,’ and hugs… who the hell is this guy?”
‘He’s still Sean’
Nicksick did clarify that the character change isn’t full-on. But Sean Strickland’s relationship, he says, is one of the main reasons why they have a championship to celebrate.
“She’s not gonna make him soft, he’s still rough around the edges. He’s still Sean,” Nicksick clarified.
“But it’s a slow burn. It’s a slow process. But what she’s allowed him to feel and open his heart to, honest to god, that’s probably why we have a belt wrapped around our waist. It’s because of that relationship.”
‘She makes me a truly better man’
Strickland built himself a reputation as a bit of an unhinged character, saying anything that comes to mind. It throws off a large chunk of the fanbase, but others gravitate to him and see him as a “man of the people.” Australian fans gave him a warm welcome at UFC 293.
With a turbulent past and upbringing, the 32-year-old Xtreme Couture talent also credits his personal progress to his significant other. Of course, he did it in typical Sean Strickland fashion.
“I have a girlfriend who I love very much. I said it. She makes me a better man,” he told Helen Yee during a pre-fight interview.
“She makes me a better man, you guys. And every time… I was just telling her this the other day. I tell my girl, ‘Babe, every time I think about breaking up with you, and I think about all the p—y I can get, I think about who I was before I met you.’
“As much as I like being single and getting all the p—y, you guys, my girl, she makes me a truly better man. And baby, I thank you for that.”
What’s next for Sean Strickland?
Strickland didn’t discuss his immediate future as the new king of the UFC’s 185-pound division. But for bossman Dana White, an immediate rematch with Adesanya makes sense.
“No, I think you do the rematch, absolutely,” White said during the post-fight scrum. “The rematch is interesting.
“That could be the thing, too. When you think about, you’re going into the Pereira fight—such a big fight—and you’ve been in there with this guy so many times, and then you overlook Strickland.”
Strickland is now on a three-fight win streak and improved to a record of 28-5. He also won a $50K bonus for Performance of the Night.
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