What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received? Maybe it was a Playstation 2. Maybe it was the jersey of your favorite football player, or a special toy you just couldn’t live without growing up. For the UFC’s Steven Peterson, the answer to this question is easy. It was the opportunity to ply his trade on the world’s biggest stage.
“I was stoked to get that call the day after Christmas,” Peterson told Combat Press. “They originally wanted me to debut that weekend, but things didn’t work out with my opponent. So now I’m making my debut this month.”
Peterson will make his first official Octagon appearance at the promotion’s UFC Fight Night 126 event on Sunday, Feb. 18, in Austin, Texas. Peterson, whose record stands at 16-6, will face Humberto Bandenay, who holds a 14-4 mark. The featherweight bout is technically the second for Peterson under the UFC umbrella. Peterson competed on the first season of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series last year. He lost a close split decision to Benito Lopez on the show, which meant Peterson had to go back once again to the regional circuit, where he made his mettle.
“It was really different — everything happened really fast,” Peterson said of his experience on the show. “It was weird to go from fighting in front of big crowds to fighting in front of a small crowd in a warehouse. It felt kind of hot and humid, and I could hear everyone’s voice and Dana’s voice. But I know they want to take you out of your comfort zone and bring the dog out of you.”
After his appearance on DWTNCS, Peterson returned to the Legacy Fighting Alliance, where he won his return bout by second-round TKO in December. Peterson alternated wins and losses in his previous four fights, but it didn’t make Peterson alter his approach.
“It was business as usual,” Peterson said. “I take every loss hard, but it’s also a learning experience. I’ve improved a lot, and I’ve lost to some high-level guys. I felt like I could have won either of those fights with some small adjustments.”
Peterson is competing at featherweight for his fight against Bandenay, but he competed at both 145 and 135 pounds before deciding to make featherweight his permanent home.
“Dropping to 135 pounds is a task,” Peterson said. “I basically have to go vegan for eight weeks. I told [UFC matchmaker] Sean Shelby that I wanted to fight at 145 pounds, and he said it was fine. I’m at my best at 145 pounds, but if the price is right, I can make 135 pounds for one of the high-profile fights.
“I’m a big bantamweight with a big frame. I usually walk around at 155 pounds. I’ve been making bantamweight since I was 19 years old, but I think every fighter needs to fight at a more natural weight. I’m not putting my body through as much when I fight at 145 pounds.”
The topic of cutting weight will always be a part of mixed martial arts, and it reared its head once again when three fighters originally missed weight for UFC Fight Night 125 last weekend in Brazil. However, middleweight Eryk Anders later made weight for his headlining fight against Lyoto Machida after being awarded additional time.
“I don’t like that we’re not allowed to use IV rehydration,” Peterson said. “It really helps a lot.”
Peterson greatly enjoyed his time in the LFA and the former Legacy FC, but he’s excited to perform for an even larger audience when he meets Bandenay.
“I’m extremely confident. I’ve fought high-level competition my whole life,” said Peterson, adding that his work as an instructor at his gym constantly gives him opportunities to hone his skills.
“I’m constantly working on the basics and do what I’m teaching,” Peterson said. “It keeps me active. It’s fun.”
Peterson also enjoys spending time with his son, Kelson, who also has a profound influence on his career.
“Being a father defines me,” he said. “My son gave me direction, and I want to set a good example for him and be the best man I can be.”