As of three weeks ago, Rob Font was preparing for a three-round bout against Song Yadong at UFC 292 in his home city of Boston – his first fight in Beantown since January 2018. Now, in the first week of August, he is days away from a five-round main event against Cory Sandhagen in Nashville, Tennessee.
The fight game is the fight game.
When Font’s matchup with Song was scrapped around the same time as Umar Nurmagomedov pulled out of the fight with Sandhagen, the calculus was simple for The New England Cartel Representative. While some would see the change as a slight disappointment, he only saw the opportunity to face a fellow Top 5 fighter just weeks before the bantamweight title fight goes down between Aljamain Sterling and Sean O’Malley.
“(Sandhagen) is a known name,” Font told UFC.com. “You beat a guy like Cory, and you should be next in line for that title shot. (The goal is) go out there, get my hand raised, get the title shot.”
Facing a technician like Sandhagen, who is coming off a sharp win over Marlon “Chito” Vera in San Antonio about five months ago, on short notice is a tall task, as is stepping up from three to five rounds. Font, though, is confident in the training he does under coach and manager Tyson Chartier, alongside featherweight contender Calvin Kattar and the rest of the Cartel.
In Font’s eyes, he sees the additional two rounds as a chance to take his time and manage his energy.
“It's gonna be more about conserving my energy, not doing too much too soon,” Font said. “I got five rounds, I could take my time with it. He's real smooth, slick. He's patient. He's real creative and he's dangerous everywhere. This is one of those fights that I got to be on point the whole 25 minutes and really stay laser-focused in it to get the job done.”
Font is arguably coming off his best performance to date. After suffering back-to-back main event losses to José Aldo and Vera, Font took a year off to rest and be there for his growing family. He returned a year after his loss to Vera against the surging Adrian Yanez at UFC 287: Pereira vs Adesanya 2 in Miami in a crossroads bout.
A loss would send Font tumbling out of title contention on a three-fight losing streak. Instead, he delivered the biggest statement possible, knocking Yanez out in the first round and re-establishing himself in the shark pit that is the bantamweight title picture.
“It just felt good to be back,” Font said. “It felt good to be in front of a crowd. It felt good to be Miami, man. It was awesome. Going out there fighting a dangerous opponent like Adrian and getting the W, getting the knockout, plus the bonus, I couldn't have written that story any better. We're here now. I'm focused now. We're in Tennessee. We got Cory Sandhagen in a main event, and I plan on doing the same exact thing I did in Miami.”
As far as the styles go, this fight projects as a heady, technical striking battle with a small possibility of some grappling to mix things up and keep one another honest. Font and Sandhagen average 6.46 and 5.79 strikes landed per minute, respectively, good for fifth and seventh all-time in bantamweight history.
Rob Font | Greatest Hits
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Rob Font | Greatest Hits
Font believes he’ll have the power edge and can take advantage of Sandhagen’s tendency to give up his back. That said, Font has supreme confidence in his jab and ability to use that weapon to dictate the pace and rhythm of the fight, and he is more than willing to poke and prod his way to victory.
However, he understands he needs a definitive win to earn his first shot at UFC gold.
“It’s one thing to kind of go out there and squeak out of a decision,” he said. “But, I want to go out there, make a statement, get a finish and let everybody know in the bantamweight division and the UFC fans around the world that I'm the guy next in line.”
The motivation to achieve that dream only increased when his daughter, Monroe, was born in 2022.
While parenthood, in combination with an athletic career, often leads to clichés about realigned focus and a refined view on goals, they’re as such because they are often true. Font also heaps praise on his fiancée for the way they’ve adjusted accordingly.
“I have this cool aspect of my life to give me a little more purpose, set my goals a little higher, and push me a little more,” he said. “It’s just great seeing her grow and makes me and my fiancée a lot stronger together, too. Most people are a little worried about us having a kid and fighting and all that, (but) it was the perfect timing. Kathy's great with kids, so we didn't miss a beat.”
August 5 feels like another crucial fork in the road for Font. Heading into his 16th UFC bout, a loss means his third in four walks, but a win gets him closer to a world title. That’s about as high stakes as it gets for the 36-year-old.
But on fight night, Font says he hopes to feel “nothing” on the night, just a state of focus.
“My plan is to go out there, get my hand raised, get to Boston, make sure I'm in attendance (at UFC 292) and look for that title shot,” Font said. “Real simple. In a perfect world, I get that title shot. I'm the guy next in line once I get this W.”
UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Font took place live from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee on August 5, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!