Iron sharpens iron, and Julien Leblanc experienced plenty of that over the past few months.
With the majority of Canada still being suffocated by restrictions surrounding COVID-19, Leblanc, 29, made the decision to complete his training camp down Florida, working with the elite team at Sanford MMA.
Leblanc said he’s been in Florida since January and has had the luxury of working with fighters such as Derek Brunson, Rory Macdonald, Impa Kasanganay, Adam Borics, Costello van Steenis, and many more.
“Every time I looked at it when I finished a practice, whether it was good or bad, it was just the best because even if I got crushed by this guy, I know who he is. I know he’s one of the best in the world and I was still holding my ground. It felt good to know I can go out there and compete with these guys. Even if it was hard or good, I felt like all of it was just very good for my confidence,” said Leblanc in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I was in the storm for three months, and I was able to survive in that storm for three months. I know I will be able to go into this fight knowing it will be nothing I haven’t seen now.”
Fighting on the LFA stage for the first time, Leblanc said he’s aware of the promotion’s reputation and history of sending their fighters to the UFC or Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS).
And while it may be hard not to think ahead at times, Leblanc said he’s staying focused on the task immediately in front of him, which is Bauman.
“I don’t think about after the fight, the future, Contender Series, the LFA belt, or anything like that. I only think about this week and just getting back in there that one time,” said Leblanc.
“For sure I’m going to want to do more after that and just keep going, but I just feel so grateful for the opportunity I have on the biggest stage outside of UFC and Bellator. When you work hard and don’t give up, good things happen to you.”
Although his immediate focus remains on the next task at hand, Leblanc still holds and strives for his long-term career goals and where he sees himself in the sport.
When cornering his teammate, Marc-Andre Barriault, for his UFC 260 fight at the UFC Apex last month, Leblanc said he couldn’t help but envision himself competing there.
Whether it be a UFC fight or a DWCS fight, Leblanc told himself he will be there.
“I told myself ‘next season, I’m there.’ That’s what I told myself. I’m not looking past Joel, I’m not looking past this fight, but me, in my mind, I think it’s going to take more than one win because it’s been so long that I’ve been out,” said Leblanc.
“When I was there, I visualized myself and I know I can be there and I know I will be there.”
Training out of Jackson Wink MMA, Leblanc said he knows he’s in for a tough test with Bauman on Friday night.
And while Bauman has proven to be a strong striker, Leblanc said he’s expecting him to lean more on his wrestling, which is something he’s been working a lot on himself.
“I’m expecting he’s going to go for the takedowns sooner than later because I know my striking level is very high. Maybe he’s going to watch my last fight, already over two years ago, no excuses, but that fight was at 170 and I didn’t feel good after the weight cut. In that fight I got taken down 11 times, so he’s probably going to rely on this and just play it safe and go for the takedown right away,” said Leblanc.
“I’ve worked a lot on my wrestling here and I’ve seen everything. I want to impose my will, but I know it’s not going to be an easy night, and that’s not what I wanted for my comeback either.”
“I need to say a big thank you to Martin Patenaude and Patrick Marcil. I also want to thank my wife because this camp wouldn’t have been the same without her and all of her support.” Follow Leblanc on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM