When Legacy FC and RFA hold their first event as LFA next year the bantamweight champions of the defunct promotions collide for the inaugural LFA title. Steven Peterson represents Legacy while Leandro Higo is the RFA belt holder.
Steven Peterson is 14-4 but perhaps more accurately depicted as on a six-fight win streak since committing to bantamweight. After defeating Raynaldo Rodriguez, Johnny Rodriguez, Caio Machado, and Irwin Rivera in Legacy Peterson earned a shot at the title at the time held by Enrique Vazquez, a fight Peterson won at LFC 56 in June.
KM: You headline the first LFA show in January against Leandro Higo. What is LFA in your words?
SP: LFA is a combination of the two best feeder leagues of the UFC joining together to push our level to the next level and get more guys in the UFC. We’re the second-best to the UFC.
KM: Even though this is the first LFA show Legacy FC and RFA ran very similarly. They were both on AXS TV for instance. Being the Legacy champion is this going to be anything different to you? Is this a step up or another day at the office?
SP: I feel it is a step up in competition. The top fish is going to have another top fish to compete against instead of beating up all the fish beneath him. I’m the champ for Legacy, now I have to establish myself as the best at twice as big a competition pool.
KM: What does being the RFA champion mean to you now? It was a notable promotion without a doubt but they have ceased.
SP: It is definitely an accomplishment, the biggest accomplishment of my professional career so far. This fight for the LFA belt is another rung on the ladder to climb, a little bit higher against a fighter at the top of RFA. He has done exactly what I have done over at RFA. This will be a huge accomplishment from a different pool of competition.
KM: To win the Legacy belt you defeated Manny Vazquez in June. You won by technical submission in the fourth round. How would you describe that fight, how do you look back at it?
SP: It was a rear-naked choke in the fourth. I’d describe that fight as a battle of attrition. I had a lot of injuries coming into that fight, I basically had to overcome myself and take him into deep water. He wasn’t near the level I was. The cut he opened up, a dislocated rib, a broken toe..a lot of injuries. My camp was basically trying to hold my body together. The plan was to just go in there and show my hard work and show what I’m made of. The later the fight went the more comfortable I got and the more he started to break.
KM: He was the champion at the time but not that well known to the fans. You on the other hand fought in Legacy nine times before. What did you know about him and think of him going into that fight? You said he wasn’t your level but did you think he was worthy?
SP: I did. The way he beat Ricardo Ramos was absolutely dominant. He is a very high-level wrestler with good boxing. Once he found a target, a chink in my armor (the cut) he was a lot more directed at that but up until then he was more wild, throwing but not able to land anything. His ground game, his wrestling was top level.
KM: What was the cut from?
SP: A week before the actual fight. It was a fresh cut, now its completely healed.
KM: You were supposed to have a title defense in October but Mark De La Rosa was a “no show”. How disappointing was that?
SP: Very much so. It was supposed to push me up to the big show but he did not train for that fight. His level of competition is very low-level, many losing records on there. He didn’t see the same for that fight, that is why he didn’t show up. He looked me in the eye and saw how much bigger of an opponent I was. I definitely feel cheated out of five grand by him not showing up. I still got my show money so I’m very happy with Legacy but I lost out on my win money and a lot of sponsorship money.
KM: Now that Mick Maynard is one of the matchmakers in the UFC do you feel you have a foot in the door you didn’t have before? Do you think his presence will be missed at LFA? Did you have a good relationship with him?
SP: I have a great relationship with Mick. The UFC want fighters that are marketable and will make them money. I showed time and time again that number one I’m very marketable. I’ve been the headliner for Legacy this will be my fourth or fifth time and every time I fought for Legacy I sold over $10,000 in tickets. It is going up, the last fight I sold over $17,000 and this time I’m shooting for $20,000. That was all tickets by hand. If Mick wants to show what LFC fighters bring to the table fan-wise or money-wise I’m the perfect candidate to lead the way. I definitely have a foot in the door but being the main event he is not going to want to take the main event away. I feel I’ll get picked right up and go right on to being a headliner in the UFC.
KM: What do you think of his matchmaking in Legacy and how do you think LFA’s matchmaking will differ?
SP: Legacy always put me with high level competition. With the merger they have twice as big a pool to pull from. In Legacy there was really no-one else for me to fight but now that it is merged with RFA you have all these guys who don’t know about me or they think they are better than all the guys I fought. It is a whole different pool of guys. After I beat Higo I can go on to defend my belt or move up to the UFC. Obviously I’d like to move on up but there is plenty of competition at LFA.
KM: Legacy and RFA had a co-promotion before that had their champions square off. You weren’t part of that show but RFA came out ahead. Any sense of motivation to beat the RFA champion for bragging rights in that sense? A finger in the eye for the old Legacy crew? Any sense of rivalry?
SP: Oh yes, definitely. I want to prove I’m the best first of all, second to that I want to prove Legacy is the best promotion outside the UFC. There is an underlying Legacy vs. RFA still, even though it is one card we all know where we came from.
KM: With all that does it mean much to you to be on a six-fight win streak?
SP: It is an accomplishment and I’m going to keep that win streak going. Every fight is my biggest fight to date and I can’t accept a loss. This is my life. A loss would take from my money I pay my bills and feed my kid with. It would cast a dark shadow that would be hard to get out from underneath. When our careers are down it seems our lives are in the gutter as well.
KM: What are your thoughts on Leandro Higo?
SP: I think he is a great competitor. A high-level ground game and good standup. It is going to be a tough fight.
KM: I assume you saw his fight against Joey Miolla to win the title in April…
SP: Yes. I thought it was good. Without giving any details away on the holes I see I see a good standup game and even better ground game. I’m going to have to bring my “A game”.
KM: What can fans expect from this fight?
SP: They can expect a war of attrition, an absolute war with me coming out on top. I’ll show what I’m made of as always. It isn’t going to be easy but I’m going to grind and get the win.
KM: It seems you are focused on the UFC and not returning to Bellator.
SP: Correct. Bellator is a great organization but the best fighters in the world are in the UFC so that is where I want to make my name.
KM: Most fighters will say they make more money in Bellator because of sponsorships but the competition is in the UFC. Its kind of telling what motivates a fighter which they choose.
SP: Don’t get me wrong, we make a living by fighting so money is necessary but I don’t do this for the money. This is my calling, I have no other outlet. I fight because I want to be the best, I want to be world champion…not because I want to be rich. Being rich would be great but I feel that will come once I prove I’m the greatest.
KM: Where are you training for this fight?
SP: Fortis MMA in downtown Dallas.
KM: When did you drop to bantamweight?
SP: I fought at bantamweight my entire pro career. My first pro fight was at bantamweight, my second at featherweight, my third at lightweight. I wanted to do the MacGreggor thing, in my first three months I had three pro fights. The guy at lightweight didn’t knock me out but he pushed me around quite a bit so I was better off at featherweight or bantamweight. Bantamweight I just feel unstoppable.