Brad Tavares may be approaching the eight-year anniversary of his UFC debut, but he still believes his best is yet to come. He intends on proving that against Krzysztof Jotko at UFC on FOX 29.
Like most fighters with such an extensive UFC tenure, Tavares (16-4 MMA, 11-4 UFC) has experienced his highs and lows inside the octagon. He’s currently riding a three-fight winning streak, though, and is looking to extend it in his middleweight bout with Jotko (19-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) on Saturday.
Still just 30, Tavares is confident he can be a title player at 185 pounds. He said he sees the old guard at of the division beginning to move on, and that gives someone like himself more opportunity to rise to the surface.
“I definitely feel like I can still get better,” Tavares told MMAjunkie. “But I’m noticing even in training I’m just feeling a lot better, doing a lot better and everything is just clicking for me. I can’t pin it down to one specific thing, but I have this little bit of momentum.”
UFC on FOX 29 takes place at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., near Phoenix. Tavares vs. Jotko airs on the FOX-televised portion of the card following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.
Tavares said he’s buoyed by the fact that when he has slipped up in the octagon, it’s almost exclusively been against top competition. His only loss in nearly four years came against current UFC middleweight champ Robert Whittaker, and one of his few defeats before that came to current No. 1 contender Yoel Romero. Tavares said he knows he’s on that level, but in the long and grinding slog of an MMA career, he admits there’s been moments of self-doubt.
“It’s been a long time and I’ve found times where you ask yourself, we’re working so hard and then you’re trying to weigh out the pros and cons of everything and then I catch myself like, ‘Is this even really what I want to do?'” Tavares said. “It always comes back to, ‘Hell yeah.’ What else would I be doing? Working nine to five? I don’t have a college degree. I made the conscious decision (to fight) when I was young.”
When at his best, Tavares said he knows exactly what he’s capable of. Jotko has historically proven to be a tough out every times he’s stepped in the octagon, and Tavares said he doesn’t expect to get any different at UFC on FOX 29.
In his own mind there are reasons behind every loss Tavares has experienced to date. He said there’s nothing ruffling the waters ahead of his clash with Jotko, though, and that gives him hope for a great performance.
“It’s easy to give an opinion on something you don’t really know the full story on,” Tavares said. “I even catch myself doing that too when I’m watching as a fan of other fighters. But you don’t know what’s going on. Maybe he should have done ‘this,’ but hey, maybe in that fight something is hurting on him or maybe he dealt with an injury leading up to it.
“And any fighter – I don’t care who you ask – they could have a broken hand going into a fight. If you ask them how they’re feeling, ‘Oh, I’m great! I feel the best I’ve ever felt.’ What else are they supposed to say? As a fighter, what else are you going to say? Saying anything less just makes you look weak. It’s just giving up weakness.”