THE CHALLENGER’S QUEST OR THE CHAMPION’S DESTINY?
On December 8, 2017, TJ Laramie scored a dominant unanimous decision victory over Charles Jourdain to become the TKO featherweight champion. Let’s put that in another light: on December 8, 2017, a 20-year old from Windsor, Ontario traveled to Montreal, Quebec to compete in the main event before 4,500 screaming fans in the Bell Centre on a card that aired live throughout the world to become the undisputed king of 145 pound division, the deepest weight class in terms of talent in the TKO organization.
That night was undoubtedly the greatest of the young man’s professional career but the celebration was of short order as he immediately began to focus on what was next. “Thinking about that win today”, said Laramie, “I can’t get caught up in the past. In the big picture of things, winning the TKO championship is a step in getting to where I want to be.” Always looking to improve, Laramie was hoping to soon face a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, something he hadn’t had the opportunity to do thus far in his career.
Enter Joao Luiz Nogueira. TKO fans saw the 33-year old Brazilian compete at TKO40 last September when he came out victorious over local favorite Alex Morgan. Nogueira showed veteran poise throughout that fight, doing the little things very well to the point that many questioned whether he was actually the best featherweight in the promotion. Further evidence supporting that statement is the fact that he is currently riding a 10-fight win streak spanning 5 years and has never been defeated when competing at 145 pounds. “I’m happy if people think that” declared Nogueira, “it gives me the motivation to work hard and prove it.”
Although he has respect for his contender’s accomplishments, Laramie was quick to remind us of who is the champion going into the main event of TKO42 on March 16. “I’m already the best featherweight, that’s why I have the belt. I show consistency and that’s what’s most important in the fight game. The TJ Laramie from December is dead and gone and a better one will show up on March 16.”
Despite that statement, one has to wonder what the young man can bring to the table that a man with 32 pro fights and who has travelled around the world to compete has not seen as of yet. “Just youth and desire to win” said the champion. “Many of his wins aren’t over impressive opposition. Records don’t scare me, I’ve been in the room with high level UFC fighters. I know where I belong.”
The always confident Laramie did not hesitate to point out the elements he intends to exploit come fight night. “I’m a very bad matchup for anyone who is a specialist. To me, he hasn’t gotten better in the last 10 years. His striking, his whole style hasn’t evolved; he’s grappling heavy. I’ll be able to nullify what he’s good at and take advantage of what he lacks.”
Nogueira on the other hand feels he has all the tools to be crowned champion: “I think he is a good fighter and he’s going to work hard. I’m bringing a complete game that he’s never seen before.”
There are so many question marks going into this main event fight that one cannot help but wonder what the outcome will be. Will Laramie dare go to the ground with a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt? Will Nogueira’s experience be his guiding light to victory? Will both keep the fight standing and go for a big KO?
With the depth of talent TKO currently has in the featherweight, you can bet there will be many interested parties paying close attention to how this one turns out as it will define just what road things will take in 2018 and, most importantly, who will be the king of the mountain all will be looking to topple.
TKO42: Nogueira vs Laramie goes down Friday, March 16 at Place Bell in Laval, Quebec. Tickets are on sale now by calling 1-855-634-4472 or online at www.evenko.ca and the Place Bell box office. If you can’t be there in person, you can catch all the action live on UFC Fight Pass and in Canada on the Fight Network.
– Story by Patrick Lono, TKO