The world of mixed martial arts is grueling on a fighter’s body, but as most can attest, it’s the mental side of the sport that can be the biggest obstacle to overcome. Colorado featherweight Tyler “Thunder” Toner was reminded of this in his last outing, as he was finished for the first time in his career by fellow UFC veteran Cameron Dollar.

While the fight is a thing of the past, Toner’s disappointment with his own performance hasn’t quite subsided yet.

“I’m probably madder about that than anything else that’s happened in my career. I just didn’t show up that night. I’m still pretty pissed about it,” Toner told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview.

Toner’s obvious frustration stems from the fact that he may have underestimated his opponent’s grappling skills, leading to the rear-naked choke loss.

Toner (R) pressures his opponent (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

“I knew he was tough, but his back control was better than I expected,” admitted Toner. “It wasn’t my night. Something was just off.”

Although Toner won’t make excuses, he acknowledges that he may have gotten complacent with his fight preparation and his grappling. That’s something he won’t let happen again as he prepares to face John Fraser at Score Fighting Series 6 on Oct. 19.

“Fighting is a lot mental,” explained the 18-fight veteran. “Last time out, everything felt a little too routine. I just didn’t get up for it. It’s not going to be a problem this time. I’m pretty motivated after that loss.

“I have been working on my grappling a lot. I feel like I kind of stagnated a bit there. For a year, maybe longer, I wasn’t getting any better on the ground. I changed my training up a little bit to focus more on that. My ground attack has gotten a lot better, especially my top game.”

With Toner’s kickboxing background, it’s no surprise that he’s turned his attention to his ground game leading into his fight with Fraser. His Canadian foe has won by submission in nine out of his 10 victories and “The Haggis Basher” has only gone the distance once in his career.

“I have to admit [Fraser] is pretty exciting. I’m kind of a fan of the guy and his nickname,” Toner said with a laugh. “He’s got a good ground game and he’s just an aggressive fighter. I’ve always said that people that bring the fight to me kind of plays into my style. It should be exciting. I’m pretty pumped about the matchup.”

When the cage door shuts on Friday night in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada, Toner is confident that his skill set and conditioning will be the difference.

“I think I’m going to have the advantage almost everywhere,” Toner declared. “I would like to keep it standing, but whatever happens, happens. Coming from Colorado, my conditioning is always an advantage. Going to sea level, it will help a lot.”

Another aspect that may give Toner an edge against Fraser is the fact that his 34-year-old opponent has largely competed at bantamweight, a division that Toner isn’t sure he could even make if he tried.

“I’m a pretty good sized 145er,” said Toner. “I don’t think it’ll be a major factor, but I think I’ll have a little bit of a size and strength advantage.

“I think I could make 135 pounds, but it would be a pretty brutal process. [One time] I was actually offered a fight for some pretty good money at 135 and I said yes to it, it just didn’t happen. I do think it’s possible, but I’m not in a hurry to find out how tough that cut would be.”

While the Coloradan isn’t looking to switch weight classes anytime soon, he is excited at the opportunity to practice his trade on a more consistent basis. After numerous struggles with finding a fight, Toner is hoping that his time with Score will help resolve that problem.

“It’s been impossible to find a fight,” he proclaimed. “It may be getting a little bit easier, but I had to search pretty hard after that last fight. I searched for weeks and nothing came up.

“I’m really pumped about signing with Score. We’re doing a three-fight deal with them. It seems like they’re pretty consistent, which has been a really big problem for the last few years. I’m pretty excited about it.”

Competing for Score means that Toner will travel to Canada for the first time in his combat sports career. The trip away from his native Denver may help him with the mental side of his game, as he’ll be free from distractions.

Toner (R) looks for a right hand (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)

“It’s nice to fight away from home,” said Toner. “I try not to let stress get to me too much when I’m at home, but the pressure creeps in there a little bit. When I travel for a fight, I tend to sleep better because I don’t have any other responsibilities to worry about. Nothing is going to pop up last-minute and I don’t have to worry about ticket sales or anything like that. It’s nice to not have anything to do except to focus on the fight.”

With more than two-thirds of his fights having taken place in his own backyard, Toner’s friends and family have grown accustomed to watching him in person. Luckily for them, Toner’s fight with Fraser will air live on AXS TV.

“The biggest thing I’m excited about is that my friends and family can watch it,” he stated. “It’s nice to be able to tell them what channel and when to tune in and they’ll be able to watch me fight.”

So what does Toner think his supporters will see when they tune in?

“Hopefully a big knockout; I haven’t had a good one of those in a little while,” he predicted. “I have been working a lot on my top game, so if I score a knockdown or anything, I probably won’t let him stand back up. I’ll probably follow him down and look for submission from the top. I don’t think I’ve ever landed one of those.”

Whether it’s adding to his knockout total or getting a new submission, Toner is focused and motivated to get his career back on track, albeit away from home.

Tyler would like to thank his teammates at the Easton Training Center and Grudge Training Center. Also his sponsors: Icon LASIK, Shomptom.com, Brother’s BBQ, Performance MMA and RSG Commercial, Inc. Follow him on Twitter: @TylerToner

Top Photo: Tyler Toner (R) has his hand raised in victory (Isaac Hinds/Sherdog)