Brandon Royval is probably tired of talking about fighting right about now. And who can blame him? After starting off 2022 with a pair of wins over Rogerio Bontorin and Matt Schnell, the Coloradan saw his next two fights with Askar Askarov and Amir Albazi scrapped. That means a lot of interviews and a lot of chatter with no payoff in the form of a trip to the Octagon.
“I do feel like that, honestly,” Royval said. “I just need to get this going and I'm so excited to finally be back because it just feels like I took a long layoff.”
On Saturday, Royval returns in a pivotal flyweight bout against fellow Top Five contender Matheus Nicolau. The 30-year-old isn’t avoiding walking under ladders or letting black cats cross his path. He is more than confident that the Brazilian will be there on fight night. And while the last several months of starts and stops would be frustrating for most, Royval’s love of the sport kept him focused.
“I've seen people slip up around me before and I've learned that from an outsider's perspective, but I just have so much love for the sport and respect for the sport that it's not hard. I feel like I say this probably too much, but I feel like fighting might be the only thing I've ever loved properly.”
Royval laughs, clearly married to the game.
“I've tried relationships, friendships, and I admit I’ve slipped up on them, but fighting's the only thing that I'm continuously checking up on, I'm doing every day, I'm not missing, and I'm not doing wrong by, ever. It's like if one day I could treat a wife like that, I might be the best husband ever. (Laughs) The obsession that I have for this, it's easy to stay focused.”
That obsession has served Royval well over the course of his UFC career, even if he’s had to deal with injuries and bad luck along with the four wins and three Fight of the Night bonuses that put him among the best 125-pound fighters on the planet. But now, the vibes are good in the Royval camp that with a win this weekend, he could be in the title mix next. And since he has a history with the champ, Brandon Moreno, the storyline is there for a rematch.
“What’s in my head is I win this fight and I can at least come in as a backup for (Alexandre) Pantoja or Moreno. Things happen all the time, and being ready would be advantageous for me, for sure. Because if I win this fight, I would be the next to call, no matter what. Kai (Kara-France) is coming off a loss and Deiveson (Figueiredo) is off a loss. So I just have to be ready and be smart and make sure I'm doing my due diligence there.”
That’s not going to be an issue for Royval, but what can get in his way is Nicolau, winner of four in a row (six overall) since his return to the UFC in 2021. And while his technical approach is a 180 to the chaos Royval brings, the “RawDawg” believes he can drag his foe into his world in Kansas City.
“I just have to be patient,” he said. “I think there'll always be a time for a fight to happen. I definitely want to put the pressure on, but I do want to do that as safely as possible. So I just have to be patient from the outside and then make the smart decisions from the outside, and when the time comes, create that chaos. And I feel like having a little bit of that, there's no chaos without peace. So I can't be constant chaos at all times. I need a little peace, a little bit of stillness and I'll cause that chaos a little bit later on or when the time's right.”
Many can’t deal with the chaos. Royval lives in it, forged by life in and out of the Octagon. So, injuries and having a fight or two canceled? Not a problem.
“I keep going through bulls**t, but I always feel like I trust the timing of how things are always going to work out,” he said. “And that is true. I do trust it.”
UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Allen took place live from T-Mobile Center in Kansas City on April 15, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!