Ovince Saint Preux wasn’t compensated after COVID-19 removal, but happy with quick rebooking at UFC Vegas 9

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

After being removed from the UFC on ESPN 15 co-main event with Alonzo Menifield due to a positive COVID-19 test, Ovince Saint Preux has entered this fight week in good sprits.

“OSP” faces Menifield this Saturday night at UFC Vegas 9 at the UFC APEX in a light heavyweight matchup. Saint Preux’s removal came as a surprise since it happened just before the event was about to begin. Both fighters successfully made weight and faced off, but it’s an uncertain time due to the ongoing global pandemic.

“Probably three hours before the card got started is when I found out,” Saint Preux told MMA Fighting while appearing on What the Heck. “When it comes to a COVID test, you really don’t know.

“I tested negative, then tested positive, tested negative again, then tested positive. The real test that counted was on Friday. When I tested positive Friday, the Nevada State Commission said I couldn’t fight. They wanted to push it back the following week and I was like, ‘Look, I just carb loaded, had all this sodium back in me, there’s no way I’m gonna try and cut all that out when this was supposed to be my water load week.’

“We got it figured out, pushed it back two more weeks and everything, right now, is working out.”

In the past with late scratches, there’s been precedent set in terms of compensation. Over the last couple of months, UFC president Dana White has made it a point to rebook scratched fighters quickly to make sure they get their opportunity to collect a paycheck.

Saint Preux was asked if he received compensation as he came in under the light heavyweight limit.

“I wasn’t compensated, but given the fight was two weeks later, that’s the only thing I was happy about,” Saint Preux explained. “Was I upset? A little bit, yeah, but it was a thing where I had a fight two weeks later. I think about it as, if it happened this week again I’d definitely like to be compensated.

“It’s crazy because nobody really knows anything about this COVID thing. Everybody’s trying to wrap their head around it: fighters, trainers, they’re all going through the same thing. This week, my results came back negative. I’ve been busting my ass. Even when I went back home, I left on Sunday, turned around and started training on Monday to maintain things pretty good.

“I try not to think about it because me thinking about means I have some type of control over it. My mentality has been that of, F it.”

The UFC has continued to move forward with events despite other major sports organizations taking long pauses since the pandemic hit. The promotion has put stringent plans in place to ensure as much safety for those involved with these events as possible.

Certainly, it will never be 100-percent considering the times we’re currently living in. The fighters are happy to have the chance to compete, but Saint Preux admits that it is more difficult than he expected.

“It’s difficult to tell a fighter that you have a fight to prepare for, but you have to stay quarantined at the same time,” Saint Preux said. “A fighter is going to look at you and say, ‘That’s not gonna happen.’ You need to push yourself, you’re gonna have to do strength and conditioning, training, and you’re gonna need partners for that.

“As fighters, having that six feet of distance is damn near impossible. When you have a fight to get ready for, all you can do is bust my ass during the training camp and hope I don’t catch this. To be honest, the way it was going over the summer, I was like, ‘Man, I hope I can just catch COVID and get it out of the way.’ Mine was just too late.”

Both Saint Preux and Menifield will look to get back on track after suffering decision losses in their last appearances. “OSP” moved up to heavyweight and dropped a split decision to Ben Rothwell in May.

Menifield lost for the first time as a professional against Devin Clark at UFC 250. Saint Preux watched the bout between his fellow 205ers and believed that experience played a major factor in the result.

“To be honest, [Devin] just grinded it out, and he was one of those guys that Alonzo thought he was just gonna go in and put away,” Saint Preux said. “Devin got rocked in the first round pretty hard and he was like, ‘I’m just gonna keep fighting.’ To this point, that was his toughest fight and experience goes a long way.

“Menifield is still young in the game. He still has a lot to learn. It’ll be different with me, too. I’m pretty well-rounded. My striking is pretty good, too. I have power, too. I can do it with my hands and do it with my feet. I think one of the first times I fought ‘Shogun,’ people thought he had more power than I did, but people figured that out pretty quickly.”

The general narrative surrounding the fight has been that Menifeld has the striking and power advantage, while Saint Preux holds the cards when it comes to the ground game. Despite having six submissions inside the octagon, the 37-year-old believes his striking abilities are being overlooked.

“People forget that I’ve knocked people out,” Saint Preux said. “My last fight, Ben Rothwell—in the heavyweight division—had never been knocked down. I knocked him down twice and I’m coming up a weight class. If I touch you, I can put you down. If I touch Alonzo, I know I can put him down. It’s just a fact.

“I’m not taking nothing away from Alonzo, but some of the guys he’s knocked out, I can do it better than that.”

With COVID-19 behind him, Saint Preux admits that he’s in a much better spot physically than he was two weeks ago, even coming in with less weight to cut. As history tells him, good things happen when that is the case.

“When I come in lighter, that usually leads to fireworks,” Saint Preux stated. “It means there’s bonus written all over it.”

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