As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps who served in the Iraq War in 2003, Caros Fodor is well-equipped for whatever curveballs life throws his way. But when his September 2012 Strikeforce bout with Josh Thomsonwas scrapped, he was momentarily tossed into a limbo that he had never encountered before.
“It was so crazy,” said Fodor. “When they canceled the Josh fight, I was leaving to get on the plane the next day, so it was unbelievable. In my mind it wasn’t even possible for that to happen, so that was just a huge drain. And morale wise it sucked because the whole camp was over with and I had dieted and everything.”
The Thomson fight was a big one for the Washington state native. He was coming off just the second loss of his pro career against top contender Pat Healy six months earlier, and a win over a former Strikeforce champ in Thomson would be the perfect way to get back on track. It wasn’t meant to be though, and to add to Fodor’s woes, Strikeforce’s days were soon to be numbered, so an instant call over to the UFC in 2013 wasn’t a given for a prospect coming off a loss.
“I was hoping (for the UFC call),” said Fodor. “I was a little worried though, because I was coming off a loss and the fact that the 155 division in the UFC is pretty stacked. So I wasn’t sure if they were even interested in taking anymore guys.”
They were, and he was one of the fighters the UFC was interested in, so just before the end of the year, his phone rang with an invite to the UFC and a February 23rd fight with Sam Stout.
“It was the week of New Year’s Eve, so it was a combination,” laughed Fodor when asked if he celebrated or ran right to Matt Hume’s AMC Pankration gym to start training. “I definitely celebrated and then I pulled everything together right after on the first, and I started going harder than ever. I’m in the best shape and everything’s so great right now. It’s awesome.”
The “180 flip” in emotions, as Fodor describes it, ended on a positive note for him, and if you’ve seen his talent grow through his journey up the Strikeforce ranks, it’s not surprising that the UFC brought him into the fold. And if you look at the last three names that were on his fight docket: Healy, Thomson, and Stout, it’s clear that the Zuffa matchmaking team has high hopes that he can deal with high level competition despite having only nine pro fights.
“I think it would just have to be the early success I had with Strikeforce,” he said when asked his thoughts on Zuffa’s willingness to give him big names. “I had a five fight winning streak, and if I hadn’t lost to Healy I was hoping to get a title shot against (Gilbert) Melendez. So I’m thinking they’re probably going off that. Healy did bounce me back in the bracket of things, but I’m hoping that my skill level and that winning streak makes them confident that I won’t go out there and just buckle against these name guys. And these are the type of guys I definitely want to be fighting. I’m not getting any younger, so I want to start trying to make my run and make my mark in the sport, and I need to fight these guys in order to do that.”
You gotta love when 29 year olds claim that they’re not getting any younger, but at the same time, you have to respect Fodor’s desire to test himself against the big names and not simply battle lesser foes and build his record. In Canada’s Stout, Fodor will be giving up plenty of pro and UFC experience, but he’s not about to back down.
“He (Stout) is a real tough guy and a durable guy,” said Fodor, who holds Strikeforce wins over James Terry and Justin Wilcox. “He’s hard to put away. I don’t think he’s been submitted in several years, he’s got a great chin, he takes shots, and he’s gonna be there the entire time. I’m planning for a long, hard fight, but as far as being well-rounded goes, I think I have an advantage in that aspect and have a few more weapons. I’m confident going into the fight, but I’m expecting that he’s gonna be there in the third just as hard as he was in the first. He’s a gamer for sure, and he has way more experience than me, so I don’t want to fall into that trap like I did with Healy.”
Against Healy, Fodor met a seasoned veteran who used all of that experience to control Fodor before submitting him in the third round. It was a tough loss for Fodor to take after such a hot run to start his Strikeforce career, but in preparing for Stout, he now knows what to do when dealing with a fighter that’s nearly impossible to get out of there before the 15 minute time limit is up.
“I think they are very similar except for their two styles,” he said. “Healy’s a grinder and durable on the ground, and Stout’s the same way, but on his feet. So it’s awesome that I’m getting a chance to fight a guy with the style that beat me in the way that they’re in there the whole time. It surprised me and kind of caused my loss last time, so I’m excited to get in there and try to knock this fear out. If I can beat Stout, then I’ll be even more confident for future fights.”
And while he knows that “there’s not gonna be a lot of easy fights, for sure,” that’s the kind of challenge athletes like Caros Fodor crave, and he’ll get his wish beginning Saturday night. Given the events of the last six months it’s probably not the way he envisioned getting into the UFC, but that doesn’t matter now that he’s here. And now he can even wear a UFC shirt around the gym with fellow UFC teammates Demetrious Johnson and Tim Boetsch, right?
“Almost,” he laughs. “I’ve got to actually fight there first.”