Elgin fighter Aidan Stephen (3-1), 26, was due to fight for the Featherweight Title at Forza 8 in Dalkeith on Sunday 1st July. Sadly, his chance for a first professional title will have to wait as the card has been cancelled.
Despite his fight against Enrico Manicaro, also 3-1, being cancelled I caught up with him last week to discuss how he got into MMA, his involvement at SBG Moray, his short and his long-term plans.
How did Aidan get to this point?
Much like many others who step into the MMA world, Aidan’s journey began, quite simply, as a fan of the sport. He recalls the defining moment with clarity. Sunday 30th December 2007, UFC 79, Chuck Liddell vs Wanderlei Silva, in the Co-Main Event. Having watched the fight with a friend, he said: “ I want to give that a go”.
Soon after, Aidan joined a local Elgin boxing team, as a relative novice. His only previous experience with any martial arts was growing up doing Taekwondo classes. Without ever undertaking any serious competition, he admits that he became bored with Taekwondo, despite attaining his black belt. Within three years, Aidan and a few friends had joined a Jiu Jitsu team called Focus on the Ground.
After training there a while, the group decided to form their own team which would go on to be based out of their own gym, SBG Moray. It is a remarkable progression for Aidan and his fellow Misfits. From their humble beginnings, they have largely taught themselves the skills of MMA – from being complete beginners to being Pro Athletes or on the verge of turning pro.
A time of firsts….
Within a month of initial training, he had his first amateur MMA fight. He admits to being nowhere near ready and lost by second-round submission. Despite the shattering disappointment of the immediate setback, Aidan went back to training and within another couple of months had his second fight. This time he won, by triangle choke. He describes the moment as “the best feeling ever, I was hooked and I wanted this feeling again and again.”
Despite suffering a second loss shortly after that initial win, Aidan would come to show his talent and go on quite a winning streak, which would see him turn professional.
Now, with three wins and a single loss as a pro, he was very much looking forward to his first shot at a pro title at the now-cancelled Forza 8 event. His opponent was to be Enrico Manicaro. Manicaro has two of his three wins, coming from Guillotine Choke. Aidan’s only loss was also by Guillotine Choke. So was Aidan concerned during his preparation that he could be open to another Guillotine? Not a chance. Now a Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Aidan is confident in his ground game. So much so that he says that he enjoys winning by submission more than knock out. However, he was very much aware of that statistic and was fully prepared for any Guillotine attempts that Manicaro would shoot and is confident that, had the fight gone ahead, it would have been “a bad night for Manicaro”.
What does the future hold?
So what is next now, after the disappointment of the cancelled Forza card? The immediate ambition is either another pro fight with the Headhunters promotion or perhaps a bout with the popular Cage Warriors promotion. The ultimate target? UFC, of course. Aidan is confident that he will realise his dream, that it is only a matter of time.
Aswell as fighting, having a young family and having a day job, Aidan coaches MMA and Kickboxing at the SBG Moray gym in Elgin. Having done Sports Coaching at Moray College, it is clear that he enjoys the coaching almost as much as fighting. He seems particularly happy passing on his skills to kids in the classes and there is no doubt that the children look up to Aidan as a role model.
We ended our conversation with some quick fire questions;
Who is your favourite fighter? Frankie Edgar
Favourite Fight? Shogun vs Henderson 1
Favourite Striking Technique? Headkick
Favourite Submission Technique? Japanese Necktie