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From gruesome defeat to scary victory, Pat Sabatini hopes to close wild 2020 in style

It’s fair to say that no one on the planet saw their 2020 live out the way they initially envisioned it, and former CFFC featherweight champion Pat Sabatini is no different. But, at least from a professional fighting perspective, Sabatini’s year was certainly wilder than most.

“This whole year has been a crazy year, to say the least,” Sabatini said.

It started in February, when Sabatini still held the CFFC featherweight title. After having multiple opponents fall through over a five-month period, he agreed to take on a dangerous black belt in James Gonzalez. Though most expected Sabatini to prove victorious, Gonzalez delivered a shocking upset by grabbing on to his opponent’s arm and wrenching it for a technical-submission win, delivering one of the most gruesome scenes from the CFFC all year.

Fortunately for Sabatini, the injury didn’t cause any long-term damage, and he returned to the cage at September’s CFFC 84, where he unleashed a devastating barrage of punches that sent Jordan Titoni slumping to the canvas, where he remained motionless for a frightening amount of time.

“It went from being a very celebratory moment – I got really excited, the training took over, and I got that nice finish – but when I looked over and I seen him still laying down, the happiness went right to immediate concern,” Sabatini said. “I really was super concerned, trying to make sure he was all right. It got really scary there because he wasn’t really moving for a while, and I didn’t know what the hell was going to happen, but I was so glad to see that he ended up OK.”

For Sabatini, the win over Titoni was huge, returning in emphatic fashion after an injury that could have really derailed his career. Once Sabatini knew his opponent was OK, he was able to truly consider the implications.

“It felt great, and it was very ironic because it was the same arm that actually delivered the final punch, so that was a little bit ironic,” Sabatini said. “It felt amazing to get in there, and it just makes me feel more excited to get back in there again.”

Sabatini gets that chance in the main event of Friday’s CFFC 91 event, which streams live on UFC Fight Pass from Lancaster County Convention Center in Lancaster, Penn. Even more exciting for Sabatini, he gets a chance to reclaim the title he lost earlier in the year. After all, he could potentially win back his belt and punch his ticket to the big show in a single result.

“Getting that belt back means everything to me, and I feel by doing that, it’s going to open up the next door and get me to the next level,” Sabatini said.

Sabatini (12-3) had hoped to win the title back from Gonzalez, the man who took it from him. However, he’ll instead face Jesse Stirn (10-3) for a vacant title after Gonzalez elected to give up the strap.

“I’ve tried so much to get that rematch, but he declined on multiple occasions,” Sabatini said. “It’s definitely weird. I don’t know anybody that gets a belt and then just vacates it after that. It’s definitely something I wouldn’t do, but you know, to each his own.

“I feel like sometime in the future, if there was ever an opportunity to get that rematch, it would mean everything to me, but onward and upward. Can’t look back in the past. Everything happens for a reason. Just got to keep moving forward.”

Stirn fought once previously under the CFFC banner in 2016 but now returns to the organization after four years fighting in smaller regional promotions. It’s a big opportunity for the Maryland native, and Sabatini is excited about the matchup.

“I’m familiar with the guy’s camp,” Sabatini said. “He seems like he has a really good amount of experience, a good record. Likes to mix it up on his feet, likes to push a good pace, likes to do some stuff on the ground. Pretty well-rounded guy.”

“Pretty exciting for a matchup, but I feel like my style is a very bad matchup for his style.”

Prior to the surprise loss to Gonzalez, Sabatini was certainly on the UFC’s radar, and his name continues to be mentioned among the top prospects in the game today. The odd outing definitely slowed Sabatini’s progress but certainly didn’t halt it altogether.

Still, he says he’s not looking past anything right now.

“I always take one step at a time,” Sabatini said. “I’m not even looking a day past this guy. The priority is getting in there and getting a finish with this guy, and I really think that this is going to be the one that’s going to open up the next door for me.”

It would be a fitting end to a bizarre 2020, and one that could easily be described as an absolute rollercoaster of emotions, not to mention results. Amidst it all, Sabatini never once lost sight of the ultimate goal, and he’s looking forward to seeing his focus pay dividends.

“I’m actually more hungry to get that belt back this time than I was when I first was going after it because it was taken away from me, and now to get that back just means everything to me,” Sabatini said. “It shows my will to overcome a bad situation and turn a negative into a positive.”

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