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UFC Vegas 63: Arnold Allen took the slow route to becoming a UFC featherweight sensation

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Arnold Allen made his UFC debut on June 20, 2015 in Berlin, Germany when he defeated Alan Omer via third-round guillotine choke submission.

Fabrizio Werdum was UFC Heavyweight Champion for just a week. A little less than a month ago, Daniel Cormier became the promotion’s light heavyweight champion.

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Allen joined the UFC 9-1 and was optimistic that he would soon enter the promotion’s elite featherweight division. On Saturday, after seven years and four months of promotion, Allen will appear in the main event to face veteran Calvin Kattar at the Apex in Las Vegas.

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Kattar joined the UFC 25 months after Allen, but Saturday’s performance at UFC Vegas 63 will be his fifth straight main event.

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It has been a long and difficult road to the top for Allen, who is 9-0 in the UFC and 18-1 overall ahead of the Kattar fight. However, Allen did not allow himself to be frustrated by the slow path to the top.

“It makes me feel like I’m where I need to be in the main event and fighting a worthy opponent who’s in the top 5,” Allen told Sportzshala Sports. “I just always tried to keep a positive attitude in everything I do. Of course, there were injuries, but basically I understood that if I did my job and performed at the level that I was capable of, I would eventually get to what I wanted. And finally it all came together fighting a guy like Calvin who is a tough, aggressive guy who doesn’t give up.”

Kattar is still eyeing a featherweight title fight and believes getting a big opportunity is a sign of the UFC’s confidence in him.

He defeated Dan Ige by decision in his debut main event in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on July 16, 2020. All of his last three have been Fights of the Night, with losses to Max Holloway and Josh Emmett sandwiched around a victory over Giga Chikaze.

Kattar remains convinced that he won his fight with Emmett, although the official verdict was a split decision for Emmett. But he doesn’t believe he lost more than the win bonus in that fight because so many believed he won and he stayed in the top five in the division.

“I feel like I won the fight but lost by decision,” Kattar said. “At first it was hard, but I didn’t lose anything. And like I said, sometimes with these referees you win big or you lose close.

“But I’m back for another main event. You always need a strong B side to get big opportunities and gain momentum from these top events. I’m just going to take it all in and have the opportunity to change my life with another W on Saturday.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: (RL) Arnold Allen of England punches New Zealand Featherweight Dan Hooker during the UFC Fight Night event at the O2 Arena on March 19, 2022 in London, England.  (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Arnold Allen (right) is looking to build on the momentum he built on March 19 by defeating Dan Hooker in London and take down Calvin Kattar on Saturday. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Allen said that while he was climbing the ranks, the success of other British fighters, most notably former middleweight champion Michael Bisping, helped boost his confidence. He saw that a fighter in his situation could reach the top, and it provided a lot of motivation when things seemed to be slower.

He is also a teammate of newly crowned middleweight champion Leon Edwards, who knocked out Kamaru Usman in the last seconds of their fight at UFC 278 in Salt Lake City to win the belt.

“I was jumping up and down and going crazy,” Allen said of his reaction to Edwards’ win. “But it was a reminder to all of us: train hard and fight hard and good things can happen. Leon has a great story. it was a huge boost for all of us.”

Kattar clearly has more experience in serious situations than Allen, but Allen just shrugged. His time has come and he wants to prove he belongs at the top of the division.

“He’s got that kind of experience, but when you’re in those fights, you take a lot of damage and it all comes back to you,” Allen said. “I haven’t taken that kind of damage yet. I am in good shape and in perfect health, fresh as a daisy. So I’m very optimistic about my chances to compete.”

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - AUG 20: Guest fighter Calvin Kattar speaks to reporters at UFC 278 on August 20, 2022 at the Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.  (Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Saturday’s win over Arnold Allen will help Calvin Kattar (see above) keep his featherweight title dream alive. (Photo by Amy Kaplan/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)


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