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May 22 / All

Life after retirement!

It’s been a while since I updated my blog, but as you may know, I’ve been adjusting to life after my last ever UFC fight. It’s not like how people picture it, I’m pretty sure of that! I am constantly asked how I’m adjusting to retired life as though I’m sat in my slippers with my feet up, collecting my pension!

In reality, I’m busier than I’ve ever been. I’ve retired as a professional MMA athlete, but I’m still working! I’m back to the grind, back to the hustle; a retired athlete is not put out to pasture! I am carving out a future for myself, with many paths in front of me that all need exploring!

I am making plans for my own gym still – I have a lot of it mapped out already, but I’m still searching for the right premises. Ideally it will be close to my house as I’m going to juggle running the gym full time with spending time with my family so I’d rather not spend hours every day in London traffic. I don’t want to rush too much as the location is so important I want to get it right.

In the mean time, I’ve been doing plenty of coaching elsewhere. Nathaniel Wood fights in a couple of weeks at Cage Warriors in London – and there’s a title on the line. If you’ve not got a ticket yet – you can get one here or tune in on BT Sport/Fight Pass.

I also went out to Japan to corner Kyoji when he fought out there for Rizin. It was a buzz to be out in Japan – somewhere I’ve always wanted to fight myself. The whole culture of fighting out there is fantastic, and the respect they have for the sport is incredible.

I’ve also been keeping busy with some seminars – and I have some availability for more of those over the summer. I’ll write a bit more about them later in the week, but if you want more info, feel free to get in touch with me. I’m heading out to Spain to work with Luke Barnatt and John Maguire on a special “Mind, Body and Sol” course in a couple of weeks – click here for more info and to sign up.

My big news is that I’ll be fighting at Polaris in August. Again, I’ll fill you in on that some more in the next week or two but I’m thrilled to be back competing. It’s very different to MMA but appeals to me because I am a competitive man by nature. Grappling is picking up pace as an exciting sport to watch in this country and Polaris is playing a big part in that.

If you’re interested in seeing me compete there then please come on down, and even better if you buy your tickets through my personal link here! As ever, I’m in it to win it, but you know me… I’ll always put on a show.

I’ll keep you posted a bit more now that I’m settling into post-UFC life. It’s no less hectic, and certainly no less fun! As ever, I’m still incredibly grateful for the interest that people have taken – and continue to take – in me. Thank you for your support!

-ONE PUNCH

March 21 / All

A career’s worth of thank yous

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. 

SPONSORS ETC

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.



FAMILY

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…

 

-ONE PUNCH

(Massive thanks to Leo Cackett for these photos; he’s documented my career for years. Check out more of his work on his website and Instagram)

March 8 / All

My time with the UFC

This week has been filled with a lot of lasts for me. My last wrestling session, my last sparring session, they’re all sneaking up on me now. My time here at ATT is coming to an end, and who knows when I’ll be back here.

The UFC have been here doing some promo filming etc. They took Marc Diakiese and myself to the beach, and bowling – of course, I beat him. It’s nice that the UFC are still investing their time and resources in me, even though they know this will be my last fight. I hope that generosity extends to my leaving present, I assume I’ll wake up to find a nice Audi Q7 on my drive way on March 19!

In all honesty, I have no complaints whatsoever about my time at the UFC. I’ve always said that getting to the UFC is the easy part, it’s staying there that’s difficult. And one way or another, I’ve made it through and now I get to retire on my own terms – that means a lot to me.

It’s been great to have Dana White be so supportive of me and vocal about enjoying my fights. In a job like this, there’s not much job security, but it’s always a boost to your confidence when the big boss praises your fight style. It also means a lot to me because he’s someone who’s been in the game a long time; he knows what he’s talking about and I really respect his opinion.  He’s a very genuine and honest man – I’ve always known where I stand with him. I’m intrigued to see what he does next – whether he’ll stay at the UFC or ride off into the sunset.

I’ve always had a great relationship with the UK team at the UFC too. There’s a lot of people that work very hard  behind the scenes, who the fans don’t always get to see or hear about. All the guys in the PR team, Sarah and Vicky have been amazing to work with. I get on great with James Elliot too – I try to just have a good time with everybody I work with to be honest – it makes life easier and more enjoyable, and now I’m leaving with a lot of happy memories!

When I was first in the UFC there weren’t many other British fighters – Bisping, Pearson, Hardy and me! A few others have come and gone over the years, but now I feel like the talent pool is growing, and not only that, I believe it’s sustainable. These guys will be more than a flash in the pan and I think they’ll continue to put the UK on the map as far as MMA goes.  I can’t really take credit for it unfortunately, but I’m very pleased that I’m leaving things in a better way than how I found them!

I fly home this Friday and I will have a very busy week ahead of me. The promo is starting to stack up already, and I can’t wait to spend some time with Sarah and Buddy. I’ll try to take in every moment, as I know it will all be over before I know it!

I’ll keep you guys posted throughout the week where I’ll be appearing – signings, open work outs etc, but I hope by now you guys know that I’m really happy to chat and take pictures whenever I have the time! See you next week!

-ONE PUNCH

P.S Don’t forget, if you order a shirt now you’ll still get it in time for your fight, and you can wear it to my official afterparty!

February 24 / All

WEC Days

This week I’ve continued to take it easy with my training. I’m thinking of myself as good old fashioned sports car – just needing some fine tuning and a run out every now and again. I’m in good shape as I’ve been in three fight camps back to back, so there’s no need to go crazy.

As promised I’m looking back at my time in the WEC this week. I’ve written before about my WEC debut and how much faith they put in me as an overseas fighter. I repaid them with a Peruvian Necktie and took home a submission of the night bonus! But it was my second fight in the WEC that I get asked about the most.

Back then Demetrious Johnson was not a champ, in fact, he was barely known. It was his first fight in the WEC, and the only footage I’d seen of him was him doing a scissorkick and knocking a guy out! But when we stepped into the cage, I was undaunted, and thought that he was pretty small for the weight class. Once we started fighting my main thought was “fuck me, you’re fast!”. He’d dart in and try to blitz with a combo, but my timing was good that night, and my takedowns were on point – but he was hard to keep down.

I felt I’d won the first round comfortably, and didn’t feel threatened at any point. There was a crazy moment where I caught his flying knee and took him down with a slam. I heard the wind being knocked out of him but didn’t realise that I’d separated my shoulder, so I mounted him and tried to finish him. I felt fine coming out of the second round and again, confident that it was mine. In the third round I went out and threw a jab, and straight away knew that something was a amiss. I was convinced I’d broken my collarbone – the pain was that bad.

The third round was the closest but I was confident that I’d won. When the result was being announced, I offered Herb Dean my right hand to raise cos I was in so much pain. Afterwards, DJ and I both went to the hospital together. Whilst we were there, we discovered we both had a love of gaming – in particular World of Warcraft. That’s why we both look so happy in this picture – kindred spirits!  He has, of course, gone from strength to strength, in both MMA and gaming, although I probably am still a higher level at WoW than him…

My third WEC fight was Scott Jorgensen, which was a tough fight for me, as he took my win streak. But it was still a great fight, he just had such a strong wrestling pedigree, and I wasn’t up to his standard.

My final fight on the blue canvas was with Ivan Menjivar – a guy who’d been around a long time, and had fought the likes of GSP and Matt Sera. Meanwhile I was coming off a loss, and when they announced the fight I was just thinking “holy shit, this sucks”. In the end it ended up being a three round war, and I loved it. Going into the third round, I think we had one round apiece, so I decided to just box rather than try to knock his head off, and I got there on points. Not only was it my last fight for them, it was the last WEC event ever – a memorable occasion.

My time in the WEC was one of my favourite periods of my career. My WEC record was 3-1 and they were all awesome fights. WEC was a fight fans favourite show – there were just so many great fights, which I guess is ultimately why the UFC wanted the promotion! My favourite to watch as a fight fan was Cub Swanson vs. Mackens Semerzier. There was just something about that blue canvas…

-ONE PUNCH

February 20 / All

Fighting Abroad

It’s appropriate that my blog this week looks back at my first fights abroad, as I’ve just headed back out to ATT for the portion of my camp that I’ll be completing in Florida. Apologies for being a few days late with this one – I’ve been settling back in here and getting straight on with my training. There’s some familiar faces here; it’s good to catch up with Mike Brown (of course) and Dustin Poirier, but there’s also a couple of UK guys out here – Marc Diakese and Scott Askham!

Looking back at my first fights on foreign soil reinforces my belief that young fighters should take every opportunity that comes their way to fight abroad. If you can get paid and get flown around the world doing what you love – there is no better feeling! It also prepares you for when you do make it up to the “big show” because everything feels different when you’re doing it somewhere new.

ATT have had their own fight show for years – it’s called AFC, and it’s still going now. It’s a great opportunity for young fighters to take their first step in actually competing, and there’s been some big names on that show over the years. Although I had a fair few professional fights under my belt by the time i fought on AFC, it was still a great opportunity and experience for me.

The fight itself wasn’t so great! My opponent got me with a jumping knee and dropped me. I had no idea what happened – I just didn’t react and I remember waking up in a triangle choke! I got out of it and was furious – I was punching his feet, the lot! I eventually won by submission, but there was a lot of action and anger packed into that one round!

My next fight abroad was on a beach in Costa Rica! It was a far cry from Swansea where my previous bout had been. I’d been to St Petersburg with Mike when he fought on Bodog and got friendly with the matchmaker, Miguel. The card I was on was actually three events over three days – and I was on the first day. Again, there are a lot of familiar names on the fight card for this event!

Basically Bodog took over a holiday resort for two weeks, and we were all there, all inclusive. It was great for me fighting early on in the event as it meant that Mickey and I could indulge in the buffet – but I remember we were gutted to only find the hot dog stand on our last day there! The show was filmed for TV, and as such there wasn’t exactly an audience. It was an unusual set up, but I had an amazing time!

 

After that, I fought on Dynamite in Los Angeles which was incredible. I fought in front of 40,000 people which at that point in my career just felt ridiculous! It actually also felt weirdly empty because the arena is built to hold 90,000! Dynamite was actually a Japanese show but they held an event in the USA and got in a bunch of big names – including Royce Gracie vs. Kazushi Sakubara, and the MMA debut of Brock Lesnar!

I lost – which felt crushing as it was my second loss in a row (a first for me at that point) but I was paid $8k – which felt like an insane amount of money to me! I paid off my debts and went on holiday, so despite the loss, it was absolutely worth it.

When I look back at these fights – and at others throughout my career – there was always so much pressure, so much riding on the outcome. If you win, you go down this path… if you lose, you go down that path. When I fight on March 18, win or lose, I’m going down the same path, so it feels like the pressure is off.

Of course, I’m a proud person and I want to go out on a high but I’m not putting the same pressure on myself as I have done over the last year or two. I feel calm and relaxed. I’m training smart, rather than training hard – I’m in the gym for fewer sessions than usual, but I am making the most of them when I am there. Instead I am focusing on being in the right head space – and I’m feeling great!
– ONE PUNCH

P.S apologies to people who have pre-ordered their Last Dance fight T from me, there’s been a slight delay with the order! They’re on their way, and will be shipped from London ASAP. You’ll still get them in good time for the UFC, so don’t worry about that! Thank you for your patience.

February 10 / All

Early days & Cage Rage

Last weekend, my brother arranged a special day for me at the Tottenham ground. I’ve been to many Spurs games over the years, but this was the first time I got to walk out of the players entrance and go into the changing room etc. It was a great day, and something I’m really grateful for!

Sirwan Kakai arrived on Sunday night… well, more like Monday morning by the time his flight actually landed. But we were right up and at ‘em on Monday morning, as we headed to wrestling. He’s been a great training partner for me this week. I’ve known him for years now – when we first met I was just into the UFC and he was an up and coming young fighter. I think he was really unlucky in the UFC, but he’s done well for himself regardless. He’ll also be a fantastic coach if/when he decides to do that full time. He’s a great guy to have on my team – incredibly motivating, and he pushes me in all the right ways.

Some of my Titan team mates have fights coming up very soon. Corrin Eaton will be on BCMMA this month, and he’s been training really hard for this one. Nathaniel Wood has a big fight coming up too – he’ll be the co-main event at Cage Warriors. He always looks good, and stays in shape but this is the best he’s ever looked, in my opinion. I feel like a bit of a dad to Nathaniel, so it’s great to see him in such great physical and mental shape. I’ve also been able to impart a fair bit of wisdom as his opponent is somebody I’ve fought too: Vaughan Lee.

This was the fight that you guys vote for me to run down for you. This was actually a bit later in my Cage Rage career, I’d already started training at ATT and fought a bit abroad (which I’ll come back to next week). Actually, I had lost my last two fights and was in a foul mood going into this fight with Vaughan. I had convinced myself that if I lost my next fight I was going to give it all up. I wasn’t ever in this to just make up the numbers, so if I wasn’t good enough to win, I wanted out.

There was no footage of him to watch back then, and I didn’t even meet him at the weigh ins –  he wasn’t there! So the first time I saw this guy was when I walked into the cage. Looking back, you can tell I was furious in there. Probably the nicest way of putting it is that we both got away with things back then that we couldn’t today. There were definitely some body parts connecting that probably shouldn’t have been; it was a bit of a dirty fight, and pretty out of character for me.

I guess I just felt I had nothing to lose. And after all, what’s a chin in the eye socket, or a knee in the balls between friends? We’ve actually trained together since, funnily enough – he’s come out to ATT and stayed with me at Mike Brown’s house. He’s a very traditional martial artist and a great guy. He and Nathaniel are both very quick, so keep an eye on Cage Warriors for that fight (it’ll be shown on Fight Pass).

I said I was going to re-visit my fight with Ozzy Haluk, no matter which one you guys voted for. Back then Cage Rage was the biggest and best show in UKMMA. But the UK was so far behind the States, Japan and Brazil when it came to MMA. In a lot of ways it wasn’t really considered a sport here – it was just a hard man contest.

Of course I gained skills as I went along but a lot of the guys I was fighting were more experienced than me and had skills I didn’t yet possess. Fighting people like Robbie Olivier and Ozzy Haluk was crazy – they’d been training for years. But years of training didn’t help Ozzy much when I saw an opportunity to stomp on his head! Check out this video The Sprawl made of me talking through that fight.

Next week I’ll go through my fights when I went abroad for the first time. Vote on my Twitter for:

– John Trent – Absolute Fighting Championships (in Florida)
– Gilbert Sims – Bodog (in Costa Rica)
– Hideo Tokoro – Dynamite (Los Angeles)

Spoiler: I didn’t win all of these

I fly out to ATT on Sunday, so next week I’ll be blogging from Florida! Until then….

-ONE PUNCH.

February 3 / All

Reflecting

Hey guys,
Just a short one this week really… I’ve been back training at Titan this week. I don’t know if you saw my footballing triumph posted up online, but that was the cause of my pulled muscle I mentioned in my blog last week. I’m well on the mend, and getting stuck in to training.

Next week, Brett Johns is coming back down to London to train with me, and I’ll have my old friend Sirwan Kakai over from Sweden. I think there’s a lot I can learn from both of these guys, and I’m really happy to have them be part of my last fight camp. It might be my final fight but I don’t want to ever stop learning!

I’ve been thinking about what I want to write about in my blog over the next few weeks and I’ve got a bit of a plan. I’ve been reflecting a lot on my career – the steps I took, and the people I’ve worked with. I’m going to go through the various stages of my career and talk about some of my fight highlights as I go along.

I’m going to run a poll on my Twitter each week so you can vote out of a handful of my fights from a particular era, and I’ll write a bit about that fight, what went on behind the scenes, the build up etc.  I’ll start at the very beginning and work my way right up to the UFC days. If you guys don’t vote for my win via footstomp… well, I’m gonna tell you about it anyway!

Next week I’ll tell you about one of these four fights:

  • Stuart Grant (my very first professional fight!) – Cage Rage 9
  • Ozzy Haluk (foot stomp!) – Cage Rage 13
  • Hiroyuki Abe – Cage Rage 16
  • Vaughan Lee – Cage Rage Contenders 6

So much of my fight history is on Fight Pass only, but there are a few gems floating around on YouTube. I know it’s going to be a sad day when I hang up my gloves, but before I get to that, I have a lot to look back on and feel happy about.
So, head on over to my Twitter and cast your votes, then check back next week for my run down!

-ONE PUNCH

January 27 / All

#UFCLondon on sale + new shirt

I’ve already had so many tweets and messages this week from friends and fans who have got tickets to see me fight in March. It’s quite overwhelming – and it’s really starting to sink in now, that this is going to be my last time stepping out as a UFC fighter.

As an MMA fan, I’m looking forward to watching the card – there’s some great match ups on there. I won’t be able to catch any of the action on the night, but I’ll watch it all back afterwards. I’m particularly keen to see how Arnold Allen vs. Makwan Amirkhani plays out. They’re both young and exciting fighters. Amirkhani has a cool fighting style and a fun character, and Arnold is someone I’ve seen at shows for years now.

I’ve trained with Joe Duffy before, so I’m looking forward to his fight. Marc Diakiese is also going to be one to watch on the night – he’s unbeaten, both in the UFC and outside of it. Darren Stewart has been down at Team Titan doing a bit of sparring, and I’ll catch up with Askham and Diakiese out at ATT in a couple of weeks. It’s a pretty solid card, and I know there’s more to come still!

Some fans have been vocal about the amount of British/European fighters on the card but I think it’s a really positive thing for European MMA. It really shows the strength of the talent pool over here. I know some of the “big names” from over in the states would maybe make this more exciting for some people, but I think there’s going to be some explosive bouts on the night!

It means a lot to me to finish my career in London – I couldn’t imagine doing it anywhere else to be honest. I’m also unbeaten in the UFC… in London! Fighting in front of a “home” crowd means a lot to me as it means my friends and family can all be there too. Only a handful of people from the UK make it out when I fight abroad, but there’s going to be a true One Punch army in the O2 in March!

I’ve had some fans follow me from the Cage Rage days – I always say it, but my fans, and especially those long time, hard core fans, mean the world to me!

I’ve had a busy week with a lot of media obligations – so it’s lucky I actually really enjoy them! Early in the week I managed to tweak my quad… kicking a football. Joe.com had challenged me to see how hard I can kick a football, and I managed to give myself a twinge in my leg. It’s nothing serious, and I’ll be good as new in a couple of days. The key things to remember here are:

1. Football is more dangerous than MMA. I’ve sustained more injuries playing football than I have competing in MMA.
2. I can kick a football harder than Gegard Mousassi.

I’ve had Brett Johns staying with me this week and training at Titan. Hopefully he’s going to get on the London card too. He’s another UK fighter who is unbeaten, and definitely one to watch out for. It’s been great having him here, and I can see him going far. Keep an eye on this one.

Before I wrap up – my brand new final fight shirt is up in the shop. It’s on offer until Monday, so get yourself one over the weekend, and be sure to be a part of the One Punch army in March!
-ONE PUNCH.

January 20 / All

Here we go again…

So, those of you who checked out my blog last week may have noticed that I now have a new website (thanks to Matt Lawrence) –  I’ll be blogging on here right the way up to my fight in March, so stick with me and I’ll take you through the whole journey. Obviously it’s a special one for me, so I’ll probably be reflecting on my career a little bit, and how I got to where I am now. You might even learn some little known Pickett facts – have I ever told you about the time I trained to be a stunt man?!

I’ve been preparing for my fight for a while now – I’m never really off duty to be honest. Another reason why it will be strange after this fight, my routines are going to change. I’ll still be in the gym all the time of course, but not for the same reasons. I’m currently at home in London, and training daily at Team Titan. I’m also doing some more work outs a bit closer to home in south London – Locker 27, Athletic Edge and Urban Kings all deserve a shout out.

I’ll be heading out to ATT in February, but I’ve got a few things I’m working on over here first. I’m going to bring in a few guys to train with me here for a few weeks, which I think is going to be good for me. I’ll tell you more about that as it unfolds! Once I’m out at ATT, it will be business as usual, and I’ll be there for four weeks. I come back to London a week before fight night- don’t forget, tickets go on sale next week!


Winning breeds confidence, and my confidence has taken a bit of a knock in my last couple of fights. So I am going to be working with a mind coach who has already helped me massively. Regardless of what goes down once they lock the cage door behind me, March 18 is going to be hugely emotional for me. I need to find a way to channel that emotion away from my training so I can stay absolutely focussed.  I’m an emotional guy, but I know that my mind is the most powerful tool available to me, so I have to keep it free of clutter.

So, that’s where I’m at right now!  If you’ve got any burning questions for me, send me a tweet and I’ll answer them all in a blog post in the next couple of weeks. Nothing is off limits, but I reserve the right  to change names and details as appropriate to protect the guilty! Don’t forget to follow me on Snapchat (One_PunchMMA), Instagram, and Twitter and I’ll keep you all updated with my final fight camp. My new store is now live – I’m going to add more products soon, but for now, you can still pick up a classic One Punch shirt!

-ONE PUNCH.

January 11 / All

My Last Dance

So, this is my first blog on my new website – about my last fight!

As you may have already seen, I’ll be taking on Henry Briones on March 18 in London. It’s third time lucky for Henry and I – we’ve been scheduled to fight twice before but it’s never quite happened. He seems like a really good guy, and I think it will be a great fight for the fans, so no matter what happens, I know I’ll go out on a high in my home town.

People have been asking me for the last couple of years about my retirement, and what my plans are post-UFC. I was increasingly baffled as to why people were so fixated on my retirement, until my lovely wife, Sarah, pointed out that after my loss to Thomas Almeida, I had told everybody I was going to retire. Well, I guess that would explain all those questions then. That was definitely the emotion talking – I had just lost my third fight in a row (for the first time) and I had given it my all, and yet still didn’t win.

This time, it’s a measured decision, one I am very sure of, and yet still sad about. It’s really hard to let go of – not just the fighting itself, but the community side of things, the camps, the fans, but yes, most of all the competing, that’s the most fun part. I’m a very competitive person, and that’s not going to change. It’s what I’m competitive at that will be different – whether it’s coaching, or taking on my little boy at chess, I’ll always want to be the best.

But the truth is that the training camps have gotten harder as I’ve gotten older, and to be blunt – losing isn’t very much fun. I’ve always said that I have learned as much from my losses as I do from my wins, and the lesson that I have been learning lately is that it’s the smartest thing to hang up my gloves now.

MMA is such a fast growing sport these days that there are people who barely know who Dominic Cruz is, never mind who I am. The sport has changed enormously in the 13 years that I’ve been competing, and I’ve been on quite the journey.

I’ll be writing about many, many aspects of my life and career as we approach my final fight, but I have to say that I wouldn’t be here without the support and guidance of some very important people. Most of all, the fans of course – this is a spectator sport, and the fans are what make my job barely even feel like a job.

I have to say a huge thanks to Grant Waterman who gave me my first ever fight down in Portsmouth, which I won in the first round! After that Dave O’Donnell and Andy Geer took me under their wing at Elite Fighting System and I fought on Cage Rage. My third fight saw my first loss, and I have to say that I genuinely learned a lot from that loss.

Chris Freeborn, my opponent came in with a 7-14 record and I thought he didn’t stand a chance – I planned to go in there, throw some bombs and get out. But he took me down, time and time again – I had zero ground game, and less than a minute of cage time to my name. I refused to tap to his triangle, so he elbowed me in the face – a lot. The ref (Grant Waterman!) stepped in and I was furious – I had a full on melt down, head butting the canvas, the lot. I had a proper meat head approach and couldn’t face that I was so unprepared. My head was so mangled I couldn’t get my hat on afterwards, and I vowed to never get that beaten up again.

Of course, I have been! But that was still a turning point for me, and I decided to take this sport seriously. And that’s how I found Mickey Papas. In the beginning I was Team Titan! Mickey has built up his gym and team over the years, and he’s been invaluable to my career progression.

I was the first person to win a fight in the UK via foot stomp! They bought in the open guard rule, so I took full advantage and beat the favourite by jumping with both feet on to his head and took home the Cage Rage belt. The rule didn’t last long…

Dave and Andy really invested in me, and sent me – along with Dan Hardy and Paul Daley – out to American Top Team in Florida. They had something of an exchange programme, and thanks to their foresight and generosity, my career developed even further. This is when I first met Mike Brown – he was working on the front desk at ATT and I was sent to stay with him whilst I trained. It was the beginning of a long and solid friendship.

Mike’s career progressed and by 2008 he was the WEC champion. I was always alongside Mike, in his corner, and as a consequence, I met Sean Shelby. Back then WEC wasn’t huge; it was expensive for them to have an international fighter because of visa costs and so on. But he put his trust in me as an athlete, and invested in me in such a career changing way.

To fight in Vegas and Japan were always on my bucket list and in my first WEC fight, I ticked off Vegas. I won the submission of the night $10k bonus which to me was an insane amount of money – and right before Christmas too! I was on the prelims and there were no other submissions the whole card… until Donald Cerrone! I actually felt sick watching his fight, praying that he didn’t get the submission, as I would win the bonus by default otherwise. However, my sub was a Peruvian Necktie – quite an unusual move, so I took home the money! And that was the beginning of my Zuffa career.

When I moved across to the UFC, I was still dealing with the same staff, and fighting the same guys. It was just the platform and the exposure that had changed. Dana White came to my first fight in Birmingham, and I won the fight of the night bonus, despite losing. It was an incredible fight, and I would have given back that money to keep on fighting to the end of the three rounds! It was such a buzz! Dana nearly had a kitten watching me – he was out of his seat and going crazy!

I’ve always said – the UFC give you a platform, and it’s up to you what you do with it! I feel like I’ve missed out on title eliminators a few times throughout my career, and fallen at the last hurdle, which is part of the reason I dropped down to flyweight. I wanted to know that I had done everything in my control to have given a title run my best shot. Flyweight didn’t suit me – the style was different with the smaller guys, and although I don’t regret it, I now believe it was the wrong decision to drop down.

Everybody who goes into this sport wants to be the champ. I am no exception, which is why I had to be sure I had pursued every avenue. No regrets!

But being a professional fighters is not just about the wins, it’s about fighting smart – and that extends to knowing when your time is up. It’s hard, and it’s emotional to leave it behind. But my priorities have changed over the last couple of years; I have a son, Buddy, who has changed my life. There is a shelf life to being a professional athlete; there was always going to be an end to this.

I owe a lot of thanks to a lot of people – I truly wouldn’t be where I am today without Paulie, Conan, Gary, Mickey, Dave, Andy, Matt, Mike, Sean, Reed, Nilesh, Becky, Dana, my brother, Russell – and of course, Sarah and Buddy.

I have always been a fighter who likes to put on a show for the fans – the support I’ve had, from Cage Rage right through to today, is incredible. I am humbled by the love and generosity from my incredible fans!

I’ll be blogging right here in the run up to my fight, so please stay tuned. I’ll also have a final fight shirt on sale soon – so I’ll keep you update on that!

See you in March!

– One Punch

#LastDance

Photos copyright Leo Cackett