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Tom O’Connor: The Task At Hand | UFC Fight Pass

Surging Lightweight Refuses To Look Beyond Unified MMA 56 Main Event Pairing With Bobby Moffett

Tom O’Connor appears to be on the precipice of taking the next big step forward in his mixed martial arts career.

Riding a four-fight winning streak into his Unified MMA 56 showdown with Dana White’s Contender Series (DWCS) graduate and UFC alum Bobby Moffett on March 22 at River Cree Resort & Casino, a victory could open a number of doors for the 31-year-old lightweight. A spot on Season 8 of the annual talent search series would certainly make sense, and a direct pass to the UFC Octagon cannot be ruled out either, especially if the proven finisher adds another stoppage to his current run of success on Friday evening.

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But even with those next level dreams drawing closer, O’Connor is focused on the task at hand, and for good reason.

“I can’t think or look past March 22, so when I’m journalling, I’m still considering all of these things, but I’m bringing awareness to (not being able to look past him),” began O’Connor, who scored a third-round submission win over Craig Shintani last time out at Unified MMA 54 in December. “All my training is zoned into that.

“If you lose sight of the task at hand, you can end up three or four steps back, so focus on the task at hand and make sure that what you’re doing is what you want to be doing,” continued the Alberta native, who has collected finishes in all but two of his 13 career victories. “I want to fight the best in the world, and right now, Bobby Moffett is that to me, so I’m on my way to him.”

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The matchup and the mindset mesh perfectly at this juncture for O’Connor, who has always focused on self-improvement and testing himself against the best competition available.

Fighting at the next level is certainly a goal, but it’s not the driving force behind why he pushes himself daily in the gym and seeks out challenges like the one before him on Friday night.

“For me, the main goal is ‘How good can I get in this sport?” began O’Connor, echoing sentiments we discussed ahead of his last outing. “‘How good can my skill set become? How good of an MMA athlete can I be in the short amount of time that we get? What is my peak?

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“Right now, the UFC is the top notch, but I just want to fight the best in the world. I don’t need to look past Bobby Moffett because I know he’s right there; he’s top tier. He’s a game opponent, fought the toughest guys in the world, at the highest level in the world, on the biggest stage in the world, and so I have no need to look past that because that’s what I’m after is to constantly test myself.

“(Thoughts of competing at the next level) don’t do you any good if they’re just dreams; you have to put them down on paper and make them a reality with actions,” he added. “But it’s that double-edged sword: you want to be excited about where you’re going, but if you forget about the process, you’re not gonna get there.”

The 33-year-old Moffett punched his ticket to the UFC with a second-round stoppage win on Season Two of Dana White’s Contender Series but failed to register a victory in three appearances inside the Octagon before getting released. Since losing his first fight outside the promotion, the MMA Lab representative has rattled off four straight wins, with the last two coming by submission in the opening round.

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“Bobby Moffett is no joke,” began O’Connor, offering his assessment of the man he’ll face in Friday’s main event. “The motivation against a guy like that who is proven — has been at the highest level, fought the toughest guys, and that’s where I want to go. This fight has me very motivated to bring my best self.

"He’s really good at catching things from anywhere — jumping on his attacks. He’s very quick and his processing speed is really good. He’s fought all levels. He’s as top tier a fighter as you can get, so nothing gets you more excited than fighting a guy like Bobby Moffett.”

That appreciation for who Moffett is, what he’s accomplished, and what a fight like this means, highlights a part of what makes O’Connor different than many of his contemporaries on the regional circuit.

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In a sport where most are quick to tell you they’re orders of magnitude better than their opponents and already capable of dethroning the UFC titleholder in their weight class, the thoughtful martial artist from Fort McLeod remains dedicated to applying the scientific method when it comes to figuring out where he stands at the moment and what impact his continued work in the gym is having on his game.

Nothing is taken for granted or brushed aside; he simply wants to keep working and keep testing himself against the best competition available, every time.

As a result, it’s easy to believe him when he says that collecting another victory on Friday night will genuinely mean everything to him.

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“As I challenge myself against tougher and tougher opponents, I get more and more disciplined, there is more fine-tuning in the process of trying to make sure all the things we’re doing right, we keep doing right, and the things where there is room for fixing, we’re fixing,” began O’Connor, detailing the importance he puts on this weekend’s headlining bout. “I put in blood, sweat, and tears, all my time — it’s everything to me.

“Beating a guy like that is evidence to the MMA world, to fans, friends, family, to myself that what we’re doing is working and that I can fight with anyone in the world.

“When I take out Bobby Moffett and get a finish against a guy like that, it really shows the world that I am here to compete with the very best.”