MMAUK caught up with the latest Brave signing Hardeep ‘Havoc’ Rai.
The number 1 ranked amateur lightweight (according to Tapology) has won bronze at two IMMAF tournaments in past couple of years and feels now is the time to move to pro ranks.
MMAUK: You have decided to leave the amateur ranks after 13 fights, having represented the UK at IMMAF European Open and World Championships. Do you feel you have achieved all you can at amateur?
HR: Yes I feel like I’ve gained all the necessary experience at Amateur and am ready to move on to the pro ranks, I definitely have the skill set and now is the right time for me. The fact that I’m number 3 in the world and number 1 in the country is a testament to that, I really do feel as if now is the time. If I stayed at Amateur I would just be defending my two belts but it is frustrating when people keep ducking me or accepting the fight and then pulling out straight after. It left me in a weird position but then Brave came along and it worked out for the best.
MMAUK: What do you feel was your standout win at amateur?
HR: It’s hard to pick a specific fight but I think the one that stands out the most to me was the Charlie Howard fight, it was the first Belt I won and all the drama leading up to it really made it special. I had my title fight booked on December 10th for the Fightstar Lightweight belt but two weeks before I get a phone call from the LFC promoter asking if I want to fight Charlie Howard on 1 weeks notice for the LFC Lightweight Belt. Of course I accepted without hesitation. I had been following Charlie for a while, him being ranked number 1 at the time I had already watched his fights and studied him. I had a game plan formulated on how I would beat him long before I even got that call. I had confidence I could beat him regardless of the fact it was on one weeks notice hence why I didn’t hesitate to take the fight. I later learned that the promoter had been calling around everywhere to find a last minute replacement but everyone kept ducking him saying they wanted a full camp to fight Charlie, this is where I feel my IMMAF experience came in because I was fighting the best Amateurs in the World at these tournaments and I’ve fought the best pound for pound Amateur (Will Starks) in the World on 1 days notice which gave me so much confidence as a fighter after the tournament.
So I take the fight and manage to cut 5kg and make the weight, but on the weigh in day Charlie wasn’t there. I didn’t want to stand around waiting for him because I was dehydrated and hungry and all I could think about is getting some food and water in me. Later that evening I get a call from the promoter saying that Charlie weighed in heavy, very heavy and asked if I still wanted to take the fight. Of course I was frustrated because I had only known about this fight for a week and managed to make weight and he was so much over, nevertheless I still took the fight. On the day of the fight it definitely felt like hostile territory, he was the hometown boy and had around 50 people there supporting him and I had 5. I manage to dominate and win all the grappling exchanges and win a unanimous decision over someone who is known as a grappler and is higher ranked in BJJ than me. It was a good night.
MMAUK: Having competed on the world stage for the UK yourself, do you feel competing in IMMAF tournaments is beneficial for amateur competitors? How do you feel the UK compare with other countries?
HR: I really do believe that my IMMAF experience has given me the confidence to take these short notice fights, having 4 fights in 4 days against the best fighters in the world will do that. I definitely recommend anyone that is serious about this to go and compete in these tournaments. Not only do you gain a years worth of fighting experience in a week you also get a lot of exposure as an amateur, big promotions really like that and that’s why you see a lot of IMMAF competitors go on to great things. The UK always does well at these tournaments, we usually walk away with a few medals and I think at least one Gold at most of them. Most recently in the European Championship in Bulgaria my Team mate Adam Amarasinghe won gold in the Bantamweight division, he’s a great fighter and now I’m sure he’s going to go on and do big things. I just feel as if there are a lot of good Amateur fighters who aren’t trying out and getting in the UK team, my advice to them would be to go to the trials and compete in a tournament. You have nothing to loose and so much to gain.
MMAUK: You have signed a 3 fight deal with Brave for your first pro contract. Have they been tracking you for a while?
HR: Yes again Brave/KHK have had their eye on me since the World Championships last July. They have been keeping in contact with me and were watching my career and they obviously felt like now was the right time to approach me, especially since this is their first card in India.
MMAUK: You are scheduled to fight Arnan Chaiyasan at Brave 5, on April 22nd in Mumbai, India. What do you know of your opponent?
HR: I don’t know much about my opponent but that doesn’t bother me, I am confident in myself and I know if I go out there and execute my game plan I will walk away with the victory.
MMAUK: Being of Indian descent how special will it be to make your pro debut in India?
HR: It is a very special and proud moment to make my debut in India. It will be an honour to be on the historical first Brave event in India and I want to show the Indian fans that we do have great fighters and hopefully I will make them fans of the sport and of me.
MMAUK: What are your aims for the future? Where do you see yourself this time next year?
HR: My aims for the future are to have at least 3 pro fights by the end of this year, Brave is an amazing promotion and they are working hard and have promised to do 24 events this year, that’s 2 every month! Of course I want to stay undefeated and eventually win that Brave Belt. This time next year I see myself still undefeated, in title contention and the poster boy for Brave.
MMAUK: Finally, how is your training going in the lead up to your fight.
HR: My training for this fight has been amazing. I am in the best physical, mental, spiritual state I’ve been in for any fight. I’ve also started training at NFM in Windsor with Dean Amarasinghe who is a great coach, in the 3 months there my game has evolved so much and I’ve developed my skill set immensely. That’s a testament to the great coaching and fantastic training partners at the gym who are constantly pushing me and helping me grow. Up until then I was pretty much my own coach, I had a few training partners at Carlson Gracie who I would train with and that was the extent of it. Now with the right structure and guidance, things are looking better than ever. Since signing that professional contract I have been a professional in everything I do and it has shown, and on April 23rd I will get to show the world.
MMAUK: Good luck and thanks for the interview