This week MMA UK featured Fighter Friday is a British legend, Liam McGeary.
Liam McGeary is an English professional mixed martial artist currently competing in Bellator’s Light Heavyweight division. He is the former Bellator Light Heavyweight World Champion.
McGeary has a record of 13 wins and 4 losses.
After winning the Bellator Lightweight tournament McGeary faced Emanuel Newton for his Bellator Light Heavyweight Championship on 27 February 2015 at Bellator 134. He won the fight via unanimous decision to become the new Bellator Light Heavyweight champion. During the course of the fight, McGeary attempted several submission attempts, including nearly finishing Newton in the first and third rounds with a triangle choke. In all, he set the record (11) for the number of submission attempts in Bellator history.
MMA UK: Welcome to MMA UK Featured Fighter Friday Liam How young were you when you wanted to get into martial arts and were there any other sports you did before settling on martial arts?
Liam McGeary: I was 28 when I got into martial arts, jiu-jitsu is where I started it from. But my passion for fighting and violence came when I was a young lad. My dad was a boxer in the army so wanted to try and follow in his footsteps. At around 13 I tried it, wasn’t very good at it. But I kept trying for a couple of years, had a few fights. Lost those, so took it that I wasn’t destined for a life in a ring.
Tried for the army, all I knew is that I wanted to fight, one way or another. Failed the bloody medical for the army so there I was right back at the beginning. So left school and home at 15 to go find something.
Worked on building sites for about 13 years as a steel fixer. Only the weekends where I was living was full of squaddies. And we all know they love to fight! So I’d have fights with big groups of them. Every weekend either a girl or a fight. Sometimes both! The girls love to watch a good scrap haha.
Then the night that changed my life, I was warned by the police that if I carried on my path I was going to end up doing a long stretch. But sometimes it’s not always your fault and these things find you and there’s only 1 option. And you have to stand by your decision and know where you could end up.
I wasn’t being called an n####r anymore by fuckin idiots so this one dude got what he deserved. Then ultimately, so did I.
After serving my sentence, just after my 28th birthday I found myself back in jersey and walking into Gracie Barra channel Islands starting my journey as an MMA fighter. There’s one meme that always stays s in my mind. It was of Ryu (streetfighter) dressed in his gi with a stick on his back holding his belongings tied up in a red blanket with a long road ahead of him. That’s pretty much how I’ve spent the last 10 years. That long road with my bags on my back. Except I have 2 bags now for my training gear and a few clothes.
MMA UK: What was it that made you choose MMA specifically?
Liam McGeary: Specifically MMA tho… I couldn’t trust boxing promoters so that’s why I stayed away from that game all those years before. And then recession in England forced all the building work to dry up, I was fresh out of jail finishing up last jobs around England and then jersey, the timing was just the right thing I guess is why I went into MMA. I nearly killed someone by hitting them, I know I was trouble when I fought you, I just needed to be taught how to put it all together properly. Now I was doing 12-hour shifts humping steel all over sites, I had a bit of extra energy to burn off!
It was also the excitement of the sport. Every fight ended up on the ground. Well, most of mine didn’t, but the majority of fights. I never knew about MMA until my friend showed me a UFC Right after I got out of jail. I knew I could fight, was fed up with getting in trouble because of fighting. I knew I’d probably never stop too. So soon as I saw that, then that was it. I turned to my mate and said I could do that and beat him too. It was Tito that I was watching. He said, yes! You just have to learn Brazilian jiu-jitsu now
MMA UK: That must have been so surreal watching a legend like Tito Ortiz then years later not only fighting but beating him as well. How did it feel to beat someone as big as Tito?
Liam McGeary: Having Tito wrap my belt around my waist after me beating him was a better feeling than actually winning it. I never like leaving it to judges, I know I beat him by him tapping. Twice if you want to look at it that way. But I always knew I would beat him inside, it was just a confirmation that put a big smile on my face. It was a great learning experience tho with all the media obligations, especially around a legend like him. He is a professional all the way through. It was a surreal moment when we were having sushi in Hollywood Then I had to be a fanboy and snap a cheeky selfy to send to my mate hahaha
Look who I’m having lunch with
MMA UK: let’s go back to your very first fight in Jersey, How did you feel going into that one?
Liam McGeary: My first fight.., I wanted to push myself straightaway. No finding my feet, get me, someone!! This polish guy turned up and as tough as the polish come!!! There must be something in the water out there because damn these guys are tough!! But I knew where I wanted to go, just had to go through a few people first. I was used to pissed up punch-ups in the streets, didn’t need to convince me to get into the ring or try and get me out of the changing rooms. I didn’t even care that I never saw the guy at the weigh-in the day before! I knew I wanted to fight. I just had to get in the ring so I could let my hands fly
MMA UK: Your first 3 fights were over 3 years, Were you injured, or were there a few cancelled fights?
Liam McGeary: Yeah man exactly those injuries! I and my old training partner would beat the shit out of each other on a daily basis. I would end up hurt, and then he would. I had to have knee surgery and when I woke up I was staring at the part of ligament they chopped out of me and a doctor telling me I’m never gonna fight again. I hadn’t even started and he was telling me this!! …. Well, that proved him wrong, didn’t it.
And then there were a fair few pull-outs too. I was starting to make a name for myself, I’d only actually had 1 pro fight before I’d made the decision to come to the states. Just couldn’t get anything here in the UK, plus I’m a bit of a pikey too, so it didn’t take much for me to make my mind up. I knew I had to move to make things happen and fast
MMA UK: After only 3 fights you get to fight on Bellator, How did that feel and how did you find out you were fighting for one of the biggest promotions in the world?
Liam McGeary: I had to have a word with my then coach to pull his finger out and get me something or do something with me or it was getting to the time where I had to move on. I was coming to the end of my 3-month visitor visa so it really was time to do something if he was. He said gimme 5 minutes, came back and I had my start with Bellator. I was buzzing!! But, I knew I had to do some work! To get into the country and then make progress. I was getting older and time waits for no one!! 7 months later I finally got my visa and was able to come back and start.
MMA UK: you win your first 6 fights in Bellator in the first round which ended with you winning the Bellator lightweight tournament and giving you a title shot against Emanuel Newton, Everything was going perfectly for you so what was your mindset like approaching the biggest fight of your life?
Liam McGeary: I knew this wasn’t going to be a first-round finish. I knew that Newton was gritty and tough and would grind. I knew that it would go to deep waters. All people were saying the “what if’s”!!? The main one was, are you sure you gonna have the stamina to be able to go 5 rounds. Blah blah blah. Dude, I’m going in for a world title fight, my team is the best on the east coast. I was ready for whatever was going to get thrown at me. My mindset was just purely winning mate.
MMA UK: The title fight goes to a decision and sometimes in MMA we get some dodgy decisions, Were there any doubts in your mind that they might not award you the fight?
Liam McGeary: It was a strange one when I won the title. I think because I never finished it I was thinking I wouldn’t win. I wasn’t even thinking about what happened in the fight. I couldn’t even remember anyway until I watched back again. I was the one that was always the unlucky one, wrong place wrong time, ahh you just missed out this time, try again next time. Everything I had ever been through in my life, ups, and downs, highs, and lows. And to actually have won, that took a little while to sink in!!! I had also just got told my grandad had died a few days before that as well, so it was a very weird time, to be so happy. But so heartbroken at the same time.
MMA UK: After that as we touched on earlier you beat the legend, Tito Ortiz, you used to watch him on tv and even said you could beat him back then and after that incredible performance you lose your belt to Phil Davis, and then there were some inconsistent results until you meet Phil Davis again and you suffered a jaw injury, Can you explain why your results were now inconsistent or are the level of competition getting harder?
Liam McGeary: After the Tito fight I was in surgery the next day. That injury put me out for a year and a half I think before we managed to get the fight in with Phil. I think a lot of my success was down to the fact that I didn’t stop. My body was falling to bits and it was time to rest it. It needed fixing. I had spent the 5 years that I was in New York in a basement training. I had no personal life, It was just training and more training. I went back to a jail mate. All I would do was eat sleep and train, day in day out! You have to do that in this game.
After the loss, my personal life then started to get more attention, and the focus was interrupted. I wasn’t happy anymore so needed to balance out everything. A happy fighter is a very dangerous fighter. I moved and travelled around for a little while and found myself in California training with the best team on the west coast now. That was the performance you saw against King Mo. The happy and changed fighter that I needed to be…Then the broken jaw was just an unfortunate thing that happens in our game. That and this bullshit virus that’s going on has made this the longest recovery EVER!!!! But the doc told me it was gonna be 2 years before my jaw was healed anyway so….., this time has just been pure shit.
MMA UK: What is the game plan now, to make another run for the belt again?
Liam McGeary: I will be going for the title again yes. If they have one of the tourneys for the light heavyweight, then I’ll aim for that too. But I just want my mouth better first, I have rushed back too many times and messed myself up even worse than before so I have to learn from our mistakes
MMA UK: We now move on to MMA UK Staff questions where members of our staff get to ask questions.
Stuart Henderson: With a lot of highs in your career what’s been your most memorable so far?
Liam McGeary: I think winning the tournament all with first-round finishes is right up there at the top. Especially finishing it with that inverted triangle… and with a broken foot lol.
Stuart Campbell: If you had the chance to fight anyone from any other organization who would you fight and why?
Liam McGeary: Ha, I don’t even know any other fighters to want to fight hahaha. I guess the top guy would be Jon Jones, I think great fighters bring out the best in you. The technical battles that go on and the creativity that can take place when 2 fighters are completely comfortable in there. He doesn’t try and just win by pinning and fighting out decision wins. He goes in to fight. As do I.
Damn I can’t actually wait to get back in and do some shit now, This has been way too long
Stuart Henderson: Is Titos head as big as people say?
Liam McGeary: Haha yes it is
Kyle Siddall: Who has been your toughest opponent?
Liam McGeary: Phil Davis… but his days are numbered. Once I’ve played catch up
Peter Knox: If you could change one rule in MMA what would you change?
Liam McGeary: That lead leg sidekick. The one that folds the leg in half, That’s just an unnecessary shot that can cause too much damage in an already harsh sport. That’s just a mean shot… But it is MMA, the aim of the game is mean hahaha, Bring soccer kicks to the head to all organizations, yeeeaaahhhhh
MMA UK: Thank you for the interview and you can follow Liam McGeary Here