SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 03: Andrew Craig of the USA celebrates victory during the UFC On FX middleweight bout between Andrew Craig and Kyle Noke at Allphones Arena on March 3, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
Just 4 short days after UFC 148, we will be treated to another UFC On Fuel TV card. Mark Munoz vs. Chris Weidman will be headlining the event, in what should reveal the number one contender in the middleweight division. Another middleweight fight featured on the card that seems to be flying under the radar is Andrew Craig vs. Rafael Natal. The undefeated Craig is coming off an impressive victory over Kyle Noke and Natal has won both of his last two fights. In a recent TapouT Radio interview, Andrew discusses his upcoming fight.
Stephie Daniels: Talk a little about your training camp.
Andrew Craig: I've got a great group of guys in Houston to train with. Travis Tooke is kind of a wizard when it comes to the grappling, and we've been working on a that a lot, and what Rafael might bring to the table. As far as my sparring partners, I've been really fortunate in that they all have fights that are really close to mine.
Stephie Daniels: Is it kind of nice for you to be able to travel outside Texas to fight now that you're with the UFC, or do you prefer fighting closer to home?
Andrew Craig: I got so spoiled with my first UFC fight being in Sydney, Australia. I've always thought fighting around here was awesome, then I went across the border into Louisiana to fight, and that was pretty awesome, too. When I got the Australia one, I was like, 'Oh, there's a whole other side to this fighting business.' Now it's northern California, and it's gonna be great.
Stephie Daniels: For those people that might not know, how did you get into fighting professionally?
Andrew Craig: I've always loved sports, especially contact sports. I loved hockey, but in Texas, there's not a lot of ice hockey, so it was all roller hockey. I loved football, but I wasn't as skilled in that as I was in fighting. After high school, I went to college at UT, and my cousin had just come back from Brazil with his black belt. He started teaching out of his dad's garage, and that got me interested, so my summers I would train, as well as intermittently through college. Towards the end, I started getting hooked, and realized I was devastatingly near to having to get a real job, with graduation approaching, so I decided to give fighting a try, and I turned out to be pretty damned good at it.
Stephie Daniels: Is jiu jitsu really important to you, as far as the competition aspect, or is it just a useful tool for your overall MMA game?
Andrew Craig: I think jiu jitsu is really cool, because unlike a lot of the other aspects of mixed martial arts like boxing and wrestling, where there's no real ranking system, I like having that traditional gi system, and it doesn't always have to transfer over to MMA. Whatever you do in jiu jitsu, you don't always have to think of it in MMA terms. I haven't been able to compete as much as I want to lately, but I'd really like to start that up again.
Stephie Daniels: Where do you feel Rafael is strongest?
Andrew Craig: He's got that black belt in jiu jitsu, which is a big accomplishment, especially considering the guys that he's under. That's definitely going to be his biggest strength, but, evern though I'm only a purple belt, I've got pretty damned good submission defense. I'm not too worried about it. My cousin, Travis Tooke, is a monster on the mat.
Stephie Daniels: Do you go in the cage with the intention of putting on an exciting fight, as so many fighters like to lay claim to, or are you just in the mindset of getting the win, by any means necessary?
Andrew Craig: I think my past couple fights have been exciting because I've been down on the score cards early on. I haven't gotten as far as I have by being some sort of insane athlete. I think I understand the game really well, and I understand how it's scored. I understand that when I'm behind, I either need to get a stoppage, or put a total beating on my opponent.
In the fight with Kyle Noke, he got me down, took my back and got a little bit of ground and pound in. The round was obviously his. After that, when you get beat down in one round, you only have two more to come back, and you want to get that finish, or as close to it as you can. That's pretty much it. It's not like I'm going out there to be super exciting. I'm just going out there and trying to win.
Stephie Daniels: Some fighters have overcome great challenges (like poverty, drugs, physical impairments, etc.) in life to get to where they are in the UFC. Have you had to overcome anything significant in your life to get where you are today?
Andrew Craig: I wish I could say yes, but absolutely none. I grew up with a pretty great life . I live in a nice part of Houston, I went to a good high school, went to a great college, and straight from there, I started fighting. Fighting itself was the only tough thing for me, simply because it's hard to jump into a sport with zero experience, but fortunately, I had a great base to fall back on. I definitely don't want to complain about anything I've had to do to get to where I'm at compared to what some of these guys have had to go through.
Stephie Daniels: Do you have any great fears in life? Are you afraid of anything?
Andrew Craig: My fears are mostly out in the world. Crocodiles are a huge fear of mine. My folks have a place at Lake Travis, and I'm always afraid that there might be some in there, Lake Placid style. Other than that, I'm not really afraid of too much.
Stephie Daniels: If you could call your round to end the fight with Natal, what would it be?
Andrew Craig: Middle of the second.
Follow Andrew via his Twitter, @AndyBCraig