With their eyes on the prize, Scott Hudson and D’Juan Owens each feel they’re set for XFC success.
When looking through the rest of the lightweight bracket, Hudson, 33, said he believes he’s in a good position to make a strong run at the XFC lightweight title.
“I think I stack up fine with the rest of the bracket. As far as wins against experienced opponents, I’m probably up there with Holobaugh. Kenny Cross has got a lot of hype behind him; he’s coming off a win on Contender Series, but he doesn’t really have the pedigree of wins against experienced opponents,” said Hudson in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I have a pretty good idea of who I think is going to advance, and I’m not looking past D’Juan, but I think I stack up well with everyone.”
With 34 fights under his belt, Owens, 35, has seen it all in the cage, from the toughest of opposition to the biggest stages the regional MMA scene has to offer.
Owens said he’s become accustomed to dealing with pressure and bigger stages, and feels those are the moments he shines brightest.
“Eight out of my first 10 pro fights I was fighting in the main event in someone else’s backyard. I was brought in to lose and I still went 6-4. I’ve fought internationally six times against people that were supposed to win. But I always shine in those toughest times when my back’s against the wall,” said Owens in an interview with MMA Empire.
“Whenever I put myself in the best position to win, I shine. And this is that type of moment. This opportunity is huge. The tournament structure, the format, the NBC deal, the purse, it’s all really motivating.”
Patience paid off for Hudson
Although now firmly entrenched in the lightweight bracket, Hudson originally got the call from XFC to be part of the welterweight tournament.
When offered the welterweight spot, Hudson said he asked for an opportunity at lightweight instead, which was declined at the time. But in the end, patience paid off for Hudson.
“In a tournament setting where nobody has any control over the matchmaking, and you’re just going to fight whoever wins, I didn’t want to be fighting people I’d be giving up too much size to,” said Hudson.
“A little bit after that they put up a post on Instagram saying ‘who do you want to see XFC sign?’ I shared that in my story, then all my followers and friends reposted and tagged me in it, and it kind of blew up, which worked because they hit me up a few days later with a spot in the 155 tournament.”
In his last call to action, Hudson successfully defended his BTC 165-pound title for the first time, defeating Jarel Askew via a five-round unanimous decision.
It was Hudson’s first time fighting a full five rounds in his career, and he said that experience gives him confidence in being able to bring a much higher pace for three rounds moving forward.
“I’ve had a handful of five-round fights, but that was the first one that actually went the distance. It was nice to get that out of the way and know I have the stones and the gas tank to push the pace for five rounds. I also had the flu for that fight, so I can do it even on my worst day,” said Hudson.
“Coming into this fight for three rounds, I’m really going to be able to keep that pedal down and put a pace on D’Juan.”
Hudson has had his close calls with some of the bigger promotions recently, including being on the short list to replace Sergey Khandozhko against Michel Pereira at UFC Vancouver last November.
Having won four straight and six of his last seven fights coming into this contest, Hudson said he expects a call from a bigger promotion following a win over Owens, but fully intends on fighting out his XFC contract.
“Even after one win, if I beat D’Juan, I know I’m going to get a call from a bigger promotion. But I signed a contract with XFC and I plan to see it through,” said Hudson.
“XFC is treating their fighters real well, they’re paying everyone really well, and they’re doing a really good job to get behind their fighters. The way they have it setup, the incentive is there for champions to stick around.”
Owens looking to get back to winning ways
After a good run to kick off 2019, Owens ended the year with two straight losses, a run he said hasn’t been sitting well with him.
Now set to fight for the first time in 2020, Owens said he’s looking to get back on track and back to the form he knows he’s capable of.
“When I’m at my best, I really do feel good about my skill-set, and I think I’ve proved that. Now, it’s about consistency. It’s time to get back on track, it’s time to be consistent, and this is an incredible opportunity to do that,” said Owens.
“Just looking at the field, including Hudson, it’s strong opposition. We all got here by different means, and it feels like I took the hard route. I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone, but, regardless, I got the skills to show for it. When I win this tournament, I will prove why going the hard route paid dividends for me. I’m ready.”
Owens is no stranger to going into enemy territory looking to take out the hometown favourite, having done so on multiple occasions, especially in recent years.
With this bout being contested at a more neutral site, Owens said it’s going to be nice not having to worry about those outside distractions.
“When I fought Joe Giannetti, I was in Boston with the whole stadium against me, dominated him. When I fought Sabah Fadai, 11-5, very skilled, president of the promotion, his hometown, beat him too. Tristan Connelly, number one fighter in Canada, and again in his hometown where he came up,” said Owens.
“This is the type of s**t I do. I’m going into people’s backyards and I’m doing my thing. Atlanta is not my stomping grounds, but it’s not his either. It’s just less frustrating things I have to think about.”
Although the fights won’t be contested on back-to-back nights or in short order, with the tournament-style format, avoiding serious or long-term injuries will be a factor in order to move on in the bracket.
Owens said he knows the importance of taking as little damage as possible, and is looking to go in there and score a quick finish of Hudson.
“The tournament format matters. You have to fight again soon, so you can’t afford to be on ice, even for a little while. Even if you want to fight, but you take too much damage, it can affect things,” said Owens.
“I’m training and game-planning from a tournament perspective because I’m coming to win this tournament. I’m going to be looking to finish. I’m going to be smart, I’m going to be technical, I’m going to be explosive at the right times, and I’m going to be tricky.”