Training is like work.
Ovince St. Preux prefers to fight. So that’s just what the former University of Tennessee football player has done lately.
Friday, the Knoxville-based fighter will become the first competitor ever to take part in three straight Strikeforce events when he faces Abongo Humphrey in a light heavyweight bout on the Strikeforce Challengers card at Municipal Auditorium.
The event will be broadcast live on Showtime beginning 10 p.m. and the main event will feature welterweights Tyron Woodley (7-0) and Tarec “Sponge” Saffiedine (10-2). The non-televised undercard is set to start at approximately 7:30 p.m. Weigh-ins, which are open to the public, are 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the downtown Doubletree Hotel.
It will be St. Preux’s third fight in fewer than two months. The first two were unanimous decisions on Nov. 19 and Dec. 4, 2010, as he ran his current win streak to six and improved his professional record to 9-4.
“It’s definitely a blessing because I’m in a situation where I’m doing really good right now,” St. Preux said. “I want to keep on doing good. … Last year I started with my record a little under .500, and I told myself I wanted to get my record up and sign with a major company, which I did — Strikeforce.”
Half of his current string of victories have come in Strikeforce events.
Strikeforce Challengers is the series used by the promotion to identify championship contenders and to help those fighters build a fan following as they climb the ladder.
St. Preux, a linebacker and defensive end at UT in the early 1990s before he transferred to Tennessee-Chattanooga, said his goal is to position himself for a championship fight by the end of this year — no matter how many times he has to fight in order to do so.
“I’ve talked to a couple people about it and they asked if I wanted to continue to fight five or six times this year,” he said. “If it’s possible, I’ll do it. I’ll fight 10 times if I have to.
“At the same time, if I fight two or three times, I’m not going to complain.”
That just would leave more time to train, which he says is “like having a real job.”
Five days a week he leaves his house by 8 a.m., is in the gym by 8:30 and training by 9 a.m. The morning sessions last two or two and half hours, after which spends 90 minutes in a hyperbaric chamber. Cardiovascular training in the afternoon is followed by a break and then evening workouts that last three hours or more. Two or three times a week he squeezes in boxing training as well. Plus, he’ll do extra work on the weekends when he feels it’s needed.
He began to reap the benefits of those efforts in April when he scored a 47-second knockout on the undercard of a Strikeforce event at Bridgestone Arena, the promotion’s first visit to Middle Tennessee, which was the second of four straight first-round triumphs.
His next fight was an eight-second knockout with a different promotion. His last defeat was by technical knockout on Sept. 26, 2009.
“I’ve lost a couple fights and the fights that I’ve lost have actually been a blessing to me,” he said. “I learned a lot from those fights.
“The thing about mixed martial arts is … I don’t like losing, but if I lose I’m going to do so in a way that my opponent is going to be like,’ I don’t ever want to fight that guy again.’”
Win or lose, St. Preux almost always looks forward to his next fight as soon as possible.
“If I can end a fight in eight seconds — I’ve ended a fight in eight seconds before — I’m going to do it,” he said. “Some people are just really hard to put away. My last two fights went the full three rounds and fortunately I came out unscathed.
“I always tell people that if I’m healthy, I’ll fight. I’m still healthy, so I’m fighting.”