Not many people work as a full-time firefighter / EMT and as the head coach at one of the most highly respected MMA gyms in the business. One of the individuals that does serve in both of those roles is Alliance MMA's Eric Del Fierro.
Some of the fighters that Del Fierro works with when he is wearing his Alliance head coach cap are Dominick Cruz, Phil Davis, Michael Chandler, Alexander Gustafsson, Chris Leben and Brandon Vera. Fierro recently took some time out of his busy schedule to appear on The MMA Hour and talked about each of these fighters.
The majority of Del Fierro's time on the show was spent talking about Dominick Cruz and the injury that forced him to withdraw from UFC 169. After Del Fierro reviewed Cruz's situation, he delved into the status of some of the other fighters that compete under the Alliance banner.
No. 4 ranked light heavyweight Phil Davis (12-1-0-1) has not had a fight since he defeated Lyoto Machida in August 2013. That fight was Davis' third consecutive victory.
Unfortunately for Davis he has been unable to capitalize on any momentum he may have from that string of victories because, according to Del Fierro, the UFC has not offered Davis a fight. Del Fierro said of Davis' dilemma, "It's not because Phil doesn't want to fight. Phil's ready to fight, we're not just getting the fight.
Phil's in a position where he should be fighting a top five guy, and we're just not getting those guys. People that are up there are not wanting to fight Phil as well.
So, at this point does he just take a top 20 guy and say, ‘hey, I just need to stay buys.' That's obviously something we need to consider. We were hoping he was fighting by February, but that's not going to happen. Maybe March or April, we literally haven't heard anything."
Davis is in a tough spot if he wants a top five opponent. The top three in the division, Alexander Gustafsson, Glover Teixeira and Rashad Evans all have fights booked. The No. 5 ranked fighter is Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, whom Davis defeated in 2011 by unanimous decision. Nogueira is also suffering from a lingering back injury.
No. 6 at light heavyweight is Dan Henderson who is currently without a UFC contract. His best hope may be to land a fight against former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio Rua, who is ranked at No. 7.
The next fighter that Del Fierro discussed was former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler. Chandler lost his title in November; dropping a split decision to the man he took the title from, Eddie Alvarez. The loss was the first in Chandler's 13 fight professional career.
Alvarez, speaking to MMAFighting.com, said he hopes that the two will meet in 2014 in a pay-per-view bout. Del Fierro said of Chandler's first loss and possible looming rubber match with Alvarez, "Chandler competed so long in wrestling, and he's just such a driven individual. We've talked about the fight, and he knows what he needs to do, and what adjustments he needs to make to get his belt back.
That was a tough fight for sure, but he knows what he needs to do. He's motivated, and he's back in the gym training." Del Fierro added that the third fight between Chandler and Alvarez is not booked at this time.
As for Alexander Gustafsson, Del Fierro said he remains very much a part of the Alliance team, but that he will be training in Sweden for his upcoming UFC Fight Night 37 bout against Jimi Manuwa.
Another fighter on the team that does not have a fight booked is Brandon Vera. Vera (12-7-0-1) last fought at UFC 164, losing to Ben Rothwell via third round TKO. Following the fight, Rothwell was suspended for having elevated levels of testosterone in his post-fight drug test.
Vera is currently mending a broken hand, "He's back in training, but not punching," Del Fierro said. "He actually shattered his hand again. The same hand he broke in the (Maurico Rua) ‘Shogun' fight (August 2012), and (he) had wires sticking out of his hands for three months. I think they finally took those wires out, and I think it's finally healing."
The one fighter that Del Fierro did not want to comment in too much depth about was Chris Leben. Leben had been on vacation and away from the gym since losing to Uriah Hall via TKO at UFC 168. Leben, rocked near the end of Round 1 of that bout, didn't answer the bell for the second stanza. The loss was the fourth consecutive defeat of Leben's career.
Del Fierro said of the longtime UFC competitor, "I've talked to him a little but, but we haven't made any decision on what's next for him."
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