Weird as it may sound, Ross Pearson says "the decision" in his last fight has actually been a blessing in disguise.
Two months ago, Pearson (15-7) outclassed Diego Sanchez in a three-round contest at a UFC Fight Night in Albuquerque, New Mexico. To just about everyone watching, Pearson won all three rounds and earned what would have been his third win in four fights.
And then the worst decision in mixed martial arts this year happened. Judges Chris Tellez and Jeff Collins somehow scored the bout in favor of Sanchez (25-7) -- Collins by a score of 30-27, no less -- awarding the hometown fighter the split decision.
Pearson, 29, filed an appeal with the New Mexico Athletic Commission to no avail. Officially, the bout will always be a loss on his record.
Unofficially, however, it has been anything but. The UFC paid Pearson his win bonus and booked him against Abel Trujillo, who is on a win streak, in his next fight. Injury ultimately knocked Trujillo out of the bout and Pearson will now fight Gray Maynard on this weekend’s UFC Fight Night event in Bangor, Maine.
The scoring of the Sanchez fight was so egregious, Pearson says, it has garnered him more attention than he believes a win would have. Attention in MMA is never bad.
"I think it's had a positive effect on my career," Pearson said. "I've built a lot of fans based on it. The media has been talking about it. The only negative effect is that it's a loss on my record."
Prior to his 155-pound fight opposite Maynard (11-3-1) on Saturday, Pearson spoke to ESPN.com more about the Sanchez decision, where he feels he's at 12 fights into his UFC career and the opponent ahead of him this weekend.
ESPN.com: You spent your entire camp for this fight in England, rather than travel to Alliance MMA in San Diego as you usually do. How did it work out?
Pearson: The last time I held a camp in England was the Spencer Fisher fight, so that would have been Feburary 2011. It was only a four-week training camp. Travel to San Diego is a 12-to-15-hour flight for me. Then travel six hours back to Maine -- it would have been a lot of travel time. It's actually been a great camp and [Alliance coach] Eric del Fiero will still be in my corner.
ESPN.com: You’ve had back-to-back unfortunate results in your last two fights, with the no contest against Melvin Guillard and the Sanchez decision. What's that done to your sense of momentum going into the Maynard fight?
Pearson: Right now, I feel unbeaten since I signed to fight George Sotiropoulos. I feel like I haven’t lost a fight since then, even though my record speaks differently. I have a lot of momentum, going in there and beating Diego convincingly. I know what it feels like to outclass a guy and that’s exactly what I felt that night.
The only thing I could see is it's made me more eager to get a finish. I need to finish. Going into the Diego fight, we knew it was going to be tough. He doesn't get taken out in the first round. We had to outthink him, outsmart him. I did that, but it goes to show two people can see a fight differently than the rest of the world.
ESPN.com: More eager for a finish - - but at the same time, you did intelligently beat Sanchez according to most. So, you don’t want to change dramatically off that, right?
Pearson: Yeah, I've been in this sport a long time and the harder I try to finish a fight, the more it doesn't come. That's kind of the balance I'm having with myself. Want the finish, but let it come to you. I just want to flow in this fight. I want to look classy and look comfortable against a ranked guy.
I know for a fact if I land the shots that we've been practicing, I'll take Gray out. His defense is nonexistent. I have to use angles, set it up and land that shot.
ESPN.com: Maynard has been known as a durable fighter throughout his career, but he's been knocked out in three of his last four fights. You think miles have caught up on him and affected his chin or has he just been hit by clean shots lately?
Pearson: I think it's a little bit of both. I think he's questioning his own abilities and his chin. When I fight, I have no fear of, "this guy might knock me out." I think Gray is worrying about it. He's stressing about his ability to weather a storm.
ESPN.com: You hit your five-year anniversary in the UFC this year. You’re 7-4 with the promotion. Are you happy with where you're at five years in?
Pearson: I definitely feel like I'm hitting my prime. I guess I'm a bit of a slow learner as far as getting comfortable in the cage -- feeling confident. When I started off in the UFC I was 24 years old. I doubted my ability in wrestling, jiu-jitsu, even stand-up. All I ever watched as a young kid was the UFC, these great knockouts. I felt thrown into the deep end.
ESPN.com: Past Maynard, you have any ideas for the rest of the 2014? Any specific card you’d like to fight on or certain opponent?
Pearson: I would definitely love to fight in November. The first half of this year was pretty s-----. I was injured and had to pull out of a fight. I definitely plan on using the second half to make this a big year. I'm getting married in September and I'd love to fight in Australia in November. If I beat Gray impressively, I should get an opponent ranked in the top five.