SourceBefore he even thought about fighting in the UFC, Rick Story (10-3 MMA, 3-1 UFC) watched Dustin Hazelett (12-5 MMA, 5-3 UFC) pull off crazy submissions inside the octagon and thought, "Man, that guy's tough."
But Story is fighting Hazelett in a little over a week, so it's time to get down to business. He believes the stakes are high for both. He wants to be a main-card regular, and Hazelett is fighting to keep his UFC job.
"He's fighting to stay in, pretty much," Story told MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).
The two meet on the preliminary card of UFC 117 next Saturday at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif.
The 25-year-old Story is a little edgier than usual approaching fight time. He's on a win streak, but he's unsatisfied with the way it's been built. He couldn't finish opponents Jesse Lennox and Nick Osipczak and wound up winning back-to-back split decisions at UFC Fight Night 20 and UFC 112.
Like most fighters, he chases the adrenaline that knockouts and submissions bring and felt robbed when scorecards got involved. The last thing he wants to do is leave it in the hands of judges.
It's almost a sin (amen, says the UFC).
"I'll say it myself: it's kind of [expletive] going out and winning a split decision or a close fight," Story said.
The Vancouver, Wash., resident just invested in a spacious new gym along with coach and business partner Pat White and hunkered down with private coaches in boxing and jiu-jitsu. While his work ethic had gotten him through many sticking points, he often felt deprived of one-on-one instruction. He slowed things down with the new help and took the time to analyze exactly what he'd been doing.
"I've had the opportunity to ask the questions that I need to sharpen up my game," Story said of his camp for Hazelett.
The Northwest fighter is not one to quit when he's not getting results. After going 0-17 in his freshman year of wrestling at Pacific Lutheran University, he transferred to Southern Oregon University and worked his way to a 32-7 record in his senior year.
Now, Story feels ready to take Hazelett out.
"I always want to finish fights," he said. "I'm just going to be spinning my wheels if I keep getting decisions.
"I don't want to get picked as the guy who lays and prays, and just goes out and hugs guys."
Story thinks Hazelett is on the same page. It would be perfectly reasonable to expect the Kentucky native to take the fight to the ground after suffering a brutal knockout loss to Paul Daley, but Story doesn't expect their meeting to be conservative or hinge on who has the best takedown defense.
"He doesn't seem like the kind of guy that plays it safe," Story said. "He goes for crazy stuff. I fully believe that he's going to be there to fight. He's going to try and make a demonstration and prove that he belongs in the UFC."
Story says Hazelett's UFC future could be in jeopardy with another loss, and that makes for a great fight. After all, Story fought for his job against Brian Foster at UFC 103 and won $130,000 in bonuses for "Fight of the Night" and "Submission of the Night" after he choked the H.I.T. Squad fighter out from guard with an arm triangle. It was a highly unusual position to earn a finish, and it won him accolades all around.
If Hazelett's job is on the table, it means he'll bring it.
"Listening to one of his other interviews, he mentioned it, and it's on his mind," Story said. "The UFC's cutting people left and right. If you lose two in a row, people are getting cut."
And Story's own career is not set, even with a win. No TV spots are guaranteed. It all depends on how he wins.
"If it's a split decision, it will bump me up a little bit," he said. "If I knock him out, it will put me up a lot further. If it's a fight that looks like it could go either way, it probably won't move me up."
You can see why Story is amped. Hazelett has a good name, and a win can take Story to the next level – not to mention, he gets a chance to chase that adrenaline he loves so much.
Next Saturday, he'll find out if Hazelett is as tough as he looks on TV.
"I'm just happy to fight," Story said. "If I'm fighting someone who's bringing the heat, I want to fire back."