Highland, IL native James Head is anxious to get back inside the Octagon and will have a chance to do so on April 14 when the UFC visits Sweden for the first time. It’ll be nearly 10 months to the day since Head was last seen in action. Back on June 11 of last year he took on Nick Ring at UFC 131 in Vancouver. The two went back and forth for the first two rounds until Ring was able to cinch in a fight ending rear naked choke with less than 90 seconds left in the third round.
Head will face Papy Abedi who like Head lost his initial turn inside the Octagon and will be looking to secure a win in order to gain another fight with the organization. Both men realize that losing your first two bouts with the UFC could lead to their release. Being on such a pivotal card will add a bit more pressure as the tickets were sold out in three hours making it the fastest selling European event in UFC history. The card will be headlined by Swedish native Alexander Gustafsson as he takes on the returning Thiago Silva in a clash of light heavyweights.
Head has a tough task in front of him and will look to show the UFC he is capable of making some noise in the welterweight division. Relying on a variety of mixed martial artists and trainers to help him get where he needs to be, Head is looking forward to the opportunity of showing the Swedish fans and those who are watching all around the world that he is here to stay and be competitive. He also knows that ring rust will not be accepted as an excuse and doesn’t plan on it becoming a factor.
“Right now I am training in Oklahoma City with a strong group of fighters at Lovato Jiu-Jitsu,” James Head told FightLine.com. “I have Bellator Fighter Jared Hess, World Jiu_Jitsu Champion Rafael Lovato Jr., Matt Grice as well as some local guys who are solid. I’m not worried about being out of action as I was training really hard for a proposed fight at UFC 138 before I tore the MCL in my knee. I’ve been in the gym every day getting ready to fight. I’m just excited to get back in there.”
After the loss to Ring, Head knew that he had things to improve on. He’d like to say that nerves weren’t a factor in the loss, but if he is to be completely honest with himself and insure that he doesn’t go through the same thing in his second fight, he has to admit to himself that he was a bit nervous making his UFC debut.
“I think the Nick Ring fight didn’t allow me to show my full potential,” offered Head. “I let the fight get bigger than it actually was. I used to think it was bullshit when people said they had Octagon jitters, but I got them. It definitely affected my performance. I’m just so anxious to get back in there and perform up to my capabilities. I want to put all the other bullshit aside and get in there and fight. Every fight is a
must win as far as I’m concerned and I want this win badly.”
His opponent Papy Abedi started his career off at 8-0 while fighting in Europe including Sweden three times. He met former UFC #1 Welterweight Contender Thiago Alves at UFC 138 in England this past November and was submitted by the American Top Team veteran. Head knows Abedi will be just as anxious to get back inside the cage and show the suits he can win in the UFC.
“He’s obviously a big strong guy,” Head told me. “I watched the fight against Thiago at UFC 138 and he definitely has holes that I feel I can exploit. I feel I have the advantage in the stand-up and he showed once he got hurt he was looking for a way out on the ground, but Thiago got the choke on him and put him away. I think I stack up well against him in all aspects of MMA.”
With Abedi having the advantage because he has fought overseas his whole career, Head will have to prepare himself for the travel and the time difference, but as long as he does it correctly he should be fine. This is a great opportunity for Head to bounce back from a loss and an injury at the same time. He is also looking to earn his pay and do what is necessary to take him the win bonus.
“I’m really excited about fighting overseas for the first time,” Head explained. “The time change isn’t drastically different and I think that will help my focus as the fight draws closer. I won’t have anything too out of the ordinary to get my body ready versus how I normally would for a fight here in the U.S. I plan on putting him to sleep. One way or another I’m looking to end this fight early. The UFC pays us to show and to win; they don’t pay us any overtime!”