Niko Price spent years getting beaten up on by his three brothers, as well as by his cousins. While those kinds of memories can have a negative impact upon some people, for Price, it was a sort of on-the-job training.
He learned, he said laughing, how to take a beating. And now that he’s one of the UFC’s most exciting fighters, they’ll remind him every chance of those days when they were children how their scraps came out.
“All the time, they’ll say, ‘I used to whup you,’ ” said Price, who will face James Vick in Vick’s move to welterweight on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, ESPN+) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
Price is the one delivering the beatings now. He is coming off a second-round TKO loss to Geoff Neal at UFC 240 in Edmonton, in July, but is 5-3 with a no-contest in the UFC and 13-3 with that no-contest overall.
His style is simple: High contact at high speed. He’s not looking to be slick or technical or be praised for having the best game plan. He’s a guy looking to deliver the stirring battles that pulls the fans from their seats and gets them roaring.
He’s a guy who prefers to let his hands go and has the confidence that more often than not, will carry him to victory.
Though he fought a lot as a child, his initial interest was to become a police officer. But when he took an MMA class to prepare him for the police academy, he’d found his calling.
Fighting, he realized, is what he was born to do and what he loves more than anything else. Like many newcomers, he took some shots at first, but his reaction was different than most.
“I was sparring and I got punched and it was like, ‘Wow, this is awesome. I [expletive] love this,’ ” Price said. “This dude was like 145 pounds and he was beating me up. I came back every day after that. I knew this was what I wanted to do and I knew I could do this.”
He doesn’t plan to change his style, but his loss to Neal at least caused him to ponder what could have been different. He said the opportunities for him to take Neal out were there but he didn’t take advantage.
Neal was able to capitalize and came up with the win. Price calls Neal “a great guy,” and insists he has no excuses for the loss, but said he learned to temper his style a bit.
“To sum it up, there were opportunities for both of us in that fight,” Price said. “He capitalized and I didn’t and that’s it. But it is what it is. When I think about it, it’s really I didn’t have the patience. If I had been a little more patient and wasn’t trying to force it, it would have been different, but I have no excuses.
“The important thing is to learn from it and I think I have. I have that experience and I have worked on that in the gym and I feel I’m a better fighter today than I was at that point.”
Price, who lives 90 minutes from Tampa in Cape Coral, Florida, was determined to fight on this show in order for his friends and family to be able to see him compete in the UFC. He flew from Tampa to Las Vegas during a taping of “Dana White’s Contender Series” in August to talk to UFC matchmakers Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby about being on the show.
Now, he wants to take advantage. Vick is an entertaining fighter, as well, but is coming off three consecutive losses at lightweight to Justin Gaethje, Paul Felder and Dan Hooker. He’s moved up to welterweight to fight Price and is determined to end the losing streak.
Rare are the fighters who lose four in a row in the UFC and keep their jobs, so Vick figures to be fighting with more desperation than ever. Price gets that and is eager to get rolling.
“He’s a very good fighter and I am a good fighter and I think we’re going to put on a show for the crowd,” Price said. “This is the kind of fight I wanted [fighting at home]. I love these kinds of fights.”
Knowing his track record, the fans watching will love it, as well, regardless of how it turns out.
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