Nam Phan has a decade of professional MMA experience. | Photo: Dave Mandel

Nam Phan is only 28 years old, but he sees himself as the grizzled veteran ahead of his UFC 141 bout Friday against Jim “The Kid” Hettes.

“I’m not that old, but it almost feels like I’m the old dog and he’s like the new up-and-comer now,” Phan told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Savage Dog Show.”

Hettes is in fact a young talent. The 24-year-old debuted in the Octagon at UFC Live 5 in August, submitting Alex Caceres with a rear-naked choke. He’s faced eight other opponents and he submitted all of them too.

“I know very little about him,” Phan said. “… I know his statistics on Sherdog: 9-0, all submission wins. That says a lot. That means he’s good at jiu-jitsu. That’s something I’ve got to watch out for.”

Hettes began fighting in regional events in 2009. Phan, in contrast, has been competing professionally for more than a decade. Most recently he avenged a controversial split decision loss to Leonard Garcia by earning a unanimous decision in the October rematch. If Phan had lost that fight, it would have been his third straight defeat and he might have been cut.

“I can kind of move on with my career and put the whole Leonard saga behind me now,” he said. “Just fight like a normal fighter. Still try to put on a good fight, but not [with] the kind of pressure that I’ve got to fight for my job. There’s a lot of anxiety when that’s on you.”

Of course, Phan doesn’t believe his performance against Garcia put him in the position to turn down a bout. That’s why he agreed to a quick turnaround against Hettes.

“I only fought six weeks ago,” Phan said. “I feel like I need a little break and maybe fight early next year, but the UFC called me and told me to fight Jimmy Hettes, and when they call, you’ve got to take it because you don’t know when’s the next time they’re going to call you. There’s fighters in the UFC that want to fight, that can’t get fights. You’ve got to take it when they still want you to fight for them.”

But now Phan could be in a tough spot. He’s fighting a hungry up-and-comer he hasn’t been able to research much, and from what Phan has seen, he considers Hettes “very good.”

“He’s fighting in the UFC for a reason,” Phan said. “I have a lot of experience against pretty high-level guys. From my experience, I know not to overlook anyone or underestimate anyone. I just train for everyone like it’s my last fight.”

Obviously Hettes has a dangerous submission game. Phan isn’t so sure about his opponent’s standup skills, though.

“It didn’t seem like he’s much of a striker,” Phan said. “… I don’t need to worry about him trying to knock me out too much. There’s always a chance, but I think for this guy, I’ve got to be more aware of the grappling aspect of the fight.”

With that in mind, Phan sounds focused on defending submissions and keeping the fight on the feet. Against Garcia and others, he’s proven to be an adept striker, and he’ll look to use those skills to overwhelm Hettes as well.

“I feel like I’ve got to be like Manny Pacquiao in this fight and throw a thousand punches,” Phan said. “I’ve just got to keep putting a beating on this kid.”

Listen to the full interview (beginning at 1:36:26).

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