Dan Ige put together a six-fight winning streak, beginning with a TKO of Mike Santiago at UFC 225 on June 19, 2018, and extending through May 16, 2020, when he defeated Edson Barboza.
Those six wins helped him overcome the doubts and the whispers that he wasn’t good enough, and it moved him into the upper echelons of the UFC’s featherweight division.
In his last five fights, however, it’s been a struggle and the toll it took on him was obvious on Saturday after he ended a three-fight losing skein by knocking out Damon Jackson at Apex in Las Vegas with a counter left hook at 4:13 of the second. Jackson crumpled to the mat and Ige simply walked away, not attempting any ground-and-pound because he knew Jackson was done. The win also ended a streak in which Ige had lost four of his last five, and it did so in resounding fashion.
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The always classy Ige dedicated the win to the family of Victoria Lee, an unbeaten fighter for ONE Championship, who tragically died on Dec. 26, 2022, at only 18.
He admitted it was tough going as long as he had without a win, and he wanted to put himself in a positive mindset. He had written “$50K” on his hand wraps as a way to motivate himself to gun for one of the UFC’s post-fight bonuses.
He came through big time.
“It’s been almost two years without a win and you know, I dedicate my entire life to this sport,” Ige said in the Octagon after the fight. “My identity’s lied in winning for a long time. You know, without anyone, I went through depression, anxiety [and] doing everything I can possible to get a win for my family, for my son [Bam].
“I just want to be a good role model and you know, when you don’t get it, it sucks, but you’ve just got to keep getting up over and over and over again.”
Ige was in most of the fights he lost and they were against some of the elite in the world, so it’s not like he was losing to tomato cans.
But he took the losses hard and put pressure on himself to get the victory against Jackson.
Ige’s power was making a difference throughout the fight. He was mostly outboxing Jackson, but it was clear that when he landed flush, it was having an impact upon Jackson, who had reached out to Ige through a direct message to set up the fight.
Nothing had an impact like the final left hook, though. Jackson threw an uppercut at Ige who read it perfectly. He slid out of the way of the uppercut and fired back with the hook that landed on the jaw. That instantly ended both the fight and Ige’s losing streak.
Ige said it came as a result of working on it in practice at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.
“It’s repetition,” Ige said. “I have great coaches ... I have an incredible team around me. With these guys, I rep it daily. I have ‘$50K,’ written on my hand wraps. You guys don’t see it, but I knew I was going to land it one day or another.”