Particularly on the ground, Dias was able to maintain a level of control, even if he wasn’t able to do much with the advantage.
“I took the fight on about three weeks’ notice, and had what I felt was a good performance other than (Dias) holding me down a little bit in the third round,” Fili told MMAWeekly.com. “He held me down too much, but he’s kind of a safe, conservative, guy.
“That was the first time I’ve felt like myself in a long time – for a few years now – so it felt just to get back to having fun and having a fight.”
If his bout with Dias was the first time that Fili began to enjoy the sport again, having nine months off to hone his craft has further cemented his enjoyment of fighting.
“I’ve really kind of fallen back in love with fighting and am enjoying the process again,” Fili said. “I feel like the last few years I was treating like a job – just clocking in, putting in the hours – but having time off I’ve been able to focus on the things I’ve wanted to focus on. It’s been a few months of fine-tuning and it feels good.”
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This Saturday at UFC 214 in Anaheim, California, Fili (16-4) takes on promotional newcomer Calvin Kattar (16-2) in a preliminary 145-pound bout.
“He’s a good boxer and is pretty well-rounded everywhere, but boxing is probably his strong suit,” said Fili of Kattar. “I think I will be better than him everywhere.
“I’ll be more dangerous on the ground and standing. To beat him I just have to trust in myself and let my punches go. I think I’ll be able to hit him with the punches I want to hit him with, move when I have to, and just out-fight him.”
While his time off has helped Fili find an enjoyment of MMA again, he is eager to make up for lost time and fight again as soon as possible.
“Coming off of losses I’ve waited six months to fight; coming off of wins I’ve waited six months to fight; I’m done with that,” Fili said. “I want to knock this dude out and get back to it right away.
“You can’t make any money in this sport unless you’re fighting. I’m not going to be one of those guys who leaves this sport without anything to show.”