A lot of fighters consider themselves built for the UFC but very few have spent almost an entire lifetime getting ready for that opportunity.
That’s just one thing in particular that separates Clayton Carpenter from the rest of the crowd, especially considering his martial arts training began when he still just a child. It was thanks to that upbringing where Carpenter amassed a room full of trophies that includes becoming a USA Junior National Muay Thai champion, a junior Golden Gloves boxing champion, an IBJJF world champion in both gi and no-gi grappling competitions not to mention serving as a member of the U.S. Pankration team where he counted current Bellator contender Aaron Pico as one of his teammates.
Now at 26 with a perfect 5-0 record in his fight career, Carpenter is looking to add another accolade to his already impressive resume by earning a UFC contract.
“I have been working my whole damn life for this moment since I was six years old,” Carpenter told MMA Fighting. “I have been prepping for this for quite a long time. It couldn’t have come at a better time. I feel good. My evolution is at a place where I never thought it would be capable of reaching. It feels good. It feels right.”
If Carpenter’s name sounds familiar, that’s because he first made headlines in late 2021 when he uncorked a spectacular head kick knockout to finish Rodney Kealohi in LFA in just 13 seconds.
That moment exploded into a viral video thanks to the lightning quick way Carpenter dispatched his opponent but it also served as a launching pad that resulted in his opportunity to fight on The Contender Series.
Of course that knockout has been replayed thousands of times, which in turn raises the expectations heaped on Carpenter’s shoulders as he prepares to fight in front of UFC president Dana White as well as matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard on Tuesday night.
As much as the UFC brass and fans watching at home anticipate the possibility another jaw-dropping finish, Carpenter has learned not to feed into those expectations even if he fully believes he’s still capable of pulling off something even better one day.
“I think getting caught up in your own hype is the beginning of your demise,” Carpenter explained. “I do have high expectations of myself and I do plan on going in there and ripping it up but I’m just going in there to have fun.
“Have fun, do my thing and I’m just there to flow. There are no expectations. I’m just going in there and having some fun.”
That said, Carpenter appreciates that he’ll get the opportunity to shine in front of a captive audience at the UFC APEX rather than just making his debut as a random undercard fighter.
He knows White will be sitting just a few feet away from the octagon quietly judging every fighter with hopes that at least a couple of them will be worthy of UFC contracts.
Carpenter has no doubts that he’s got what it takes to compete with the best of the best in the flyweight division but right now he’s just bubbling with anticipation to prove he’s exactly the kind of fighter the UFC president wanted when he first started this competition just over five years ago.
“I feel like this is the quickest way for me to get where I plan on being,” Carpenter said. “That’s what’s really cool about being the kind of fighter that I am. I’m already what the people want, I think, and what Dana wants, in my humble opinion.
“Me being me, going out there and doing my thing, is what they want. I’m going out there to get those bonuses. I’m going out there to go for the kill and if I don’t get the finish, I’m upset. If I don’t finish my opponent, I don’t think of it as a loss, but it’s pretty damn close.”