Ahead of this weekend's UFC on ESPN 36 event, Andre Petroski revealed his pairing with undefeated middleweight prospect Nick Maximov was no accident. After watching Maximov earn his way to the UFC through Dana White's Contender Series and then notching a pair of wins over Cody Brundage and Punahele Soriano, Petroski said he directly requested the matchup.
"I had just randomly watched him when he was on the Contender Series and he fought at heavyweight, and I don't know what about him caught my eye," Petroski told MMA Underground. "And then I watched him again against Brundage because that was my teammate at the time. He used to be my teammate, and when I was watching that, I was like, 'Man, Cody could have beat him if he would have just been fighting a little bit more.'
"Then when I watched him beat Soriano, I was like, 'Dude, I'm better than this kid, man.' Like, I am better than this kid. Everything he does, I'm like, 'I'm better,' you know what I mean? So I wanted that matchup and I liked the challenge. I think, you know, to beat a guy that's undefeated is the challenge that excites me, you know? For anyone, really."
Petroski (7-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) gets his wish on Saturday, when he faces Maximov (8-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) at the UFC Apex in a bout that airs on ESPN2 and streams live on ESPN+.
With Petroski a former collegiate wrestler and current Daniel Gracie pupil and Maximov a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt and Nick Diaz Academy product, if the action hits the canvas, the exchanges could prove quite intriguing. Of course, when two standout grapplers clash in the octagon, it quite often results in a standup war, instead.
Petroski said he's prepared for either possibility and believes the bout could very well prove bonus-worthy as the card's "Fight of the Night."
"Look, I'm confident in my striking," Petroski said. "I'm confident in my grappling, obviously. I think I've shown over and over that I can grapple with anyone. I have the best grappling in the division, you know what I mean? So wherever it goes, I'm good.
"I'm excited, man. I love it. You know, I think the card is interesting. I think it definitely has opportunity for 'Fight of the Night.' That's where I'm going for. I want a bonus. Like, that's what I think about when I'm training."
Petroski has yet to receive one of those $50,000 awards despite picking up finishes in his first two UFC appearances. But he finds the idea quite appealing and says he uses the possibility as a driving force in the gym.
"When I'm training, there's times where, you know, there's 30 seconds left and you get a takedown and you can stay on a guy and just lay on him, or you can work for that finish," Petroski explained. "In the back of my head, I was like, 'I'm not getting a bonus unless I finish this guy every round,' so that's what I'm thinking about. Every time, every round, I'm thinking about, 'I've got to finish this guy.'"
Petroski is hoping to not only get himself a performance bonus but also secure a new UFC deal in the process. He's also eyeing a potential slot on a rumored fall event in Philadelphia, where he currently lives and trains.
All of those possibilities will rely on how things play out on Saturday night, and Petroski intends to deliver big.
"I mean, historically, my fights don't go the distance," Petroski said. "I mean, I'm a finisher. Explosive finisher. I get finishes. Submissions, TKOs, doesn't matter, o the likelihood of it going the distance, I would say slim to none. But if it doesb onuses are is what I'm concerned about. I want the victory, and I want the bonus."
To see the full interview, check out the video above.