‘I don’t think people realise how good I am’ - Allen targets fight with icon next on his way to UFC title shot
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Suffolk’s UFC superstar Arnold Allen believes he’s only three wins from a title shot – and he’s planning to pick apart another icon of the sport in his next fight.
Allen, 26, is 7-0 in the world’s biggest and best MMA promotion (16-1 overall), and is ranked 12th in the 145lbs division.
The man he wants to fight next is three spots higher, and a match-up which will excite all fans of the sport - Jeremy ‘Lil Heathen’ Stephens (28-19 MMA, 15-17 UFC) is known for his all-action, heavy-handed style, and boasts wins over the likes of Renan Barao, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Emmett.
But Trimley St Martin’s Allen, fresh off a points win over respected veteran Nik Lentz in January, sees Stephens as another scalp to add to his UFC collection, as he continues his unbeaten march up the ranks.
“That would be the perfect fight for me at this point,” he said, speaking from his training base in Montreal. “Not that I want to pick and choose my fights, but because everyone knows who he is and he’s kind of a gate-keeper.
“He’s fought everyone and picked up some huge wins, and everyone who beats him goes onto big things.
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“I think I’d pick him apart, like I would most people in the division, but it would be a fun fight for the fans – whereas most of my fights have been against people who just want to take me down or stall.”
Indeed, ‘Almighty’ Allen has often joked his nickname should be ‘Decisionator’ due to the fact that five of his seven UFC wins have gone to the judges.
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So, I ask him, is he ever tempted to just walk into the cage and go to war?
“All the time,” he laughs. “But I’m intending to have a long career, so there’s going to be time for those sort of fights.
“Like I said, the majority of my opponents have tried to take me down or stall - when I get the right fights, they will be the fun fights.
“I’m always tempted to go in there and throw down, and in the last ten seconds of rounds I often do that, but I’m more focused on winning.”
He added: “I don’t think people realise how good I am. I’ve got some good names on my record, but I guess some people say I’ve not fought anyone yet. I know if I talked more or I’d stopped all seven of my wins, I’d be right up at the top of the rankings.
“I’ve always said that when I get to a position where I can start calling people out I will, so you might start seeing me change a little bit – I’m not going to start being an arsehole, but I think I’ve earned the right to do that now.
“I think if I win my next three fights, I’d have to be right up there for a title shot. Or if I get two straight finishes, I can’t see why I wouldn’t be next in line.
“Knock out Stephens, maybe stop someone like (Brian) Ortega, how could I not get a shot?”
Allen’s division is certainly one of the hottest in the sport. The man he was supposed to fight in January, the aforementioned Emmett, moved up to seventh in the rankings with a win over Shane Burgos in a fight of the year contender two weeks ago.
Afterwards Emmett, who pulled out of the Allen fight with an undisclosed injury, made a point of stressing he wouldn’t fight anyone below him. A message to the Suffolk southpaw, perhaps?
“That was a really good fight,” said Allen. “But then he said he wouldn’t fight anyone below him, when Burgos was below him too, that didn’t make sense to me.
“I think he’s out for a while now (Emmett suffered a serious knee injury during the fight) but I’d still like that fight at some point.”
As the UFC moves to ‘Fight Island’ next week, featherweight king Alex Volkanovski defends his belt for the first time against the man he took it from, long-reigning ex-champion Max Holloway.
It’s a fight that Allen, who took over from Holloway as the fighter with the longest win streak in the division after his loss, will be watching closely.
“I think Max is going to win that fight,” he explained. “The first fight I think he just got stuck in a rhythm and didn’t make any adjustments, which he’s normally really good at doing.
“I’m sure he will have looked at that and know what he needs to do this time.”
For Allen now though, all roads lead to an August fight with Stephens, and one thing is for sure - he’s going to walk back into that famous octagon in fantastic shape.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen a similar lockdown to the UK over in Canada, meaning Allen’s base - the famed Tristar Gym – has been closed. So he’s had to adapt his training - leading to some unexpected new achievements.
“I’ve been cycling a lot, training outdoors in small groups of people and hitting pads, so it’s not been too bad,” he said. “Things are easing now and places are starting to open, but not combat sports gyms, which is a challenge.
“I’ve even run a marathon. I’m always running 5ks because I think that’s good for MMA - 15 minute fights, and you can run a 5K in 20 minutes – and one day I was feeling good out running my 5k so I thought ‘I wonder if I could run a marathon?’ and just carried on.
“I did it in four and a half hours - my legs were in pieces, but I still trained again that night!
“I’m going to be ready to fight in August, no problem.”