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Nicolas Dalby of Denmark warms up prior to his fight during the UFC 283 event at Jeunesse Arena on January 21, 2023 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC)

A Positivity Spiral For Nicolas Dalby

Veteran Counts Family, Return Of Old Coach Among Many Reasons For Great Headspace

When we last left Nicolas Dalby, he was getting his hand raised following a grimy, old-school slog with veteran Warlley Alves at UFC 283 in Rio de Janeiro last January. It was a razor-close back and forth split decision win where both men had their moments. But if you watch really close, throughout the third round, you can see a look in Dalby’s eyes; an expression that reads: there’s no way I’m going to let this one get away. He confirmed as much when I spoke to him backstage a few minutes later.

“I told my coach this before the fight: this was for my daughter. Like, this is food on the table. I was not going to quit. I was going to f---ing go in there and do everything in my power to bring that victory home.”

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And that’s Dalby in a nutshell. At age 38, he knows what he’s doing in there and knows why he’s doing it. Speak just a few sentences with Dalby and a high-character, compassionate individual is revealed. The fact that he had just defeated a veteran like Alves in his opponent’s own backyard was of little interest to “Danish Dynamite.”

Nicolas Dalby of Denmark kicks Warlley Alves of Brazil in a welterweight fight during the UFC 283 event at Jeunesse Arena on January 21, 2023 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC)
Nicolas Dalby of Denmark kicks Warlley Alves of Brazil in a welterweight fight during the UFC 283 event at Jeunesse Arena on January 21, 2023 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC)

“I don't want to win against someone in their own home country in front of their fans. That's not a turn-on for me. I was just happy to get the victory. Warlley is such a nice guy. We talked a bit after the fight and in the medic room and we're colleagues, as well. Even though you fight each other, we're colleagues. And I don't wish him to lose the fight, but this is the game. And that's also the exciting part about it, that you go in there and you fight someone who is, on paper, equally as skilled as you, and then you duke it out.”

Fast forward to this week in Las Vegas and Dalby is bringing that same energy to his main card-opening bout versus Muslim Salikhov at Saturday’s UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs Cannonier event at the UFC APEX.

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“My first thought was: exciting. This is going to be an exciting fight. He's got a very unique and specific toolset he brings to the fights, so I was very intrigued by the matchup and how we could prepare for a fighter like this. Interesting matchup, I really like it.”

Dalby is doubly excited at being able to fight more than once a year, something the pandemic and other factors have prevented him from doing since 2020.

Nicolas Dalby trains at the UFC Performance Institute on June 23, 2021. (Photo by Zac Pacleb)
Nicolas Dalby trains at the UFC Performance Institute (Photo by Zac Pacleb/Zuffa LLC)

“It’s amazing and I’m hoping to get one more fight in this year,” he says. “I definitely feel a difference. There's less rust ring rust. I can fight, no matter what, if I've had a long break or not. But, you know, all the subtle things that goes on during a fight week or during a training camp. They're a bit more fresh in my memory.”

Memories became realities for Dalby when he got a blast from the past for this particular camp.

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“I reconnected with my old coach, who had been with me since my first amateur fight, and with me up until my last UFC fight in my first stint. And we reconnected and started training together again. And that's brought a huge lift to my options and possibilities to prepare myself.”

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Dalby’s first stint in the UFC from 2015-2016 was arguably the roughest stretch of an impressive 21-4-1 professional career. It started strong with a win over Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos before a draw with Darren Till, followed by two losses. He’d spend his next five fights at Cage Warriors, where he brought home the welterweight title.

“The biggest difference between my first stint and this one is that I'm much more aware mentally. I was in a weird place the first time I got signed, you see. I felt like I was sitting in the backseat of a car that was just driving, even though I was actually in the front seat. And now it's been a very conscious and aware decision. So, everything is more measured, everything is more thoughtful. And I can see that it reflects in my results.”

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There is an undeniable aura of optimism around Dalby these days. He senses it as much as those who come in contact with him.

“I've been in a very good mental space. You know, things kind of affect each other. So, no matter what, I was feeling good, and then getting (my old coach) on board made it a positive spiral. So I'm very excited for the ride.”

UFC Fight Night: Vettori vs Cannonier took place live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas on June 17, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass