Rick Story isn’t worried about what’s supposed to happen on paper.
On paper, he’s nearly a 2-to-1 underdog to Thiago Alves at UFC 130 this Saturday night. The 26-year-old welterweight challenges the former 170-pound No. 1 contender at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Locking up with “The Pitbull” from American Top Team is a scary proposition for most in the division. Not for Story, who asked for the opportunity to fight the Brazilian after finding his confidence on a five-fight win streak in the Octagon.
"This fight is definitely a statement fight for me. I requested for this fight. They gave me a hand. It's my time to jump all over the opportunity,” the southpaw told Inside the Cage ESPN 1450 Reno. “This is a fight that Alves is trying to make a statement and get his name back on the top of the list. It's gonna be a good fight."
Story responded to a decision loss to John Hathaway in his UFC debut with his current winning ways. The Brave Legion representative bagged $130,000 in bonus money for his first UFC victory—a back-and-forth bout with Brian Foster, which culminated in an arm-triangle choke that earned him $65,000 for Submission of the Night and $65,000 for Fight of the Night.
If that didn’t signal Story was a fighter to watch, wins against Jesse Lennox, Nick Osipczak and Dustin Hazelett did. Taking a unanimous decision as a near 2-to-1 underdog against another welterweight contender, Johny Hendricks, at The Ultimate Fighter 12 finale last December served as the jumping-off point for Story’s current contender campaign.
"The Johny Hendricks fight was kind a pivotal time in my career where it really made me feel defined as a fighter,” said Story. “Going through college wrestling and whatnot, I was never a national champion. I was a runner-up and it was NAIA. When I ended up beating Johny Hendricks, it kind of gave that self-confidence of, 'Okay, let's go.' I would say the Johny Hendricks fight is the fight where, yeah, this is my time to step up."
Part owner of Brave Legion gym in Vancouver, Washington, Story gave up a military career in the National Guard to test himself against the UFC’s sturdiest 170-pound opposition. Besting a former two-time NCAA National Champion wrestler like Hendricks in the cage when he was a runner-up in NAIA wrestling solidified his decision to commit to mixed martial arts because such accolades can be overcome by athleticism and aggression—traits Story has to spare.
"When I took second in the nation at Southern Oregon University, I didn't want to be done being competitive. When I did that, I was 21. I was thinking if I wanted to be athletic and do something athletic to further myself, I need to do it now before my body gets too old to be able to do it,” said Story. “I have the option of being an officer in the military, but it came to the point where it was either pursuing a professional fighting career or pursuing a career as an officer in the military. I chose fighting because I could always go back."
Of Alves’ eight Octagon victories, only three opponents have survived his powerful striking onslaught long enough to hear the final bell. Story isn’t intimidated though because “The Horror” brings his own elements to the cage opponents like Alves should fear. That can’t be measured on paper.
"Outside of the cage, I'm probably the most laid-back person you can ever meet. Inside the Octagon—I don't know—it's probably not something you want to be seeing across from you," he said. "It lets you get your attitude out there. You go out and the way you fight, it lets you define who you wanna be out in the cage or out in the Octagon."
Danny Acosta is the lead writer at FIGHT! Magazine. Acosta co-hosts "Inside the Cage" ESPN 1450 Reno with Greg Delong. Follow him at twitter.com/acostaislegend