Cinderella story Tristan Connelly won the fight of the night when the UFC came to Vancouver on Saturday and Pitt Meadows MMA coach Dan Golkar was in his corner.
For the past seven years, Golkar has run Scorpion Combat Sports, now located on Harris Road. Connelly, of Richmond, has been one of the 17 competitive fighters he trains.
Last Monday, just five days before the the UFC came to Rogers Centre, Connelly got the call he has been waiting for and an opportunity to fight one of the sport’s up-and-comers in Michel Pereira.
Connelly’s pro record was 13-6 (he has since added a massive win), he’s 33 years old, and he was going up against a much bigger fighter. Pereira missed weight for his welterweight bought, weighing in at 172 pounds. Connelly is a lightweight, who fights at 155 lbs.
The Brazilian Pereira, who is known for dramatic capoeira backflips and other unorthodox moves, was a heavy favourite. All of the pre-fight press was giving Connelly no chance.
What a way to make your debut!
— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) September 16, 2019
But he weathered a storm of high-energy moves and went to work on his opponent, getting huge cheers from the hometown crowd as he pulled off a massive upset.
“People can relate to Tristan. Tristan’s not the most athletic guy, he’s not the most gifted guy, but he is the people’s champ,” said Golkar.
The fighter is also quick with a quote.
“If doing back flips is what I believed important in fighting, I’d be great at back flips,” he said in a post-fight interview.
“But I couldn’t do one to save my life. I practise punching people, choking people and kicking people, because that’s what seems to work in most of the fights I watch.”
It’s that straight ahead, no-quit approach that has changed Connelly’s life, said Golkar.
“He was a 6-1 underdog – he was supposed to lose that fight,” he said. “It was David vs. Goliath.
“But you talk to Tristan and he makes you believe.”
Theirs was the fight of the night, but because his opponent didn’t make weight he was ineligible for the bonus, so Connelly was given both $50,000 bonuses, and walked away from the fight with $170,000.
Golkar said it was one of the most amazing fights he has ever been a part of. He has been to Brazil with Jeremy Kennedy, his other fighter who has pulled off a big upset in the UFC, with “21,000 people yelling ‘you’re going to die’ in Portuguese.”
“It was in my top two fights for sure. I’m super proud of him.”
Now CBC and TSN are calling both men for interviews. It is a great story about an athlete who has always believed in himself.
Connelly said in a post-fight interview that training, coaching and fighting has been his whole life.
“I’m always ready, I’m always in shape. I train three times a day and I teach classes. That’s all I do. I eat breathe and live this sport.”
He felt he deserved to be there. This is a guy who was 29 years old and just 5-5.
“There was no reason to keep fighting other than the fact that I just love fighting. I kept doing it, and I kept getting better and now I’m here.”
Connelly had predicted his opponent would tire from high-energy moves, and said the longer the fight went, the more confidence he had.
“He hit me one or two punches, and I just felt, OK, he’s not going to hurt me, I’m just going to come forward, and do what I do. I went to work and here we are.”
He was stung by one body shot, he said, but it wasn’t a difference maker.
“I don’t feel pain, I just come forward, so you’ve got to put me to sleep.”
Golkar said Connelly doesn’t need pep talks during a fight.
“Tristan’s mind is so strong, he could have been there by himself.”
They are hoping to get into a UFC event in Las Vegas in December, but nothing has yet been confirmed. His coach predicts Connelly will still have a good career in the UFC.
“I’m positive he will have a few good years.”