Tim Means (25-7) takes on late-replacement Sabah Homasi (11-5) at UFC 202 on Saturday. The fight marks Means’ return from a six-month suspension, which USADA handed the 32-year-old veteran after a February drug test discovered a banned substance in his system. After an investigation the UFC and USADA were satisfied that Means’ positive test was the result of a tainted supplement.
Now vindicated in the eyes’ of his employer, and their PED watchdogs, Means is hoping to make up for lost time and continue his previously upward trend towards main-event status. With the USADA affair behind him Means told Bloody Elbow he, "feels great."
"Life has some crazy turns and things are just really cool right now," said Means. Means’ match on Saturday is the opening bout on the pay-per-view portion of the card. The billing, on what promises to be the year’s best selling event so far, has Means believing the UFC still sees value in him and that his suspension has done little to taint their opinion of him. "I know the UFC backed me with the whole ordeal with USADA," said Means. "Right away, they got the information, and realized the manufacturer was hiding things," continued Means, who then praised UFC drug-tsar Jeff Novitzky for his investigative work on the case. "[The UFC] could have shut the door on me and said, ‘Hey, you got caught,’ but to get the main card spot, to be the first fight on the pay-per-view with McGregor and Diaz, it’s just a great feeling to know I got bosses who are believing in me."
Means’ suspension officially ended August 3rd. Means had long been assured by UFC matchmaker Joe Silva that he would have a fight ready for him as soon as he was cleared. However, his UFC 202 spot almost fell through when original opponent Sean Strickland withdrew due to an injury. According to Means Silva quickly contacted Means’ coach Tom Vaughn of FIT NHB to assure him that Means would still appear at UFC 202. Later Means would discover that UFC debutant - and American Top Team product - Sabah Homasi had stepped in.
Even if Means had had to wait for a later fight, he doesn't bear any grudge for Strickland for pulling out of the fight with an injury. "Things do happen," said Means. "I slipped and fell in a damn sauna." Means’ feels he and his team will "probably see Strickland down the road", but right now he is focused on Homasi - a man he didn’t know much about when their fight was announced.
how about @SabahHomasi vs @MeansTim #UFC202 . @MMA_Matchmaker make it happen! he just KOed "Macaco" like 30 minutes ago. #TheProblem— Mike Brown (@mikebrownmma) August 6, 2016
"The first I heard about him was whenever Mike Brown did his little twitter post and said [Homasi] just knocked out Jorge Patino," said Means. "I looked him up. He fought a fat out-of-shape Jorge Patino who had a bunch of fights, but is ultimately 5’8" and usually fights at 155. He took a last minute fight against Homasi and fought at 180 so I don’t see a lot in that."
Patino is a former Legacy FC lightweight champion, and the 43-year-old has had over fifty professional fights. He recently fought under the banner of WSOF. Patino fought Homasi on August 5th at Titan FC 40. Means strongly doubts that fifteen days is enough time for Homasi’s team to adequately prepare their fighter for their clash at UFC 202. "It’s a stupid plan in their book to get in front of me right now."
Means, on the other hand, had plenty of time to prepare for this fight. During his forced time away he says he benefited from the opportunity to heal an assortment of nagging injuries. "The Dirty Bird" stated that he has now recovered from hand issues he has had ever since he fought Hernani Perpetuo at UFC on Fox 12, back in July, 2014. However, he believes his time away may have helped him most by showing him a world away from MMA - a world he’s not a fan of. "I got to do another job [while I was suspended], and I got to realize how much I love this job, and how grateful I am that I get to do a job that I enjoy."
While suspended Means dabbled with welding, which - according to Means - he ‘sucked’ at. "It’s a humbling experience to go from something you think you’re good at to something you’re terrible at," said Means who added that the last six months had been an "emotional roller-coaster" for him and his family. Along with battling to clear his name with USADA, the UFC welterweight was also in a custody battle over his daughters, who now reside with him and his wife Brenda in Albuquerque, NM.
Though the biggest change for Means since he failed a USADA test may be a new perspective on life, the most visible change for MMA watchers may be an added wrinkle to his fight-game, on that he hopes to show on Saturday night. "I’ve gone back to my roots," said Means. "I used to wrestle a lot man, and s**t, my last fifteen fights I don’t think I’ve hardly wrestled at all." With coach Tom Vaughn, Means has looked to "sharpen" his takedowns and sprawls as well as improve his mixing of wrestling with his already potent striking.
Means has long been admired for his stand-up prowess. The owner of 17 KO/TKO victories knocked out John Howard in his last fight, in December, 2015. Surprisingly, over the last two years Means has dramatically drawn down his hard sparring sessions. "It felt like I was always banged up," said Means of the times when he was hard sparring three or four times a week. "I felt like I was fighting for free." For this camp Means sparred hard just once every other week and he feels much better for it. "It doesn’t feel like my hands and my head and my arms are hurting, and I’m not healing up from crazy leg kicks and stuff. We’re no longer having to fight to get ready for a fight, instead now we’re getting conditioned to get ready for a fight."
Fighting after Means on Saturday will be his city-rival Donald Cerrone (who faces Rick Story). Means and Cerrone were matched up together before USADA and the UFC pulled Means from active competition. Means would be lying if he said he wasn’t at least a little bit interested in seeing how Cerrone does at UFC 202. "Everyone knows I’m interested in that fight," said Means who also admitted that there were a number of welterweights on the card he could see himself having a Fight of the Night with.
Unlike many fighters though, Means isn’t looking to use exciting fights as a springboard to getting a title shot. "Screw the belt," said Means. "You have to do all these talk shows and silly stuff to keep that thing." Means expressed support for his division’s champion Tyron Woodley and his pursuit of ‘money-weight’ fights, over what some would call the most sporting matches to make. "I think we’re here for the same reason," said Means. "We’re here to fight for money, we’re prize fighters so give us the prize."
"I see the super-fights definitely coming through, I see GSP coming back and a lot of guys wanting to beat that dude up, just because of the name. I see it as decent opportunities in the future and I think that’s the way it’s going to start going."
Before Means can entertain a possible money-weight fight, he must first get past Sabah Homasi. When speaking with Bloody Elbow’s Eddie Mercado the former TUF contestant had some choice words for The Dirty Bird. "My thoughts on him, he's a tough dude," said Homasi to Mercado. "I'm guessing USADA's been testing him so I'm hoping he's off the juice. I'll tell you what, it's going to be a chin-check night for him."
Means was as impressed with Homasi’s statement as he was with 27-year-old’s win over Jorge Patino. When asked for a response, Means said the following: "You let little boy know only juice I’ve been on is apple juice, and I am going to embarrass him Saturday night for that comment."
Fortunately for us, we’ve not got long to wait to see which man makes the other eat their words.