A loss early in a career can make or break a fighter. Time and time again we’ve seen young fighters have their long winning streaks snapped and have a tough time dealing with it.
This doesn’t just include mentally dealing with it, but rebounding in the cage as well. Take Francis Ngannou, who dropped him 10-fight win streak in a title loss to Stipe Miocic. He followed up that effort with a performance where he was tentative and complacent, ultimately losing a split decision to Derrick Lewis.
UFC lightweight Roosevelt Roberts hopes to avoid such a setback. After losing for the first time in 14-fights, a span that stretched half a decade, he initially had trouble getting back at it.
“Man, I’m not going to lie to you, the first month or two, I was so messed up from it,” Roberts said about his loss to Vinc Pichel.
For Roberts, there wasn’t one moment that turned the corner - not a single realization that things would go on. Instead it was a slow process to rebounding from this moment.
“I just had to take it one day at a time. I put so much pressure on myself,” he said. “When you go into a fight and you feel like you gave everything in it, it’s easy to be like ‘I’ve done everything I needed to do.”
And there inlies the problem. While he feels like he may have done better than the judges gave him credit for, Roberts still isn’t convinced he did everything he could to be sure of victory.
“I knew I could have pushed harder. I feel like I won the first round. I felt like the second round, I came out, I was a little tired, but I feel like I still did enough to win that round,” Roberts said. “There’s no question that he won that third round. He beat me that third round - I’ll give that to him, but I feel like I did at least enough to get that split decision.”
Coming to terms with this lack of pushing has helped Roberts deal. In addition, it’s helped him figure out what is most important, which is what is next.
“It just didn’t work that night. I just felt like mentally I wasn’t there, so I couldn’t push myself as hard as I could,” he said. “But now I’ve been working on my mental and my physical - I’m ready to go now. I’m more hungry than ever.”
Mental preparation can come in lots of forms. Some see sport psychologists or seek assistance in another form. For Roberts, it is all about remembering what came prior.
“I’ve just been focusing not so much on the bad, but focusing on where I came. I think about where I came from and how I can’t go back to that,” Roberts says, recalling him time as a troubled youth. “I feel like I was probably getting a little complacent on where I was at. I feel like I needed that [loss] because now it knocks that fire into me.”
Knowing that this isn’t the final chapter and he’s already come so far has aided Roberts. As he looks forward to his contest in Russia this Saturday, he’ll keep that firmly in the front of his mind.
“I can’t go back. I won’t go back,” Roberts said. “I had that little set back, but I won’t let that define me.”
Roberts fights Alexander Yakovlev on the preliminary portion of UFC in Moscow.