With 2014 coming to a close -- and while it may not have been the best year for Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) -- it still has several marquee pay-per-view (PPV) events lined up before 2015 is wheeled on in.
The most anticipated of three remaining PPV shows is undoubtedly the end of year bonanza set for Dec. 6 in Las Vegas, Nevada. UFC 181 is headlined by the epic rematch between UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks and formidable challenger "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler.
The co-main event is just as juicy, featuring UFC lightweight champion Anthony "Showtime" Pettis in his first title defense against former Strikeforce lightweight titleholder Gilbert "El Nino" Melendez.
The card is truly stacked from top to bottom, and one of the more intriguing bouts of the evening features veterans of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) combat sports reality show. Eddie Gordon, the TUF 19 middleweight winner, will take on the returning TUF 17 competitor Josh Samman, in what is sure to be a barnburner.
With the fight about seven weeks away, MMAmania.com sat down with both men to discuss their upcoming bout. In our first "Early Exchange" endeavor, Samman and Gordon go back-and-forth throwing verbal jabs prior to their upcoming physical altercation.
Their initial thoughts on the fight:
Eddie Gordon: I was very vocal about getting a fight on this card. Sure enough, whether it was the campaigning on Twitter or asking Dana White and Joe Silva, it definitely paid dividends. I got exactly what I wanted, and I am pumped for this fight and I think it is a perfect match up.
Josh Samman: I think Eddie and I have a lot of mutual respect going into this fight, with the understanding that the fans are going to be in for a treat no matter what.
The grueling TUF format, and finishing the fight at UFC 181:
Eddie Gordon: That’s my goal for every fight. People don’t realize that TUF is a long, grueling tournament so you are not able to go into the cage and fight at 100 percent. Fighting three times in five weeks is tough, and it takes a toll on you. With a proper training camp I can do a lot more.
As for the fight with Josh, if he stays true to from, this if a match up for the fans. He is going to come out there and try to bang, and I am going to finish him. I’m going to bring the fight to him and make him realize he has not fought in a year and has never been in the cage with someone like me.
Josh Samman: TUF is indeed a grueling format, and sometimes people don't perform up to par, which certainly could have been the case with Eddie's uninspiring decisions on the show. The fact of the matter remains though that I went through the same format he did, fighting under less than ideal conditions, and still managed to finish three opponents while he had three decisions, against arguably less accomplished opponents.
Samman returning from an 18-month layoff, and how each fighter sees that affecting his performance:
Eddie Gordon: Injuries are a part of the sport, that sucks, but in the end I am a fighter. Not to take anything away from Josh, but I don’t really care who the UFC matches me up against. If Josh pulls out with an injury, I am ready to fight whomever, regardless if it is short notice or not. I’ll make sure to tell Dana to have a back-up plan just in case Josh goes down. If Josh does step into that cage, I’m going to bring the fight to him and make him realize he has not fought in a year and has never been in the cage with someone like me.
Josh Samman: For Eddie's claims that my time away from the cage will have an effect on my performance, I would say he's absolutely right, but not in the sense that he thinks it will. The past 18 months has done nothing but prepare me for this moment, and if he thinks for a moment that him, in that cage on that night, is going to be the thing that breaks me, after all this time, then he is batshit crazy, and I'm okay with that.
I'm okay with being one of two lunatics in a cage fighting for their life, as long as he understands that that's truly what I see this as. He is an accountant who took up MMA on a whim, I am someone who has dedicated my life to this and am ready to die for it. This is not pre-fight banter, this is not hyperbole, and I don't mean to sound morbid. This is me trying to explain that I have a deep rooted belief that no person alive is willing to go to the lengths to win their next fight as I am mine, and that goes for both training camp as well as the night of.
The high aspirations of both men heading into their bout:
Eddie Gordon: If you are in this sport without self-belief, without high aspirations, then you are selling yourself short. I am focused on nothing but Josh Samman, but after I get the finish, I don’t care who I fight. I’ll fight a top 10 or top five guy, but the most important thing is that whoever steps into the cage with me needs to prepare for a war.
Josh Samman: I can't pretend to know exactly what is going to happen on that night, but I know that no one on the UFC roster is as motivated as I am right now and I mean that. This sport is full of hungry guys and gals who are the best in the world at what they do, but no one has been through what I have been through and no one wants this like I want it. I don't have a wife, I don't have kids, my only mission in life right now is to make an example of whoever it is I face next, and that person happens to be Eddie. I think Gordon will go on to have a very successful career and be a contender for years to come, but December sixth will be my day and he will have to kill me to take that from me.
That's a wrap!
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