UFC Newcomer Nick Denis “Not Too Concerned” About Abilities of Joseph Sandoval
Bantamweight Admits He “Screamed Around like a Girl” When UFC Offer Came
By Kelsey Mowatt
This time last year Nick Denis was likely looking forward to the start of a new year, as after working his way back to Japan’s Sengoku Raiden Championship last March, the Canadian was tapped out by Yuji Hoshino in the second round. Although Denis remained one of Canada’s top prospects, what the future held for the Ottawa fighter over the coming months remained uncertain.
Twelve months later, however, and with a knockout win over Bellator vet Nick Mamalis added to his record, Denis is in the midst of preparing for his Octagon debut on January 20th. If you need proof that lots can change in the span of a year, just ask the 28 year-old bantamweight.
“I found out a couple of weeks ago on a Tuesday night,” said Denis, when asked for his reaction upon finding out that he would battle Joseph Sandoval at the UFC on FX 1 card in Nashville. “I basically screamed around like a girl, shouted and did lots of smiling! If someone told me this time last year that I was UFC bound I would probably ask them how they knew, if they were from the future, and see what else they knew about the future.”
Even the beginning of 2011 wasn’t going as planned for Denis, as injuries kept the fighter on the sidelines until this October, when he faced Mamalis at a Wreck MMA card in Gatineau, Quebec. The bout marked just the second time Denis had fought in almost two years.
“Injuries suck,” Denis told FCF. “It is as simple as that. It truly doesn’t feel like I haven’t fought much or been out of fighting, because I have been training hard the entire time. So, I haven’t really noticed.”
Of course, due to the layoff and the fact that Denis was coming off a loss, the match-up with Mamalis came at a pivotal time in his career.
“The fight itself, and the win, was pretty important to me,” said Denis about the fight, which saw him knock Mamalis out with highlight reel suplex in round two. “It had been a long time since I had been fighting, and I didn’t want to take an easy fight to ease myself in. I had been training hard, despite the layoff from competition, so I didn’t feel like I needed a ‘warm up’ fight. The win was great, as Nick Mamalis is a great fighter. The ending to the fight was epic, and I think played a big role in me getting signed by the UFC.”
While Denis is understandably excited about signing with the UFC and his upcoming debut, his experiences fighting for Sengoku may ease the Canadian’s transition into the world’s biggest MMA organization.
“Perhaps it will,” said Denis, who stopped Seiya Kawahara in his Sengoku debut, before getting KO’d by former featherweight champion Marlon Sandro in May, 2009. “There was pressure that I experienced with Sengoku that I had not experienced fighting at home in Canada. As well, the extra out of the ring things like press conferences, scheduled interviews, etc. These things shouldn’t be too big of a shock to me now for this fight.”
Denis will take on the aforementioned Sandoval, who is coming off an unsuccessful UFC debut in October, as the Shark Fights vet was stopped by Walel Watson. The defeat was Sandoval’s first in seven pro fights.
“Sandoval is a southpaw striker,” said Denis, when asked to assess his next opponent. “He doesn’t seem to have strong wrestling or BJJ. He is 6-1, and hasn’t faced high calibre fighters, except his first fight in the UFC, which he lost. So far, I am not too concerned with his abilities.”
Denis, like so many of Canada’s prominent fighters, has headed to Montreal to benefit from the city’s extensive MMA resources.
“I am currently in Montreal training at Tristar gym, and at Grant Brothers Boxing,” Denis told FCF. “I am going to basically stay here for my entire camp, I believe. I am getting into a good routine here and have great partners here.”
And with another year set to close, what are the bantamweight’s goals for 2012?
“Win, win, win, win and collect some Knockout or Submission of the Night bonuses,” Denis said. “I hope to fight three or four times, since I get to start real early in 2012 by fighting in January.”
Photo via Sengoku Raiden Championship