This is a moment Kenny Pope has been waiting a long time for.
Vernon’s own Pope (5-5) will take on Lethbridge’s Dylan Schellenberg (3-5) to determine the new owner of the Extreme Fighting Challenge (XFC) amateur welterweight title at XFC 11 on Saturday night in Vernon, B.C.
Despite having 10 amateur fights under his belt, this will be Pope’s first opportunity to compete in front of his hometown crowd, a moment that means the world to him.
“This is even better than the title, to be honest,” said Pope in an interview.
“This is a dream come true and I’m excited to show the fans in my hometown crowd what I can do. I can’t wait.”
So far in his amateur career, Pope, 28, has found himself in many quick fights, only going to a decision twice and having all eight of his other contests end in the first round.
This will, however, be Pope’s third title fight of his career, with the most recent one being a first round submission win over Damon Begg at AMA 33.
Although he’s yet to experience a full five-round fight, Pope said it’s something he’s always preparing for in the gym, and this training camp has been no different.
“I’m always training for five rounds, even if I have a three-round fight. I try to put in that time rolling for 15 or 20 minutes straight,” said Pope.
“I had a three-round fight with Mazdak Pourbohloul back in the day and that was a tough cardio fight for me. But I feel I can pull that out again, and even do better.”
Pope stands at a towering six-foot-six to go along with a sizeable reach advantage on the majority of opponents he faces in the welterweight division.
While holding that big of a height and reach advantage over your opponents is certainly helpful, Pope said you have to know how to use it in order to properly utilize it, which is something he’s beginning to learn how to do quite efficiently.
“My experience has helped me a lot in building and finding the right keys,” said Pope.
“I’m able to take what I’ve learned and what I’ve done wrong, and been able to really hone that in and find where I’m really comfortable now.”
Standing over half a foot shorter than Pope, Schellenberg, 26, is well aware and well-prepared for the height and reach disadvantage he will face Saturday night.
He said he knows Pope’s long arms can be a danger both on the feet and on the ground, and said he’s going to do his best to avoid being in situations where his opponent can use his reach.
“Most of his wins have come by submission, so with those long arms I just need to keep my neck away,” said Schellenberg in an interview.
“I just have to play my game, stay away from his, and just be able to counter that reach. And I believe I’m going to have no issue doing so.”
With four of Pope’s five wins coming before the end of the first round, Schellenberg said he knows his opponent is a fast starter.
But despite the knowledge of Pope’s notorious fast starts, Schellenberg said he won’t be looking to alter his game to weather his opponent’s early storm.
“It just comes down to me doing the simple things, knowing my strengths and weaknesses, and putting the fight in a position where I’m dictating the pace and not letting him dictate it.” said Schellenberg.
This will be Schellenberg’s second crack at taking home his first belt, with his first opportunity coming back in April in the gold medal match of the 2019 Canadian National Amateur Championships at Rumble in the Cage 61. Schellenberg would go on to fall to Mark Mosure in that contest.
While he said being able to call himself a champion is something he’d love to achieve, Schellenberg said he’s doing his best not to focus on what’s at stake.
“I’m not going into this fight with the mindset that there’s a belt on the line. It’s another fight and I have to go in there and worry about that,” said Schellenberg.
“The reward or achievement in getting the strap afterwards is all a plus. I’m just more concerned about getting in there, having a good fight, showing my skills, and dominating.”
“I’d like to thank my coach Raj and my whole team down at Unity MMA. For sponsors, I’d like to thank Loria Group Entertainment and On The Roxx Showlounge. I’d also like to thank my friends and family because I couldn’t do it without them.” Follow Pope on social media: FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM
“I’d like to thank my sponsors: Peppermint Hippo Tattoo, Rehab on Tap, and TMH Business Coaching and Consulting. Also a big thank you to Team CMC.” Follow Schellenberg on social media: FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM