ohn Makdessi realizes he's not street fighting anymore.
After losing his past two fights, he added new faces to his camp, including peak performance coach that teaches "mental conditioning."
"It's been helping me a lot to just focus," Makdessi (9-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) told MMAjunkie.com (UFC blog for UFC news, UFC rumors, fighter interviews and event previews/recaps | MMAjunkie.com
For his fight with Sam Stout (19-7-1 MMA, 7-6 UFC) at UFC 154, the 27-year-old fighter got in touch with Brian Cain, who's worked with his teammate, welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre.
The coach taught him to be in the moment during fights and not worry about his opponent's actions. He said coaches have noticed the difference in the gym, and he's ready to win when he meets Stout on the event's FX-televised prelims.
UFC 154 takes place Saturday at Bell Centre in Montreal.
Makdessi said it's often hard to remove himself from his tough past while in the cage. Growing up in Laval, Quebec, he said his Lebanese background constantly got him into fights living in a predominantly Italian neighborhood.
"I had some problems growing up in the streets in high school," he said. "I had to fight to prove myself. I was the outcast. Always, someone would challenge me. So I have that little bit of craziness in me that, sometimes, I can easily lose my emotions."
That, he said, is precisely what happened in his most recent fight, a decision loss to Anthony Njokuani at UFC 145. In his mind, he reverted back to the days where there was no time limit on the amount of damage he could do to his opponent. Angry at previous loss, he continued to pursue Njokuani in hopes of delivering a knockout. But when he heard the third and final bell, he knew he had made a mistake.
"My mindset was wrong," Makdessi said. "Instead of fighting him, I was thinking, 'Gimme the best you can so I can get the shot.'"
Once a 22-0 kickboxer, Makdessi transitioned to MMA in 2008 and racked up seven straight wins before signing with the UFC. A decision win over Pat Audinwood in his UFC debut was followed by a highlight-reel spinning backfist KO of Kyle Watson at UFC 129, which sent his stock soaring.
But a follow-up against grappling specialist Dennis Hallman quickly revealed his limitations. In less than two minutes, he tapped to a rear-naked choke at UFC 140.
Makdessi said, "Good," when he heard that Stout was a favorite to win the fight.
"I love being the underdog," he said. "Every fight for me, I always look like I'm the underdog. At the end of the day, I'm fighting guys with a lot of experience. Every fight is a tough fight, and I hope to God he's ready, because I've never trained so hard for a fight in my life."