LAS VEGAS – Sean Strickland was planning a snowboarding trip when UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard called him to see if he wanted to fight Nassourdine Imavov on five days’ notice.
After a brief negotiation and a pay bump, Strickland (25-5 MMA, 12-5 UFC) accepted, and he’ll now take on Imavov (12-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC) in a light heavyweight main event on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 217, which takes place at the UFC Apex and streams on ESPN+.
Strickland ushered out the UFC’s 2022 schedule when he headlined the final card of the year in a split decision loss to Jared Cannonier at UFC Fight Night 216 on Dec. 17. He’ll now close out the first card of the promotion’s 2023 campaign.
After believing he was “robbed” in the fight with Cannonier, which came on the heels of a knockout loss to Alex Pereira at UFC 276 in July, there’s a desire to get back on the winning side. Strickland can’t say what will unfold in the octagon, but he thinks the short-notice nature of the situation takes some pressure off.
“I got knocked out by a big f*cking Brazilian (Pereira) four, five months ago and I kind of fought like a b*tch (against Cannonier),” Strickland told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at UFC Fight Night 216 media day. “I kinda fought like a b*tch. We can agree. … I don’t f*cking know (what I’ll do differently this time). Listen to the coaches, maybe.”
Strickland filled in for the injured Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 217. He’s set to share the cage with Imavov, a Dagetstani-born fighter who now lives and trains in France under coach Fernand Lopez, who is also the coach to Ciryl Gane and others.
Imavov brings a three-fight winning streak into his first main event in the UFC, but Strickland admits he doesn’t know much about his upcoming foe, other than his perceived geographical associations.
“I don’t even know how to f*cking say that name, man,” Strickland said. “Let’s call him the Frenchie. And if we’ve learned anything about the French – what are the French best at? Giving up. So, I haven’t really watched him fight. I know he likes to bang. I know he likes to throw big punches, but he’s still f*cking French, man. There’s a lot of history of cowardice to move on from when you’re f*cking French.
“So maybe he’s going to prove a statement. Maybe he’s going to say that his country has left the cowardice behind, I don’t f*cking know. Only thing the French are good at is having affairs and giving up and losing fights. But we’ll f*cking find out. Maybe he’s different.”
For more on the card, visit MMA Junkie’s event hub for UFC Fight Night 217.