WEC 53: Brad Pickett focused on ‘dangerous’ Menjivar, not the UFC – ProMMAnow.com exclusive

WEC bantamweight contender Brad Pickett isn't looking ahead to the UFC. First, he's preparing to beat UFC veteran Ivan Menjivar at WEC 53. (Photo by Jeff Sherwood, Sherdog.com)

You could probably forgive a longtime veteran like Brad Pickett (20-5) if he looked ahead to a debut in the UFC. After a successful career familiar to many hardcore fans and a 2-1 start in the WEC — with his only setback a decision loss to title challenger Scott Jorgenson — Pickett’s spot in the post-merger UFC bantamweight division should be safe.

But Pickett isn’t losing focus on his next task, a Dec. 16 showdown WEC 53 in Glendale, Ariz., against the very dangerous and perhaps somewhat forgotten Ivan Menjivar (21-7).

“I’m not actually in the UFC yet,” Pickett told ProMMAnow.com when asked about his thoughts on the UFC merger. “I’m still fighting in the WEC and hopefully after my next fight…then they’ll take me over to the UFC. Until that happens, I need to keep my feet on the ground a little bit.”

Like many of the sport’s early lighter weight combatants, Menjivar had to compete at times against larger fighters to keep busy, and even faced Georges St. Pierre in 2002. He also holds wins over Joe Lauzon and Jeff Curran and took Matt Serra the distance in his lone UFC appearance in 2004.

But Menjivar took a break of nearly four years before returning to action on June 19, submitting Aaron Miller via first round triangle choke. So in Menjivar, Pickett faces a very tough, talented foe that many viewers will no little about, if anything.

“I know him quite well,” Pickett said of Menjivar. “I haven’t fought as long as he has, but I’ve watched a lot of his fights. The only thing that sucks about him … because he’s had this time off, not a lot of people know him.

“Only the hardcore fans know who Ivan Menjivar is and how tough he is,” he said. “It’s kind of disheartening.”

High risk, low reward.

For Pickett, success in the cage hasn’t always meant much of a financial reward. On top of that, the lower weight classes haven’t always enjoyed the same level of respectability.

“It’s always been a struggle,” Pickett said. “Most of the time I was working while I was fighting … Only now am I not working and able to train full time.

“I don’t have a lot of money so I still have to be careful with it. But whatever I’ve earned from fighting, I invested in myself and put it back into myself. Now I’m starting to reap back some of the rewards of my hard work. I’m lucky; I don’t have a mortgage, a house, kids … and I have a long term girlfriend who’s very understanding.”

Thanks in part to the WEC, bantamweights and lightweights have had a chance to shine. And if you haven’t seen Pickett fight before, you don’t have to worry about a lack of action when he steps into the cage. He didn’t earn the nickname “One Punch” for nothing.

Gareth Davies, a boxing and MMA writer for the UK’s Daily Telegraph, had some high praise for Pickett following the UFC-WEC merger, calling him arguably one of the top three bantamweights in the world. Davies also pointed to Pickett as a likely candidate to join Dan Hardy and Michael Bisping among the UFC’s best UK competitors, an especially important opportunity given the UFC’s push to expand in the British market.

“I actually didn’t even see that comment, but it’s always nice to get compliments,” Pickett said. “I don’t like to compare myself to other fighters. But I do believe just because of my fighting style, I’m going to bring fans in. In a sense I understand that I’m not just a fighter, I’m an entertainer. I don’t want people to go to sleep when I’m fighting. I want people to be on the edge of their seat.”

With that spirit in mind, Pickett has only needed the assistance of the judges in four of his career wins.

After excelling in England’s Cage Rage promotion and fighting for Bodog Fight and K-1 Hero’s, Pickett made the WEC transition without much trouble. He submitted Kyle Dietz at WEC 45 and followed that up with a decision win over Demetrius Johnson.

Pickett isn’t a wrestler by trade and some UK fighters have been viewed as weak in that area. But it’s an area that Pickett has worked on to make sure he succeeds.

“I have zero wrestling background,” Pickett said. “But obviously from training MMA, you learn it. It’s probably the most important aspect of MMA, because if you’ve got great wrestling, you can control where the fight’s going to be.

“Especially the way UFC and WEC have been scored now, it helps wrestlers. Obviously we don’t have wrestling in our country at all, where you guys have it at the grass roots level.”

However, Pickett also knows he doesn’t have to outwrestle a freestyle Olympian, just do enough to implement his MMA game plan. It’s what allowed him to get the decision nod over Johnson.

“MMA wrestling and wrestling are quite different,” he said. “When you’re just straight wrestling, you can protect your legs a lot easier; you can leave your hands down.”

Pickett added, “Demetrius Johnson would beat me hands down in a straight wrestling match.”

With relatively one-dimensional wrestlers occasionally winning controversial decisions, Pickett gave his thoughts on ways to improve MMA scoring.

“I think what they need to do is score damage done and also aggression more than they do,” he said. “If two people are standing up in a fight and it’s a very close round, then yeah, a takedown could steal it. Like me versus Jorgenson…I believe I was winning the stand up, but it was close. And with Jorgenson, when he took me down, he elbowed me in the face, cut me, did damage. If it’s a close round standing up and you manage to control the guy and take him down, I can see how you’d steal the round.”

“But if I’m absolutely beating you up stand up and you take a few shots, can’t get me down, and then manage to get takedown and just roll around and hold me there, that’s different.”

No fighter likes to lose, but Pickett can take some solace in knowing that Jorgenson, who handed him his first loss since 2007, is fighting bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz for the title. However, he also isn’t assuming that he doesn’t have any work left to secure a number one contender spot.

“It motivates me,” Pickett said of knowing Jorgenson will fight Cruz next. “I had a close fight with the guy fighting for the title. It’d benefit me if he wins the title; it’d show I’m up there.

“I don’t believe I’d necessarily have the shot if I’d won,” he said. “Jorgenson had three or four wins before me getting there to the WEC. That would’ve been my third win, so I might’ve needed one more win.”

To prepare for Menjivar, Pickett has plenty of top-level sparring partners to choose from at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla., including featherweight contender Mike Brown, Strikeforce and DREAM lightweight Gesias Cavalcante, and an assortment of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts.

In the past, Pickett has moved back and forth between the U.S. and London to periodically train with ATT, but he recently came to the states full time to allow him to better focus on his training.

“In London, there’s so much to do all the time,” he said. “If you’re back in your home town, you’ve got your cousins birthday, your friends brothers sisters birthday. Here, all I’m thinking about doing is training, sleeping, training, eating, and training.”

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