Arnold Allen is more than willing to take the fights few other featherweights want.
That’s evident once again at UFC 297, as Allen takes on undefeated contender Movsar Evloev in this Saturday’s pay-per-view opener. It’s not a matchup many other 145-pounders in the UFC would be thrilled to accept, especially one as highly ranked as Allen, however the 29-year-old Englishman is happy to give Evloev his chance to fight up the ladder.
“Absolutely, I’d be hiding in a hole if I wasn’t cool with it,” Allen said on The MMA Hour. “I just fought Max Holloway — he’s a scary dude, some of the s*** he’s done to other opponents. When you watch his highlights, yeah, you don’t want to be that guy when he’s screaming in your face, saying, ‘I’m the best boxer,’ and slipping your punches. That’s scary. So I’m down the fight anyone. I believe in my skills, my tools. And not in a way [of fighting just] for a paycheck — I believe I can beat anyone, so I believe in myself.”
Allen heads into UFC 297 hoping to rebound from the first loss of his octagon career. His competitive unanimous decision setback to former champion Max Holloway this past April halted an eight-year hot streak that saw Allen win his first 10 UFC appearances and reach the precipice of title contention following his 2015 promotional debut.
It was a tough pill to swallow for Allen, especially as a fighter who look the long road to contention compared to other recent UFC challengers like Ilia Topuria and Sean O’Malley, but Allen has no regrets about his performance against one of the division’s all-time best.
“I think the preparation went as well as it could’ve. And the regrets [were from] things out of my control,” Allen said. “All the things, the tangibles, all the things that I could do, I did as best I can. My teammates were great, the camp was fantastic. And, well, that wasn’t [true, but] all the things I can control, I gave 100 percent. I didn’t let myself down in that way. My team were great. It just is what it is. Certain things played out the way they played out.”
“I’m a firm believer, if you want to be the best in the world, you have to beat the best in the world. Right?” Allen continued. “And once you do, the best is ‘Blessed.’ Max is the No. 2 guy. However you look at rankings or whatever, he is. If you can’t beat Max, you can’t be champion, in my mind. So that’s the litmus test. And for me, obviously, I failed the test — and I get a chance to go again, and try and rebuild and get back there.”
Allen now gets the chance to reestablish himself in the title mix against a feared up-and-comer like Evloev. The 29-year-old Russian is already a perfect 6-0 in the UFC.
With Alexander Volkanovski defending his title against Topuria on Feb. 17 at UFC 297, the winner of Saturday’s bout could be in pole position to challenge for the belt next.
“He’s very good. Very good athlete, very good fighter,” Allen said of Evloev. “He improves every matchup, gets better every time he’s out. So I’m sure he’s going to get even better from his last last [fight] to this one. So definitely, he’s definitely impressed me.
“That’s exactly why I was more than happy for this fight. He’s an undefeated guy, a lot of noise around him, people are hyping him up. So I’m going to take that undefeated record and put myself right back in there.”
UFC 297 takes place Jan. 20 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.