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Trey Ogden punches Jordan Leavitt in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on April 16, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Athletes

Trey Ogden Turned Losses Into Motivation

Heading Into His UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Song bout, Trey Ogden Reflects On His Journey To The UFC, And The Adversity That Shaped His Character

Trey Ogden hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be 23 years old, the age of his opponent on Saturday night, Daniel Zellhuber.

“You remember when you were 21, 22, 23, and I think the way you conceptualize the world is so different,” he said. “I'm 32, and I didn't think very long term when I was his age. When I was in my early 20s, everything was short-term thought, and as I got into my later 20s, I started to think long-term, and I also understood the impact of things long-term. I started thinking about the decisions I was making and how they affected things. I started taking myself more seriously - not in an ego way but taking myself and my life more serious and being more disciplined and understanding all of that.”

Fight By Fight Preview | UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Song

It's a key element of the lightweight bout at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. Ogden is the seasoned vet with 20 pro fights under his belt. Mexico’s Zellhuber is the unbeaten (12-0) young gun who earned his UFC contract on season five of Dana White’s Contender Series and is now making his Octagon debut. He’s talented, for sure, but is he ready for the bright lights of the UFC?

Ogden knows what he’s facing, but he knows that sometimes in this sport, intangibles can factor into the outcome of a fight more than just talent and youth.

Trey Ogden and Daniel Zellhuber of Mexico face off at UFC APEX on September 16, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Trey Ogden and Daniel Zellhuber of Mexico face off at UFC APEX on September 16, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)


“It certainly can because it goes into your character,” said the Missouri native. “I think that I've had more missed opportunities than him in life. I didn't get in the UFC when I was 23, and I think that had I, I would have taken it for granted. He's never lost, he's undefeated. I've lost five times and all of them sucked bad, and they were all motivators not to lose again. And I think it's the same in training. In training, I think it shows up. When you've lost and you're tired in training and you want to pull off the gas tank a little bit, but you've been tired and it's cost you a fight, you dig deeper and you push harder. When you want to cheat on your diet and you're undefeated, it's really easy because you've never had anything go wrong. Everything's just come easier for him than for me. My journey was long and hard and ruthless. I just have a different edge in me, a different gear than I used to have when I was younger and less naive. Life is imprinted on me and made me meaner, in a sense.”

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That’s on fight night. Outside the Octagon, Ogden is a teacher and a martial artist to his core. For over two decades, he’s made this his life’s work, and as the co-owner of a Glory MMA-affiliated gym (Glory MMA Overland Park) with his head coach, James Krause, it’s his job to impart his knowledge to a new generation of martial artists and fighters.

“My goal my whole life, even when I was a kid and doing traditional martial arts was to master martial arts functionally,” he explains. “I wanted to master my craft and, at first, I didn't even know what that meant. But I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. I teach full-time, and I own an affiliate gym with James Krause, so I have a fight team, I'm on the mat all day, I compete full-time at the highest level, and I am in my physical prime, and so to put those things together all of the same time is really rare.”

It is, and when Ogden says he’s on the mat all day, he’s not exaggerating thanks to three 90-minute classes a day along with his own fight training.

“The martial arts marathon is no joke,” he laughs. “It is the real deal. I am on the mat six to eight hours a day, every day. It's unrelenting. I study when I'm home, and Monday through Saturday, this is what I do. On Sunday, I lay down.”

Knowing him, probably for an hour, when he dreams of drills and techniques. Then it’s back to work on Monday, and the last several weeks, the task has been to erase the memory of a split decision loss to Jordan Leavitt in his short notice UFC debut in April, and get his hand raised in the biggest promotion in the sport. But he doesn’t just want a win on Saturday – his first goal as a UFC fighter is to finish his opponent.

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“Goal one, finish an opponent in the UFC,” Ogden said. “This is my second fight; I took my first one on real short notice and had a split decision loss which doesn't sit well with me at all. I just want to represent myself and my team and my art and my journey to the best of my ability every time I go out and be at peace with what comes with that. And obviously I'm financially motivated at this point. I'm in my 30s and this is how I make my money, so I would like to take advantage of this opportunity with the UFC to get some money to invest before I'm done with it.”

All reachable goals, for sure. And while hitting all his marks would be nice, fighting hard to get there is just as important, especially for those eyes at his gym watching his every move. For most, that would be a lot of pressure; for Ogden, he takes it as an honor.

“I think that somebody has to hold the standard and represent it and embody it for other people to look to it and get that rubbed off on them, so that they have an example of what it looks like when it's taken the most serious and taken to its highest level,” he said. “And I do seek to hold that standard. I do try to hold myself accountable and try to lead from the front, but it doesn't add any pressure to me. It actually gives me strength.”

UFC Fight Night: Sandhagen vs Song took place live from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 17, 2022. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass