“It was an exhibition fight,” he recalls. “The guy was like 230 pounds and no one wanted to go against him, so I said, ‘I’ll fight him.’ And he pretty much just laid on me.”
Klose has not had such issues since competing on more level playing fields in the 155-pound lightweight division, and when fighting equally matched foes, he’s unbeaten, making his Friday bout against another lightweight prospect with a “0” in the loss column – Marc Diakiese – one of the most intriguing of a stacked weekend of fights. But as he explains, that record isn’t as spotless as it seems.
“I lose every day at the gym in training,” he said. “If I’m not getting beat up, I must be at the wrong gym and I definitely get beat up at the MMA Lab.”
Home to a gang of UFC standouts past and present, the Glendale, Arizona gym led by John Crouch is a shark tank when it comes to competition, and Klose embraces those daily sessions that push him beyond his limit. Add in talent and some helpful lessons from his mom, and the 29-year-old has all the tools to become a factor in a tough division.
“My mom raised with me great values and taught me to always stay humble and grounded.” He said. “So that (an unbeaten record) doesn’t mean anything; there’s always someone better than you in the world and we leave the egos at the door in this gym. I’m training with Benson Henderson, Bryan Barberena, David Michaud. These are tough athletes and we really don’t think about the wins and losses here as long as we’re getting one percent better each day.”
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“One percent better” has long been the mantra of former UFC lightweight champion Henderson, and he’s passed it on to his teammates, who have taken it upon themselves to pass it on. That’s not surprising considering the track record of “Smooth,” whose opinions carry weight with the younger members of the gym.
“I look up to him a lot,” Klose said of Henderson, who he refers to as his “big brother.” “He’s a mentor and he tells me that if you want to be the best, train like a champion and eat like a champion and do everything as a champion.”
Michigan native Klose has absorbed those words and he’s doing his part. In January, he got a late notice call to step in and face Devin Powell, and he responded with a clear-cut unanimous decision win, putting to rest any notion of the first-time UFC jitters. Then again, he did have a little experience being around the Octagon before.
“I’ve cornered Benson in some of his fights and I was there when Bryan Barberena and David Michaud made their UFC debuts, so I’ve been around it and I know the feeling,” he said. “I was more nervous at weigh-ins than the actual fight because I know when it’s time to fight, it’s me and I can control that. A lot of that goes to helping these other elite fighters prepare for their fights.”
Now he’s the one in the UFC spotlight, with his bout against British phenom Diakiese garnering plenty of attention since it was announced. But Klose admits that he didn’t know too much about “Bonecrusher” when presented with the fight.
“I didn’t know who he was until they offered him to me,” he said. “I’ve watched about a minute of film on him and he’s a wannabe MVP. He wants to do all this fancy stuff, so we’ll see how he likes the pressure and let’s see if he can take a hit. I can tell that he likes to hit and run and he doesn’t like to get hit.”
Klose wants to make sure he tests that theory in Las Vegas, and if he can get a big win on the big stage, the second half of 2017 is going to look very interesting for him.
“This is just the beginning for me,” he said. “I’ve still got to make sure I put that hard work in, keep winning, and keep going up the ladder in the UFC. I plan on taking Marc out on July 7, and I’ll stay humble and prepare for the next opponent that the UFC gives me.”