Ramsey Nijem: A Long Way from the TUF Days
Nearly two years since making his UFC debut against Tony Ferguson in the Ultimate Fighter season 13 finale, Ramsey Nijem is 3-1 in the Octagon with a big fight against unbeaten Myles Jury coming up this Saturday in San Jose. But when you remind him of his stay in the organization, he almost canít believe it.
ďIt actually only feels like six months to be honest,Ē he said. ďIím like holy hell, Iíve been in the UFC two years now? Thatís crazy. But Iíve had a couple injuries and havenít had that many fights, so it really doesnít feel like two years.Ē
Heís had enough to make an impression though, as he bounced back from a loss to Ferguson in the TUF 13 final to defeat Danny Downes, CJ Keith, and Joe Proctor in succession, building himself a solid reputation in the notoriously tough 155-pound weight class.
ďI really think Iím starting to get the hang of this, and Iím developing and becoming a better fighter each time,Ē he said. ďIím starting to be able to throw punches, get takedowns, use jiu-jitsu, and do everything together to become a complete fighter. And though Iím working towards that, I still focus on one fight at a time. Each time Iíve got to in great shape because Iíve got to be ready for a war, and I think with that attitude, itís helped me get those three wins in a row.Ē
Itís been a wild ride so far for Nijem, one that truly began on TUF, as he practically came out of nowhere to finish Charlie Rader, Clay Harvison, and Chris Cope, punching his ticket to the finals in the process. With the recent season of the reality show in the books, the 25-year-old reflects on the whole experience, from being in the house for six weeks to his first UFC fight week.
ďThe first time you have a fight week itís a weird experience,Ē he said. ďI was fighting on small, regional shows, and the first time you go on a big fight week youíre there four, five nights ahead of time, people want your autograph and itís a weird thing. But now Iím starting to get used to it and it becomes part of your fighting lifestyle.Ē
Nijem entered the house with just five pro fights, and even though he showed promise on the local circuit, being able to fight full-time at that point was a pipe dream at best.
ďMost fighters arenít able to train full-time until youíre in the UFC, and even then some donít,Ē he said. ďSo the first time going into the TUF house, it was the first time I ever trained when I wasnít working, going to school, and dealing with all these other responsibilities, so it was kinda cool to be able to train twice a day really hard, relax between workouts, and think about nothing other than training and fighting. So that was a cool experience and it definitely helped me develop as a fighter early on in my career faster than any other way.Ē
Add in his work with The Pit team both in Utah and California, and Nijem has reached the point where nothing that can happen in a fight can be worse than what goes on in the gym.
ďWhen you have a hard fight camp, youíre like man, the fightís gonna be a heck of a lot easier than this,Ē he said. ďWeíve got UFC vets and a bunch of young, hungry fighters coming out of our gym, so weíve got a good mix. The young guys come at you, the vets put it on you too, so you never get an easy day or a day off. Thatís how you become a better fighter.Ē
And unlike his opponent this weekend, Nijem got the ď0Ē off his record early, losing in his second pro bout to Gordon Bell in 2009. You might not think thatís a big deal, but Jury is likely dealing with more questions about his unbeaten record than his opponent, and that can add pressure to any fighterís pre-fight prep as he looks to keep that slate clean.
ďOne thing that (former UFC heavyweight champ and his coach on TUF 13) Junior dos Santos said was Ďonce you lose, you lose the fear of losing,íĒ recalled Nijem. ďAnd it helped. Iím more relaxed because when I fight whatís the worst that can happen? I can get knocked out on national TV again? (Laughs) Thatís not that big of a deal anymore, and it definitely helps with the nerves. Some people build up the hype of fighting an undefeated guy, but it will actually be the third undefeated guy I fight, so Iím not too stressed about it. You have to take each fight as they come, and I think itís a good fight for me and Iím gonna give him his first loss.Ē
Is the affable Nijem showing a mean streak?
ďI like being the spoiler,Ē he laughs. ďItís fun going out there and being the underdog and putting it on someone and having them be like Ďoh damn, heís better than I thought.íĒ
With the way things have been going, donít expect Nijem to be an underdog much longer.
ďI feel like Iíve made a name for myself at í55,Ē he said. ďI had a couple dominant wins, and this fight is a good fight for me. Once I go out there and put it on Myles, people are gonna start being like Ďoh, Ramsey deserves a top 15 or top 10 opponent.í A win like this over someone with so much hype around him should put me in the upper tier of the Ď55ers. I feel like I deserve to be there and thatís where I want to be.Ē