The official records say that Sean Strickland has lost two in a row: He was knocked out by Alex Pereira, who would go on to defeat Israel Adesanya in his next fight and win the UFC middleweight title, and on Dec. 17 he dropped a split decision to Jared Cannonier.
That's not the way Strickland sees it, though.
He's an exciting fighter who entered the Pereira fight on a six-bout winning streak and moving up considerably in the court of public opinion. He got drilled by Pereira, one of the biggest punchers in MMA, but he could rationalize that.
What he couldn't rationalize was losing to Cannonier. And that loss becomes even more significant now that he took a short-notice fight on Monday against Nassourdine Imavov in the main event of UFC Vegas 67 on Saturday at Apex in Las Vegas after Kelvin Gastelum had to pull out with an injury.
Strickland is in no danger of being cut, but a third loss in a row wouldn't do much for his rankings. He's seventh at middleweight, five spots above Nassourdine, though because this bout came on short notice it will be fought at light heavyweight.
So this is a fight that Strickland needs a win.
Still, he's not that concerned because he said that despite his inability to keep his focus — he told reporters at UFC Vegas 67 media day Wednesday that he suffers from "ADD" — he deserved the win over Cannonier.
"What you guys saw there was a Matrix-style of boxing," he said. "Not one f***ing punch landed. I seen everything. I was living in the f***ing Matrix. I was good in the Matrix like Bobby Green before he went to sleep. That's how good it was. But you have judges who don't know f*** about fighting and they see a big scary Black man throwing big f***ing punches and they're like, 'Oh man. That's scary. That's scary. He won the fight.'"
So he takes the fight believing that he's coming off a win and should be able to defeat Imavov. He went on to insult Imavov and suggest he'd quit because he lives in France.
It's his shtick and he's trying to put on a show, though it's a decidedly low-brow one.
But when he got the call about replacing Gastelum, it made sense on a lot of levels. His coach, Eric Nicksick, views it as a good pairing.
"Sean called me and said, 'Hey, there's an opportunity to fight Imavov on a week's notice. What do you think?'," Nicksick said. "I said, 'Bro, if they could take care of you [financially], I'd take it. I'd definitely take it.' I went and sat down and broke down tape of Imavov for three hours. Skill-for-skill, and what I think we can do, I believe this is definitely a great matchup for Sean."
Strickland was in the gym not long after losing to Cannonier because he was helping teammate Brad Tavares prepare for a fight.
He said he was getting ready for a snowboarding vacation when UFC matchmaker Mick Maynard called him.
"Mick calls me and I was like, 'Ah, Mick is going to ask me to do something I don't want to do,'" Strickland said. "Mick is actually a solid f***ing guy. To work with him is an absolute pleasure. Sean's a little rough. [Matchmaker] Sean Shelby's a little rough, but Mick, I like Mick. So he calls me and I'm like, 'F***ing Mick.' He has this little Australian accent, this suave motherf***er. He probably just got done wrestling a crocodile. ...
"Then his suave ass says, 'We'll pay you a decent amount of money,' and I said, 'Well then, I'm your f***ing huckleberry.' I'm a fighter, man."
Imavov was thankful Strickland took the fight after two hours of uncertainty, but he's put off by Strickland's over-the-top trash talk.
Asked his greatest concern about Strickland, Imavov never hesitated.
"What can he do that Gastelum [could not]? I think [he has a] big mouth," Imavov said. "I just have to be careful of what he's saying, the words that he's using. The big mouth, that's it."