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Resilient Means is back in action at UFC 255

Tim Means, right, shown in his win over Thiago Alves at UFC Fight Night December 7, 2019, in Washington, keeps coming back triumphantly from difficult circumstances. He is back in action Saturday at UFC 255. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)

Tim Means’ self-description on his Twitter avatar speaks volumes: “Just a guy that will dust myself off when I get knocked down!”

Those words faithfully encompass not only Means’ 16-year professional MMA career, but his entire adult life as well.

Means, 36, who is scheduled to face Mike Perry on Saturday in Las Vegas, has overcome a drug habit, a gunshot wound and a stint in prison to become a successful fighter and, more important, a devoted husband and father.

In the cage, his victories (30) far exceed the losses (12, with one draw). But some of the losses have been painful, in more ways than one.

There were the ankle and lower-leg fractures suffered during a March 2019 loss by knockout against Niko Price, injuries that sidelined him for nine months. But Means got up, dusted himself off and, last December, defeated Brazilian veteran Thiago Alves by second-round submission (guillotine choke).

There was the loss last February to Daniel Rodriguez by second-round submission (standing guillotine choke) at the Star Center in Rio Rancho, with friends and family from his hometown of Moriarty in attendance.

Means was in pain that night before the fight even started — still mourning the recent deaths of brothers Pedro and Mateo Sandoval, students at Moriarty High School, in a car crash.

“I wasn’t focused on the (Rodriguez) fight,” Means said in a phone interview on Wednesday from Las Vegas, Nevada, in advance of his fight with Perry on UFC 255. “It just made it difficult. It made the weight cut hard. Everything about that process was just super hard.

“It was probably (a fight) that I should have pulled out of, but I was trying to show the (Moriarty) community and the kids at the high school that just because adversity hits, we can’t stay down.

“We only lose if we don’t get back up.”

Means did get back up, dusting himself off and defeating Argentina’s Laureano Staropoli by unanimous decision on Aug. 8.

Now he’s focused on Perry, whose story line for this fight has had little to do with MMA.

In June, Perry caused a ruckus in a Lubbock, Texas bar/restaurant and punched an older man. More recently, his ex-wife has accused him of domestic violence, something Perry has denied.

If the circumstances are a distraction for Perry, Means said, they won’t be a distraction for him.

“It’s been brought up a few times (in interviews),” Means said, “but his out-of-the-cage stuff has nothing to do with me. He might be carrying more baggage on his shoulders coming into the fight, but I try not to pay attention to his personal stuff that’s going on.”

Means said he’s in a far better place now than when he lost to Rodriguez at the Star Center.

“I felt a lot better in August (for the Staropoli fight), and I feel 100 percent different now,” he said. “So it should be a hell of a fight.”

Means said he respects Perry as an opponent.

“He’s dangerous because he has big power, he’s durable and he has a lot of heart,” Means said.

But, he added, “Perry’s built himself a little bit of a name for being a big-mouth from a media standpoint, talking a lot. I feel my last opponent (Staropoli) was a lot more dangerous than Mike Perry is.

“I still have to make the guy miss and I still have to take him seriously, but I see myself getting a big win on Saturday night.”

For a few months in 2018, Perry trained in Albuquerque at Jackson-Wink MMA — the arch rival of FIT-NHB, Means’ longtime training base. Perry moved on, and the two never crossed paths, Means said.

Oddsmakers have made Perry a slight betting favorite.

UNEXPECTED BONUS: Perry will forfeit 30 percent of his contracted pay for Saturday’s fight after missing the 171-pound welterweight limit by 4 1/2 pounds. That money now will go in Means’ pocket.

Means weighed in at 171 on the nose.

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