Ovince Saint Preux has made it to the big time in mixed martial arts, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots as a University of Tennessee football player.
Saint Preux will be wearing UT colors Saturday night when he takes on Ukrainian fighter Nikita Krylov in the opening bout of the UFC 171 Pay Per View main card.
“Tell everybody to look for me in the Tennessee Orange fighting pants,” Saint Preux said Wednesday by telephone from Dallas, where the fights will take place in American Airlines Arena.
Saint Preux, a native of Immokalee, Fla., played defensive end for the Vols (2001-04) and started his career in MMA about six years ago under the tutelage of Eric Turner, who continues to coach him.
Saint Preux, who trains at the Knoxville Martial Arts Academy, stays connected to the UT football program.
“I’m still over in the weight room working out from time to time,” he said. “I was just at the opening (spring) practice the other day. I’m a true VFL (Vol For Life) at heart.
Saint Preux’s record in MMA is 24-5, which includes a 10-0 amateur record and 14-5 record as a professional. In his last two fights, Saint Preux is 2-0, both in UFC, the highest level of MMA.
“I’m definitely excited,” Saint Preux said. “I was in a position where I guess I didn’t know what I was getting into when I first started, and just given the fact that I made it this far is a blessing in itself, because a lot of guys have been in this sport a lot longer than I have and haven’t made it to where I’ve made it.”
Krylov, nicknamed “Al Capone,” is 16-3-0 as a pro. He is coming off a knockout at the 25-second mark of the first round of his last fight against heavyweight Walt Harris.
“He’s only 22 (years old),” Saint Preux said of Krylov. “He’s pretty good. I think probably 14 of his wins have come by knockout, so it definitely tells you it’s going to be a tough challenge for me, but if you’re fighting within the UFC, nothing’s going to come easy. Everything’s going to be a pretty good challenge.”
In his most recent fight last August, Saint Preux scored a knockout at 2:07 of the first round against Brazilian jiu jitsu black belt Cody Donovan.
“I didn’t knock him out standing up,” Saint Preux said. “I knocked him out actually in his guard (a hold on the mat). I just kind of postured up, and when I postured up, I just threw a couple of left hands, and I knew after the first one landed, I was waiting for the ref to come get me off him.”