Alan Belcher doesn’t particularly care for his nickname “The Talent.” He earned it by picking up a guitar when he was young—not for his fighting skills. Fast-forward to his UFC debut against Yushin Okami at UFC 62 in 2006 and an insane front flip with Okami mounted on his back and it seems fitting. He still doesn’t like it.
“I like to think of myself as a hard worker,” said Belcher. “And now that I’m on a higher level man,” he said, “There’s so many guys that are more talented than me, more athletic, you know. I feel—I kinda see myself as just a competitor and a hard worker than just a person with natural talent, you know?”
Fighting out of Duke Roufus’ Milwaukee MMA, the Biloxi, Mississippi-based fighter develops his tooth-and-nail work ethic with legendary kickboxer Roufus and UFC veterans Eric Schafer and Pat Barry. Olympian and two-time NCAA Division I wrestling champion Ben Askren and his younger brother Max are sharpening Belcher’s weapons too.
Part of the work for the light heavyweight turned middleweight is weight management. He states if you want to be competitive and confident, focus must be on training and not on scales. The 185-pounder walks around at around 210-poounds but can get as high as 220 if he’s not careful. For this training camp leading up to his UFC 100 bout with Yoshihiro Akiyama, Belcher was professional—not ballooning in between fights.
“I think its better for me mentally and physically to just compact it all into six weeks because I was starting off in shape,” said Belcher, who meditates mornings. “I was already in shape so I just did six weeks of hard training, hard dieting. I still feel fresh man.”
The change in his training structure results from a hot-cold 5-3 UFC record that’s seen him lose when he shouldn’t have and win when he shouldn’t have. He upset renowned middleweight Denis Kang in his last bout at UFC 91 in Dublin, Ireland in January, and Belcher believes fighting another elite 185-pounder in Akiyama—who also defeated Kang—comes at the perfect time in his career.
“Tell you the truth, most of my fights I won by the other guy getting tired from beating me up,” he said. “You know what I mean? I always was a slow starter— come back. And that’s something that I keep forever, being able to come back and win to the end [after] they cut me out.”
Belcher explains it doesn’t matter who’s running the race for the middleweight championship because anyone can finish first. Luck of the draw, maybe. Belcher likes to think its hard work. The kind that’s gotten him noticed in the UFC, not the kind that saw him crank out a guitar solo on his friend’s guitar because he picks up things fast.
“I’m starting to feel like I’m putting in the work and instead of dreaming it being able to fight top guys and fight for the title,” he said, “Now I see it very shortly down the road.”