This past weekend saw an onslaught of high level fisticuffs. Friday was highlighted by Bellator 153, which was then followed by the debut of Bellator Kickboxing While on Saturday, Jon “Bones” Jones made his long awaited return to action at UFC 197. With this smorgasbord of fighting full of ramifications, the biggest story to come out of the weekend may be how Ovince Saint Preux is now a made man in the sport.
During the broadcast of the UFC 197 main event, current Light Heavyweight Champion and avid wrestling fan, Daniel Cormier, aptly noted the “rub” OSP would get from an opportunity to fight a man largely considered the best in the business. A “rub” is professional wrestling jargon for building popularity via matches and interactions with a top star. Under this theory, being matched-up with an opponent that attracts more eyeballs is beneficial to a career, win or lose. At UFC 197, OSP was in line to receive the “rub” from one of the biggest names in the history of the sport. On the night he returns from a 15-month long sabbatical.
Ovince Saint Preux has been a steadily rising name in the light heavyweight division since his Strikeforce debut in 2010. He has built his reputation as a freakish athlete with dominant victories over Patrick Cummins, Ryan Jimmo and Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Yet when he was tested against some of the best the division had to throw at him (Ryan Bader and Glover Texiera) he came up short. So when the aforementioned Cormier had to pull out of his fight with Jones due to injury, the proverbial “lottery ticket”; as Saint Preux dubbed it; was dropped in his lap.
Heading into Saturday Saint Preux was a +375 underdog, which in layman’s terms is a little better than a snowball’s chance in hell. The fact that he was coming in to the fight on three weeks’ notice and he was matched-up with…JON FREAKING JONES, did not help his case with odds makers in Las Vegas. OSP had the tools to score an upset, but the likelihood was slim. He can be wild and sloppy with his technique, and against a precision striker like “Bones” that is not a favorable match-up. However, the benefit of this scenario was that by giving a good showing, Saint Preux would receive that all-important “rub”. Which could then add to his name value. And name value can equate to a better contract when the time comes.
In defeat, OSP kept the fight competitive and never seemed out-matched. It would be easy to tarnish the effort by saying the extended lay-off for Jones played a factor in his performance. But once the news came out that Saint Preux had suffered a broken arm in the second round, his effort looked like the stuff of legend. Since he fought for three rounds with the scariest fighter alive with one good arm.
Part of getting the rub and maintaining its benefits is to build off of it. In his next fight OSP will be revered as a man that went toe to toe with the best while handicapped, and could not be finished. As long as he doesn’t go on a losing streak, OSP is now an easy inclusion for future main event spots in the next few years. He battled the pound-for-pound best and earned the respect of the industry in defeat. Ovince Saint Preux got the “rub” and is now a made man.