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Over the past two years, Fortis MMA has been one of the most successful gyms in the sport. The wins have been stacking up, and now the benefits are coming with it.
The Dallas-based gym, led by head coach Sayif Saud, has one of the highest UFC winning percentages of any team in the sport. It has gone 18-5 in 2019 (it went 16-4 in 2018), with a scheduled matchup between Geoff Neal (12-2 MMA, 4-0 UFC) and Mike Perry (13-5 MMA, 6-5 UFC) still to go at UFC 245 on Dec. 14.
“It’s just been an incredible year,” Saud told MMA Junkie. “If you told me we were going to win 18 fights and only lose five in 2019, I’d be pretty thrilled. Obviously I’d rather we lose no fights, but we’ve taken a step up in competition this year if you look at our opponents.”
Saud isn’t joking about the level of competition. A scan of the matchups shows accepting bouts against tough, underrated opponents are commonplace for the team. In fact, Fortis MMA athletes entered the UFC cage as the betting underdog for the majority of their fights this year.
A turn appears to be happening going into 2020, though, because the two fights Fortis MMA has booked so far represent breakthrough opportunities. Not only is the team getting the tough fights, but the names to go along with it, too.
Diego Ferreira (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC), the streaking lightweight who has put together five consecutive wins in arguably the sport’s toughest weight class, is scheduled to fight former UFC and WEC champ Anthony Pettis (22-9 MMA, 9-8 UFC) at UFC 246 on Jan. 18 in Las Vegas.
Ferreira’s past two wins have come over Mairbek Taisumov and Rustam Khabilov, who are not names anyone is calling out at 155 pounds. His reward for winning? Thee clash with “Showtime.”
Pettis is coming off a high-profile defeat to Nate Diaz at UFC 241 in August, and there’s an opportunity for Ferreira to capitalize and take his career to the next level.
“Diego took two hard fights against guys no one wanted to fight that were on streaks,” Saud said. “Two guys everybody said, ‘No’ to. Diego went out there and beat them impressively. He earned that spot with his five-fight win streak.”
A similar opportunity goes to Ryan Spann (17-5 MMA, 3-0 UFC) at UFC 247. The surging light heavyweight, who is unbeaten in three octagon appearances, gets his most meaningful fight thus far when he meets Ovince Saint Preux (24-13 MMA, 12-8 UFC) on Feb. 8 in Houston.
Saint Preux has fought for the interim 205-pound belt and shared the octagon with some of the biggest and best names the weight class has to offer during his lengthy UFC stay. Beating “OSP” means something, and Spann can turn heads as a contender with a win.
“He fought for the interim belt and at just 3-0 we’re fighting a guy that’s got 20 fights in the UFC at light heavyweight,” Saud said. “These guys, they’re moving and some of them might not be loud, but they do their talking in the cage. They’re ready to go.”
As the 2020 schedule continues to fill out, there are several others on the Fortis MMA squad in position to get big opportunities, from Neal to Uriah Hall to Alonzo Menifield to Macy Chiasson and more. The hard work at the ever-expanding Fortis MMA facility (which is adding its own rehab and recovery center next year) is turning into results.
“We’ve got multiple people ranked and the next thing is to penetrate the rankings,” Saud said. “Anything worth anything takes time. That’s going to take time. You win a fight and you get in the top 10, all of those guys are booked and some of them have a lot more name value and it’s going to take time. We’re here to put in the work and get the job done.”
Fortis MMA only got its start in 2017, but Saud’s leadership has produced a significant rise in gym notoriety. The team has still yet to produce a UFC title, but Saud said crowning a champion is merely a natural progression. And he has no intention to stop at just one.
“The goal of the gym is not to just have one belt, but have multiple belts because we’ve got guys and girls in different divisions that can do it,” Saud said. “You should be looking at each fighter and want to take them to the belt. Even if you fall short of that, that’s where you’ve got to be aiming.”
News | MMA Junkie