Win or lose, main event or preliminary card, there were always two guarantees in a Carlos Condit fight: Passion and violence.
In his last outing, though, a desultory loss at UFC 219 on Dec. 30 to Neil Magny, Condit was neither passionate nor violent. He went down meekly, allowing Magny to control him as if he were a wide-eyed newcomer and not among the greatest of all time.
If it was puzzling to fans inside T-Mobile Arena and those watching on the pay-per-view broadcast, it was nothing compared to how baffling it was to the man himself.
“I felt off,” said Condit, who returns to action Saturday on Fox against Alex Oliveira at the Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona. “I felt lazy. I know I looked lazy from the outside. I don’t know what it was, exactly. It could have been a number of things.
“But I don’t feel like I was myself. I prepared pretty well for that fight, but mentally, for whatever reason, I wasn’t there.”
And so that loss extended a perplexing losing streak to three fights. There’s no shame in losing to Robbie Lawler, Demian Maia and Magny, as they are among a handful of the elite welterweights in the world, but it is stunning to realize that a man as gifted in the fighting arts as Condit hasn’t won since a TKO of Thiago Alves on May 30, 2015.
The statistics are disturbing, at least from the standpoint of a guy who has been a winner at every stop. He’s lost three in a row, four of five and six of eight. He hasn’t had back-to-back wins since stopping Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 132 on July 2, 2011, and decisioning Nick Diaz at UFC 143 on Feb. 4, 2012.
Losing is as much a part of MMA as kicks and punches, given the varied ways there are to win a fight, but it’s odd that someone as talented and as highly regarded as Condit has come up short as repeatedly as he has.
Condit, though, doesn’t see himself on a downhill slide or ready for retirement, and his performances, if not the results, back that up. The fight against Lawler, for instance, was one of the most exciting of the decade, and could have easily been a Condit win. He fought with passion and intensity in that bout, which was sorely lacking against Magny.
He knows Oliveira will bring it and so he’ll be forced to kick up the intensity. He’s one of the sport’s fiercest competitors and is flat tired of the losing.
“It sucks, man,” Condit said of the long time between wins. “If you are competing at a high level, you have to accept that there are going to be ups and downs, because that is part of this business. But there are some points in the last couple of years where it has eaten at me to varying degrees.
“I’ve tried to use them as learning experiences and make myself better as a result of it.”
Condit has always been a thinking man’s fighter. He has terrific physical skills, but has enhanced the entirety of the package by being so smart inside the cage. That knowledge has helped him do a thorough self-examination and he believes he’s still a tough task for the best fighters in the world.
But he concedes that he’s different in some ways.
“I know that to be true,” Condit said when asked if he could still beat the best fighters in the world. “I know what I can do. When I was coming up, I never knew what I couldn’t do. But now, in some spots, I’ve seen where I’ve hit the ceiling. That doesn’t mean I can’t improve. I can still improve.
“If I show up and I fight to the best of my ability and I’m me, I can still compete with anybody in the division.”
He’d been out more than a year from the time he lost to Maia until the time he was beaten by Magny. He contemplated retirement in that time.
In retrospect, it may have dragged him down a bit.
“I think kind of being half-in, half-out and not being sure what I wanted to do, if I’m being totally honest, of course it’s had an impact on my performance,” Condit said.
“I haven’t shown for a while what I can do and the fighter I can be, and the fighter a lot of people know I can be. This fight on Saturday, I have to go out and do my thing. I love to fight and I love to be free in there and I’ve put the work in during this camp. I expect a good result. I have had some mental hang-ups since the Lawler fight and my heart has not always been fully in it. I’ve been wrestling with a bunch of things over the last couple of years. But I feel I’m back to a good place and I’m all in and excited to fight again. I’m doing this for the right reasons and I can’t wait to perform Saturday.”
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