After eight years saying yes to whatever the UFC offered, lightweight Evan Dunham is calling his own shots for a change.
Dunham, who’s currently self-managed and has no fights booked, is looking to ascend the rankings of the “jammed-up” 155-pound division led by champ Conor McGregor. And, riding a four-fight streak with names such as Joe Lauzon and Ross Pearson in the mix, Dunham believes he’s earned that opportunity.
That’s why, when the promotion threw some names he believed wouldn’t advance his career, Dunham decided to try something that seems to be working for some of his colleagues.
“I’ve always accepted what they gave me,” Dunham told MMAjunkie Radio. “And that’s part of the reason why I’m standing firm now. I’ve always said just, ‘Where do you want me? I’ll be there.’ But the way that the UFC is set up now, it’s really the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. If you’re out there saying what you want, and you want it, and you’re pointing it out, you’ve got a much better chance at getting it.
“I think if I didn’t ask for a fight above, I would look back and say, ‘Why the (expletive) didn’t I ask for a fight? Why did I just take what was given to me? Like that saying, ‘Close mouths don’t get fed?’ I need to speak up. Tell them what I want.”
While he hasn’t had this specific conversation with the matchmakers just yet, Dunham has made Twitter know – and in chart form, no less – exactly what is that he wants. And that’s fellow lightweight standout Al Iaquinta (via Twitter).
Currently ranked No. 15 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkieMMA lightweight rankings, Iaquinta’s name has certainly been popular a popular callout target since a UFC Fight Night 108 win over Diego Sanchez in April prompted yet another public falling out with the UFC brass.
While Iaquinta is riding a five-fight streak, he hadn’t fought in two years before the win over Sanchez. And he’s still not quite up there in the title contention line. So what is it about his name?
“He’s got some hype on his name because he keeps bitching and moaning about how much he’s getting paid,” Dunham said. “And I agree with Al Iaquinta that we are underpaid. Absolutely. But if you want to get paid more, there’s only solution. Either you need to, A: Not fight, not get paid at all.
“Or, B: You need to finish your contract, because you know what you signed when you got into it. Finish your contract, and renegotiate. That’s how it works. I think we’re underpaid absolutely, but you’re at a point where it’s kind of (expletive) or get off the pot.”
Dunham (18-6 MMA, 11-6 UFC) understands Iaquinta’s (13-3-1 MMA, 8-2 UFC) gripes and gets that it is in fact bringing him attention – even if it’s of the “weird” type. But, more than that, Dunham believes that a matchup between them simply makes sense.
“I get what Al is saying, a lot of the stuff I agree with him on,” Dunham said. “One of the reasons I came at him is because as you saw off the chart that I made, like I said in my comment to him, I’m your only option. And it’s true. It’s me and him at the top of that heap there, so if he wants to fight it’s kind of a no-brainer for him and I.”
While the pickings are slim, Iaquinta is still not Dunham’s only option. Another name he believes fits the bill, he says, is Beneil Dariush – who recently had a two-fight streak snapped by a second-round knockout loss to Edson Barboza.
“I think that would be a great fight,” Dunham said. “Because I know he’s a good jiu-jitsu guy, he hits hard, I think that’d be a real good fight. I know my standup game has been improving every single fight. My last few fights I feel more comfortable. I’m putting high numbers up there, volume over power.”
Another name in the title contention scene may arise from June 25’s UFC Fight Night 112, which features 155-pound standouts Michael Chiesa and Kevin Lee as headliners. But, if Dunham’s hunch is correct and Lee is the victor there, we can forget about that matchup.
“I (fought training partners) already – let other guys do it at this point,” Dunham said. “Now I run a really small camp, and Kevin is one of the guys that I can call up and ask for help from. That would be shooting myself in the foot, to fight Kevin.”
For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.
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