What makes mixed martial arts special is that no one fighter is the same as another in style and approach. Flyweight contender Brandon Royval looks at every fight as just that…a fight. Others take a more measured approach, treating their time in the Octagon as a sporting event, nothing more, nothing less.
During this dissertation, Royval interrupts.
“You're talking about me and Askarov, right?” he laughs.
Askarov is number four-ranked contender Askar Askarov, the man the fifth-ranked Royval will throw hands with this Saturday at the APEX in Las Vegas. Considering that all five of the Russian’s fights have gone the three-round distance, he’s not on Royval’s must-see list.
He's trying to win decisions and I'm trying to take people's head off,” said Colorado’s Royval. “There's a big difference in our styles. I could never be a fan of someone that wins a fight and did zero damage and looked to not damage anybody or finish anybody. When I fight, I've never thought about winning a round or never in my head thought, 'Well, if I hold him here for one minute, I bet I can win this round.' It almost bothers me that people are like that. We have fighters, or people that consider themselves fighters, that are just trying to win these rounds and get points. That's such an anti-motto for me my whole entire career that it's weird when I run into these fighters that are just looking to hold and win positions and win rounds. It's not my style and not my cup of tea. This is a good opportunity to go out there and show why I don't like that style.”
You could call it pre-fight gamesmanship from the “Raw Dawg,” but since arriving in the UFC in 2020, chaos has been Royval’s middle name. That’s led him to Fight of the Night finishes of Tim Elliott, Kai Kara-France and Matt Schnell, but also losses to Brandon Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja. As for his January three-rounder with Rogerio Bontorin, Royval will take the split decision win but won’t exactly store it in his personal time capsule. So while there’s been good, bad and ugly, one thing’s for certain, and that’s the reality that fight fans will tune in to see him. And he loves it all as much as they do, as evidenced by his fight with Kara-France.
“We're in the middle of a fight and we're brawling,” Royval recalled. “Kai Kara-France is chucking bombs at me and I'm literally in his face throwing combinations at him and I back up and there's nothing but a big smile on my face. (Laughs) This is truly where I belong. In the midst of the chaos is where I've always been able to thrive, especially in fighting. Even as a little kid fighting in the park, being in chaotic situations, I've always been able to get through and thrive. I'm truly present and happy.”
It's an odd thing to hear, that someone can find peace in the middle of a fistfight, and Royval also wonders how that’s possible, but he’s not questioning it.
“I'm a constant overthinker,” he laughs. “I overthink and over analyze everything. But fighting has always been such a weird little blessing for me. It's the only thing that I've never just overthought completely. I can let my brain flow and go. I've always been able to trust my instincts in situations and go and flow off of that. I don't have to think at all; I can just let it go and be free. I run off pure instinct and it's being in the moment.”
He can’t wait for that moment to come again this weekend. He doesn’t know if Askarov is feeling the same level of excitement.
“I get nervous about fights no matter what, but if I'm Askarov, I don't know how I would not just be having nightmares every day when some dude's planning on breaking my arm or taking my head off, submitting me, choking me and all of the above, while his only hope is to hold me for three rounds,” said Royval.
That begs the question of all questions – 20 years from now, when he settles into retirement, what replaces that feeling he gets in a fight?
“I don't think anything could ever replace this,” he said.
UFC Fight Night: Grasso vs Araujo took place live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on October 15, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!