Charles Jourdain is talking about adjustments he had to make in his training due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, invoking some borderline Rocky IV imagery.

“I was literally wrestling with my brother in the grass in the backyard,” he explains. “We were making weights with wheels and metal bars. We were pushing really hard. Of course, it was not the best, but it was the best we could do in that situation. I’m pretty proud of what we achieved there. Gyms are just a luxury. When you truly love what you do, you find a way.”

A glance at Jourdain’s body of work reveals a man who indeed loves what he does. The former two-division TKO champ has finished all ten of his pro wins and avoided being finished in his only two pro losses.

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After punching his ticket to the UFC with a short-notice debut against local favorite Desmond Green in a different weight class, Jourdain washed the taste of that decision defeat from his mouth with a showstopping performance at December’s UFC Busan event against Dooho Choi. Dispatching “The Korean Superboy” in the second round, Jourdain showcased the bombastic, almost Anthony Pettis-esque style that earned him an extra $50,000 for the flight home to Canada.

The road for the featherweight isn’t getting any easier. Jourdain is slated to take on veteran Andre Fili Saturday night in Las Vegas. We caught up with “Air” on the eve of a potential breakout bout.

UFC: Take us back to that night in South Korea. What was going through your mind and what did you learn about yourself?

CJ: It was a great feeling, because in my mind it was a do-or-die situation. If I lost that one, maybe the UFC would have said “Oh, Charles is just a hype-train, not the kid that we’re looking for.” In my head, it was my only shot to prove my worth to the UFC.

It was a lot of pressure on my shoulders. I’ve never been that scared for a fight. But I think I handled it well under the pressure, and the win was pretty much the best feeling ever. And getting the Fight of the Night bonus? It was something crazy.

UFC: Nobody can accuse you of taking easy fights in the UFC. Desmond Green, Dooho Choi and now Andre Fili…those guys are all monsters.

CJ: In my opinion, everybody in the UFC is dangerous in their own way. But I prefer my opponents to have the credentials: the name, the hype, the fame behind them. Knowing that I’m fighting Fili, the No. 18 in the world, is a big step up…and nobody can say I took shortcuts.

I’m taking the dangerous road. That’s what made my name in the TKO organization as a double weight-class champion. I fought all the guys that people were telling me were too dangerous.  I made my brand off taking dangerous fights, and I think I’m doing the same in the UFC.

UFC: What’s the key to victory against a guy like Andre Fili?

CJ: To beat a guy like Andre, I need to put pressure on him and have good variations of attacks. You cannot out-jab him, you cannot out-wrestle him. I need to be more aggressive than my fight against Choi. I need to put volume on him; kicks, knees, flying knees, just be me, but be even more myself: more extravagant, more flamboyant. I need to put as much pressure as I can on the guy. Maybe he’s going to get a couple takedowns, but I’m going to get up. People always take me down in the sparring sessions. I’m always getting back up and running back into their faces. Taking someone down takes a lot of energy, so I’m kind of counting on the fact he’s going to try to do it multiple times and lose energy. I think it’s going to be a battle of volume: who can do the most physical damage.

At the end of the day, I don’t think he has the hunger that I have. Because I’m the new guy, everything is new for me. I’ve got the adrenaline rush. You can see in a couple of his fights where he’s like “Okay, I might lose this one.” He always fights, he’s a tough guy, but still there is like a lack of will, and that is where I will beat him.

UFC: What are your feelings about fighting in the UFC Apex’s smaller Octagon?

CJ: The smaller cage? I love it. At TKO it was a smaller cage. It favors me. I like it because there is so much contact. You cannot run away. You cannot hide in a small cage. I’m always going to be in his face. I’m always going to do my flashy stuff, I’m always going to be there.

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I’m not taking anything away from Fili. He has a great team behind him, Team Alpha Male. Those guys are grinders. Those guys are fighters. But the fact that it is a small cage is going to be an advantage for me.

UFC: And what about fighting without fans in attendance?

CJ: I’ve always been a crowd-pleaser, so people don’t understand that I’m not actually fighting for the crowd. I’m fighting for myself. My style is because I love fighting like that. I’m not going to change it whether the crowd likes it or not. But I’m blessed, in a way, because my style of fighting pleases the crowd. I always finish my opponents. I’ve got a 100% finishing ratio when I win. So the crowd loves that.

The fact that there won’t be any people there will make it something more pure. Because when I hit someone with kicks in a sparring session in pads, you can hear it more. I can’t wait to kick Fili and just hear that noise of the impact – no shin guard – of a shin to the stomach or a shin to his forearm. I cannot wait to hear that. There’s something pure about it.