Below is a full transcript of the interview.
HOW HAS YOUR TRAINING GONE FOR THIS FIGHT?
Training so far has been going really well. I’ve had a lot of footage of my opponent to look at and we’ve been working through his strategies and the specific techniques I need to use. Between now and the fight everything we want is in place and its just a matter of sharpening things up, making sure everything is ready for the fight.
HAVE YOU DONE ANYTHING DIFFERENTLY IN PREPARATION FOR THIS BOUT?
I’m constantly looking to add things to my skillset. I’m not a fighter who has a static amount of skills, there’s nothing I’m afraid to try out. I’m constantly looking to improve in that fashion. Every time there’s a new opponent and new challenges posed by that opponent I’m looking to do different things in my training. This time has been no different. Karl as an opponent provides a lot of unique challenges and that’s what we’ve been working on in the gym.
ARE YOU THE HARDEST TRAINER YOU KNOW?
I don’t know if I’m the hardest trainer I know, but I think a lot of the guys I train with will tell you I’m fairly hard-working. I more or less live in the gym and never find myself short of motivation to train for any occasion.
HOW WOULD WINNING THE CAGE WARRIORS TITLE CHANGE YOUR CAREER?
Winning the Cage Warriors title would be huge in my career. I think Cage Warriors has become a really big platform and there’s a lot of exposure through TV and other ways. Winning that belt and being up there with other guys who have been Cage Warriors champions before is exactly the step forward I’m looking for in my career.
WHEN YOU LOOK AT FORMER CAGE WARRIORS FIGHTERS WHO ARE NOW IN THE UFC, HOW DOES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?
I believe I belong in the UFC, you look at my record and the fights I’ve had, the people I’ve beaten, there isn’t a UFC card I’d look out of place on anywhere. That’s motivation to keep pushing towards that and it will come in good time. The main thing is I’m constantly performing and improving.
HOW DOES TRAINING AFFECT YOUR DAY-TO-DAY LIFE?
I find my day-to-day life is built around training, from waking up in the morning it’s the first thing I’m doing. What I’m eating, when I’m resting, life really has to take a back seat to training. Training always comes first but that’s what I love to do, so I never find that difficult.
AFTER YOUR LAST FIGHT YOU SAID: “I DON’T WANT TO BE THE BEST, I JUST WANT TO BE THE BEST I CAN BE.” WHAT DID YOU MEAN BY THAT?
That’s kind of my mindset really. I’ve never been the greatest natural athlete, people come into MMA with different attributes and I think I’ve had to work a lot harder than most to bring myself up to this level. It just means my skill, my technique, my dedication and my focus has to be 100%. I’ve come up against guys who are naturally faster, stronger and more powerful than me but I generally win through because of this mindset. I’m always looking to push myself to those levels.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU? IS IT TO GET TO THE UFC, OR SOMETHING ELSE?
I think all the motivation I have is intrinsic, I’m not kind of looking on to the next thing because there’s always going to be one thing after the next. I do have goals about where I want to fight – I’d love to win the Cage Warriors title and of course every fighter wants to fight in the UFC. But my main motivation goes beyond that. I’m more interested in being the best fighter I can be, the best mixed martial artist, the most technical, the most skilled, the toughest I can possibly be. If that means I don’t make it to the UFC eventually or for whatever reason I never own one of these major titles, providing I’m looking to work towards that goal then that’s really what motivates me.
WHAT’S THE BEST THING ABOUT BEING AN MMA FIGHTER?
The best thing about being an MMA fighter is getting to do MMA everyday. This is what I do, this is full time. I’m fortunate really. I turned my hobby into a job and that’s all I have to focus on. I’m one of a genuine few people in the world who can wake up every morning and say I’m excited to get into work and I love what I do.
WHAT’S THE WORST THING ABOUT BEING AN MMA FIGHTER?
The worst thing is dieting, keeping the weight down. I think most real fighters will agree with me, the process of restricting your body to make your weight class is by far the least enjoyable part, but that’s part of the job. Some people can go to work and eat pizza and it won’t affect the way they do their job but if I eat pizza and ice cream it will affect the way I do my job, so that’s something I just have to sacrifice.
KARL AMOUSSOU IS ON A SIX-FIGHT WIN STREAK, WITH ALL SIX COMING INSIDE THE DISTANCE. HOW DO YOU ENSURE YOU’RE NOT NUMBER SEVEN?
He’s a strong opponent, he’s won his last six – five I think inside the distance – so you can tell he starts strong early. I think in those fights I don’t think he’s fought an opponent who brings what I bring. I don’t think they have the experience, the skillset or the toughness. I’m going to be ready. I understand the guy’s an aggressive fighter and we’re going to be straight into the fire. Come February 18 I’ll be completely ready for that and I’ll be ready to dig deep and do what it takes. I’ve finished a lot of people early too – don’t count out the fact I might be able to do that – it wont be all one-way traffic early. Out of 19 wins I’ve finished 17 of those and I’m going to be looking to finish, early or late.
IS THIS THE TOUGHEST FIGHT OF YOUR CAREER? IF NOT, IS IT THE MOST IMPORTANT?
It’s certainly the most important fight to date. The old adage that styles makes fights is true, you can never really be sure looking at an opponent on paper or on footage, exactly how he’s going to match up with you until you get in and you’re facing him across from the cage. I won’t say it’s going to be my toughest test to date, I’ve been through tough tests already but this is the biggest fight and I’m certain it will be one with no room whatsoever to make mistakes in. I’ve got to perform and I know that.
IS IT DIFFICULT TO GET YOUR FIGHT HEAD ON WHEN THERE’S NO NEEDLE?
I don’t think there’s much animosity between me and Karl personally, I don’t need that. When I’m focused on my own performance that’s going to be the same whoever the opponent is. Sometimes opponents might talk, they might say things, but I think if you’re relying on that to get yourself up for a fight, then your mindset is not necessarily in the right place to begin with. I’m focused on my performance and I’m sure Karl’s the same. We can expect us both at the top of our games and a great fight.
IS EARNING A SPOT IN THE UFC THE ULTIMATE GOAL FOR YOU?
Earning graduation to the ranks of the UFC is a goal, but I wouldn’t call it the ultimate goal because once I get to the UFC I believe I can perform there as well. Naturally I’d be disappointed if I didn’t make it into the UFC, most serious MMA fighters would tell you the same thing. It’s not the end of the road I don’t think, when I get there I’d still want to push on further. You just keep moving the goalposts every time you achieve a little goal and you’ll push further on to the next.
WILL YOU BE BRINGING BIG SUPPORT DOWN TO LONDON FROM MANCHESTER FOR THIS FIGHT?
I’m looking forward to fighting in the capital again, it was the scene of my last fight in Cage Warriors Unplugged. This time we’re not in a TV studio, so I’m looking forward to bringing a lot of support down from Manchester. I’ve been fortunate in the way people have got behind me and believed in me going into this fight.
DOES THAT ADD PRESSURE OR DOES THE SUPPORT HELP YOU?
It’s great to have support. It’s always nice to have people behind you. In all honesty I’m going to perform whatever the case. If I’m in an empty room and a cage or I’ve got a few thousand people screaming me on, that won’t affect my mindset because I’ve got to be ready to fight anywhere, anytime. So I’m not relying on a crowd or support to give a boost in a fight, that’s all in there already.
THERE’S A SPECIAL GUEST DJ AT THIS EVENT. DO YOU NOTICE THE TUNES BETWEEN ROUNDS AND WHAT WOULD YOUR REQUEST BE?
I never really notice much of what is going on around me during a fight outside of the fight itself. A little bit of a pick-me-up between rounds might be good. Sling on a bit of the Rocky theme song. That could be good!
CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN THREE WORDS?
Technical, tough and I’ve got an engine.
WHO HAS THE ADVANTAGE WHEN THE FIGHT GOES TO THE FLOOR?
If the fight goes to the floor I think it’s an interesting one, Karl’s won a lot of his fights by submission – to me he appears a very explosive grappler. If he gets hold of a heel or an arm he’ll take that home with him. He’s strong and powerful and he can lock onto those submissions. I think all-round my grappling is going to be stronger though. I think I have a greater understanding of those positions, I know exactly what I should be looking for at any point and I know by those terms exactly how to keep myself out of danger as well.
Photo: Matt Inman – Credit: Dolly Clew / Cage Warriors