A first round submission loss to Sam Alvey in July would have bookended the UFC chapter in Eric Spicely’s MMA career, but a last minute opportunity to compete at UFC Fight Night 95 turned what would have been a swan song into a commencement ceremony.
The whims of fate saved Spicely from a raging storm.
His team had been informed earlier that he was being cut from the UFC after his first loss as a professional fighter. The usual three-and-done module wasn’t afforded to Spicely, which was a bit surprising given his resume. Not to mention the fact that Alvey is one of the more skilled fighters at 185 pounds. Spicely wasn’t scraping the bottom of the division.
But that didn’t stop the UFC from forwarding his release. The papers were hot off the printer and ready to be processed when Spicely suddenly received another offer. In the middle of the UFC’s change of ownership, news of Spicely being released from the company got lost during the transition, and he was given an opportunity to step in against No. 15-ranked middleweight fighter Thiago Santos. The bout would take place on the main card of UFC Fight Night 95 in Brasilia.
“With the sale and the [UFC] doing so many events back-to-back, they just hadn’t got around to processing my paperwork. So I was still on the roster, and they had this opportunity for me if I wanted to take it,” Spicely told Today’s Knockout. “And I took it without even thinking [about it].”
It was a tougher fight than Alvey on paper, as Santos was one of the top-ranked fighters in the world. It isn’t the type of fight that a fighter would normally take coming off a loss, but Spicely’s back was against the wall.
Fate offered him a path down the road of most resistance, and he had no other choice but to oblige. So he began his improbable journey.
“It was tough man because I had just lost to the No. 25-ranked guy and then they put me in with the No. 15-ranked guy,” said Spicely. “At first, I was down like, ‘They really want to get me out of here, and they don’t believe in me.’ It’s a business and that’s how it goes. I changed my mindset and got my head on straight, and I got more positive. I realized that if I beat this guy I could steal his momentum and popularity.”
And that’s exactly what Spicely did.
He made the long trip to Brazil as an overwhelming underdog and submitted Santos in front of his home country in the first round. Jaws hit the floor as Spicely locked up a rear naked choke and referee John McCarthy intervened for the stoppage. You would have been hard-pressed to find a single Eric Spicely believer outside of his inner circle before the fight. It took less than three minutes to show the entire MMA world how wrong they’d been.
“It’s still pretty surreal,” Spicely said. “I had confidence in myself and I know what I’m capable of. It’s different because the whole world doesn’t know what you’re capable of. Everyone counted me out, and so it was good to go in there and be dominant and get to show the fighter that I really am that I didn’t get to show in my debut.”
After losing to Alvey, Spicely moved his training camp to Tristar in Montreal. It was a significant transition that he credits as being the crucial move in his recent success. There was no question that he looked like a completely different fighter when he stepped into the cage with Santos.
Confidence tends to come easier when you’re training with some of the best fighters in the world. Since his move to Tristar, Spicely has had an opportunity to train alongside former UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, as well as other world-class fighters like Tarec Saffiedine, Francis Carmont, Joe Duffy and Zach Makovsky.
That kind of training really helps put things into perspective.
“I’m training with these guys, and I’m doing well. So it’s like I can compete at this level, I do deserve to be here,” said Spicely.
The icing on the cake was getting a chance to train with St-Pierre, who is arguably the greatest fighter in MMA history. Spicely claims that the former pound-for-pound king made himself readily available throughout his training camp.
“It was surreal. I’ve been watching him on TV for a very long time, and he is honestly one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met in fighting,” said Spicely. “He came up to me my first day and was like, ‘Do you care if I give you some tips or some help? I was watching you spar.’ And he didn’t have to do any of that stuff. I’m a nobody, and he went out of his way to make sure I got the best training possible — that I got the best information possible and was well-prepared for my fight.”
Not only did Spicely earn the most significant win of his professional career, but he also won a $50,000 performance of the night bonus. He celebrated his win and bonus after the fight the best way he knew how.
“I went back to my hotel room and I watched ‘Seinfeld,’” said Spicely.
A little relaxation is next on the itinerary after six fights this year, including his time on The Ultimate Fighter. But when he returns, he expressed interest in a fight with Caio Magalhaes. According to Spicely, Magalhaes called him out after his win over Santos.
The two fighters have already exchanged pleasantries on Twitter.
You can catch this heat boiiiiiii https://t.co/2Koj7efgGp
— Zebrinha MMA (@EricSpicely) October 12, 2016
Time will tell if the UFC actually books that fight. Spicely will simply enjoy his victory for now and give his body a chance to recuperate.
He has certainly earned the marathon version of “Seinfeld” R&R.