Article by Andy Samuelson
Ross Pearson grew up in a small village outside of Sunderland, England.
His longtime friends from the village think their buddy has traded his blue-collar roots for amenities more befitting a Hollywood movie star.
“Some of them think I’m living the fast life, living like a superstar,” Pearson told MMAjunkie.com Radio (www.mmajunkie.com/radio). “They think I’m lying on the beach everyday in San Diego getting a suntan, driving around with the roof down in my car.
“But they don’t realize what I’m doing every day. Stuck in a gym every day is not the Hollywood lifestyle.”
But it’s a lifestyle the 27-year-old British featherweight wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Hence Pearson’s recent move to San Diego where he could train with UFC bantamweight champ Dominick Cruz and Team Alliance.
Pearson (13-5 MMA, 5-2 UFC) said the amped-up training sessions in both San Diego and Las Vegas â€” where he traveled to help out Cruz with his coaching duties on “The Ultimate Fighter: Live” â€” have him well-prepared for his Friday bout against Cub Swanson (16-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) at UFC on FX 4 at Revel Atlantic City in New Jersey.
“I’m super excited because I know Cub is going to be bringing his A-game and is going to be well trained and ready to fight, and I’m going to be ready to fight him,” said Pearson, who is part of the FX-televised main card that features a five-round non-title fight between lightweight contenders Gray Maynard and Clay Guida, as well as a trilogy fight between Spencer Fisher and Sam Stout.
“We’re going to get after it. We’re going to come in there and put on a fight for the fans. I always come in 100 percent prepared. I’m 100 percent ready. I’m preparing as if I’m going to fight for a world title.”
With a new training team and weight class, the former lightweight and “The Ultimate Fighter 9” winner said a win over Swanson should put him even closer to a future date with champ Jose Aldo.
“I honestly feel like I’m up there now, and I don’t see anyone in the division I can’t beat,” said Pearson, who scored a unanimous-decision victory over Junior Assuncao at UFC 141 in December in his 145-pound debut. “A lot of people see Jose Aldo as unbeatable, and he’s a great champion. I’ve got a lot of respect for him; he’s the No. 1 guy in the division. But I’m a natural-born fighter, and I want to test my fighting skills against his.
“I want to see how much he’s got, how much he wants it. I want to see where I am in this sport and test my abilities with the No. 1 guy.”
The opportunity for a possible quicker path to a title shot was Pearson’s main motivation for dropping down in weight, which he did after losing a split decision to Edson Barboza in a “Fight of the Night” contest at UFC 134 this past August.
“The reason I dropped to 145 wasn’t because I don’t think I can compete at 155,” Pearson said. “I had some good fights at 155. It was just a small window of opportunity as I see myself in the top five of the (145-pound) division.”
“A few good fights, and I could be facing a title shot. I just feel like my body is now hitting its physical peak. I’m as strong as I’ve ever been, fit as I’ve ever been. I just feel now is the time to push it. I feel there were a lot of guys at 155 who were above me for a title shot.”
But getting past the 28-year-old Swanson is no guarantee. A three-time “Fight of the Night” winner during an eight-fight tenure with the WEC, Swanson is coming off a strong TKO victory over George Roop in January. But Pearson, a standout boxer back in England, said he believes he will hold the advantage if the two stay on their feet.
“I was over the moon (after signing the fight),” he said. “He’s a good fighter, been around a long time. It’s nice to fight someone who is going to stand up and box with you. He’s got good hands on him.
“It’s going to be a good fight. I’m never in a boring fight. We’re both going to put it on the line and go for it.”
That’s the message that Pearson also tried to relay to the younger fighters he helped train on the latest edition of “TUF.”
“I was trying to tell the guys it’s 13 weeks in your life, but you could have 10 years fighting in the UFC, fighting all over the world and making good money,” Pearson said. “You could be the next ‘Rampage’ Jackson and doing movies. I tried to put the bigger picture in their heads so they stay focused.
“You could just see how much they want it. How much are you willing to dig deep and go for it? When you are on the show, you don’t really realize the opportunities you’re getting until a year or two later. I didn’t realize until a few fights later … how good the training was then and what kind of shape I was in.”
Pearson didn’t hesitate when asked if he’d do the grueling seclusion from friends and family all over again. He said a similar mentality is what fuels him every day to stay in the UFC.
“If they said you can’t stay in the UFC unless you do ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ again, I do it again no problem,” he said. “You’ve got to be crazy about the sport, crazy about what you want to do and stay focused on the end goal.
“I appreciate everything I’m doing right now. I’ve worked a 9-to-5 job, been a bouncer at the door and I don’t want to go back to that. I’ll work my ass off to keep doing what I’m doing right now.”