There are few fighters that have had as successful a transition from football to mixed martial arts as UFC light heavyweight Ovince St. Preux. The former University of Tennessee linebacker has done far better than many people with extensive martial arts backgrounds.

The 31-year-old son of Haitian immigrants has looked devastating since making the transition from Strikeforce to the UFC just over a year ago. The 15-5 fighter is undefeated in his new home, and most recently received a “Performance of the Night” bonus when he landed a slick Von Flue choke on Nikita Krylov at UFC 171.

St. Preux (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

St. Preux (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

St. Preux has certainly looked comfortable in the Octagon, but he admits that there are still moments of disbelief that he’s made it to the major leagues of MMA.

“It’s a surreal feeling,” St. Preux admitted to The MMA Corner. “Even today, I’m sure you’ve heard it, where people talk about mixed martial arts. They don’t necessarily say, ‘Mixed martial arts.’ They say ‘UFC.’ They won’t be like, ‘You do mixed martial arts, right?’ They’ll be like, ‘You do UFC, right?’”

Although it might be validating to finally say that, yes, he is in the UFC, St. Preux has certainly earned it through determination and hard work. Many point to the superior athleticism that he’s acquired from years and years of football, but it’s not as if he got super jacked in college and then stopped lifting all together to focus on martial arts. People don’t see the countless hours St. Preux spends in the weight room. Yet, somehow, he finds time to do all his other practice as well.

“”I’m here to make a name, and I think I’m slowly but surely building myself to be one of the top guys in the 205[-pound] division,” asserted St. Preux.

That’s easier said than done. Not only does the division feature a champion in Jon Jones who very well could be the greatest talent the sport has ever seen, but it also has beasts like Alexander Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier hovering around the throne. Gustafsson, of course, took the champion to the brink and nearly stole the title in what would have been a massive upset, and Cormier, the former Olympian, can rag-doll people around and then choke them unconscious. It’s a daunting task, but also one that excites St. Preux.

“The 205 weight class I knew was going to be a tough division, and I think I match up well with a lot of those guys,” St. Preux said. “The thing about me is, I’m not good in one area. I’m pretty much well rounded in all areas of mixed martial arts. I can hold my own against a lot of people with my stand-up game. My wrestling’s pretty decent. My jiu jitsu is pretty decent, too.”

Although it’s nice to hear modesty from such an accomplished fighter, “pretty decent” is a drastic understatement. His unorthodox submission landed St. Preux a $50,000 bonus. His modesty and sensibility, however, were also apparent in how he handled the money.

“[I] just kind of helped my mom out around the house,” said St. Preux. “My thing is to save my money. I don’t want to be reckless with it.”

Still, even though St. Preux tries to have a frugal mindset, that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t like to win some more bonuses. The Floridian is hoping for his first knockout bonus in the UFC, but at the end of the day, he acknowledges that a win is a win, and that’s good enough for him.

St. Preux (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

St. Preux (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

A knockout, while not out of the realm of possibility, is a real challenge against his next opponent, Ryan Jimmo. Jimmo, besides doing a phenomenal robot dance, is also a second degree black belt in karate with two devastating knockout finishes in the UFC. The 19-3 fighter most recently earned himself a “Performance of the Night” bonus for knocking out Sean O’Connell with a punch in April. His awkward karate style can cause opponents to struggle.

“We have a lot of guys with karate backgrounds down here which can basically emulate Ryan Jimmo pretty good,” said St. Preux about his gym in Knoxville, Tenn. “So I stayed down here for a lot of my training, and I feel pretty good.”

Some might say that St. Preux, with three wins inside the UFC and a four-fight winning streak overall, should be facing a top-10 opponent. St. Preux is adamant that he would like to test himself at that level in the near future, but he understands that Jimmo is by no means an easy fight.

“Jimmo could have easily been in the top 10,” said St. Preux. “He’s definitely a crafty guy. He’s got a lot of power in his hands, I got a lot of power in my hands. He’s got a lot of power in his feet, as do I. It should be interesting. He’s a big guy, I’m a big guy. I know I’m going to have my hands full, so with this fight I know I’ll have to bring my A-game.”

Ovince would like to thank all his coaches, his training partners, the University of Tennessee, Omega Psi Phi, his hometown of Immokalee, Fla., and all his Haitian fans. Follow St. Preux on Twitter: @003_OSP

About The Author

Zach Miller
Staff Writer

Zach is a Boston native and has had a fascination with martial arts since playing Mortal Kombat at five years old. He was introduced to MMA after watching The Ultimate Fighter 5: Team Pulver vs. Team Penn. A recent graduate of the University of New Hampshire, Zach seeks to one day become a full-time MMA journalist. In addition to watching the sport, he has also trained in Brazillian Jiu-Jitsu, kickboxing, and tae kwon do. Zach has also written for NortheastMMA.