John Phillips certainly deserved his spot in the UFC, a man who had a knack of knocking people out. I recall Dana White practically licking his lips when he mouthed the words “The White Mike Tyson.”
Phillips was brought into the UFC for one reason and that’s because he could bang. Fans of Welsh MMA are all to familiar with the Swansea brawler, who made a name for himself figuratively taking people’s heads off. His 22 wins have all come inside the distance, all but two have come by way of KO. Uncharacteristically two of his wins were won by submission. During his Cage Warriors run he recorded a triangle and a guillotine win in consecutive bouts, which should dispel the myth that “he doesn’t have a ground game.”
One of my favourite, or should I say graphic memories of Phillips was a decade ago in Brecon Fish Market, when a left hook resulted in Marius Liaukevicius’ jaw swinging from side to side in the wind. The stomach churning image of the Lithuanians broken face was enough to distract me from the stench of rotten seafood that was sold at the venue prior to the event.
Alas, Abu Dhabi is a long was from South Wales and in two consecutive Fight Island appearances he broke records for receiving the most amount of significant strikes within a UFC bout. The only positive to take from being on the wrong end of such a callous beating is, he lasted a lot longer than most men could. A lesser fighter would have quit long before hearing the final bell.
I can tell you now that there is no tougher man in European MMA than John Phillips. But, in this day and age, being tough and having dynamite in both hands will only get you so far, especially at the highest level.
These days, constructing a game plan is just as complicated as launching an amphibious invasion. The coaching team enter the war room and break down the strengths and weaknesses of a future opponent, meticulously planning the best way to get the win. With Phillips, the blueprint is already on the table. If the original Mike Tyson was to enter the Octagon, nobody in their right mind would stand in front of him. They’d take away his strengths and put him on his back. A game plan designed to beat “The White Mike Tyson” would be no different. Granted, it’s easier said than done, as 22 of his previous opponents who all tried and failed could tell you.
What’s next for Phillips?
With a record of 1-5 in the UFC and their ruthless reputation for cutting fighters, you can assume that his next fight won’t be with the promotion, but he does have options.
Phillips spends a lot of time training in Dublin at John Kavanagh’s SBG. If the recent Bellator Europe cards are anything to go by he’ll slot right into their middleweight division. The outfit promoted by Scott Coker has recently bolstered their roster with Irish talent from said gym. They’ve also signed fellow Swansea native Brett Johns, offering him a very viable financial package. If John wanted to go down that path it shouldn’t be too difficult to negotiate. Bellator will provide a steady platform to relaunch his MMA career and offer him some very nice pay days.
Then there’s the BKB route. Bare knuckle boxing has taken the combat sports world by storm. From being fought outdoors in rings made from hay, to selling out arenas on both sides of the Atlantic. The sport has come a long way in such a short space of time, and many former mixed martial artists have migrated to the world of no gloves. The most notable case in recent memory was when UFC poster girl Paige VanZant signed with BKFC, rather than renegotiate with the former. Many others have also made the move, including Artem Lobov, Bec Rawlings and Joe Riggs. Without the risk of being taken down and all the freedom to let them hands go, the sport is tailor made for a man of John’s talents, who really could become a great within the code.
If John does become a free agent following his most recent UFC loss, then American promotion BKFC or their English counterpart BKB would be fools not to reach out and make him an offer. The biggest mistake you could make is to assume that a loss to Jun Yong Park is the end of John Phillips, but it’s only the beginning.
Written by MMA Wales