After nearly two years away from the cage, Patrick Connors is set to return.
Barrie, Ont.’s Connors (3-2) is looking to get back to his winning ways this weekend when he travels to Arkansas to challenge undefeated Peak Fighting featherweight champion Dakota Hope-Lewis (4-0) at Peak Fighting 10 on Saturday night.
With gold on the line, it’s one step closer to the goal of making it to the big leagues for both Connors and Hope-Lewis and both fighters will be looking to make up for lost time in 2020 with a big performance.
“I’ve looked at him and I believe he’s young and hungry. It’s a really good challenge for both of us, we’re both determined to move up the ranks and get to the big show,” Connors said in an interview with MMA Empire.
“Some of his past fights might have been against guys who didn’t have their sights set that high, but this is good competition for both of us.”
Saturday night will mark Connors’ first time in a five-round fight, but it’s something he’s been preparing for his whole career.
After making his amateur debut in 2014 at 19 years old, he feels some of his biggest improvements have come from maturing as an athlete and a person.
“Physically, I know what type of athlete I am now. I can keep my foot on the pedal, but not hit that red line. The younger version of myself didn’t have the same efficiency.” Connors said.
Connors, 26, is coming into his own as a fighter and feels like he’s starting to round out all the facets of his game.
His slender 6’1″ frame at 145 pounds usually gives him the edge on the feet, but that’s not the only place he’s dangerous.
“I think, when looking at my game, my biggest asset is that I have no holes,” Connors said.
“I have been submitted, but that was against good jiu-jitsu black belts. I don’t believe Dakota brings that same pedigree. The length I have oftentimes gives me an advantage in striking, and also the experience I have. I’ve had multiple muay thai fights and a long amateur career in MMA.”
Coming off a 15-second knockout against Colton Hamm for the vacant Peak Fighting title, Hope-Lewis is always a threat to end things early, which is something Connors is fully aware of heading into their matchup.
“Against power like that you have to be sharp defensively. I can’t stand still in front of him and I need to be patient,” Connors said.
“I can’t get into a firefight in the first round. I need to find my openings and let him show his hand.”
When the cage door locks Connors said he’ll be looking to keep the pressure on Hope-Lewis and force him into a mistake, but said he’s not going to rush into anything.
“I want him to feel my presence and I don’t want him to find his rhythm,” Connors said.
“I know that I can’t trade shot for shot with this guy, so staying long and staying composed and not giving him space to breathe is what I’d like. I think I have a lot of ways to win and I think his best route is a knockout. I’ve never gone to a decision, so that would be a proud notch on my belt, but I’d rather get a finish.”
Given his track record, it’s unlikely the judges will be needed in this main event, and a five-round title fight makes it even less likely to happen.
Always game and always looking to test himself, Connors will try to add a title to his collection and make a statement at Peak Fighting 10.
“I think it’s just who I am. I’ve never been a point fighter, I’m always looking for a finish,” Connors said.
“Ideally, I finish this one in the fourth or fifth round. That way, I get to test my mettle and still get a finish.”