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Mike Malott is the fighter to watch at UFC 273

Team Alpha Male coach Mike Malott faces Mickey Gall on the UFC 273 prelims.

Mike Malott’s MMA career has been one of fits and starts. His first two pro fights came in 2011. He then fought once in 2013, twice in 2014, once in 2015 and once in 2017. A three-year break followed before he competed in 2020 under the Cage Fury banner. The UFC then gave him a shot on the Dana White Contender Series in 2021. With a speedy submission win in that fight, Malott earned a UFC contract. The 30-year-old Canadian welterweight makes his official UFC debut at UFC 273 against Mickey Gall.

Malott might be a recognizable face to those who pay attention to the coaches who corner other fighters. A coach at Team Alpha Male, Malott has worked UFC fights in the past.

It was his work in the California gym that inspired him to get back in the cage in 2020.

“I fully intended on just coaching,” Malott told TSN before his DWCS appearance. “Even my first few times coaching guys in the UFC, I was like, man I’m not jealous of any of them, I don’t want to be the one in the cage, I don’t feel the need to do it. As time went on, the hunger started coming back, the fire started coming back. Obviously I’m there to coach, I’m focused on coaching while I’m coaching, but there’s part of me that’s like, ‘damn I wish I could be the guy that’s in there.’ So, I started training more intensely for fighting, I started sparring again, I started doing all the things that fighters need to do and we started looking for fights.”

Malott was poised in his Cage Fury debut, especially considering the three-year layoff and the fact that he took the bout on short-notice.

Malott faced Solomon Renfro at Cage Fury 91 and he found himself under siege from the aggression and power of his 6-0 opponent from the start. However, Renfro’s offensive output did not cause Malott to wither. He stayed focused and in the moment. That focus paid off when Malott landed a perfectly timed counter right that dropped Renfro. Malott then quickly transitioned to Renfro’s back and earned the win with a nasty rear naked choke that left Renfro unconscious.

While Malott started slow in his Cage Fury scrap, he did not make that same mistake in his DWCS bout. He looked to establish the pace and location of the fight early and then, like the Cage Fury contest, opportunity presented itself for Malott.

His opponent in that fight, Shimon Smotritsky, shot for a takedown, but he left his neck exposed and Malott, who has a BJJ black belt, pounced, securing a guillotine choke that brought the tap from Smotritsky at the 39-second mark of the first stanza.

As Malott made his way to the backstage area, UFC commentator Daniel Cormier said he was “fairly certain” UFC president Dana White would tap Malott for a UFC deal.

Cormier’s intuition was on the mark. White awarded him a deal, saying of Malott, “The only thing that I have to say about the main event is 39 seconds. Thirty-nine seconds. This kid is 7-1. (He’s) big, strong, tough, durable, Canadian. Get your ass over here, Mike.”

After earning his UFC deal, Malott told Sportsnet, “This has been something I’ve wanted since I was 12, 13 years old. And I’ve been training consistently since then. I’ve put a lot of work into this, more than half of my life has been dedicated to this. I moved across North America to pursue my dream and get better training. (I’ve) sacrificed things as far as being away from my family and away from a lot of my friends. But other than not being able to spend time with my family, it doesn’t feel like sacrificing. This is what I want to do.’’

Malott gets a name opponent in his first UFC fight. He faces Mickey Gall on the UFC 273 prelim card. Gall made his UFC debut in 2016 in his second pro fight and earned a submission win over Mike Jackson in that contest. Gall, who is the same age as Malott, has alternated wins and losses over his past eight UFC fights (4-4) and is coming off a unanimous decision setback to Alex Morono in December. Malott opened as a favorite over Gall and he has become an even bigger favorite as UFC 273 fight night approaches.

Malott is 7-1-1 overall. All seven of his wins have come by way of finish — three knockouts and four submissions — and each of those bouts ended in two minutes or fewer. Malott’s sole loss was a first-round TKO setback to Hakeem Dawodu under the World Series of Fighting banner in 2014.

UFC 273 takes place Saturday, April 9 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. The main card streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+ and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass and ESPN+.