You could see the emotion on Dan Ige’s face after his knockout win over Damon Jackson in January. This one truly meant something.
The all-action featherweight had been waiting for that victorious feeling for 22 months. He had been thinking about everything he sacrifices and dedicates to being one of the best 145-pound fighters on the planet.
And to get a win like that, at that point in his career, was like a pressure had lifted off his shoulders.
“To not win for 22 months really sucked,” Ige told UFC.com. “To get one over Damon Jackson felt really great and to get a knockout and performance bonus on top of that just made it even better.”
That emphatic win put Ige back in the win column and set him up for a showdown with Nate Landwehr, a rising featherweight who is a total showman both in the Octagon and on the microphone.
Ige has anticipated that the UFC would set him up to fight “Nate The Train” for some time. As a matter of fact, he thought it would happen before he fought Jackson due to how his style and Landwehr’s match up. It is a fight that makes sense, both in terms of the featherweight rankings and in terms of the excitement factor.
The extra time allowed both Ige and Landwehr to collect wins in the meantime and make their UFC 289: Nunes vs Aldana fight even bigger.
“It’s happening now and I’m looking forward to it,” Ige said. “He’s exciting, he comes to fight, and he brings it. He wants to put on exciting fights. He might make a dumb decision to make the fight a little more exciting so I’m honestly looking forward to it. It’s going to be fireworks.”
So, what will the fight between them actually look like once that Octagon door shuts?
“It looks like me getting my hand raised and him sleeping on the canvas,” Ige said firmly.
To make that happen, Ige believes he has to stay disciplined and focus on his gameplan. If he can do that, and control his effort and output, there is no way that Landwehr will be able to outduel him.
Ige feels like he’s going to put forth the best version of “50k” that fight fans have seen thus far on Saturday. That confidence is built on the foundation of a “constant progression” of his mindset and skill set. He’s avoiding the feeling of complacency, and those improvements, combined with his desire to win, have helped him elevate his game ahead of this bout with Landwehr.
“I always come to fight. If you look back at every single one of my fights in the UFC, I’ve made improvements,” Ige said. “As soon as I stop improving, I think it’s time to check out of this sport, but I feel like I’m getting better. I’m 31 years old and I’m in my prime right now, and I have to capitalize on that and keep showing up.”
Beating Landwehr won’t help Ige climb the rankings and he’s fine with that. But the heavy-handed Hawaiian knows that knocking out Jackson was the first step toward getting back to where he was in 2021 – main events and title contention. Taking care of business this weekend versus Landwehr is the second step and gets the ball rolling for him to earn a ranked opponent his next time out.
“I don’t look at this from a ranking perspective. Right now, I’m in the process of rebuilding my name; my resume, so to say,” Ige said. “Obviously, a win isn’t going to put me up in the rankings because he isn’t ranked but it will get me the momentum. I’m just trying to rebuild myself and it starts with Nate. I can’t look past that.”
Ige likes to map out his year and think a few fights ahead at a time. He knows things can change in an instant, but thinking ahead allows him to be realistic.
But something is telling him that 2023 is going to be a big year.
“I have this feeling in my heart that the second half of this year is going to be better than the first half,” Ige said. “I’ve had a great first half of the year. Obviously started off in January with a big win and performance, but quarter three or quarter four is going to be the best part of the year.
“It starts with Nate Landwehr, and it goes from there.”