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Exclusive: Garreth McLellan Talks UFC Rotterdam, Irish Fans, Tristar and More

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South Africa’s Garreth “Soldierboy” McLellan fights at UFC Rotterdam this weekend against Swedish middleweight, Magnus Cedenblad. Before flying to the Netherlands, McLellan was kind enough to take the time for an interview.

Where else to start other than McLellan’s last fight – a TKO win over Bubba Bush with just 2 seconds remaining back in October 2015 in Dublin. It is a night the South African remembers fondly, but not just because it was his first UFC victory. The Irish fans, as they are famous for doing, enhanced the experience. “I think the whole thing was just really special,” he began. “I think the occasion, the way that the fight went and the response from the crowd was really special. Everything just fell into place perfectly. I didn’t expect to get the reception that I did – the ovation from the Irish fans was incredible. I had heard what an amazing place it was to fight, but I don’t think you understand that until you are on the full receiving end of the Irish people. They got behind me 100% which made it that much more special for me and lasting in my memory.

It’s amazing,” he continued, referring to how warmly the fans received him and also when they sought him out for selfies and autographs after the event. “Back home in South Africa that’s the reception I get from the South African fans and I’m used to that kind of environment. When you go to another country, you don’t expect it to be the same, you don’t expect it to be that wild and for people to be drawn to you. It was an exceptionally humbling experience for myself.”

On the win in Dublin itself, McLellan knows how important it was. “I think it was a good time to get the win. Obviously it got that monkey off my back of getting a win in the UFC. Now it’s not a case of going in having to get that win to show that I’m capable – I’ve done that and now I can go and express myself.”

UFC Rotterdam marks the third consecutive appearance for McLellan on UFC cards in Europe. He enjoys fighting for the European fans and knows what an opportunity it is for him in his career. “You know, I think it’s a case of getting myself established in the UFC,” he said. “The way I see it is that it’s an opportunity to see the world and travel and fight for the UFC. The main cards you want to be on are one of the numbered shows in Las Vegas – that’s a goal for everybody. For now, I’m happy to fight on the European cards. They’re great, just as packed and just as vibrant as you would get in America. I like fighting in Europe, they make me feel very welcome and I’m sure you will see me on an American card at some stage.”

Regarding Cedenblad, his opponent, McLellan is more than aware of the Swede’s talent and skill, but he is confident in his own qualities heading into Sunday’s card. “He’s got an impressive record in the UFC,” McLellan explained. “He has his dreams, his goals and the direction he wants to go and he’s working hard towards that. He’s a competitor and he’s coming to fight. He’s well-rounded and he’s able to fight anywhere. There are no easy fights going forward from now. As you climb the ladder they just keep getting harder and you have to be prepared for them. I haven’t focused on him too much like in my last fight, I just prepared myself to the best of my abilities. I’m coming to fight on Sunday and I’m coming to win.”

In preparation for this fight, McLellan took a trip over to Canada for a visit to Tristar in Montreal as part of his training camp. It was a venture well worth making for McLellan. “Our gym has a good relationship with the Tristar guys,” he told me. “I just felt like I needed to experience a different environment, train with some UFC athletes and broaden my horizons a little bit. It was an amazing trip. I was very fortunate to experience time with guys like Firas Zahabi and the top athletes there and train with those guys. They made me feel very at home and they added so much to my training camp. I came back home, my training partners here pushed me really hard and it’s been a really good camp for myself. I’ve worked hard, stayed focused and I think I’ve gotten the results that I wanted.”

Every fighter has a dream of fighting for the UFC in their home country, and McLellan is no different. I asked him if he felt that dream was coming closer to reality. “We hope so,” he started. “This is what we’re looking for. We’re looking to be in a strong enough position in the rankings where we can say ‘Hey, it’s time to put on a card in Africa.’ I can be that main event. I want to create enough buzz that the UFC can’t deny us an event here. There’s a massive fan base here in South Africa, and in all of Africa. They’d be well received here, I think it will be surprising for them how well received they will be. I don’t think we’re too far off, we just have to keep pushing hard, make sure we get that done and bring them here. Being a South African fighter, we didn’t have much. We didn’t have a lot at our disposal and we’ve had to grind hard to get ourselves in the position we are in now. It would be a monumental day for South African and African MMA.”

We have some good talent here. We have some guys who are ready for the UFC now, it’s just a case of getting them that exposure and showing the UFC that South Africans are worth having on their events. We understand as a team we have to keep pushing and I understand myself that I have to lead the way for these youngsters and make sure that, when I hang up the gloves, I’ve created a path for South Africans to get into the UFC and compete at the highest level.”

In closing, McLellan had a message for his fans and also told me what everyone can expect to see on Sunday in Rotterdam. “Thanks for the support and keep supporting. Tune in on Sunday and it’s going to be a completely different guy that you saw last time. I’m coming to please the crowd again, I’m looking for the finish and I’m going to show the UFC world that they need to take notice of ‘Soldierboy’, that he’s someone to look out for.”

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Bellator

Michael Page Not Focusing on Opponent Ahead of Boxing Debut

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest spoke to Bellator’s Michael ‘Venom’ Page, as he makes his boxing debut this Friday at the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night.

Page (12-0 MMA) is renowned for his entertaining fight style inside the cage, with most of his knockout and submission victories ending up in highlight reels online, that almost always go viral.

‘MVP’ was supposed to make his boxing debut on the undercard of David Haye vs Tony Bellew in March of this year, but due to ongoing negotiations with Bellator, his debut was delayed. Shortly after Page signed with Haye’s promotion “Hayemaker Ringstar.”

Q: So, Michael, we’re about five days out now from your big boxing debut, and still we have no name of an opponent? Can you break the big news, who will you be fighting next week?

I honestly couldn’t even tell you his name right now! I know I’ve got an opponent, but I haven’t even looked at him because it has changed so many times. I don’t like to pay too much attention to it, because it’s added stress. For me it’s just a case of turning up, and firing punches at whoever is across the ring.

Q: Is this fight 10 or 12 rounds? Given a standard boxing fight is a lot longer than your typical 15-minute MMA bout, has there been an emphasis on cardiovascular work in your training camp?

Depending on the opponent, I think it’s 6-rounds. The preparation has been different, I’m having to stress out my shoulders and core a lot. The kicking distance as well is very different, getting used to having people a bit closer. I’m getting used to the corners of the ring, I’ve done it before but not to this extent so I am familiar of it, but my body wasn’t really used to it.

Q: So, is this kind of like a one fight deal for Haye’s Ringstar promotion? Regardless of this fight’s outcome, will you return to MMA?

Not at all, I’m taking it seriously. Otherwise, I would have just had a super fight against a big name like McGregor did. This is why I can’t just jump into a 12 round fight, I need to adjust my body and get it prepared for boxing.

There’s no future plans yet, I’d like to have an MMA fight again before the end of this year, as I haven’t fought this whole year, but another opportunity for boxing may come up and I might get a chance to jump on that, so it depends.

Q: Were you frustrated that Bellator booked Paul Daley vs. Lorenz Larkin, and if you could send a message to Daley right now what would it be?

I have no interest in him anymore. It feels so pathetic and unnecessary now. I don’t think he deserved that fight with Larkin right after the shocking display he put on in Wembley against Rory MacDonald. But good on him he beat Larkin, however he calls me out immediately after then goes on to say he’s past that fight, it just doesn’t make sense.

Credit – michaelpagemvp – Instagram

Q: A statement we hear a lot is “MVP is the only guy outside the UFC that I want in the UFC” People criticise the talent in Bellator and say you’re fighting nobodies, what do you say back to them?

The amount of times you hear “you shouldn’t fight this person, you should have fought that person.” Everyone’s got an idea of what the correct steps someone should make are, but at the end of the day it’s their career. People are so fickle and easy to forget. If you are a fan of somebody, just be a fan of them regardless of win or loss.

Q: I’ve got to ask about how things are with Bellator, because from the outside looking in it’s quite unclear. How is it relationship at the moment?

Yeah I get on with most of the guys, it’s like a small family. I’ve still got a couple of fights left with them, they’re growing very well, the only problem is I feel like they’re focusing a bit too much on ex UFC fighters. For me it says you’re classing yourself as second best. Bellator generate some amazing superstars and young talent, they should continue to promote them.

You can watch ‘MVP’ make his boxing debut this Friday night, as the Hayemaker Ringstar Fight Night will air at 21:00PM on Dave.

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BAMMA

Exclusive: Alex Lohore “Didn’t Know” Who Richard Kiely Was Before BAMMA 32 Booking

Harry Davies

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We spoke to the recently crowned BAMMA welterweight champion Alex Lohore, as he prepares to defend his title against Richard Kiely at BAMMA 32 in Dublin.

Lohore (13-1) won the vacant BAMMA welterweight title last month at BAMMA 31 in London. Fighting his longtime rival Nathan Jones on the night, Lohore knocked out “Mr Bag & Tag” with a knee in the first round.

Q: Obviously the rivalry between you and Jones had been going on for years, but you finished it in brutal fashion. Did you to speak to him after the fight?

Yeah I did have a chat with him. I was telling him that it was a great fight and we should train together sometime, but he was he wasn’t really keen on it. I guess he was still a bit sore about the defeat.

Q: In the cage after your win, you called out Richard Kiely, now you’re fighting him. Are you happy you got the opponent you asked for?

Everyone keeps saying I called him out, I didn’t call him out, he called me out! I didn’t even address his name, I said ‘this Irish kid has been running his mouth we’re going to go out there and shut him up.’ I didn’t even know who he was. He’s been mentioning my name and talking a lot of rubbish on my social media disturbing me and my fans.

Q: The finish against Jones was picture perfect. From the elbow, to the right hand, to the knee, was it the best of your career?

Yeah I think it is, by far! It was perfect technique. I knew as he was going he back he would try to duck in for the takedown. Because I was throwing the head kick anyway all I needed to do was just switch it to a knee. I couldn’t ask for any better.

Q: Given it’s in Dublin and Richard is Irish, How do you feel about going into enemy territory at BAMMA 32?

That’s great, that’s why I’m doing it! I need to be comfortable in every environment, so going out there will test. I wanted to be on the Dublin card, now I can teach him a little lesson too, I can’t wait.

Q: As you know the Geordie Shore star Aaron Chalmers has brought a lot of attention to BAMMA recently, what are your thoughts on him? 

He’s good man. For someone who doesn’t come from a fighting background and does reality TV stuff, he’s doing good. How can people say he should fight someone more experienced, because he is taking  guys that are on his level and he’s doing good.

He’s helping MMA fighters because he has got a big following so more people are going to be watching MMA and learning about MMA so it’s a good thing having him on board.

BAMMA32 will take place at the 3Arena in Dublin on November 10th. Tickets are now on sale at ticketmaster.ie. The card will air live on both UNILAD’s Facebook page, and Dave.

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Bellator

Exclusive: Andrey Koreshkov eyeing fight with Rory MacDonald

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Former Bellator welterweight champion Andrey Koreshkov is coming off of an interesting past two years. In 2015 he beat current welterweight champion Douglas Lima, via a dominant unanimous decision, in order to win the welterweight title. He returned in 2016 and beat former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson via another dominant beatdown. It seemed like Koreshkov was going to be the champion for a very long time, making elite fighters look like they had no business being in the cage with him.

Koreshkov’s world came crashing down one night in Isreal. The Russian was beating Douglas Lima in a rematch, he was up 20-18 on the score-cards, and it seemed like he was going to walk away with another successful title defense. Koreshkov forced Lima’s back against the fence and started winging punches at him, Lima started to do the same as he looked to get off the fence, and then it happened, a huge left hook caught Koreshkov on the chin and it was lights-out. Lima was once again champion, and Koreshkov’s reign was cut short.

What was next for Koreshkov after losing the title? Perhaps a move to middleweight? Bellator’s middleweight division has fewer contenders than the welterweight division and could promise a quicker path to the title for the Russian. Koreshkov is a big welterweight, standing at 6’1, he certainly wouldn’t be small in the higher weight class. Speaking to MMA Latest, Koreshkov was quick to shut down the idea of moving up. “No, no, I work hard at welterweight and I’d like to stay there.”

Sticking with welterweight, Koreshkov knew it was going to be tough to get another title shot after his fight with Chidi Njokuani, but he seems to know the key to fighting for the title “It’s not about how many wins, but rather, the quality of my wins”, with that in mind, he promised the gameplan against Njokuani was to “stand and bang”. Koreshkov fulfilled his promise, against Njokuani he came out guns-blazing, giving Njokuani all he could handle on the feet before eventually taking him down and finishing him with some nasty ground and pound.

Koreshkov also got the chance to explain who he’d like to fight next, should he not get a title shot. “I don’t have any favorites, I know that there are a lot of tough fights at my weight class, but if I had to choose, I would say Rory MacDonald.” Unfortunately for Koreshkov, MacDonald is booked against his former opponent Douglas Lima, as the two are set to fight for the Bellator welterweight title in January.

A fight against MacDonald would promise fireworks as the two are known for their ruthless style. There’s a strong chance Koreshkov may get his chance against MacDonald next, as the former champion is certainly either next in line for the shot, or set to fight the loser.

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