UFC Vegas 47 takes place this weekend with Jack Hermansson and Sean Strickland showing up for the main event. But opening up the main card is perhaps a more exciting fight: Steven Peterson vs. Julian Erosa. The two veterans are set to square off in a featherweight bout. Erosa sits at 26-9 and has wins over Sean Woodson, Charles Jourdain, and a spectacular flying knee knockout against Nate Landwehr. But across from “Juicy J” is Peterson who is a battle tested Fortis MMA product, and one of the coaches out of the camp. He’s 19-9 and has high quality wins over Martin Bravo and Chase Hooper. Steven Peterson looks to make a third statement in a row with a win over Erosa and show that his gym is one of the best in the world, once again.
After his win over Martin Bravo, Peterson took some time off. Lingering issues couldn’t be ignored any longer and if he wanted to compete at the high level that is the UFC, he would have the take some time away and fix the problem. It’s not like the job was going anywhere as he took time off and taking that time off worked wonders.
“I had elbow bone chips in my elbow for about six years leading up to that point. It had gotten to be such a hassle in training. Honestly, I didn’t think I could keep going. Extending my arm was excruciating. Trying to sleep at night was a problem in itself. It was time to get that cleaned up and that led to me to having to take a little layoff.”
The time off wasn’t easy for Peterson. But he knew he had coaching to fall back on during his time of inactivity. He focused on the positive and came out better on the other side.
“I had to really occupy my mind elsewhere. I’m a coach as well so that was an outlet for me. I was able to still coach and corner the guys and coach some of my students and adapt really. I focused on other things in life. We’re fighters down to the core but it’s only a part of what we do.”
The Underrated Ground Game of Steven Peterson
In his last fight, Steven Peterson shocked the world by dominating Jiu Jitsu savant, Chase Hooper, with his ground game. Going into that fight, Peterson felt that a lot of people underestimated his grappling and counted him out should the fight go to the ground. But at UFC 263, it was the opposite. Instead of being a sacrificial lamb to Hooper, a fighter the UFC put a lot of media behind, it was Steven Peterson doing the grappling and dominating in the process.
“People really underestimate my ground game. I feel like I should get a lot more credit for my Jiu Jitsu. I fought multiple black belts. Matt Bessett is a black belt and I was all over him on the ground. The ground game has never been an issue for me. I don’t see why people counted me out on the ground in that fight. That was really his only way to win and I feel like it was a statement to go down there where he’s strongest at and beat him. He had a lot of hype building him up until he lost to Cacares. These undefeated fighters you can blow them up to be unbeatable.” Peterson continues, “Cacares exposed him on the feet and then I exposed him on the ground. I think he’s got some growing to do, some learning to do. I’d like to see him bounce back.”
Peterson said that he planned to show that while Hooper was great on the ground, pure Jiu Jitsu doesn’t always translate to the same success in MMA. The Jiu Jitsu in mixed martial arts required a different approach and a different set of skills to translate over successfully.
“More of my grit. On the ground I was just game. I can take the fight everywhere. I’m going to be throwing shoulder strikes, elbows, hammerfists. With Chase I had to be careful to not to over extend myself on any of these punches. He was very tricky so I had to play that game a little bit. For the most part, I just feel I’m slick on the ground as well. I’ve seen everything he brought to the table and I was able to counter effectively and just that little extra violence makes it hard to do what you want to do on bottom.”
Steven Peterson vs. Julian Erosa at UFC Vegas 47
Pivoting to his fight with Julian Erosa at UFC Vegas 47, Steven Peterson touts the amount of experience both he and his opponent have. He points to the excitement both he and his opponent have shown in the past as a sign of things, exciting things, to come.
“There’s no way this fight’s not entertaining. Julian Erosa has got 26 wins. I got 19 wins. I don’t know who else is on the card with more fights than either of us. We’re both really experienced, we bring good fights. He’s got a couple really good wins; he’s got that flying knee knockout over Nate Landwehr and then his last win, he pulled that slick Brabo choke off.”
Speaking of the Brabo choke, Julian Erosa has made a good name for himself using the submission. After getting a couple in the regional scene, he’s come away with two on the highest level: the aforementioned Landwehr and Sean Woodson. Steven Peterson says that he is aware of the danger and has been working on defending the choke. That said, he’s still confident in his grappling to take the advantage on the ground as well.
“He’s done that a few times. Obviously that’s something that I’ve studied going into the fight and don’t plan to fall victim to. You’ve got to be aware of these things and that leads to an exciting fight. Obviously I can’t scramble or sit in these bad positions. I have to avoid these positions where I can potentially go there. I think it will make for a good sprawl and brawl fight. I don’t think he wants to go to the ground with me necessarily. I think it might be more opportunistic. But on the ground, I should have the strength advantage and my Jiu Jitsu is amongst the best as far as MMA goes. So it’s kind of tricky where this fight’s going to take place. I think most of it’s going to be on the feet, it’s going to be a banger and that’s what the fans like to see.”
After chasing a couple heel hooks on Chase Hooper, something that Hooper himself is known for, I asked Peterson if it was tempting to go after a Brabo against Erosa. With a laugh, he said he’s not the most familiar with finishing there, although he can, and it’s not something that he’s going out to do against Erosa.
“If it’s there, I’ll take it. With Chase, that was one thing I wanted to get him with: the heel hook. Just a minor little adjustment when I looked back. I could have got it, I missed it in the transition. But no, that’s definitely not one of my go-to’s. I would rather get him with something I’ve done before. I don’t want to say too much but I’ve got some really good submissions up my sleeve that some have not seen yet. I got a couple that I’ve made up that I could very well pull off.”
The Culture of Fortis MMA
Steven Peterson is an inaugural member of the now-famed Fortis MMA gym in Texas. With names like Peterson, Diego Ferreira, Alex Morono and more, Peterson is happy with the team the gym owners, Sayif Saud and Deron Williams, have brought in.
“Coach Sayif [Saud] owns most of the gym but he partnered up with Deron Williams. He kind of helped build it up and just having Deron involved is really cool. Deron trains with us, Deron comes to strength and conditioning with us. He’s one of the guys. It’s cool to have him around, he’s a high level athlete.”
Peterson even took a moment to embellish on the beginning of Fortis. He and his team are super proud of not only the depth of talent, but also the quality of talent as well.
“We come in, we put in the work, and we’re a family. Most of us have been there from the start. We came from Octagon MMA. We had an MMA team over there and we were kind of ostracized, you know, the grunts and the brutes. Eventually, coach Sayif opened up Fortis MMA with Deron and we basically built the place. Me and a few of the other guys put in the mats, put in the bag racks, put in the cages, carried the the statue of Popeye all the way up the stairs. There’s three of us and a a 500 pound statue that we had to put up. All these memories of building the gym from the ground up and I headlined the first LFA card in Dallas soon after we first opened the gym. Many of the other guys fought on that as well. We just continued to grow from there. We built up quite a great amateur program as well. We’ve gone from maybe 20 pros to, I’d say, 40 or 50 and 20 guys in the UFC. It’s incredible.”
And the example comes from the top. With Deron Williams, a three time NBA All-Star and a fan of fights, that work ethic trickles down. Williams, who made his pro boxing debut last December against the NFL’s Frank Gore, put his money where his mouth was with that fight. He showed up and put in the required work for his debut boxing match.
“He sees all of us training for our fights and it was just, ‘Follow the path, follow the game plan.’ He did what he needed to do. When he went in there, he was telling us, ‘Man, it is nothing like training,'” Peterson said with a laugh. “You don’t know what’s going on in there. It’s true, when you get in a fight, it’s a whole art in itself. He’s used to competing on a high level and composing himself in front of a crowd playing basketball and now playing golf. But fighting’s a lot more chaotic than either of those sports.”
Finally, circling back around to the fight with Julian Erosa at UFC Vegas 47, Steven Peterson offers one good reason to tune in: entertainment.
“Do you not like to be entertained? If you like entertainment, this fight embodies entertainment.”
Regardless of the outcome, both Peterson and Erosa can promise a good, old fashioned fist fight. Tune in on February 5th for just that.