The past 48 hours has been like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. I am completely and utterly overwhelmed by the messages of love, support, and congratulations that I have received, from people I hold close, and from people I’ve never even met. I have been reading every single one of those messages, and I’m doing my best to reply to them all – it’s just taking a long time! I have always had an incredible relationship with my fans and always felt we had a strong bond, but until this weekend I didn’t realise how far that stretched; I just didn’t know how many people cared. As I said in the Octagon on Saturday night: you guys are more than fans, you’re my friends, and I’m incredibly grateful to have had you there to share my journey, whether you’ve been there since the beginning or if you only saw me fight for the first time this weekend – so my first thank you goes to you.
I have a lot of people to thank, and truly if I were to give due credit and name check everybody who has helped me reach this point in my life, we’d be here all week, so I will stick to the key figures, the people who have guided me and shaped me into the guy I am today. And I would also like to say a big thank you to Marlon Vera; without him stepping up a week ago, I wouldn’t have had my last dance in the Octagon. I’m truly grateful to him, and have a lot of respect for him – a fellow athlete looking to provide for his family.
PROMOTERS & PROMOTIONS
From the very beginning Grant Waterman, Dave O’Donnell and Andy Geer were the men that properly set me up on this path. They gave me my first fights, and my first steps on the ladder were with them, I even had a job with Andy’s building firm, who continued to pay my weekly wage even when I went off to train. I will never forget that and the leg up that it gave me.
Later on, Reed Harris, Sean Shelby, and Dana White were the promoters/matchmakers that held my future in their hands, and I am grateful for every opportunity they gave me. All the people behind the scenes, both here in the UK office and in the US have always been great to work with, plus the likes of Dan Hardy and John Gooden have been amazing colleagues to have. The UFC is an incredible platform for athletes to perform on and I am honoured to have had the opportunity to have been on their books.
COACHES & TEAM MATES
Over at American Top Team, my biggest shout out goes to Mike Brown; he’s always been by my side (even at my wedding) as a truly great mate, and an absolutely phenomenal coach. Paulie Gloves and I clicked as soon as we started working together, but it’s been much more than just a professional relationship, he’s a friend, and almost like a father figure to me. Paulie is a very intelligent guy, and he’s been a true asset in the later years of my career. Conan Silveira and Ricardo Liberio have welcomed me with open arms over at ATT, and it’s honestly my home away from home. Kami Barzini, Steve Mocco, Katel Kubis, Marcos DaMatta, Phil Daru, plus all of the skilled training partners I’ve sparred with or wrestled with over the years, you have all helped me learn and grow.
Back here in the UK, Mickey Papas has been by my side as a constant for a decade. From training out of his garage, to walking out with me for my final fight – he’s been there throughout. A special mention also goes to Tim Benjamin, Sid Atkinson, Gary Marshall (from way back in the day!), Jude Samuel and Ashleigh Grimshaw. And of course, everybody I have trained with at Titan over the years – you are like my extended family now.
When I started out, this wasn’t a career, the money wasn’t rolling in – I was in it for the competition! But I am very grateful for the companies and individuals who have supported me, financially or otherwise, that have allowed me to focus on what I was good at – the fighting. My first manager, James Walsh, and later Matt Walton at Spiked MMA, help guide me through my career. And in the last couple of years, Becky Laverty who has been a much needed voice of reason and common sense, and a great friend to me.
A big shout out to (the highly recommended) Sports Nutrition UK, Scramble, Venum, and Funky Gums, and from way back in the early days, Evolution Fightwear.
Last but never least… my family.
My mum and dad were with me for the early part of my career, and their support was so important to me it will never be forgotten. My Auntie Maureen and Uncle Peter, and my cousin Leah have also been a constant support.
My absolute number one fan is my brother Russell; he’s been everything I could have ever hoped for in a big brother. He’s been at every single one of my fights and taken on all kinds of tasks to help me out along the way; he’s always been in charge of sorting out tickets to my fights, organising the afterparties and everything in between.
And of course, the lady that has helped me hold it all together for over 11 years now – my beautiful wife, Sarah. This job has allowed me to buy a house for us, our son Buddy, and our dog Bonnie, but I couldn’t have done it without her love and support. It’s a cliche to say that behind every good man is a strong woman, but in my case, it’s 100% true. In the early days she put up with me travelling all over the place and even encouraged me to move out to America for a year to further my training – not many women would put up with that, but she pushed me to do it because she knew it was what I needed. There aren’t enough words to express the gratitude and love I have for Sarah, when I have doubted myself, her belief in me has never faltered. I know she would never want me to look back on my life and think “what if…”, and thanks to her, and all the other people I’ve listed above, I will never have to.
I have zero regrets, and I’m so grateful for everything I have achieved in my career so far. Here’s to the next chapter…