Las Vegan Evan Dunham just needed to stop caring so much.
There was a time in his UFC career when he obsessed over rankings, title shots and what every victory could mean.
“I stopped putting a lot of pressure on myself and beating myself up over little things,” the veteran lightweight said. “I don’t even think about that stuff now. I show up, I fight and then I go home. If I start looking at some people’s opinion of where I am in the division, it’s not going to be productive and I only think about productive things. I’m going to fight, I’m going to win and if I do that enough, I’ll move up.”
He’ll show up in a cage in Hidalgo, Texas, on Saturday looking for a win over late-replacement Rick Glenn on the main card of UFC Fight Night 94.
The new mindset has produced impressive results.
After losing three straight fights to fall from the title picture, he went 3-0 in 2015. Dunham was looking forward to a showdown with Abel Trujillo, but he was injured and replaced by Glenn last week.
Dunham isn’t too concerned with the change of plans.
“All my hard training had been done when the switch was made,” he said. “There were some small adjustments here and there, but really if I go in there and just fight my fight like I always do, it shouldn’t be a big problem.”
One of the biggest challenges to Dunham’s new mentality has been letting go of the frustration of a split-decision loss to Rafael dos Anjos in a 2013 fight that Dunham believed he had done enough to win. While the bout was the first of Dunham’s three straight losses, dos Anjos went on to win the 155-pound title.
A different decision could have potentially led to that script being flipped.
“I can’t think like that,” Dunham said. “It doesn’t make sense to have those thoughts go through your head because you can’t change the past. I’ve grown because of the fights that I’ve had and it’s put me in a good spot. The past is the past.”
His present consists of entering a fight against Glenn as a big favorite to win his fourth consecutive fight.
Another win or two could have him right back in title contention and the potential for the pressure that once hampered his progress to start to creep back into Dunham’s head.
“You can look at like that or just see every fight as an individual fight and not worry about what it means,” he said. “If I sit here and think about all the different things, of course it will put a lot more pressure on me. But i just approach it one day at a time and as long as I’m happy and healthy, I’m good to go. I’m just not putting pressure on myself at all and it’s led to some success.
“My goal is to be the best fighter I can be and if I can do that, I can be champion. If me being champion is a product of me being the best fighter I can possibly be, then that’s what I’m working toward.”
The bout against Glenn is part of a main card, headlined by a lightweight bout between Michael Johnson and Dustin Poirier, that will air live on Fox Sports 1 at 7 p.m. The preliminary card airs on the same network at 5 p.m.
Contact reporter Adam Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-224-5509. Follow on Twitter: @adamhilllvrj