CageSport LogoAs Brandon Dudley knows, sometimes things don’t go according to plan and life can get in the way of a fighter’s career. Following his first four fights, Dudley has had a layoff of five years, which he attributes to a multitude of things happening, one after the other.

“I had a title fight with Sportfight lined up, but I dropped out of it because I thought I was going to be on The Ultimate Fighter, but I didn’t get on it,” said Dudley. “Shortly after all of that happened, I started having issues with my knee and ended up having four surgeries. Also, I got married and had some kids. I had a fight lined up last year, but it ended up falling through three days out. So it’s been a combination of all those things.”

During his layoff, Dudley managed to keep his fight game moving forward, especially after switching fight camps.

“I’m much better-rounded and just better overall,” he said. “About three years ago, I changed gyms to AMC Pankration and that’s been huge for me as far as developing my all-around game, clinch work and ground game, too. I’ve evolved quite a bit.”

For his first fight since January 2007, Dudley will headline CageSport XXI in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday night against up-and-comer Emmanuel Sanchez in what should be a good return test.

“To me, he looks tough. He’s a guy who will be there to the end and not fold,” said Dudley of Sanchez. “It looks like he favors stand-up from the couple fights I’ve seen. He looks very consistent. He doesn’t come out flailing and die out. He’s very level-headed. I expect it to be a tough fight and for him to be there every round.”

While Dudley has worked to become a more rounded fighter, he feels his talent lies in grappling and that will be the area that he can most take advantage of to defeat Sanchez.

“There’s always a feeling out process, but since 2007, I’ve grown leaps and bounds, and I feel very confident in my stand-up, so I feel we’ll start with stand-up and see where it goes,” he said. “But overall, with most everybody, I feel very comfortable on the ground.”

Dudley told MMAWeekly.com that it’s most likely now or never if he hopes to make something of a career in the fight game.

“Definitely it’s very important, especially for me at 35,” he said. “I feel very healthy and whatnot, but I don’t have 10-15 years to develop my career.

“I put in a ton of training and a lot of people know me from training and whatnot, but it’s very important to get the ball rolling and get off on a good step. Not just win, but win impressively with a finish and get fighting again.”

Dudley concluded, “(Returning to MMA has) been my plans for years now and that’s what motivates me. I’m hoping my knee is good, everything is good, and I feel like this is the first step in getting back into the game and going as far as I can.”

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