Why UFC Glendale winner Brad Tavares says Ray Sefo was a pivotal figure in career

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Coming into his UFC on FOX 29 meeting with Krzysztof Jotko on Saturday, middleweight Brad Tavares had a pretty straightforward strategy.

“We kind of have the same gameplan for everybody: Just do you,” Tavares said after the bout. “Be you. Be the best fighter and athlete that you can be out there. I feel like I’m one of the best strikers in the (185-pound) division – if not the best striker. I’m fast. I’m explosive. And I hit hard. So as long as I go out there and I stay sharp and I stay smart, just have fun out there.”

It may not be groundbreaking stuff, but the results speak for themselves. Tavares (17-4 MMA, 12-4 UFC) dispatched Jotko (19-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) in the third round of the FOX-televised preliminary-card bout at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz., near Phoenix, earning a fourth straight win following decision victories over Thales Leites, Elias Theodorou and Caio Magalhaes. The TKO was also Tavares’ first finish since a 2011 knockout of Phil Baroni.

At this point, we’re well aware of where Tavares wants his momentum to take him: Into a matchup with the UFC’s ex-champ Michael Bisping. Tavares made that clear to the audience while in the octagon, then to Bisping, himself, backstage.

Tavares is so all-in that, asked whether he deserved a challenge near the top-10 even if it weren’t Bisping, he managed to reiterate his point.

“Oh, definitely,” Tavares said. “Where is Bisping? He’s in the top 10, right? So there we go, give me that fight.”

Whether or not Bisping will eventually relent, we’ll just have to see. But fact is that Tavares is not exactly crazy for daring to make some requests at this stage of his 16-fight UFC run. After a rocky patch that saw him at 1-3 in four fights – including losses to now-champ Robert Whittaker and title challenger Yoel Romero – he’s now tied for the middleweight division’s third-longest active winning streak.

Talking to MMAjunkie before the fight, Tavares couldn’t point to a single factor behind his momentum; he was just feeling and doing “a lot better” and, ultimately, everything was clicking. But in the past few years, there’s certainly one tangible factor behind what Tavares rightfully sees as a big asset in his effective striking: Ray Sefo.

“He took me from this just brawler, raw brawler, and made me into a seasoned striker,” Tavares said. “I’m pretty crisp. I feel like I do it well, I’m one of the better strikers out there in the division and the UFC itself. It’s surreal. The first time I ever met Ray, it was when I first moved to Vegas. I was sparring, like on a Saturday, at Tapout gym. And here he comes, strolling in.

“This is like – Wow, I couldn’t believe it. I’m not one to get too fanboy, but that’s about as excited as I get. Asked him to spar, and he said yeah. I thought, ‘Well, there’s a good chance I don’t remember this day and you know, I wake up unconscious.’ But nah, that guy is probably one of the most controlled guys you’ll ever meet as far as sparring goes.”

Tavares said the two just clicked, and Sefo offered his advice right away. The middleweight said he sees the former kickboxing and muay Thai champ, who’s now president of PFL, as a big brother, more than a coach, and recalled Sefo’s encouraging words to him.

“He told me, ‘I don’t tell this to anybody, but you’re one of the few that I see where my talent meets with my motivation,’” Tavares said. “You see a lot of guys that are talented but lazy. You see a lot of guys that work really hard and are not really good athletes. He said he feels I have both and I have what it takes to be a champion.”

To hear more from Tavares, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of UFC on FOX 29, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Source: USA Today – MMA Junkie

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