(“I don’t do anything but go forward and punch people. That’s what people want to see.” Photo via Getty Images)
For several Strikeforce veterans transitioning to the UFC, last month’s “Aldo vs. Edgar” event was their opportunity to sink or swim. Hard-charging lightweight Isaac Vallie-Flagg — who had scored wins over Brian Melancon and Gesias Cavalcante during his Strikeforce stint — was given a stiff test against Yves Edwards during the UFC 156 FX prelims broadcast. And though most casual fans probably weren’t familiar with him before the match started, they certainly took notice after Vallie-Flagg’s gritty performance netted him a split-decision victory. Not bad for a 2-1 underdog.
With his spot on the UFC roster somewhat more secure, we called the Jackson’s MMA product last week to learn a little more about his Octagon debut, and his path from teenage troublemaker to new factor in the UFC lightweight division. Enjoy, and please follow Isaac on twitter @IKEVF.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: Let’s talk about your most recent fight, against Yves Edwards. I heard afterwards that you had the flu or something. Did that start coming on before the fight?
ISAAC VALLIE-FLAGG: Yeah, it was actually really funny. Joe Stevenson is a good friend of mine, and he was coming to help me cut weight. And he shows up and gives me this gigantic hug because I haven’t seen him in a little while, and then he goes, “I’m really sick dude, I’ve got the flu.” And I say, “Joe, why did you touch me?” I was hoping that I could fight it off, but I already had kind of a bigger weight cut getting down, because I was really heavy when I got the call, and my body just couldn’t take it. I started to cough Wednesday, and by Thursday and Friday I knew I was sick. I was just trying not to let it get in my head. And afterwards, as soon as I stepped out of the cage, it’s like my body told me to chill out and get some rest.
How much did that affect you during the fight? You still looked strong in the third round — if anything, it looked like Yves was fading, not you. Do you think you could have pushed harder and gotten a finish if you weren’t sick?
I don’t know if I would have finished Yves, but I would have punched a lot more. I’ve watched the fight a few times and I wasn’t happy with how upright I was, and I wasn’t throwing all the combinations that I wanted to.
Did you find yourself affected by the so-called “Octagon jitters,” where the adrenaline dump wears you out when you’re fighting in the UFC for the first time?
It’s funny, because everybody was like, “Oh man, this is the big show, and you’re gonna freak out,” but I felt more comfortable fighting in the UFC than I have any time before. I really felt like I was fighting where I should have been fighting the whole time.