Rising star Allen is looking to go 16-1 in North Carolina at UFC Fight Night 166 on Saturday against veteran Nik Lentz. The Suffolk-born fighter was originally scheduled to tangle with the hard-hitting Josh Emmett, a stellar name in the 145lbs division currently ranked at no.9.
Injury forced the American to withdraw however and when Lentz’s opponent on the same card this Saturday in Nad Narimani was also sidelined with an injury, there was a simple solution to getting the quick start to 2020 Allen has craved.
The 26-year-old is coming off the back of a career best victory over Gilbert Melendez at UFC 239 last July, getting a unanimous decision win in front of a Las Vegas crowd. In Lentz, he comes up against a savvy 40-fight veteran, who he believes could give him an even sterner test than the former Strikeforce champion did last summer.
“I was a bit stressed when it was cancelled [the Emmett fight] because I thought I might not be fighting,” Allen told Standard Sport. “Then I was thinking I would end up fighting some no-name fighter. That’s not what I want at this point in my career. Nik came up and I was happy with that. He is a well-respected veteran, he’s had more fights than I’ve had hot dinners.
“I’m happy to have a test against a true veteran - I think he is more dangerous at this point in his career than Gilbert was.”
Allen, currently ranked 15th in the featherweight division, has been with the UFC since June 2016 but has been limited to just six fights in the octagon. While he has won all of them – enough to give him the joint-longest winning streak in the division alongside champion Alexander Volkanovski – the 26-year-old hopes three fights in 2020 will solidify his place in the top 10 and set up a title shot in 2021.
Allen has fought on four of the five cards held in the UK since he signed for UFC, three of those in the capital. But the prospect of a spot on this year’s show at the O2 Arena on 21 March was never discussed.
“There was nothing. I guess there is no interest in me in London, no one cares about the Suffolk boy!” he joked. “I was a little bit [annoyed] but by then I was happy to be fighting earlier so I could get my busy year up and running
“It has been a bit of a joke with the London thing, I’ve been unfortunate to get injured or whatever and get one fight a year, and it always ended up being the London card. But I do love fighting back home.”
Another English star of UFC in Nathaniel Wood will also miss the London show and instead will fight John Dodson on 15 February in New Mexico as he attempts to climb the bantamweight ladder.
The Londoner is desperate to feature on the UFC’s return to the UK in March – even if it means heading straight into another fight camp after what is likely to be the toughest test of his career against no.12 ranked Dodson.
While Allen enjoys fighting back on home turf, he prefers to go at his own place.
“Fair play to Nathaniel, he’s been injured a bit, but to be honest I’ve been away training, working hard for the last six months so I want to just go home for a rest, chill, have a beer and hang out with my dog.”
A win over Emmett, then man Allen was originally scheduled to fight this weekend, could have immediately propelled him into the top 10 spot he craves. What will happen if he gets a win over Lentz is less clear.
There is always a degree of guess work involved in UFC rankings and Allen admits a flashier finish will always serve a fighter better than grounding out a win – although says he will not concern himself with who is in front of him until it only the champion left.
“If you are the hot topic you will be in the top 10, if they don’t give a s*** about you, then you’re out of the rankings. If you have a good performance you’ll get it but if you are winning but aren’t that exciting you stay where you are. It’s hard to guess this stuff.
“All you can do is keep winning. Unless you are no.1, it doesn’t matter.”