Trevin Giles’ six-fight tenure in the UFC has followed a similar trajectory to a great number of promising up and comers that arrive on the big stage brandishing an undefeated record and scads of potential.
In his first two outings, he defeated James Bochnovic and Antonio Braga Neto to push his record to 11-0, garnering a ton of attention and heaps of momentum just in time to press pause on his career in order to attend the police academy and become a member of the Houston Police Department.
When he returned 18 months later, a third-round mistake against Zak Cummings led to his first professional loss, and a flat outing opposite veteran Gerald Meerschaert resulted in a second consecutive submission defeat. Just as quickly as he had built some buzz with his tandem stoppage victories, the twin ticks in the loss column had people abandoning the Giles bandwagon.
“People are going to criticize; they’ll love you when you’re up and hate you when you’re down,” said Giles, who returns to action this weekend against Roman Dolidze, who tagged in for Dricus du Plessis after the South African sophomore was forced off the card late last week. “More than anything, it was annoying to see how fans react, but it’s necessary for me to experience that because that might mess with a lot of fighters.
“Coming into the UFC, getting two good wins and being undefeated was great, and then hearing everybody praise you and have high expectations for you is great too, but even after the first one people were talking s*** and I was like, ‘Wow.’ It just shows you what the loyalty is like.
“I knew that after I lost the second time, people were going to just forget about the undefeated record and the finishes,” continued the 28-year-old middleweight. “It’s just ‘This guy sucks now.’ I don’t let it bother me too much now, but it bothered me a little bit at first.”
What has helped ease the sting of the sudden (but not unexpected) shift in public opinion about his skills and upside is the two-fight winning streak Giles carries into this weekend’s clash with Dolidze.
Fighting at home in Houston back in February, Giles edged out welterweight veteran James Krause in a Fight of the Night-winning battle that came together the morning before the fight.
In town to corner a member of the Glory MMA team, Krause volunteered to compete up a division when Giles’ original opponent, Antonio Arroyo, was forced off the card due to medical issues stemming from his weight cut. All parties agreed, the fight was put together, and the two men went toe-to-toe for 15 minutes in one of the more entertaining, albeit odd, pairings from pre-pandemic 2020.
While the Krause victory got him back into the win column, it was Giles’ third-round stoppage win over Bevon Lewis in November that really set him straight.
“I feel like I did need that fight, and it felt good just not having any changes because my past couple fights have been “switch-up fights” where something went wrong and then you go and fight a guy you weren’t planning on fighting,” said Giles, who was once again tasked with making on-the-fly adjustments as he readies for battle. “It was good to have that steady face — that guy you know you’re getting ready to fight and then it goes all the way through and you actually fight him.
“I definitely need that steadiness of knowing, ‘Okay, I’m fighting Bevon’ and then to actually go in there, have the camp for him, and be able to just prepare and go out there and execute. It’s something I needed, and it’s got me some more momentum now, so hopefully I can keep that going.”
Dealing with opponent changes is part of the gig as a professional fighter and has become even more commonplace over the last 12 months as the COVID-19 pandemic has limited travel, altered plans, and wreaked havoc with everyday life.
But even though competitors know it’s always a possibility, a shift in opponent can be like a pitcher throwing a change-up when you’re sitting on a fastball, especially when it happens late in camp.
“Internally and mentally, you get your mind fixed on one guy and that style,” said Giles, who can at least rely on his wealth of experience in dealing with this latest change in dance partners. "Fighting is stressful, so even getting some ease about ‘this is the guy I’m going to fight’ because you get to see him over and over and over on tape, get used to the way he moves is important.
“Then all of a sudden it’s like, ‘WOW!’ and it’s not him anymore and you have to put an abrupt reset on everything and go fight this new face.”
And as he readies to make the walk to the Octagon for the seventh time, Giles takes comfort in knowing that he’s amassed a 4-2 record on the biggest stage in the sport while still juggling his job with the HPD, acutely aware that he’s yet to show all that he’s capable of doing inside the cage, and confident that when he does get everything lined up properly and locked in, he’ll find himself in the thick of the chase in the middleweight division.
“I don’t think anybody in my position should have been able to make it to the UFC. I honestly got by with a lot of natural athleticism,” said Giles, who now trains with fellow UFC competitors Charlie Ontiveros and Alex Morono at the W4R Training Center. “With the guys that I’ve fought, I don’t feel anything spectacular out of them and these guys are training full-time and don’t have to go and worry about going to another full-time job.
“Honestly, if that were my scenario, I would probably be in contention right now,” he added. “I don’t have that time and I have other obligations, so I’m trying to get to that spot, and once I do, people will get to see me at my peak and my full potential. Everybody else doesn’t know my life, so they’re just going to see ‘that UFC guy that lost two fights,’ but knowing what I know, it shows me that I can definitely make a run for that title and that I will get that title one day.”