Combat sports databases are littered with the records of 0-1 fighters. Stepping between the ropes or into a cage can initially seem like a great thing to do, to many, after they've spent some time training and are eager to test their mettle against other men and women in a sporting fight.
Then, you get hit. Hard.
Or, submitted. Or, you simply feel embarrassed in front of a crowd after watching the other guy's hand get raised and have to deal with the profound loss of being bested in something so primal, so essential.
The point is, fighting is hard and it isn't for everyone - especially if you taste defeat the first time you expose yourself. There are, however, the rare group who come back for more after losing their first contest.
Rarer still, are people like Costas Philippou, who not only come back for another serving after losing their first fight, but go on to become great at it and make a career out fighting. The UFC middleweight got into MMA late - back in 2008 as a 28 year-old - and dropped a decision to Ricardo Romero his first time out.
The dangerous striker made his transition to MMA without much planning or expectation. "I had just come from doing boxing. I just thought I’d try it out and see how it was," he remembers Wednesday while speaking with Cagewriter.
"I definitely wasn’t thinking of making a career out of it. I was training with Ray Longo and somebody pulled out of a fight about week before an MMA fight and they asked me if I would fight. I thought, ‘sure, why not?’
"It was a good fight. We went back and forth and I lost a split decision to Ricardo Romero, who went on and fought in the UFC as well. I was basically just a boxer then. He was able to take me down a couple times and basically hold me down. I didn’t feel too bad about the loss. I never planned for it to be a career."
Philippou says that his MMA fighting took on unexpected momentum. "One fight became two, then three, and so on and then I was fighting in the UFC. I love it and I love fighting, but I never thought, ‘this is the only thing I can ever do,'" he insists.
Yet, it's what the man is doing now and at the highest level. On Saturday, Philippou will fight Lorenz Larkin in the co-main event of the Cincinatti UFC Fight Night card.
The Cypriot fighter knows he's in for a challenge against Larkin and is also well-aware of the fact that he badly needs a win to snap a two-fight losing streak.
"[Larkin] is a good athlete. We haven’t seen too much of him on the ground but he looks quick and strong," he says of his opponent.
The 34 year-old isn't willing to concede that he feels any extra pressure since he's lost two straight, however. Even if he understands the stakes.
"At this point in my life, [coming off of two straight losses] doesn’t put more pressure on me. If anything, it just gives me more motivation. It’s do or die," he says.
Philippou's MMA career was never a part of a grand strategy, so it makes sense that the powerful puncher takes the same approach to individual fights. When the fighter says he doesn't strategize for bouts, he isn't being arrogant - he just respects the fight enough to know that it is, in large part, a contained chaos outside his or anyone else's complete control.
"I don’t make game plans. I just go out there and fight," Philippou says.
"I don’t even know what I’m going to do on fight night [laughs]. Sure, I’d like to go out there and get a quick knockout. I could tell you what I’d like to have happen but that’s not a game plan – that’s a wish. People confuse the two, a lot. Guys say, ‘I’m going to go out there, stay away from his punches and land my combinations and put him out.’ Yeah, that’s nice, but that’s not a strategy, that’s a wish. I’m going to be aggressive and throw shots because that’s just who I am, but no one knows what’s going to happen in a fight."
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