Heading into his MMA Live 1 welterweight bout with Matt MacGrath on May 19, Evan Dunham at UFC 102 back in 2009 left him with a bad taste in his mouth and without a job, his last loss — a unanimous decision against Shinya Aoki at DREAM 16 last September, upset him even more.
Aoki refused to engage on the feet and seemed content to take the decorated Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt down and hold him there before washing, rinsing and repeating the process the whenever Aurelio would get back up. Although he relishes the opportunity to avenge both losses, he says that he would rather do so in North America.
“I want to fight Evan Dunham again. I respect that kid a lot. The fight was so close. I almost had him in a choke. If I held it a little bit more, I would have had him. At the end of the fight, they gave him the decision and I respect that and I respect him a lot, but I definitely want to fight him again for sure. The fight with Aoki was frustrating. He got me in a good position and he stole the fight. He never tried to strike or exchange jiu-jitsu with me. I only had one chance in the fight when he shot and I sprawled and I almost took his back and after that I almost got his arm. The rest of the fight was boring,” Aurelio points out. “I hope I can fight him again and maybe we can do a better fight. The way I see it, if the fight was in America like in the UFC, after a minute [of stalling on the ground] they would say, ‘Okay guys, time to stand up.’ They should have stood us up, but in Japan Aoki is the big kid and they would never do that. He’s the biggest name in Japan so they wouldn’t risk him losing on the feet where he is the weakest. He was avoiding striking with me. The rules and the referees over there are always going to help him for sure.”
Aurelio (20-9) says he expects a more level playing field in his next bout despite the fact that he is facing a Canadian in Canada, but is prepared for the inevitability that at least a few fans will be cheering against him come next Thursday night when he squares off with MacGrath (10-5).
“I’ve never been to Canada. This will be my first time and I’m very excited. I heard that it’s a beautiful place. I try not to pressure myself. That’s the main thing for me. I’m coming into [MacGrath’s] house and everybody could boo me. I don’t know what to expect. I try not to let that worry me. I try to relax, have fun and take the fight seriously,” Aurelio explains. “If you look at any of my fights I always take them seriously and even the fights that I lost, I only lost by decision. My motivation is to do my best and try to win and not get finished. He’s going to have pressure on him as well. It’s going to be in his house in Canada and he’ll probably have most of the fans depending on him. How you deal with the pressure makes a huge difference in how you perform and I don’t let it pull me down.”
In spite of MacGrath coming in on short notice after Aurelio’s original opponent Cory McDonald bowed out of the fight with an undisclosed training injury, the lightweight Brazilian fighter who is moving up to 170 for the fight, says he’s not taking the 31-year-old Titans MMA product lightly.
“It was kind of a surprise for me when they called me a week ago to tell me that Cory was hurt and that I would be fighting Matt. My focus now is to train for any type of situation, so it didn’t really change my preparation. I’m going to be ready. I know he’s a tough guy. He fought my friend Claude Patrick a while ago. I called Claude and he gave me some advice, but I’m just making sure I’m in shape for the fight and my game plan will be to push the pace,” he says. “We’re both looking for the same thing, which is to get a big win to open up the eyes of the UFC. I’m sure he’s a tough guy and we’re both going to be prepared to put up a good fight. I’m ready for a war like I always am. Whatever happens, I’ll be prepared.”
To ensure that he is prepared, “Maximus” has split his Florida-based training camp between the recently-adopted gym of him and his displaced former American Top Team teammates, Imperial Athletics and the Team Nogueira affiliate in West Palm Beach. He promises the fans in London that he has a few surprises planned for the fight and is confident that the both the co-main event bouts between Karo Parisyan and Ryan Ford and his between MacGrath and himself will make it worth the price of admission.
“I’m not going to tell you what they are, but I have some good surprises for this fight. I’ve been training some things with some guys, but like I said, I’m ready to take the fight wherever it goes. I have something for sure I’m working on to surprise the fans,” he says with a grin. “I’m happy that MMA Live is confident that I will come to fight and put on a good show. I’m going to do my best and try to put on the fight of the night. If you look at any of my fights, that’s something I always try to do. Everybody on this card has the same goal here, which is to put on an amazing performance and hopefully get to the UFC. I think we all deserve to be there and have a very good chance of making it there. Karo and Ryan and Matt are all really good fighters who deserve to be there and I think I do too. I just need to show what I am capable of. This is a great card and I’m sure we’re going to have a great time.”