Upon arrival in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Monday evening for his fight Saturday, Albuquerque-based UFC light heavyweight Devin Clark was immediately tested for COVID-19.
Since then, he’s been living in quarantine at his hotel — awaiting another COVID-19 test on Friday, the day of the weigh-in for his fight against Alonzo Menifield, to be staged with no fans in attendance at UFC’s Apex facility.
This is like no fight week Clark has ever experienced.
But then, he knew that even before he left for Vegas.
Sunday night, Clark had walked the streets of Downtown Albuquerque with UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. Their intention was to help prevent property damage and keep the area safe for those peacefully protesting the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a black man, by a white policeman.
The presence of Jones and other Jackson-Wink fighters Downtown the following night has been criticized because their efforts were not sanctioned by the Albuquerque Police Department, though Jones was seen on video in conversation with uniformed APD officers before he and the group left Jackson-Wink and proceeded Downtown.
In any case, before leaving for Las Vegas on Monday, Clark was back Downtown that morning, sweeping up broken glass left by looters and vandals.
For Clark, it’s personal. A native of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, he’s of mixed race.
“I’m black and white,” Clark, nicknamed “Brown Bear,” said on Wednesday in a phone interview. “But mostly I’m categorized as black, and I totally accept that.
“The racial issue, it’s big, but also beyond that I think one of the first steps should be the policies of police departments, and putting a better system in place for police officers that aren’t following the rules.”
That backdrop, combined with the unique measures taken by the UFC for its events as the coronavirus continues to threaten, easily could affect a fighter’s focus as Saturday approaches. The fighter who more effectively deals with the distractions, Clark agrees, could have an advantage on fight night.
“I’ve been handling it pretty well,” Clark said, “just trying to, not really keep it normal, but just accepting how chaotic everything is. It is different, and I believe the first step is accepting that it’s a different situation.”
In Menifield, Clark is facing an unbeaten (9-0), heavy-handed fighter who has stopped six of his nine opponents with punches in the first or second round. None of the Texan’s pro fights, in fact, have gone past the second.
That, apparently, is why Menifield is a slight betting favorite. But Clark (11-4) believes his advantages come from experience, conditioning and his training at Jackson-Wink.
“(Menifield) brings knockout power,” he said. “… I believe I’m more well-rounded. I’ve gone 15 minutes plenty of times in the UFC, so I know I can last three rounds.”
In Sioux Falls, Clark played a variety of sports growing up: football, amateur boxing, baseball, track and field and above all, wrestling.
At Lincoln High School, he won a state wrestling title as a senior in 2008. The following year, he won a national junior-college title at Rochester (Minnesota) Community College.
“Then I was done with school and needed something, another outlet for my athletics,” he said. “… I had a little bit of interest in (MMA), and I fell in love with the sport once I started it.”
Opportunities in the sport were relatively scarce in South Dakota, and Clark moved his training base to Albuquerque and Jackson-Wink in 2016.
“I knew I had to go to a bigger gym that could accommodate my needs with different sparring partners and different coaches,” he said. “… Jackson-Wink was one of the top gyms, so I thought it would fit me really well. I tried it out, and it was really good.”
Clark’s fight is scheduled for the early prelims portion of the card, starting at 4 p.m. and available only on Fight Pass, the UFC’s streaming service.
The main card, headlined by a featherweight title fight between champion Amanda Nunes and challenger Felicia Spencer, is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. It’s available for purchase on espn+ pay-per-view.
BORG’S BUSY: Albuquerque bantamweight Ray Borg has been added to a UFC card scheduled for June 13 at UFC Apex.
Borg (13-4) is matched against Merab Dvalishvili (10-4) in what will be Borg’s third fight in less than four months.
On Feb. 15 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, Borg defeated Rogerio Bonterin by unanimous decision. He lost by split decision to Ricky Simon on May 13 in Jacksonville, Florida.
The matchup with Dvalishvili, a native of Georgia (the country, not the state) is an interesting one. They have two opponents in common.
Borg has lost to Simon and Casey Kenney (by unanimous decision). Dvalishvili has lost to Simon (technical submission/guillotine choke) but defeated Kenney by unanimous decision at the Star Center.
After the Simon fight, Borg tweeted the following: “Had to (sic) much fun, ready to go again if y’all need me @UFC.”
Apparently, the UFC was paying attention.
Borg will join fellow Albuquerquean Jordan Espinosa on the June 13 card. Espinosa (14-7) matched against Texan Mark De La Rosa (11-4) in a bantamweight fight.