This coming Saturday will mark the return of the UFC to the UK when it sets the octagon down in Manchester. The card is a solid one, and features some very interesting match-ups. Lyoto Machida will make his middleweight debut against Mark Munoz, Alessio Sakara will face off against newcomer, Nicholas Musoke in what has to be a win or walk fight and in the co-main event, we get a super fun bout between lightweight staples, Ross Pearson and Melvin Guillard.
In a recent MMA Sentinel interview, Ross discussed his opponent, training with top level talent on a regular basis and the financial importance of having a good management team behind him. Here's what he had to say:
*As always, Dynamic Duo refers to myself and co-host, Iain Kidd*
Dynamic Duo: You have a big fight coming up against Melvin Guillard, who is a guy whose performances are very up and down. What are your thoughts on Melvin, and how do you think the fight is going to go?
Ross Pearson: I'm excited to fight Melvin. Win, lose or draw, Melvin brings the fight. He always carries that element of danger; he's got knockout power in both hands, he's explosive and he's a good athlete. I'm excited to go in there and test my skills against someone with those dangerous skills, you know?
I want to go in there and I want to fight the best opponents the UFC can give me, and I think the UFC has given me a great opponent in Melvin. I'm excited to go in there and put all the hard work I put in during camp to the test. I believe in myself, I believe in my team, and I believe we've got the right game plan to shut Melvin down.
DD: Cole Miller put something out recently about how hard it is to acquire good sponsors these days. Are you also finding it difficult to keep your sponsors in line and keep the ones that pay good money interested?
Pearson: I'm fortunate enough to have a great management team in Paradigm. This is the first fight we'll be working together and I'm really excited for the journey that we're going to take together. I'm feeling very confident with them behind me, pushing me outside of the cage as well as inside. They've got my back no matter what, so I kind of let the sponsorship stuff out of my hands and I let them do what they do. I'm finding it a lot easier now that I have someone who is looking out for me, and someone who works as hard for me on that stuff as I do in the gym. They've taken so much stress and pressure off of my back, so I can't thank them enough.
DD: You've got an awesome management team behind you in Paradigm, and you're training out of Alliance MMA in San Diego now, which is fast becoming one of the very best camps in the world. How much of a difference does being able to train with top 5 guys day in day out make to your game?
Pearson: It makes a massive difference. It gives me so much confidence for my fights. I'm performing with the best guys in the world on a daily basis. I believe I have some of the best coaches in the world and the team and the structure in our camps makes me prepared to fight anyone in the world. I really believe that. I know how much I have dedicated my life to this, I know how much I give to this. I'm 100% dedicated and focused on what I'm doing, and I believe that with the team that I have, with my coaches and my training partners, I'm prepared to fight and beat anyone in the world on any given day.
DD: You have guys like Bellator champ Michael Chandler in there, Phil Davis, Alexander Gustafsson... Who do you train with most often? Who is your main sparring partner on a day to day basis?
Pearson: My main training partners for this camp have been Michael Chandler, KJ Noons, Joe Duarte, Jeremy Stephens, Justin Lawrence and Norman Parke. Jimmy "Jah" is my Jiu-jitsu coach who I roll with a lot. Dominik Cruz has been helping me a lot as well. That's the main group of guys. It's been a rough, rough camp. I've had good days, I've had bad days. I've had days where I'm getting my ass kicked a lot; bad. But it makes you a better fighter.
I was a big fish in a small pond in the gyms I was training with back home. Now I'm the little fish in a big pond, you know? I'm facing world champions, top 10 guys in the world, guys that have been there, done it and seen it all, and I'm facing these guys on a regular basis. It brings my confidence up to the next level, just knowing the work and the dedication I've put in against these guys is getting me prepared. I'm the best me I could ever wish for.
DD: I think I would call that a shark tank rather than a big pond!
Pearson: [Laughs] Yeah.
DD: Something I have noticed about Brits and Irishmen is you guys have a great sense of humor, but sometimes it doesn't translate very well over in the US. Recently on twitter we saw Conor McGregor get in a bit of trouble over a joking reference he made from a song. Someone asked him a question during a twitter Q&A about who he would choose, Miesha or Ronda. He said something along the lines of... Well, I'm pretty sure you have a good idea of what he said [laughs].
Pearson: [Laughing] Yeah, I've got a pretty good idea.
DD: He referenced a Dr. Dre song, and it was funny, I didn't think it was too out of line, but there was a big uproar over it from the media and fans. He ended up taking the tweet down and issued a formal apology. How do you feel about being under the microscope like that?
Pearson: At the end of the day, we're professional athletes. This sport is going to the next level and we're not fighting on local shows with a small audience. We're fighting worldwide with all eyes on us, you know? There is a certain criteria that we have to abide by, but you know, a joke is a joke. I can see the funny side of anything, and I would have laughed if I read what Conor said. I could have seen the funny side of it.
But, at the end of the day, we're under the watchful eye of the people, and some people find it offensive. It is what it is. You've got to play the game when you're in the spotlight, and you have to understand what your role is in the sport. I know he calls himself Mr. Notorious and that's how he rolls, but there are kids out there and that's an audience he has to play in front of.
DD: This is going to be your first fight in the UK since 2009. How different is the atmosphere in the UK compared to the US?
Pearson: My last fight in the UK was against Aaron Riley at UFC 105. I've never witnessed or felt an atmosphere like I felt on that night in Manchester. It was electric, and I wasn't even the co-main event. I was the first fight on the main card. The British fans were absolutely unbelievable. I've never experienced anything like it. The only other experience I've had similar to that was fighting in Brazil, but in Brazil I was the bad guy and they were all cheering for me to die, instead of cheering for me. I can't wait to be back and fight in front of my home crowd and my friends and family, and put on a show for them.
DD: How long have you been in the US now? I'm definitely noticing an American twang to your accent.
Pearson: I've been over in America now since 2011, on and off, and I get that quite a lot from my friends back home. They say I'm all Americanized now, and I'm trying to be someone that I'm not, so you're not the only one to say that. The fact of the matter is that I have to [soften my accent], because I'm sick of everyone here not being able to understand what I'm sayin,g and asking me to repeat myself five or six times. I guess it's hard for the guys out here to understand me, so I've definitely had to change my accent and soften it a little.
DD: I feel your pain there, I have to do the same thing when I interview American fighters. The past couple of years you have only been fighting twice a year. Is that a deliberate decision on your part, to spend more time in the gym, or has it just been the way the fights have fallen?
Pearson: It's been a little bit of both. In my last fight, against Ryan Couture, my body didn't hold up too well. I had a few injuries that didn't need surgery, but needed looking at and fixing so that I wouldn't need surgery in future. I would like to fight a little bit more, to keep in fight mode, but you can only do what your body will let you do, you know? I have to be smart with it. I want a long term career; I don't want to retire at 32 or 33. I want to fight all the way until I'm 38 or 39, or 40 even. I love the sport so much that I want to be around for a long time. I'm just playing it smart, listening to my body and my coaches, and taking the right fights at the right time.
You can follow Ross via his Twitter account, @RossTheRealDeal