Dan Ige has been in the UFC for three years, has an overall professional MMA record of 14-2, and is headlining his first main event against Calvin Kattar in UFC Fight Night 172 on Fight Island. Khabib Nurmagomedov has been in the UFC for eight years, has an unblemished 28-0 record, and is the UFC Lightweight Champion and No. 2-ranked pound-for-pound fighter.
Ige and Nurmagomedov frequently train together. A couple of years ago, the champion and the newcomer had a conversation about Ige’s future in the UFC. Nurmagomedov offered the inexperienced Ige some advice. Ige rejected it. And now he’s on a six-fight win streak, the No. 10-ranked featherweight in the UFC, and proving his doubters wrong one fight at a time.
Dan Ige’s rise in the UFC
Dan Ige made his MMA professional debut in 2014 in his home state of Hawaii with a third-round submission by armbar. After another victory, Ige suffered his first setback losing in a split decision. It would be his last defeat for the next two-plus years.
In 2017, Ige received an invite to participate in “Dana White’s Contender Series.” Ige impressed with a third-round submission of Luis Gomez via rear-naked choke. That victory, which was his sixth consecutive, earned Ige a shot on the bigger stage, where he made his debut at UFC 220 in January 2018. It didn’t go as planned.
Dan Ige battled for three rounds against a fellow newcomer and Contender Series alum Julio Arce. He lost by unanimous decision. It wasn’t the debut Ige had hoped for and it was time to reassess.
Dan Ige rejects Nurmagomedov’s advice
After suffering his first loss, Dan Ige returned to the gym for training where he had a visit with Khabib Nurmagomedov. At the time, Nurmagomedov was 25-0 but had yet to win the UFC lightweight title. The more experienced fighter offered the undersized 5-foot-7 Ige some advice. He suggested Ige was too small and urged him to drop down a class.
“After my first loss in the UFC, and even after my first win, he was telling me, ‘You have to go to 135, brother,'” Ige told Yahoo Sports. “I said, ‘No, I don’t.’ I have to tell him. I feel strong. I feel good. I train with beasts who are strong, and I more than hold my own.”
Nurmagomedov encouraged him to drop down those first few times, but then stopped. It was hard to argue with the results. “As I started winning more and more, he started becoming more impressed,” Dan Ige recalled. “Having him show me that kind of appreciation for what I do and that respect, it can’t help but build your confidence hearing it from the best guy in the world.”
Ige’s confidence leads to impressive win streak
Dan Ige’s confidence was in short supply early on in his UFC career. Once he got the first win under his belt and proved to Nurmagomedov that he belonged, his confidence exploded like one of his punches.
Since that opening loss to Arce, Ige has reeled off six consecutive victories during the last two years. His most recent victory came in May when he won in a controversial split decision over Edson Barboza, and improved his record to 14-2.
Heading into his featherweight bout against the No. 6-ranked contender Calvin Kattar, Dan Ige knows he has more than his share of doubters, especially after his last fight. He’s used to it. Nurmagomedov once doubted him, and he proved him wrong. Ige is more than willing to prove others wrong one fight at a time.