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Brad Pickett: A Bantamweight Comes Home

Brad Pickett never held his tongue when it came to his move to flyweight while it was going on, and he certainly isn’t holding back now as he returns to the familiar confines of the bantamweight division.

“I hated my time down at 125,” he said. “All my three fights, even though I won one, I didn’t feel they were good. I always felt that I was a better bantamweight fighter. So as soon as I got beat by Chico Camus, I knew that title shot door shut. I’d have to at least win two, and I said I’d rather go up a weight class and be involved in good fights.”

The move back ten pounds south surprised no one, even though the time at flyweight was spent with the best of intentions. In Pickett’s eyes, a couple big wins could have put him in a title fight with a man he defeated in the WEC back in 2010, current champion Demtetrious Johnson. It was a solid plan, but after defeating Neil Seery in his 125-pound debut, decision losses to Ian McCall and Chico Camus prompted him to return home.

“Obviously it was my last fight,” he said of the catalyst for the jump back to 135 pounds. “I lost a split decision against Chico Camus. I actually still feel I won that fight, but even if I did win that fight, if I was on the good end of a split decision, it was a fight I wasn’t happy to be involved in. For me, it’s just boring, and I hate having to chase someone around a ring and try to get them to fight me. I understand it and I know it’s what a lot of people do nowadays as a tactic, but I just find at flyweight, it’s very much a point scoring system rather than trying to finish people. Everyone’s trying to win the rounds and not trying to put each other away.”

Pickett has always been the trying to put his opponent away guy, and it endeared him to fans of both the WEC and UFC. But it was in the bantamweight division where that reputation as an all-out action hero was forged, and he’s got the numbers to prove it.

“I just want to be involved in good fights,” he said. “I’m not really much of a stat man, but I had six fights at bantamweight (in the UFC) with five bonuses. I had three fights at flyweight and didn’t get any. Stylistically, I think I perform so much better at bantamweight than I do at flyweight.”

When it comes to styles, Pickett couldn’t have a more pleasing matchup than he will on Saturday against unbeaten Brazilian phenom Thomas Almeida. That doesn’t mean an easy matchup, just one that will produce action, as Pickett tries to hand his 19-0 opponent his first pro loss. As for that imposing record, which includes two UFC wins and two post-fight bonuses, the 36-year-old veteran isn’t too worried, not surprising when your fight ledger includes the names Johnson, Renan Barao, Eddie Wineland, Michael McDonald and Scott Jorgensen.

“Honestly, records don’t bother me that much,” he said. “But when I look at him as a fighter, I think he’s very solid. He has very good stand-up, very Chute Boxe style stand-up, and I know for a fact I’m not going to find it hard to find him inside the cage. He’s going to be standing there right in front of me, trying to put me away, and likewise from me. He gets hit, even though he has good defense, he can take a punch, and I can get hit and take a punch, so I just think it’s a really good fight.”

It’s also a winnable one, considering that Almeida is not afraid of going toe-to-toe with anyone, and that Pickett has the stopping power to put a dent in anyone’s weekend plans.

“He’s taller than me, he has a longer reach than me, but he fights a short man’s game, and I love fighting inside the pocket,” the East London native said. “I call my style ‘controlled chaos.’ It looks chaotic but I know exactly what I’m doing in there. And also, when I’m in there I can mix it up from punches to takedowns to keep him guessing as well, so I do like the matchup.”

Most importantly though, Pickett is happy to be back where he belongs, and happy to be eating again.

“I’m training on a full stomach rather than eating a couple of berries,” he laughs. “It’s so much easier to get better, where when I was fighting at flyweight, I was training to lose weight rather than training to get better.”

He’ll even take the occasional shiner, like the one he sported a couple weeks back while Octagonside for the UFC Fight Night event in Hollywood, Florida.

“It’s an occupational hazard,” he said. “I literally always have a black eye when I’m training, I don’t know why. It’s like my uniform. If I don’t have a black eye, it’s because I’m not training.”

As for the future, Pickett may be seen as someone in the position of starting over as he returns to bantamweight, but he is willing to take the road once traveled by former middleweight champion Rich Franklin. Franklin’s goal after losing a pair of fights to Anderson Silva wasn’t necessarily to get back to a world title, but to just be put in bouts people wanted to see. Pickett’s cool with that scenario for the moment.

“I’m in a different chapter in my career,” he said. “If I beat this guy, I’ll probably get into the rankings, but I don’t care about rankings and that sort of stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a very proud person, so it is nice to be recognized for your hard work, but at the end of the day I just want to be involved in good fights. I know that I probably don’t have that many left in me, but the ones I’m going to be involved in, I want people to talk about.”

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