Chris Clements almost called it quits. After years of training, mixed martial arts became more than just a sport for the Canadian native. It became a job—a job that was no longer worth it. The sport he once loved was now causing him to miss out on the essentials of life. It was no longer a habit, and it wasn’t fun.

It was the lowest point of his MMA career as Clements had just suffered his third loss in his last four outings. He held a lackluster record of just six wins with four losses, with no bright future on the radar. But Clements didn’t take the easy way out. He continued to fight for his dream—a decision that he’ll never regret.

“I was heavily considering retirement,” Clements told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “It was at a point in my career where I was suffering through a lot of injuries. I was coming off a loss to John Alessio and didn’t know if I’d ever have a chance to make it to the big show.

Clements (top) (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

“All I ever wanted to do was fight in the UFC. I was already 35 years old, and I didn’t know if it was the end or not. I chose to stick it out, and I started winning again. I remember walking out to the cage for one of my fights and my coach told me to just be myself. That changed everything about how I fought that night and even today. I wasn’t trying to listen to my corner anymore, I was just out there having fun and being creative. Whenever I fought before, I would tense up and not feel comfortable. It was like a light bulb came on in my head and told me to start having fun.

“So, there I was, having fun. It was a big change in my game, as I was fighting for money and not the love of the sport. When you start fighting full-time, that’s when you’re paying the bills solely on your income from fighting. Injuries certainly don’t help. I remember fighting John [Alessio] on Saturday and having a surgery booked on Monday. I needed the money. If I didn’t fight, I didn’t have a way to pay the bills. I fought for all the wrong reasons. Luckily, I’m finally having fun now.”

Clements’ decision to stick it out ultimately turned out to be the best for his career, as it wasn’t long after that he received the call from “the big show.” It was finally Clements’ time to shine. A chance to live out his dream. A dream that almost was cut short due to a lost love for the sport.

In his Octagon debut, Clements was slated to take on Keith Wisniewski in a preliminary bout at UFC 145 in Atlanta. Clements was able to squeak out a split decision victory, allowing him to extend his winning streak to five consecutive fights. However, the win was just an add-on bonus for an already esctatic Clements.

“To be honest, I was just happy to have made it to the UFC.  I was happy before the fight even started. I danced my way to the Octagon and took in the moment. When I got there, I crossed my hands behind my head and laid down on the Bud Light symbol,” Clements recalled. “I remember looking up at the crowd and said, ‘Wow, I finally made it.’

“I went in there to enjoy the moment. I wasn’t even going in there and solely focusing on getting the win. I think that’s why I performed pretty well, because I just went in there to fight. Being able to walk away with the win was a bonus for me. My whole goal ever was to just fight in the UFC one time. Everything else has been a bonus for me.”

Clements (R) celebrates (James Law/Heavy MMA)

Clements will get more than just his one shot in the UFC as he’ll meet Matthew Riddle at UFC 149 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on July 21. However, Clements was originally slated to meet fellow welterweight Siyar Bahadurzada, who was later forced off the card due to an injury. And, as expected, Clements isn’t fretting over opponent changes—he’s just having fun.

“My game plan is really usually made up on the fly. I don’t ever want to go in there with this huge game plan to the point where I’m not myself. Things have changed big time in terms of my opponent. I was fighting a right-hander who was my height, and now I’m fighting a lefty who is three or four inches taller than I am. I was fighting a  brawler; now I’m matched up with a technical wrestler. It was a short-notice fight, so this whole camp has been about conditioning and staying sharp,” Clements explained.

“It’s a huge opportunity to go from the UFC 145 prelims to the UFC 149 main card. When I found out Thiago Alves was injured, I called up and said I’d take that fight in a heartbeat as long as it stayed on the main card. Most the world doesn’t watch the Facebook prelims, so no one got to see what I can do. Now I get to show the world what I’m all about,” said Clements. “They’re going to see some things they haven’t seen before.”

“I plan to punch him in the face and knock him out.”

Top Photo: Chris Clements (James Law/Heavy MMA)

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