Costas Philippou brings flexible approach into his UFC fight

UFC fighter Costa Philippou prepares to spar during

UFC fighter Costa Philippou prepares to spar during a training session at Ray Longo MMA Academy in Garden City. (Oct. 25, 2012) (Credit: James Escher)

Forget the usual talk about knocking someone out, finishing the opponent and the rest of those cute and cliched trimmings fighters serve up during the lead-in to a mixed martial arts fight.

Costas Philippou, the 12th-ranked middleweight in the UFC, cuts right through it all.

"I don't feel that I have to sit down and think about beating my opponent and killing him and I hate him," Philippou said. "No. It's a job, I'm gonna go in and get paid and do my thing and that's it."

"In" would be the UFC's octagon. The "job" is fighting Lorenz Larkin at UFC Fight Night 40 on Saturday in Cincinnati.

So, he must have some sort of mental mechanism that takes him from an everyday homeowner with two dogs and a desire to get into law enforcement to a ferocious, fist-swinging fighter when he enters the arena, right? Wrong.

"I'm the same walking in and walking out," said Philippou, who lives in Massapequa Park. "There's no switch for me, at least not that I know of."

And what of that classic question about a game plan that fighters always seem to be asked before a fight? Because, of course, a fighter must have a clear-cut plan heading into a sport that by definition includes at least six sports rolled into one, plus the constant blending and evolving of elements from any martial art that may provide an edge.

"I don't believe really in game plans, especially in MMA," Philippou said. "Let's say you want to wrestle with the guy. All right, I want to take him down. What if I can't take him down, then what? Then I have no game plan, I have to switch to something else.

"So, I believe in being in shape, try to be comfortable in every aspect of the game. Yes, I'm walking in trying to strike and try to keep it on my feet. But if during the fight I see I can take him down and maybe hold him down or maybe finish him on the ground with a submission or whatever, yeah, I'll go for that. Why not?"

Philippou (12-4, 5-3 UFC), a former professional boxer, is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time in his career. His most recent was a first-round technical knockout off a kick to the liver from Luke Rockhold in January. Four months earlier, he was outgrappled by Francis Carmont and lost a unanimous decision. He has been ranked as high as No. 5 in the UFC's middleweight division since a December 2012 stoppage of Tim Boetsch.

Larkin (14-2, 1-2) was less than impressive in losing a unanimous decision to Brad Tavares on the undercard of Philippou's last fight.

Philippou, who trains at Bellmore Kickboxing Academy, said entering the cage off back-to-back losses makes a difference.

"I really want to push it this time and prove to myself that I still got it," the 34-year-old native of Cyprus said. "This is it, it's now or never."

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