While it took (clean) Mike Malott just 39 seconds to earn his UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in October, the Canadian welterweight spent a lot longer getting there. The 30-year-old from Burlington, Ont., started training in 2005.
While it took (clean) Mike Malott just 39 seconds to earn his UFC contract on Dana White’s Contender Series in October, the Canadian welterweight spent a lot longer getting there.
The 30-year-old from Burlington, Ont., started training in 2005.
“It’s a lot of time, a lot of sacrifice – which I’m happy to do,” he said in an interview. “It’s not like I’m doing this reluctantly. I’m happy to dedicate my time to it. It’s my passion. It’s something I really want to be successful at.”
And he is beginning to enjoy the fruits of that labor.
On Saturday, Malott (7-1-1) makes his UFC debut against American Micky Gall (7-4-0) under the UFC 273 card in Jacksonville, Fla.
“Being on a pay-per-view (card) is a huge honor,” Malott said. “I’m a fan of the sport first and foremost. That’s what made me do it. I grew up watching those pay-per-views as a kid. I didn’t miss a pay-per-view. -per-view.”
The main event at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena sees Australia’s Alexander (The Great) Volkanovski defend his featherweight title against Korean Zombie, the No. 4 135-pounder whose real name is Chan Sung Jung.
Bantamweight champion Aljamain (Funk Master) Sterling will face interim title holder and former champion Petr (No Mercy) Yan of Russia in the co-main event.
Malott’s fighting career took him to California seven years ago to join Team Alpha Male. He made Sacramento his home, although he spent most of that training camp in Ontario.
“Right now the scene in southern Ontario has improved a lot,” he explained. “I have a lot of great sparring partners and people are starting to work together a lot more than when I first moved to Sacramento.
“Before, it was all really spread out and I trained in different gyms and didn’t really feel like I had a home base.”
Malott trains at Niagara Top Team in St. Catharines, Ont. Gym co-owner Chris Prickett is a close friend – and former national wrestling champion.
“A lot of guys my size (there) and a lot of guys who can emulate that Mickey Gall style really well,” Malott said.
Gall, 30, is coming off a loss in December to Alex (the Tall White) Morono that dropped his UFC record to 6-4-0. He won his first three fights in the promotion, including a submission win over the highly touted Sage Northcutt, but has since gone 3-4-0.
“He’s definitely dangerous,” said Malott, who is a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. “You can’t underestimate the guy. He’s got a pretty solid ground game. He’s tough on his feet. He’s not the most technical or precise striker, but he doesn’t seem to be afraid to fight.
“(I) definitely respect him. But I think I’m definitely better than him everywhere.”
Malott caught the eye of the UFC by dispatching Israeli Shimon (Assassin) Smotritsky via a guillotine choke for the second-fastest submission in Dana White’s Contender Series six-season history. The TV show, which takes place at the UFC’s Apex production facilities in Las Vegas, offers fighters a chance to impress the UFC president – and possibly win a contract with the UFC.
Malott took a break from fighting between February 2017 and December 2020, when he defeated Solomon (The Black Dragon) Renfro in the Cage Fury Fighting Championship promotion. It was his last action before the Dana White Contender series fight.
Malott said he took the time to reassess things.
“I kind of lost the passion for fighting,” he said. “The idea didn’t excite me. It was purely the discipline that kept me training for MMA, it wasn’t passion at all.”
So he opted for competitive jiu-jitsu instead. At the same time, Alpha Male team boss Urijah (The California Kid) Faber offered him the role of striking coach.
He then cornered Cody (No Love) Garbrandt, Andre (Touchy) Fili, Darren (The Damage) Elkins and Faber, among others, in the UFC. He estimates he’s been part of 20 UFC fight weeks already, including a previous card in Jacksonville.
“It gave me a lot more experience and confidence to come back to competition and MMA,” he said.
Malott, however, is not used to long fights. He only had to go past the first round once – in a 2015 draw with France’s Thomas Diagne in Bellator action.
His other eight fights have lasted a total of 11 minutes 26 seconds. “I’m not afraid to look for a finish and I’m not afraid to take calculated risks.”
On his last outing, he fell to the ground after grabbing Smotritsky’s neck as the two tangled. This led to the rapid suffocation.
Malott isn’t the only athlete in the family.
Younger brother Jeff is a winger in the Winnipeg Jets organization. The 25-year-old Jeff, the taller of the brothers at six-foot-three and 204 pounds, made his NHL regular-season debut on March 20 in a 6-4 win at Chicago.
Jeff Malott, who attended Cornell, has 21 goals, 15 assists and 49 penalty minutes in 54 games with the Manitoba Moose in the AHL this season.
“The kid’s not afraid to throw the mitts away if he has to,” Mike Malott said proudly. “I put the pads on him a couple of times, held him mitts and taught him some tricks. He’s tall and athletic anyway, so he’d be able to hold his own regardless. But I tried to get him showing stuff that I thought might help him in some hockey fights.”
Malott, who is 6-1 and normally weighs 185 pounds, said he wasn’t very good at hockey. But MMA caught his eye.
“I don’t know what it was, but something about the fights just clicked for me. I felt like I was able to figure it out pretty quickly and it made sense to me.”
He found a local taekwondo gym in Waterdown where he grew up, then moved on to a Muay Thai gym in Stoney Creek before moving east to attend Dalhousie University, training at Titans MMA in Halifax.
“I took fighting much more seriously than my graduation,” he said.
He made his professional debut in April 2011 at Dalhousie.
“Fighting at the weekend and going back to class on Monday,” he recalled.
Malott started out as a featherweight (145 pounds) but is now fighting at welterweight (170).
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This report from The Canadian Press was first published on April 8, 2022.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press