England’s Danny Roberts steps back into the octagon on Saturday night for the first time since his controversial loss to Claudio Silva at UFC Fight Night: London in March.
The welterweight, who fights out of Liverpool like Darren Till and Molly McCann, moved to 16-4 after his loss to the Brazilian, but the decision is largely accepted to be the wrong one.
Officially, the result says Roberts loss via armbar in the third round and the referee made the decision believing Roberts verbally signalled his submission.
He seemed to be the only person in the O2 who saw it that way. talkSPORT caught up with Roberts ahead of his battle against UFC debutant Michel Pereira on Saturday and asked what exactly happened last time.
“Simply put, it was a hard-fought fight,” Roberts started. “And there was a few moments throughout the fight before the ending came where you could say there was a little bit of politics with it. I did not submit. I did not verbally submit. I didn’t submit in any kind of way. At the time, I could hear Claudio [Silva] talking to the ref and encouraging him, so it’s just something where it’s a fight, you know? It’s between me and him and it doesn’t really involve that third party.
“The third party is there to watch and oversee, make sure that everyone is safe. Follow by the rules too, and that’s it. So the influence the ref got from him in the fight was one of the major upsets for me and the hardest thing to swallow. It wasn’t necessarily fair in that sense. It was a hard pill to swallow at the time, but, at the same time, it has just fuelled me even more going into this fight with Michel Pereira.”
UFC president Dana White agreed with Roberts’ assertion and made his feelings clear on Twitter that night. While Hot Chocolate is pleased White agreed, ultimately, he couldn’t take much solace from it.
“At the same time, it doesn’t get the result that I wanted and needed. It still goes down as a loss moving forward and in the world that we live in, you’re only as good as your last fight. If we look back at this in two years time, it’s still a loss. For me, I came out of that fight with a lot of tension. I wanted a rematch. I got my agent and my team and we tried to arrange something. I wanted to let the guy’s face heal – as you could see, the damage was on his face and not mine – and I wanted a rematch straight away and I asked for it in Brazil. His home turf and yet, it wasn’t something that we were able to get.
“I’m hopeful that one day in the future we can get this show back on the road between me and him. He’s a guy who hasn’t had a loss in over 11 years, got a lot of stuff going on and I just felt like he played the game a little bit into his hands. To me, that’s a dirty, sly move to do. So personally, as a fighter, I haven’t got that much respect for him.”
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But, what about his next test, Pereira? Another Brazilian, Pereira has made his name with viral videos and Roberts insists that won’t help him when they square off.
“He’s a tricky one, I’m not going to lie,” Roberts cautioned. “We’ve watched some footage on him, the viral videos that got him into the UFC; his backflips, his spinning kicks – so he’s got a lot of unpredictability when it comes to fighting. Now, if you look at the scales when it comes to the fight, you’ve got me on one side who is a very dominant, true, heart-to-heart kind of fighter and on the other side you’ve got a showman.
“So it’s probably going to be a fan favourite fight and probably Fight of the Night. As far as training goes, we’ve got a wealth of talent at Hard Knocks 365 and we’ve got our own plan that we’re going to execute on the night. We can expose the holes in Pereira’s game and I’m going to shut him down real quick.”
The welterweight division is stacked with talent and big names right now. Kamara Usman recently usurped Tyron Woodley as the champion at 170lbs, but there is also names like Jorge Masvidal, Colby Covington, Darren Till, Leon Edwards, Robbie Lawler and Stephen Tompson that would all makes great fights – to name just a few.
Sow how does Roberts go about cracking the top 10? It seems like he’ll have every opportunity after revealing that he has signed a new contract with UFC.
“I know my ability, I know my true self. Apart from a few small errors under the lights, still to this day, I don’t feel like I’ve been dominated by any man. The UFC know, I’ve just re-signed a new deal with them and UFC knows there’s plenty more to come with me. I was on a two-fight win streak before what happened at the O2, so now we need to get back on a winning streak, build, get a little bit of momentum behind us and a year, two years down the line I know I’m going to be in the top 10 and forcing my will on the top talent.”
What about the UK talent, though? Edwards and Till hold top 10 positions in the UFC and could be interesting domestic showdowns with Roberts.
“We’ve got UK talent. I know what the UFC are like; every now and again you’re going to get the best versus the best or you’re going to get hometown fighters fighting hometown fighters. Me and Till are both from Liverpool. We’ve spoken before and he’s a nice guy, but for the sport we’re in, we have to fight. I’ll fight anyone, anytime anywhere and that’s just the way I am. So if it came down to it and UFC offered me Till, of course, I wouldn’t turn that down. But again, the welterweight division has a wealth of talent so it’s one of them, we’ll have to see.”
Roberts takes on Pereira at UFC Fight Night 152 in Rochester, New York on Saturday as part of a card headlined by fellow welterweights Rafael dos Anjos Vs Kevin Lee. You can watch it on BT Sport.