Nothing in the fight world is more endearing than the lifer who has toiled in the shadows, dreaming of that one shot at greatness.
Britain’s Brad Pickett gets his ‘Rocky’ moment next month when he faces former World Extreme Cagefighting featherweight champion Urijah Faber.
Pickett is skilled and resilient, and his December 17th showdown in Sacramento is the chance for him to throw a spanner in the works, with Faber planning a final victory before hanging up his gloves in front of his hometown crowd.
As Pickett enters the octagon in Sacramento’s new downtown arena, he will be alone under the lights and a long way home.
The atmosphere will be raucous as thousands of shirtless men sing for Faber under a swaying thicket of upraised arms.
Faber (33-10) enters the bout riding the toughest stretch of his lengthy mixed martial arts career.
The 37 year old, nicknamed the ‘California Kid’ has struggled in his previous fights and has only sandwiched a victory over Frankie Saenz before losing to Frankie Edgar, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, and most recently Jimmie Rivera at UFC 203.
Pickett, meanwhile, is just as desperate as his American counterpart as the East Londoner risks being trapped in a spiral of defeat, having lost four of his last five bouts.
The slugger was submitted via triangle choke against Iuri Alcantara at UFC 204 in Manchester, and a win over Faber is of huge importance according to the 38-year-old.
“This fight is huge for me,” admits Pickett. “I want to cause an upset – I’m a professional fighter and that’s what I’ll look to do always.
“There’s no pressure on me… I’m just focused on turning up and spoiling his party”
“I have to come forward a lot but I’m in a situation where I’ll be a massive underdog and fighting him in his hometown.
“But I think I can impose myself on anyone against the world. Faber should be worried about my power and he’s going to try to grapple and wrestle me but I need to focus on my wrestling defence a little bit.
“I’m confident and I feel I can knock him out. We have the same style and we’ve been in the fight game a long time, so there’s not a lot of things we haven’t seen before. I think it’ll be a competitive fight.
“Faber is retiring as well so everything will be all about him, so I’m basically going there to make the numbers up. There’s no pressure on me and I like that because I’m not there for him. I’m just focused on turning up and spoiling his party.”
Nicknamed ‘One Punch’, Pickett is known for an exciting style that has garnered him seven WEC/UFC fight night bonuses, including five ‘Fight of the Night’ honours.
Pickett (25-12) is one of the UFC’s most likeable fighters but after talking to key players Dana White and Sean Shelby about not being at the forefront of the company as he’d like, the fight against Faber got arranged swiftly.
“I spoke to Dana White about not being in the main picture as I would have liked to be,” says the 38-year-old.
“Then the next day Sean Shelby gave me a call and we discussed my fight against Iuri Alcantara and then at the end of the call he asked if I wanted to fight Faber next month in Sacramento.
“I was ecstatic and instantly thought it would be a great opportunity to test myself against an opponent like Faber.”
His preparation for the contest has been gruelling but Pickett says he is in really great shape ahead of the fight.
“Training is going really well,” he says. “It’s the first time I’ve gone from fight schedule to fight schedule and I’ve been in really good shape.
“I was obviously already in great shape from my last fight against Alcantara but now it’s just a case of ticking over and recharging the batteries a little bit.
“I’ve done a lot of my camp here in the UK and I will finish my camp in America so things are going nicely.”
Pickett still harbours regrets about his loss to Alcantara at UFC 204. The fight was a great spectacle for the fans, but in hindsight the Brit believes it was a one he shouldn’t have taken.
The former Cage Rage British Featherweight champion accepts that fighting a southpaw of Alcantara’s ability was a mistake.
“The fight was a tough one for me,” he admits. “I always knew that I didn’t like southpaws. I’d never fought one before.
“Whenever I trained with a southpaw, I wasn’t fond of it, and I had to train hard for the [Alcantara] match-up.
“I didn’t understand how much of a completely different game it was. I was up for the challenge before but I would never fight a southpaw again.”
Things could have turned out differently as Pickett had been scheduled to fight Henry Briones, but his opponent picked up an injury. He admits that he wanted to fight so badly that he wasn’t really bothered about who it was against.
“The fight wasn’t for me. The striking style was hard and he’s massive but I would never turn down a fight regardless.
“After Briones pulled out, I got offered three other fights.
“I said yes to them all but they started pulling out as it got closer to fight night, I thought man I need to get a fight booked. I then got offered Iuri and I said fuck it, I’ll take it.
“I was in camp getting ready for a fight and I wanted to make sure I had one, so I wasn’t in a position where I was going to say no to anyone.
“The fight was the worst possible outcome. I’ve lost fights before but I didn’t get a chance to do anything and that really sucked so I was happy to get straight back in there with this fight against Faber.”
Pickett’s will to win still burns brightly after a long career in which he has given his all and earned notable wins against the likes of Demetrious Johnson, acknowledged as one of the best fighters in the world.
His fight against Faber will earn him the chance to shock the world again and Pickett insists that he will leave everything in the octagon on fight night.
“My style has always been the same,” he says. “I’ve always gone for it and I will again against Faber. I’m definitely going to get to work and keep the pressure on him.
“I want to use my brute power and hopefully put on a good show in front of the American public. My main objective is to win and spoil Faber’s party and once the fight is over, I just want to spend some time with my family and enjoy the festive period.”
You can follow Brad Pickett on Twitter and Instagram at @One_Punch