If Thiago Alves knocks out Jon Fitch, thank his mom.
Alves (16-6 MMA, 9-3 UFC), who attempts to avenge a 2006 loss to Fitch (21-3 MMA, 11-1 UFC) next month at UFC 111, had a good chat with mom in Fortaleza, Brazil, after welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre beat him this past July at UFC 100 and internal strife at American Top Team pulled him in two directions.
When he came back, he had a simple goal to cut out the drama in his life.
"GSP taught me a great lesson, and I'm really thankful for that," Alves told MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps | MMAjunkie.com
) recently. "I want to show the world what I've learned."
Alves admits he was in a rut long before he fell short against St-Pierre. After a two-year string of impressive wins and the hype that followed, he was resting on his heels.
"It was like two years without losing, (and) you get comfortable," Alves said. "You think nobody is ever going to beat you again. Even if you're winning a lot, that's not good. You've got to always challenge yourself."
When Alves beat Josh Koscheck at UFC 90 and Fitch fell to St-Pierre at UFC 97, it looked like the stars had finally aligned.
It was hard for Alves to be challenged, though, when his life was disordered in and outside the cage. There were power struggles as his home gym, Coconut Creek, Fla.'s American Top Team, shot to notoriety as a powerhouse of MMA talent. Trainers battled with each other over the fighters' direction.
"The Pitbull" was caught in the middle – and at the worst possible time.
"People kind of pulled me to one side and pulled me to the other side," Alves said. "I was in between to try to make everybody happy. It doesn't work like that."
He lost his Muay Thai and strength and conditioning coach in the fray and arrived at the July 11 fight less than 100 percent confident.
Concurrently, St-Pierre had done his homework and turned the contest into a takedown clinic. Although he injured himself midway through the fight, the deficit in momentum was too great for Alves to overcome. "The Pitbull" lost a unanimous decision.
Toward the end of 2009, the strife at ATT died down, and Alves took a hard look at his career.
"One day, it hit me," he said. "I was like, 'You know what, man? I'm just going to live my life and do what I know best.'"
And there was one person that knew that.
"I got rid of the bad energy, all the bad stuff that was going on in my life," he said. "It was holding me back. Once you get fame, it comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot of bad stuff, too. You have to through those things, though, so you can train through all the bad stuff. Because (you have to) keep the good time in your life."
Alves said the gym beefs are over and his camps are more focused than ever.
"Besides being a fighter, you've got a regular life going on and (we're) normal people with drama and [expletive], so I just cut all the drama in my life," he said. "No more drama. I'm committed 100 percent to my career now."
From a glance, Alves and Fitch live parallel lives in the welterweight division. They're both innately talented fighters who have risen fast and hit a French Canadian roadblock. They're young, though, and have wisdom to gain (which, unfortunately for them, St-Pierre has as well). The winner of the March 27 fight will hover around title contention status.
In fact, it was Fitch's victory over Alves in June 2006 that set them both on a tear to the division's top spots. Alves, however, thinks that his path has been harder.
"I think I fought tougher guys than he fought," he said.
Now, Alves said, he's got the wisdom to back his toughness.
Begrudgingly, he gives Fitch props for the well-placed upkicks that knocked him out in their first fight and said the American Kickboxing Academy-trained fighter has improved since then.
"He's more comfortable being there in high-level competition," Alves said. "That's pretty dangerous. Another thing is he used to fight up-and-coming guys, guys that never fought before, and he was the veteran. So that puts a lot of pressure on the guy that's the veteran."
Nevertheless, Alves believes he's in the right place to do what he set out to do almost four years ago: stop Jon Fitch.
"I think it's going to be a great fight," Alves said. "All I've got on my mind is to knock Jon Fitch the [expletive] out."