Last time we saw John Makdessi (15-6) in the UFC, he put in a poised and technical performance to best Abel Trujillo at UFC on FOX 26. The fight with Trujillo was Makdessi’s first as a member of team Rufousport. Prior to that Makdessi had trained at Montreal’s vaunted Tristar Gym, where — he told Bloody Elbow — he’d struggled in recent years.
As Makdessi prepares to face Ross Pearson (20-14) at this Saturday’s UFC on FOX 30 in Calgary, Alberta, the Nova Scotia-born fighter said he feels great about how his last fight went down. “Abel is a tough competitor, he’s fought some of the best lightweights in the division. He took down Khabib a couple of times and he couldn’t take me down. I’m very happy in terms of my performance.”
Without prompting, Makdessi shifted credit to Duke Roufus, who he began working with after a first round KO loss to Lando Vannata in 2016. He said he was “very lucky” to have been hooked up with Milwaukee’s Roufusport by his manager Mitch Mayberger and that breaking away from Tristar, in his hometown of Montreal, was imperative to move his career forwards.
“I’m one of those guys who, unfortunately, has had a lot of ups and downs in my career,” said Makdessi. “I’ve been in the UFC for a while now. A lot of things, that people don’t really know, go on behind the scenes, but fighting for me and martial arts has been a long road with a lot of ups and downs. Obviously I was raised and born in Canada and obviously was loyal to Tristar. I started my MMA career there, but I always had a struggle with my style and finding the right coaches, finding the right team that kind of fit with my mentality and my character and my style.”
When asked what differences made the set-up in Wisconsin better for him versus what he had in Quebec, Makdessi said; “It’s structure.”
“The gym here in Milwaukee, they have a whole line of coaches. Everybody works together. It’s smaller, it’s quality, and they really take the time from the amateur all the way up to the professional. The coaches really take the time to rectify you and actually make you better. So that’s where I have struggled with, because in the past, people don’t know this, but there’s so much stuff going on in MMA and the fighters don’t make a lot of money, so it’s hard for the fighters to get quality coaching. So basically most fighters basically train themselves and it’s very hard to correct yourself.”
“Being at Roufusport, it’s very hands on,” continued Makdessi. “The coaches are there to correct you and basically improve in your technique. Also we work on strategy and communication. Communication is very important; communication with the coaches. It’s not like in the past where I trained myself and then, on fight week or fight night, the coaches they arrive and all of a sudden they expect you to listen to them when the whole training camp they’re never there.
“There’s a lot of things that go on behind the scenes, that not a lot of people know about the fighting game, but I’m very happy at Roufusport. I feel rejuvenated. Duke Rufous re-sparked my passion. He’s a very passionate man.”
Under Roufus, Makdessi said he is approaching fighting in a whole new way. This is especially true when it comes to the game plans he takes into a fight.
“[Now I go into a fight] having plan A, plan B, plan C,” said Makdessi. “A lot of the times I would show up in the fight and I would have just one plan and I didn’t adjust, but now I’m more mature. Physically I can’t grow anymore, but mentally I feel like I’m more mature and again, I’ve learned so much with Duke.”
Makdessi said that moving to Milwaukee to train, instead of staying in his “comfort zone” in Montreal has also been an invigorating experience. “I’ve sacrificed family, friends, social life. All I’ve been thinking about and doing is eating, sleeping, fighting.”
‘The Bull’ added that, for him, “fighting is mental” and that he had felt like he had been “on autopilot” for the last couple of years in Montreal.
“But that’s dangerous,” he said. “Because you really need to have a purpose. You need to have a goal. You need to stay focused. And that was the hardest part. I had a lot of distractions outside of fighting. So being in Milwaukee, I kind of deprived myself of the small pleasures of life.”
Makdessi said the process of isolating himself in Milwaukee has given him more hunger for fighting and has gotten him feeling, “animalistic.”
Ready to test the self-proclaimed new, improved, and perhaps primal, John Makdessi is ‘The Real Deal’ Ross Pearson, who is coming off a win over Mizuto Hirota at February’s UFC 221. Makdessi and Pearson have 37 UFC fights between them and both have reputations for putting on fan-friendly brawls.
Makdessi is thrilled with the match-up and what it could mean for spectators.
“Ross Pearson has a big name. He’s fought the best fighters in the division. Obviously, I need to prove myself so I’ve got to beat the best to be the best and he is, in my opinion, one of the best fighters in the division. So I’m very excited. Fans want to see excitement. We’re both known for excitement. We’re not going to try and hold each other. We’re not going to try and grapple each other and make it a boring fight. It’s going to be fireworks.”
Along with wanting to show fans — and the UFC — that he deserves recognition in the lightweight division, Makdessi is also hoping to entertain what he hopes will be a supportive Canadian crowd.
“I love fighting on my home soil,” said Makdessi. “I truly believe I’m one of the best lightweights in the division. I think I’m the best in Canada. The most exciting fighter out there. So I believe the people there are going to support me.”
John Makdessi vs. Ross Pearson is the featured early prelim at UFC on FOX: Alvarez vs. Poirier 2. The early prelims, which for this event include five bouts, are exclusively live on UFC Fight Pass. They begin at 4PM ET.