BJJ Black Belt Nam Phan to Submission Artist Jim Hettes: “I’m Pretty Comfortable Standing Too”
By Kelsey Mowatt
Following his unanimous decision win over Leonard Garcia in October, veteran featherweight Nam Phan concedes he thought about closing the book on his 2011 campaign to begin preparing for the New Year. Although the year’s end was fast approaching, the UFC had other plans, however, and Phan was tapped to fight Jim Hettes at this Friday’s UFC 141 card.
“Oh no, I was going to rest for the holidays,” Phan told FCF, while discussing whether he was looking to fight once again in 2011. “I was going to try to get a fight in February or March, something like that, but I was at the Honda Center and one of the UFC matchmakers pulled me over and said ‘hey Nam Phan, when do you want to fight?’ And I said ‘oh, I don’t know, maybe early next year.’ And he was like ‘how about right before New Year’s Eve?”
“At the time I had just fought, this was in early November when Cain (Velasquez) fought Junior dos Santos, so I had about six weeks from the notification to the fight this week,” Phan added. “So I was like ‘alright man, if the UFC wants me to fight, I got to fight.”
This Friday’s bout will be the veteran’s third in 2011, as Phan’s other fight took place in August, when he lost by UD to former WEC champ Mike Brown.
“For me, I really appreciate where I’m at for now, so if the UFC calls me to fight I’m very gracious,” said the former “Ultimate Fighter” competitor. “I really appreciate it, so, who knows? There are fighters in this organization who are asking for fights and can’t always get them, so for them to ask me again I was very thankful. You don’t know how long you’re going to fight for them, if you get cut, or are done, so I figured why not.”
Of course, having to train during the Holidays and over the Christmas break isn’t an easy task for some, considering the time and dietary commitments fighters must make.
“It wasn’t so bad; I don’t have a lot of friends,” said Phan before laughing. “I didn’t really miss that part of it. I would have liked to eat a little bit more bad food, but if I win this fight I can eat all the bad food I want afterwards.”
In Hettes, Phan will face one of the featherweight division’s rising prospects, as the accomplished Judo competitor has won nine straight bouts by submission since turning pro in 2009.
“I didn’t know much about him because you can’t find much footage on him,” Phan said about his 24 year-old opponent, who tapped out Alex Caceres in August, with a second round, rear-naked-choke. “What I know is that he has very good jiu-jitsu; he’s got good submissions as he’s got nine submission wins, and that he’s very good at Judo, good throws.”
It will be interesting to see what transpires if the bout does hit the mat, and whether Hettes will be able to continue his tap-out streak against a BJJ black belt like Phan.
“I think so,” said Phan, when asked if he believes Hettes will look for the takedown. “If he doesn’t, I’m pretty comfortable standing up too.”
The announcement that Phan was going to face Hettes next, and not the aforementioned Garcia, may have been a disappointment to some due to their previous “Fight of the Night” classics. While technically each man holds a decision win over the other, and the door is open to a rubber match, many observers have Phan ahead in the series 2-0.
“I feel like I beat him the first time and I definitely beat him the second time,” said Phan about his encounters with Garcia, which saw the latter awarded a controversial split decision win in their first meeting last December. “I know officially we’re 1-1, but if we were to fight again that’s fine, I’m all for it; there’s no animosity. I guess I wouldn’t mind winning a third “Fight of the Night.”
Photo via Sengoku