Brad Tavares appears to be the less-buzzy fighter going into his latest fight. That’s despite being favored and more accomplished. But so goes the Brad Tavares story.
After his fifth win in a row, Tavares made it known he felt ready for the next rung up the ladder. It didn’t happen, at least not in the manner he had envisioned. Instead, he drew Yoel Romero, the Olympic wrestling silver medalist and MMA newcomer who is, quite possibly, the perfect opposite of what Tavares was seeking. Romero is talented, dangerous, lower-ranked and lesser-known. That’s not a good combination for somebody bent on the ladder.
Tavares isn’t complaining, of course. He’s adept at reciting the common line about fighting anyone they put in front of him. His desire seems genuine, but after tearing through Dongi Yang, Tom Watson, Riki Fukuda, Bubba McDaniel and Lorenz Larkin in succession, he also feels he’s earned the right to a big-time opponent.
“I definitely wanted someone already in the top 10. Romero is ranked behind me,” Tavares said in an interview with Bleacher Report. “With a guy like Yoel, he’s very tough. ... Hopefully a win boosts me into the top 10, but I don’t know.”
At least he’s fighting on the main card, for which he’s grateful. When discussing the situation, he takes on the attitude of a businessman, employing a pragmatic approach to fighting that only fails to make sense because more fighters don’t think that way. “I want the bigger stage,” Tavares said. “The better placement you get, the more it adds up to sponsorship dollars, and the more fans see you and want to see you. If you keep winning but no one knows, it’s hard to advance, so I’m glad I’m getting this opportunity.”
Romero will bring the hard-to-prepare-for power wrestling and heavy limbs that have garnered him three knockout wins in three UFC bouts, but Tavares said he’s ready for that, too. That’s thanks in part to Ray Sefo, one of his coaches at the Xtreme Couture gym in Vegas, a once-illustrious camp that has seen better days and probably needs Tavares to succeed, seeing as how he’s the best fighter on their current roster. Tavares said Sefo—who doubles as the president of the UFC rival World Series of Fighting promotion—handles the teaching end of things.
“Ray Sefo watches the tape. He’s really good at coming up with a game plan and dissecting the other guy,” Tavares said. “We found a few things to work on. I work on what Ray tells me to work on.”
Tavares said people still remember him from The Ultimate Fighter, when he lost to Court McGee in the season 11 semifinals. But he says he’s come a long way since then.
“A lot of people haven’t seen me fight since the show,” Tavares said. “People ask me if I still fight. I’ve changed a lot for the better, and I’m better in all aspects.”
Scott Harris writes about MMA for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter.