Tristan Connelly drops to featherweight for UFC return after 19-month layoff

Interview with Tristan Connelly above

After a successful promotional debut at welterweight against Michel Pereira in September 2019 on short notice, Tristan Connelly makes his long-awaited return at 145 pounds this weekend at UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Vancouver native underwent neck surgery last year due to the lingering effects of a car accident in 2018 and began his road to recovery. During rehabilitation, ‘Boondock’ embarked on his journey to featherweight.

“Welterweight really doesn’t count,” Connelly told MyMMANews. “After getting neck surgery, I had some time where I could really diet because I couldn’t really train like I normally am so I put some focus on trying to cut weight before I started training for a fight. So I started at a lower base point. I don’t know if I will be able to maintain it long-term but I’d figured hey man, ‘it’s the UFC’. There’s a lot of guys cutting a lot of weight. I have an opportunity to try and make a run for it so I figured let’s try one fight.

“This fight is going to be fine. It’s going to be the next fight. We’ll see what happens after this camp if I start eating a little more. I’m still training really hard. Do I start putting a lot of muscle back on. I gotta see how my body responds from there. It might not be my permanent home but I think at least for one or two fights I want to see if I can maintain the weight. If I can I’ll keep it going so it’s a bit of an experiment really.”

Three months after getting artificial disks inserted into his neck, Connelly slowly got back into training. He went down to Las Vegas at the beginning of this year and hit the ground running while splitting his time at the major hot spots around town.

“My main gym is 10th Planet Vegas which is run by Casey Halstead,” Connelly revealed. “I do all my drilling, my technical training and wrestling training all with him. Go to Xtreme Couture and go spar. Go to Syndicate and spar.

“Julian Erosa has been my main guy this whole camp. I came here when he was in the middle of his camp and I jumped right into things with him. Me and him are both cardio animals. Both of us have a hard time finding people that make us tired. Julian’s an absolute monster. He is one of the only people that exhausts me. There’s no comfortable position with him.”

Inside the Vystrar Veterans Memorial Arena, Tristan Connelly will clash with former CFFC featherweight champion Pat Sabatini. The 35-year-old Canadian has a new lease on life entering the Octagon for the second time.

“I think I am going to be better than ever honestly,” he said. “I feel better than ever. I’ve spent so much time thinking about this. I’ve always been mentally strong, it’s always my strength and I feel like I’ve doubled down on that.

“I’ve really dissected a lot of the feelings and things and the emotions. I’ve done a lot of visualizing and I’m really excited to get back in there. I’m more okay with losing now than I have ever been. One, because the UFC is killers. And two, that’s the way you gotta be. You gotta be okay with losing but not okay with giving an inch. My only job is to go in there and fight my heart out.”

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John Hyon Ko
South Korea-based combat sports reporter that covers many of the major organizations around the world.