UFC 281 was one of the most anticipated fight cards of the year, and somehow the event still managed to surpass its own lofty expectations. Following the upset wins, huge knockouts, and wild fights, a few of the fighters chose to share some interesting thoughts during their post-fight interviews.
Kowalkiewicz Considered Retirement
The win was somewhat overshadowed by a confusing moment involving the judge’s scorecards, but Karolina Kowalkiewicz picked up her second victory in a row when she earned a decision over Silvana Gómez Juárez.
The former strawweight title challenger had lost five consecutive fights at one point, and Kowalkiewicz revealed in her post-fight interview that she considered retiring.
“You know, before my last fight I was so tired. And I want to go to retire. But I moved to ATT, I started to train…And after a few weeks, I knew I want to fight more and more and more. And now I’m back, and I love my job. I love my job so much. I love UFC, I love everything here.
Frevola Calls Out “The Baddy”
Matt Frevola scored an upset victory when he stopped the undefeated Ottman Azaitar in their lightweight bout on the UFC 281 prelims.
After getting the New York crowd to chant his nickname, “Steamrolla” told Joe Rogan who he wants to fight next.
“New York, let’s go. Listen up, Paddy “The Baddy” better win that fight. Because me and Paddy in London, that’s the fight to make baby, let’s go. I’m ready to go.”
Petroski Wants Nickal
Even though he was frustrated at not scoring a finish, Andre Petroski looked impressive in a unanimous decision over Wellington Turman that saw him extend his current winning streak to four fights.
The 31-year-old used his Octagon interview to issue a pair of callouts, one of which was directed at arguably the UFC’s hottest prospect.
“I would love Bo Nickal. I would love Gerald Meerschaert. I wanna fight the best. Bo Nickal has turned me down twice now. Bo, where you at!?”
Blanchfield Eyes The Top 10
Erin Blanchfield entered her matchup with Molly McCann as a significant favorite, and the 23-year-old largely dominated “Meatball” before securing a kimura in the first round.
“Cold Blooded” has now won seven fights in a row and feels she’s ready for a crack at the upper tier of the women’s flyweight division.
“I was Top 15, I wanna move into the Top 10. I know Casey is still hurt, but Andrea Lee doesn’t have any fights. She’s #9, I’d love to take that spot.”
Spann Claims He “Never Trained Before”
One of the most brutal moments of UFC 281 was when Ryan Spann welcomed Dominick Reyes back to the Octagon with a stiff jab that left the former title challenger on the canvas.
When Rogan asked the 31-year-old what had changed in his last couple fights, Spann made a surprising admission before calling out the top spots in the light heavyweight division.
“I’ve never trained for a fight before…We actually trained for this. And I did everything the right way. We had a little hiccup and I wanna apologize to Dom for missing weight. I mean truly, anywhere else I would have made that. But you know, I needed it to happen the way that it happened. We back at the gym Monday. Look, I want Top 5. And I don’t want four, three, or two.”
Moicano Wants Money
Renato Moicano secured an impressive win when he submitted Brad Riddell in the first round of the UFC 281 featured prelim, and arguably no fighter used their microphone time as successfully as the Brazilian.
After starting out by telling Rogan what a huge fan he was, Moicano put the UFC’s lightweight division on notice.
“I was ranked #5 featherweight. I was the best featherweight on the planet, and I lost to my idol José Aldo. I lost to him. It was really bad for my career, but I move up, I learn with my mistakes. And I am fucking here to take over…make no mistake, I lost only to the best. But today, I’m the fucking best. Let’s go New York, make some fucking noise.”
The 33-year-old was on a two-fight win streak before losing a short-notice bout to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC 272, and apparently Moicano wasn’t thrilled about his compensation for that fight.
“This is disrespect, I took a fight, a five round fight on four days notice. I was fucking drinking beer, eating steaks in Brazil, and they call me. I come here, travel 24 hours…Respect me, Moicano wants money.”
Hooker Wants A Fight In Perth
Dan Hooker kicked off the UFC 281 main card with a third-round TKO of Claudio Puelles that snapped a two-fight losing streak.
“The Hangman” apparently had no time for Rogan’s questions, and Hooker decided to take the mic for a brief statement before walking off.
“Joe, I’m six foot with a vicious hook. When I bite down on this mouthpiece, oh boy I make nails look soft. Now, Perth. I’m coming for you. Any man walking the face of this Earth can get it. Come and get it. I love you Joe.”
Edgar Bids Farewell
Possibly the biggest storyline of UFC 281 outside of the two title fights was the retirement of Frankie Edgar.
The former lightweight champion was knocked out by Chris Gutierrez in a fight that he’d already declared would be his last, but “The Answer” knows that MMA doesn’t often lend itself to happy endings.
“I love this sport man. I didn’t wanna go out like that, but this sport’s a bitch, you know? I got my family here, that’s all that matters…Congrats to Chris. This sport’s not always so forgiving. I love everybody, you guys make this awesome.”
Zhang Thanks Her Fans
The co-main event of UFC 281 saw Carla Esparza attempt to defend her strawweight title against former champion Weili Zhang. “The Cookie Monster” had a few brief moments of success but was ultimately submitted by Zhang just over a minute into the second round.
The 33-year-old first won the title in Shenzhen, China in 2019, but Zhang said after the fight that reclaiming the belt on United States soil was just as fulfilling.
“Last time when I won the belt in China, all the fans from my country support me. I felt that I was the Weili belongs to China, this time I came to the U.S. I feel the same level of support from all you guys. I feel I’m the Weili belongs to the world.”
“Magnum” had to overcome two-straight losses to former champion Rose Namajunas to get back to the title, and that adversity prompted her to share a message with the fans at Madison Square Garden.
“I wanna say to everybody, all of us will experience failures. But when you experience that, you should never give up. Do want you want to do, persist on, and the victory will come back.”
Pereira Dismisses Doubters
UFC 281 had already made a case as the best card of the year prior to the main event, which saw Israel Adesanya and Alex Pereira deliver nearly five rounds of tense action to close things out.
With Adesanya seemingly just a few minutes away from defending his middleweight title, Pereira stepped on the gas and finished “The Last Stylebender” in the fifth round.
After all of the build up that went into the grudge match between the two kickboxing rivals, “Poatan” delivered a simple statement to those that doubted him heading into the fight.
“Well, it was a very hard fight. But just like Glover says, I was going through a fight everyday at the gym. I was going through five rounds all the time. For everybody that say I couldn’t do five rounds, look at what I just did right now. I’m ready for the next.”
What do you think of the Octagon interviews from UFC 281? Are there any quotes or callouts that stand out to you?