When opportunity knocks, middleweight Constantinos Philippou is quick to make the most of it.
Philippou has maintained this approach throughout his brief UFC career and it has served him quite well.
And if his recent history inside the Octagon is an accurate indicator, fight fans will discover Saturday that Philippou is a force to be reckoned with at 185 pounds.
The Queens, N.Y., resident takes a four-fight win streak into his bout against middleweight contender Tim Boetsch at UFC 155 in Las Vegas.
It is the type of fight Philippou has been dreaming of since he got an offer from UFC officials to make his promotional debut against Nick Catone on short notice in March 2011.
“The first fight [in UFC], I took on five days’ notice,” Philippou told ESPN.com. “I was thoroughly out of shape. But you can’t say 'no' when you get an opportunity like that; you never know if it’s going to come again.”
Catone won the catch-weight [195-pound] fight by unanimous decision, but Philippou -- who cut his vacation short to take the bout -- didn’t drop his head or make any excuses for his performance. Instead, he maintained the positive attitude that has served him well throughout his professional mixed martial arts career. He always believed that if the UFC came calling again and gave him the appropriate time to prepare, he would find success in the promotion.
Philippou did get another chance to show what he could do under normal conditions -- four more such opportunities in fact, and he has yet to disappoint. He's found his groove inside the Octagon and was ready to extend his streak to five on Nov. 17 at UFC 154 against Nick Ring. But Ring became ill hours before the fight and was forced to withdraw.
Was Philippou disappointed? Of course, but once again he stayed positive knowing that such setbacks have a way of working themselves out. Less than a week after his fight was cancelled, Philippou received some good news -- he’d been offered a fight with Boetsch. He immediately told UFC officials to pencil him in. His big break had come and no way was he going to turn it down.
But the opportunity wasn’t completely joyous for Philippou. The fight with Boetsch materialized after an injury forced Philippou’s teammate -- middleweight contender Chris Weidman -- to withdraw from the contest.
The two train together periodically at under the tutelage of former UFC welterweight titleholder Matt Serra on Long Island and have developed a good relationship.
Philippou knows that his teammate will rebound and will be rooting for him to succeed Saturday night. With the support of his entire camp behind him, he is eager not to disappoint. The fight against Boetsch is the highest-profile bout of Philippou’s career, and a victory will likely alter the course of his career.
“I will be officially established as a top-10 UFC middleweight fighter,” said Philippou, who has a pro record of 11-2 with one no-contest. “A lot of people still doubt my ability to fight.
“Beating a guy like Tim Boetsch will force them to recognize that I am a good fighter. Other than that it will be another great victory -- nothing more, nothing less.”
Despite the high stakes, Philippou didn’t make any major changes to his game. Striking is his bread and butter, but Philippou won’t rule out turning to his submission game if needed. And if matters go to the ground, things could get very interesting.
“I’m sure he’s good on the ground like everybody else; it’s just that we haven’t had a chance to see it yet,” Philippou said. “Like me, everybody thinks I don’t know how to do anything on the ground jiu-jitsu-wise.”
While the ground game could come into play, there is no doubt that the fighter who controls the standup action will have a big advantage during the three-round event.
Philippou is the more skilled striker, but he refuses to sell Boetsch short in that department. Besides, Boetsch (16-4) also has a four-fight win streak under his belt and has yet to drop a middleweight bout.
“He comes from a wrestling background, but if you’ve seen his last few fights his striking game is way up there,” Philippou said. “He knocked out [Yushin] Okami and went three rounds with [Hector] Lombard, and that’s no easy feat.
“His striking is up there. We used different techniques, but you can’t say he doesn’t know how to strike.”
Team Philippou is prepared to tackle anything Boetsch throws its way strategically. The lone adjustment Philippou has made is physical preparation.
Philippou was in tip-top physical condition on Nov. 17 for his showdown with Ring. And he was still in solid form when offered the match against Boetsch.
To avoid being overtrained, he slightly altered his pre-fight regimen.
“I was thinking that I was just adding to my preparation and after a few more weeks I will be even more prepared,” Philippou said. “But as time went by I realized that [the time before the fight] was too long and going back and forth to the gym every day, and being on a strict diet for five months straight, kind of takes its toll on your body.
“But it’s all right. I took a few days off and we worked through it, so [the extra time off] isn’t going to be a factor. I’m in pretty good shape and in pretty healthy condition. I’m ready to fight; I can’t wait.”