By Ray Hamill — Orion Cosce will make his much-anticipated return to the cage this weekend, almost exactly one day to the year since his last MMA fight.
The Humboldt County native will take on kick-boxing specialist Mike Mathetha in a welterweight showdown at UFC 277 at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Saturday and he is confident he can become the first fighter on the North Coast to win at a UFC event.
“I’m feeling great,” he said. “I’m feeling stronger and I’m feeling a lot better during this weight cut than the last time.”
He earned a UFC contract with a victory over Matt Dixon at the Dana White Contender Series in August of 2020, but lost his UFC debut to Philip Rowe on July 31 of last year when the fight was called in the second round.
Cosce and his trainers, however, are confident he learned from that defeat and will be better prepared because of it.
“He made the right adjustments with his training and with his weight cut,” said trainer Brian Wilson of the Lost Boys gym in Arcata, where Cosce got his start.
The 28-year-old Cosce admits he “did too much too fast” for the last fight, but that he has learned to “stay healthy.”
“My diet’s on point,” he said. “I didn’t over do it.”
And that’s not all.
“For this fight camp, I went back to my roots,” he added. “And I trained anywhere I travelled to.”
Cosce is based in Sacramento and affiliated with Team Alpha Male, but also has been training regularly with the Lost Boys here on the North Coast and with his brother Louis, who is a pro fighter based in Las Vegas.
“He’s been moving around, and pretty much every time he’s here in Humboldt he comes in to train with the Lost Boys,” Wilson said. “He’s looking good. He’s looking stronger.”
Mathetha, also known as “Blood Diamond,” is an experienced kick boxer who has appeared in more than 100 kick boxing bouts, according to newsunzip.com.
The 34-year-old Zimbabwe native is 3-1 in the MMA cage and also has lost his only UFC appearance, falling to Jeremiah Wells with a first-round rear naked choke in February of this year.
“I don’t think it’s a secret what he’s going to try to do,” Wilson said of Mathetha. “He’s a world-class kick boxer, so we know what his strength is. We want to get our body on the guy.”
Wilson believes Cosce can win with his superior grappling and ground game.
“It’s a fight we like stylistically for Orion,” he said.
Cosce says he’s ready for whatever Mathetha brings.
“I expect him to come out and keep it simple and hope for an early finish,” he said. “But I’m not going to let that happen.”
Orion also believes he has benefitted big time from having younger brother Louis in his camp, as always, and says the two of them train with each other whenever they can.
Louis, who is also 7-1 in the pro ranks, has not fought since November 2020, when he lost his UFC debut to Sasha Palatnikov at UFC 255.
He had an April fight cancelled at the last minute but is scheduled to make his highly anticipated return to the cage against Trevin Giles in mid September.
For now, however, both brothers are focused firmly on Saturday’s showdown in Dallas and what could be an historic night for Humboldt County MMA.
“I’m looking to get my first UFC fight win and take it from there,” Orion said.
Fans on the North Coast will be watching and cheering their local fan favorite, who has played a pivotal role in the growth of the sport locally and remains a hugely influential figure for up-and-coming local fighters.
And all of them will be hoping to see him claim a first-ever UFC victory for a fighter in the area.
“I think he will,” Wilson said.
Bantamweights Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes will headline UFC 277.
The preliminary card, including Cosce’s fight, will be streamed live on ESPN Plus, with the action getting under way at 3 p.m.