His fight will not begin until Saturday night, but for Costantinos Philippou, this is already Round 2.
Philippou, a mixed martial artist from Massapequa by way of Greece, already lost out on his first opportunity to join the UFC when a mistake cost him. Without that mistake -- getting caught in an armbar while taking down a jiu-jitsu specialist -- he's in the house for Season 11 of "The Ultimate Fighter," a Spike reality show that develops new talent for the UFC.
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"It taught me a lesson to stick with what I know best and try those things in the gym and not in the fight," Philippou, a 31-year-old blue belt, said.
Six days ago, Philippou accepted a fight against middleweight Nick Catone at UFC 128 at the Prudential Center in Newark. The preliminary bout takes place at a catchweight of 195 pounds to accommodate Philippou's short turnaround time. Catone's original opponent, Dan Miller, was moved to the main card against Nate Marquardt after his scheduled opponent, Yoshihiro Akiyama, pulled out because of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
"I thought someone was playing a joke on me," Philippou said about the phone call that woke him late last Saturday morning. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I'm not in shape, but I'm not out of shape."
Philippou signed a four-fight deal with a guaranteed second fight, win or lose Saturday.
Training with Ray Longo and former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra, Philippou understands what is being asked of him and what he needs to do.
What can a fighter really accomplish in less than a week with no semblance of a training camp? "Absolutely nothing," said Philippou (7-1). "Just drill a few things. There's nothing you can improve on in five days."
Longo said he worked Philippou's strength -- boxing -- and Serra ran through some takedown defense. Catone (8-2, 2-2 UFC), from Englewood, N.J., is known for his wrestling but has been away from the cage for 14 months because of back injuries. "My preparation is pretty much the same," Catone said. "Maybe tweak a few things here and there for styles. Still, it's kind of a pain when you're training for someone for 10 weeks."
Philippou, a former professional boxer, has skilled standup, whereas Catone's original opponent has a very strong ground game. But with just a week for each fighter to prepare, there's really no chance to work up a decent game plan. Catone will try to get this fight on the ground, Philippou will try to keep it standing.