In the midst of a UFC 214 card stacked with some of the most notorious fighters on the roster, flyweight hopeful Eric Shelton will look for his first win in the promotion when he takes on newcomer Jarred Brooks this weekend. Having lost his debut and having been knocked out of TUF 24 in the semi-finals, Shelton knows UFC 214 could be his last chance saloon with the world’s biggest promotion
UFC 214 will take place tonight at the Honda Centre in Anaheim, California and will see former Caged Aggression Flyweight champion and ‘TUF’ 24 semi finalist Eric Shelton welcome undefeated prospect Jarred Brooks to the UFC flyweight division. Shelton will look to bounce back from his unsuccessful UFC debut which snapped a four fight win streak after he suffered a very close split decision loss to Alexandre Pantoja at UFC on Fox 23.
In an interview with MMA Plus, the 26-year old spoke of a much improved training camp this time around and his excitement to be working once again with former UFC fighter turned coach Pete Spratt.
“Man I feel good I’m back with my head coach Pete Spratt you know I went 4-0 under him so I’ve been feeling good man. The camp has been based around me so we’ve been putting in a lot of work so it’s been good, I’m excited about this match-up.”
Despite losing his UFC debut, “Showtime” believes he has done enough in his career as a whole, and as of late, to earn himself another UFC bout and more importantly is as determined as ever to get that first victory with the promotion.
“Yeah man I’m definitely hungrier than ever I’m training harder, I’m prepared, I know what could happen. Throughout my career, I seen my UFC debut being a win obviously, your hand being raised and that happening and it going that route. I’m ready to take this kid out, I don’t want to feel that feeling again I don’t want to feel that loss,” says Shelton.
“This kid hasn’t had to experience this type of stuff yet and I think I’m going to be the one to give it to him. This fight means the world to me it’s make or break for me right now so he’s going to get the worst of “Showtime” for sure.”
During his time on TUF, No.15 seed Shelton secured back-to-back victories over Yoni Sherbatov and Ronaldo Candido, before narrowly losing out on a majority decision to the eventual tournament winner, Tim Elliott, in the semi-finals.
“I think I earned it throughout my career, you know even on the TUF show, I matched up well against all the guys and defeating the number one seed I think I done well with that aswell.
He (Pantoja) was a tough opponent and I was able to do what I did with a dislocated hand so I think I done enough man for sure.”
Bad blood has continued to boil over leading up to tonight’s bout between the two flyweights with the pair engaging in a spat with one another via social media. This was then followed by an intense stare down where neither fighter broke face. Shelton who classes himself as a respectful and professional fighter admits he has lost respect for his opponent and looks forward to stepping in the Octagon with him come Saturday night.
“You know usually I like to respect my opponents but this kid makes it very hard, I’m trying my best to keep it professional but he’s making it more personal than anything so more than anything I just want to get my hands on the kid and show the world what I’m about.”
Although the back and forth trash talk is something he isn’t quite used to, Shelton believes that it could benefit him when those cage doors are closed.
“You know, I think it might bring a little bit more of an aggressive Showtime, it’s not something I’m used to, most of the guys respect me, they’ve seen what I’ve done. So it might bring out a little more aggression and I think that might play out in my favour because usually I respect my opponent like I said, but this guy I really don’t think I have much respect for him so I’m just going to be trying to hurt him the whole fight.”
Shelton’s opponent Brooks enters the bout with a flawless professional record of 12-0 however “Showtime” believes that he will prove to be the debutants toughest challenge so far.
Shelton told MMA Plus, “I think him being undefeated 12-0 is good for me, you know he hasn’t felt the defeat, he hasn’t felt any of that adversity. I feel he hasn’t really had a tough opponent like me. I think I’m going to be his toughest fight and I’ve seen plenty of guys like this kid, plenty of wrestlers that wanna wall and stall so it’s nothing new to me. I’m excited for the matchup like I said and I think it’s going to be a tough night for him.”
Despite the animosity between the two fighters, Shelton did have some positive words to say about his American counterpart but insisted he can’t see an area in which his opponent comes out on top.
“I respect every opponent. He’s in the UFC for a reason, obviously 12-0 for a reason, so I’m definitely respecting his game. Not underestimating him but I just feel like I’m going to be faster, more athletic, I know my hands are going to be better for sure and I haven’t really had a guy that’s been able to hold me down so I don’t think he’ll be able to,” said Shelton.
“I’ve faced tonnes of talent in the show, Ronaldo Candido being a black belt, Yoni Sherbatov he had a wrestling background aswell. These are studs and these couldn’t hold me down so I can’t see this kid being able to do that and once he realises that like I said it’s going to be a long night.”
Although the 26-year-old did not manage to be crowned the winner of TUF 24, Shelton believes the experience he gained on the show alone has proved invaluable to his development as a fighter.
“Being on ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ prepared me a lot, I learnt so much about myself in that house, having to cut weight every week for three weeks, fighting three times in three weeks, it was definitely something that builds you, gladiator type stuff,” said Shelton.
“It’s kill or be killed in there so I think it prepared me a lot. I think I’m going to have an edge on a lot of fighters that weren’t able to do that including Jarred Brooks. I mean he was a contestant on the show, he was supposed to be on the show but they didn’t pick him for a reason so I think they know his fighting style, what he brings to the table otherwise he’d of been on the show. He’s a boring fighter man and I’m going to show that, I’m going to show him where he stands in the division.”
After two consecutive losses, the American knows it’s now or never and a win this weekend could prove to be the most pivotal win of his career. A loss however would see leave his place on the UFC roster hanging by a thread.
“I know that they’re cutting guys left and right and I don’t wanna take that risk so for me it’s make or break. I don’t know how I stand with them but for me it’s make or break and this kids in my way. I’m looking at it like, if I lose this fight, yeah I’m getting cut pretty much. I don’t wanna think that way but that’s kind of how it is coming off two losses.”
Whilst participating on potentially the biggest card of 2017 and maybe of all time; Eric Shelton knows he has one of the biggest opportunities to use as a platform and to show what he’s made of.
“It’s amazing, it feels great to be fighting amongst all these great guys. You know in the workout room they’ve got set up for us, I’m able to see how these guys are vibe’ing and able to see what it takes to be a champ, not that I didn’t already know, but it’s awesome to be able to experience this and I’m extremely blessed to be able to do it. I just want to go out and shine amongst all these stars man and prove I belong where I’m at.”
Although the spotlight on the night will be on some of the UFC’s most notorious stars and veterans, Shelton believes his first UFC victory would become that much sweeter if he was to do it in and amongst some of the best in the sport. The 26-year old knows a win could open a lot of doors and knows that getting it is incomparable to anything that has come before him.
“I don’t see anything topping this, if I get my hand raised in front of this crowd in front of all these great fighters it’s going to be amazing, it’s going to be a blessing. It’s something I’m looking forward to but again you never know what happens in the future but if I get a win and I get it in decisive fashion then you never know comes.”