When the bell rings to signal the start of the first bout at UFC Moscow, it will feature two fighters with their backs against the wall.
Terrion Ware’s UFC record sits at 0-3, and the fact is that few fighters get to lose their first three fights inside the Octagon and still get another shot to prove that they belong. That’s the situation Ware, 32, finds himself in heading into his bantamweight bout with Merab Dvalishvili this Saturday, one that will almost definitely be his last in the UFC if he doesn’t get his hand raised.
Asked how it felt having that 0-3 UFC mark next to his name, Ware told MMA Fighting that regardless of how it looks, it doesn’t reflect who he truly is.
“That’s not the fighter I am. I’m not an 0-3 fighter,” said Ware. “Those first two fights I can accept I lost, I made some mistakes. That third fight I feel like I won, but it is what it is.
“The reality is that I am 0-3, but I don’t look at myself as an 0-3 fighter. I don’t look at myself as being lucky to be on the roster. I felt like the fight and the performances that I’ve had, it speaks for itself and I belong there. You look at the three guys that I fought, it’s not like I fought three tomato cans.”
Indeed, Ware’s losing streak has come against a who’s-who of up-and-coming fighters in the 135-pound division. He debuted (in a featherweight bout) last July with a loss to Cody Stamann, who currently holds a top-10 spot in the UFC’s official rankings. His next fight, he was out-struck by Sean O’Malley, an undefeated fighter being touted as one of the UFC’s future stars. And most recently, he was on the wrong end of a close fight with top French prospect Tom Duquesnoy.
Three UFC appearances. Three unanimous decision losses.
The last one in particular stung for Ware. While he’s proud of going the distance with Stamann and O’Malley, he acknowledges that they were the better men on those respective nights. Against Duquesnoy however, Ware felt like he put on a strong enough performance to take the fight, a sentiment that he says was echoed by several people backstage including commentator Dan Hardy and matchmaker Sean Shelby.
Knowing that others saw him as the winner provided little consolation to Ware, who officially had recorded another check in the loss column. It wasn’t until Shelby informed him that he’d be getting another fight that Ware brightened up.
“I was devastated,” Ware said of the Duquesnoy loss. “I went back into the locker room and — only my coaches saw it — I cried for a while because I thought that was it. I thought was the end of my UFC career. Normally, you lose three straight fights they usually don’t give you another chance. But my manager right after the fight — he’s never done that before ever — but he went right up to Sean Shelby and he was talking to him, he was begging him like, ‘Hey man, you saw that fight. My guy, there’s no way he lost that fight.’
“Sean agreed and I saw Sean that night. He told me that he thought I won the fight and he assured me not to worry and that he’d give me another fight so here I am getting another chance and I’ve got to go out there and get it done.”
As confident as Ware remains in his abilities, he understands that this is his last chance and that he’s facing an opponent for whom the stakes are the same. The 27-year-old Dvalishvili debuted with the UFC last December bringing a fair share of hype with him, but he’s 0-2 with a narrow split decision loss to Frankie Saenz, and a bizarre and controversial submission loss to Ricky Simon.
While Ware sympathizes with his fellow hard-luck fighter, he also understands that their UFC Moscow meeting is essentially a “loser leaves town” match, unpleasant as that sounds.
“There’s no way around it. I get it,” said Ware. “But for both of us, we both have to have that kind of mindset that we belong here, that we’re not just here on some kind of Make-a-Wish thing or something like that, or someone granted us a miracle or anything like that. We’re high-quality fighters.
“They can downplay if they want to, but deep down they know and the people who have watched my fights and the people who know the sport, they know, so we just can’t look at it that way that we’re going in there and that we’re just some low-level fighters lucky to be here.”