As a longtime veteran of the UFC, it has been a lengthy road for middleweight Alan Belcher. The native of Biloxi, Mississippi has been fighting for the organization since 2006. But for “The Talent”, the last two years have easily been the most difficult. After defeating Patrick Cote at UFC 113 in May 2010, Belcher was set to face Demian Maia at UFC Fight Night 22 in Austin, Texas in September. However, prior to that matchup, Belcher began experiencing vision problems. He then went to a doctor to figure out exactly what the issue was.
Belcher was diagnosed with a detached retina, an issue that forced him to undergo surgery. He had to withdraw from that scheduled fight, and underwent a long road back to return to the Octagon. After suffering a setback, causing a second surgery, Belcher recovered and rehabbed for the next year. He then returned to the UFC in September 2011, defeating Jason MacDonald at UFC Fight Night 25 in New Orleans, just a few hours from his hometown.
Now Belcher sees himself facing yet another test, in the form of Rousimar Palhares at UFC on Fox 3 on May 5th. Unlike the vision issues, the American knows what lies ahead of him, with the Brazilian amongst the most feared in the UFC on the ground.
“Rousimar is a very, very dangerous opponent,” Belcher said to MMAFrenzy.com. “He has a great ground game, and people are scared of his leg locks. Hell, I am scared of them. But I like that. It gives me a nervous energy, which I thrive on. Every time I have fought someone bigger or stronger, I have risen to the occasion. While it is easy to feel overconfident, this mental game keeps me ready.”
Palhares, as he mentions, has become well known for his grappling, specifically his leg locks. With four leg lock submissions in his last sixfights, it is easy to see why that is the case. But Belcher feels he has a great way to avoid being caught in a leg lock- avoid being on the ground entirely.
“I’m going to try and keep this fight standing,” Belcher explained. “I am going to have to stay away from the grappling, especially to prevent being caught in a leg lock. But even if I do get stuck in a grappling situation, I am a black belt in jiu-jitsu. So I have been “pre-creating” those situations with my training partners to prepare me in case I do find myself on the ground.”
After returning to the UFC following a 16 month layoff, Belcher admitted he was quite nervous going into his most recent fight. He had those nerves for a few reasons, specifically because he was fighting in front of his hometown crowd, and because he needed to find out if he truly was ready to return following the severity of the visual issues he experienced.
When asked what made him more nervous, Belcher was unsure.
“That is a tough one to answer,” Belcher said. “They were both on my mind going into that fight. But if I had to say one, I guess it would have been more about the layoff. The same people that always see me fight got to see me fight, but going into that fight, I questioned myself. I had to make sure I still had that fire and desire to fight.”
Those questions seemingly were answered, and quickly, against MacDonald. Belcher dismantled “The Athlete’, defeating him via strikes just 3:48 into the first round.
But even after that victory, questions still remain concerning Belcher and his vision. He admits that questions will always linger with him for the duration of his career, just because of the unawareness that surrounds his injury. But Belcher has full confidence again, and that is what is most important for him and his career.
“If I was in a shooting contest, it might be noticeable,” Belcher said of the injury. “But when I am fighting or grappling, I can’t even tell a difference. This injury, along with my two children, has helped me grow up over the last few years. It really has changed my outlook on everything.”
That outlook very well could include a possible opportunity to fight for the UFC middleweight title, something Belcher has long been working for. After six years, Belcher feels he is close to that goal.
“I can’t say exactly how close I am. All I know is I am very excited to be fighting on Fox and so close to New York City,” said Belcher. “It is an honor. But after this fight, if I win, I can’t imagine I am more than two fights away from fighting for the title.”