Francis Ngannou training partner “Ox” Williams speaks to MMA UK ahead of his pro debut

Halston “Ox” Williams learned how to fight early on in his life. While being tested outside of the cage he discovered a fighter mentality, recognizing his potential and trusting the process. MMA UK spoke with him leading up to his next fight on June 30th with Tuff-N-Uff.


Williams grew up in a rough part of Chicago where fighting was the first answer to settle beef in the streets. At a young age, his uncle showed him a videotape of UFC1 and he knew he wanted to compete in MMA. “I remember watching Pride with Rampage and Cro Cop. I’d try to use high kicks in high school fights.” He joined the football and wrestling teams in school, excelling as a freshman on the senior wrestling team. But he faced his first battle when he lost his father, who was a two-time golden gloves champion, at fifteen years old to a heart attack. Shortly after he received more bad news when he found out that a heart murmur would affect his performance in sports. Disciplined, he lost the weight to stay healthy and kept his 4.0 GPA. His plans to wrestle in college via scholarship then make his MMA debut was progressing, but one mistake cost him everything. Williams was caught with a gun, one he carried to feel safe as school brawls grew more hostile. His gameplan disappeared so he refocused and started to compete at local wrestling tournaments while attending community college.

Things started to look positive for a chance in semi-pro football but Ox got into trouble and was sentenced to prison. “Where I grew up, everyone was in a gang, depending on what neighbourhood you were connected to. When I was locked up I started to think about colours, how you can identify someone by what they wear, where they’re representing. You’ll always see me wearing the same gear and colours, it’s a marketing technique I learned off the street.” Ox was away for two and a half years and was put in a boot camp setting. Every day drill sergeants “whooped their asses”. Ox seemed to get pushed extra hard when the sergeants recognized his cauliflower ears but he saw this as an opportunity to learn humility and strength. He avoided joining a gang while locked up explaining his plan to stay focused on getting back to school and compete in MMA once he was out. Waking up with this daily ambition, one morning when new inmates were arriving, a neighbour cell woke him up to say an MMA fighter had joined their unit. Ox was on edge when Dan Bolden entered his cell, he had avoided three stabbings already. But like many combat sports athletes do, Ox recognized the man’s cauliflower ears and immediately felt like this visit would have token significance. The two talked for hours about the sport, Dan offering assistance in how to get started once Ox was released.

When he came home Ox got a job at an LA fitness as a personal trainer, he was put in touch with PFL fighter Louis Taylor to train. With the assistance of his manager at LA fitness, he was able to work around parole and get into the gym to train. “I remember the first day I walked into the gym and asked the coach if I could train with my ankle monitor on. Coach said it wouldn’t be the first time he saw someone train with one on.” Six months later he got off parole early and won his first fight via TKO. He collected a steady three-fight win streak until he got “cocky” and didn’t listen to his coaches. He recalls a knee knockout that left a permanent hematoma, one that he’ll look at from time to time to stay humble. Ox was able to lose over one hundred pounds while away and stayed at a solid 260lbs. Fellow teammate Arnold “Cali Bomaye” Adams saw his potential and suggested Ox come with him to Vegas to train with Floyd Mayweather’s TMT to polish his standup. He saved up some cash intending to visit for a training camp but ended up staying and getting a job at the UFC gym in Henderson, NV. At the time the UFC performance center was not built so many of the promotion’s athletes would train at his location. He loved the experience, training with the likes of Mark Hunt who gave him 20oz gloves he continues to use to work on speed and power. One day he heard of an MMA draft that he hoped would lead to his next fight. An interview with Uriah Faber and Phil Davis was part of the process. Ox had envisioned himself fighting Phil when he was away planning his MMA career. “I remember telling Phil I’d fight him one day, he laughed but could tell I was serious”. Shortly after Phil invited him to join his camp for the lightweight title eliminator fight against Muhammed Lawal. Ox found himself traveling back and forth from San Diego to Las Vegas. Once drafted, he made his tv debut fighting for King of the Cage. “That was a cool moment, my family was so excited to see my hard work paying off and see me fighting on tv”.

Next, he went to work a modelling gig back in Vegas and shortly after he found himself stuck, homeless, sleeping in his car. Luckily Ox was able to rebound with the help of Blake Walker and Derek of Smooth Dapper Industries, the creator of Bruce Buffer’s famous suits. Blake, who still helps Ox with marketing, offered to help him financially paying for training to get back on his feet. While at a pool party, Ox was stopped by Derek who noticed his cauliflower ears and suggested he train Jiu-Jitsu with Geo Martinez in San Diego, CA. With the help of both men, Ox was able to travel back to Cali. Incredibly grateful for the opportunity Ox spent hours in the gym from 6am-9pm most days. Then he received a call from a friend asking for help to turn her life around and move out of their hometown. Ox returned and spent a few months with his family after being away for years. He and his friend planned to move to Vegas during international fight week. When he returned he received a call from coach Dewey Cooper who asked him to train alongside Francis Ngannou as he prepared for his fight against Alistair Overeem. “I’ve felt the power of Francis Ngannou, I remember being hit in the body and a rib shifting”. After training with several professionals and keeping up with them, Ox decided he was ready to make his pro-MMA debut. But a 4-2-0 record made it hard to find the promotion that would book him a fight. He and his team made the decision to fight three more amateur bouts in hopes to get the attention of Bellator or UFC.

Ox currently rides a two-fight winning streak, collecting the Tuff-N-Uff Heavyweight belt in his last. He’s scheduled to make his first title defence June 30th, 2018 with plans for a pro debut soon to follow.

Halston “Ox” Williams finished the conversation with MMA UK with a sky’s the limit attitude, seeing a future in MMA, entertainment and looking to use his past experiences to help inspire people.

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