As one season of the Ultimate Fighter winds to a close, one of it's former finalists prepares to fight. Ramsey Nijem, who lost to Tony Ferguson in the Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale, is gearing up to take on Myles Jury at UFC on Fox 7: Henderson vs. Melendez this coming Saturday.
Nijem is currently riding a three fight win streak, with a recent unanimous decision over Joe Proctor. He sat down to talk about his approach to fighting and his thoughts on many of the smaller issues with being in the UFC.
So, what's up?
"Not much. Just got done training, getting some coffee and got some food. The everyday routine of a fighter - just train, eat, sleep, and drink coffee."
Train, eat, sleep, drink coffee.
"Yeah, any order though. Sometimes we'll drink it, go to sleep, or eat, then drink it, train. I don't know, it's just a shuffle of an order."
It's interesting, you're a couple weeks out from a fight and you sound so much happier than most people we get.
"Well, why would you be miserable? We have the best job in the world. We get to beat people up for money. I'm the happiest, until I start cutting that weight."
Do you change your tone at all when you start cutting weight?
"Well yeah. I mean, when I change my tone it's just because I'm miserable and I hate my life and I just want to punch puppies in the face or something. I'm so tired and hungry and angry at the world. But, like cutting weight, when you have to diet... I have to diet pretty hard to make weight; I'm a pretty big 55er, but I still eat and have meals and eat healthy. It's all different, it's not till the water weight that gets you."
I think you just violated the code of conduct policy by saying you want to punch puppies in the face.
"Only when I'm cutting weight... or water weight. Only when I'm cutting water weight."
I can't imagine it's a lot of fun having to do interviews and all that during fight week.
"My tone definitely changes fight week when I'm doing an interview. I'm a little bit more angry probably, and I'm like 'Raaah, I'm just gonna kick his ass.' And trying to be all, just talking like that. But a week out I'm still feeling good and It's sunny out here in California so I get lots of vitamin D. Can't be too upset, you know."
You're training at The Pit right?
"I train out of The Pit. And we have The Pit Elevated which is the Utah branch, and right now I'm in San Luis Obispo area, at The Pit headquarters."
You've never fought overseas. Do you kind of want to keep it that way?
"Hopefully. I mean, Court and Steve had a fight in Australia, that just did not sound like fun. All the traveling, being in a different country and stuff, trying to do this all the fight week and trying to focus on the fight still. I'm excited to be able to fight close to home and within an hour flight of where I live. I'm comfortable on the west coast, California you know a lot of folks. It's like fighting at home, just relax and don't have to get too excited don't travel too far or get too out of your comfort zone."
You're fighting Myles Jury. What do you see him posing as a possible threat to your game?
"One thing I definitely see him, he's really good at keeping it on the outside and scoring points and takedowns and stuff like that. And I'm a pretty aggressive fighter, so I just gotta be smart about how I attack and when I'm aggressive, when I'm not aggressive, because I could see him scoring more points and winning the fight that way. I don't think he's gonna want to bring a brawl or make it a dirty, down dirty fight like I like, but I just make sure I don't get caught up, come forward and get tagged up here and there, and losing a point game."
Do you think about these judges and how bad they are?
"Oh yeah, even my last fight I got a 29-28 decision. And I watched the fight again, I thought I won the second round. Dude, I thought I won all three rounds because I was scoring more shots standing and I was getting takedowns, so you just never know what they're watching. Unless you finish the guy, even no matter what happens, you're still nervous when that decision's being made. You could just beat the crap out of him for three rounds, like Court did with Nick Ring, and still lose a decision and be like 'Wow, what the heck just happened.' And the other guy's going to the hospital and he's just going home and feeling good and relaxed. And Court and I watched the fight and it just doesn't make sense."
As a fighter on your guy's level that's gotta weigh heavily on your mind.
"It happens a lot. I've seen, just, like every judge is so completely different. There's been a 30-27 one way, 30-27 the other way, then a 29-28 one way, so a guy wins a split decision. What? Were these three judges watching three different fights, or what's going on? It definitely plays a role in your style and the way you fight and your thought process and all that. You don't want to go out there and lose a fight off some stupid decision that those judges."
"And the other thing that's kind of frustrating, 'Well don't leave it in the hands of the judges' is what everyone says. Yeah, but we're fucking top level in the world athletes too, they're not just going to go down and get finished. You can get finishes, and there are a lot of finishes, it happens. But it's hard to finish a guy, that he's top 30 in the world too if he's been fighting in the UFC at your weight. So, he's one of the best fighters in the world and you're up there too and you're not going to be able to just...he's there for a reason. He's not there because he's an easy fight."
There are no easy fights anymore.
"Exactly, they cycle through guys so fast that everyone on there has got to be on winning streaks whether they're in the UFC or out of the UFC, so everybody's winning and they're all tough guys. There aren't any easy fights in the UFC, it's as plain and simple as that."
You know what to expect from Myles Jury. Do you tell John Hackelman 'I don't need a gameplan for this fight. I think the gameplan should just be go in and fight, period'?
"Yeah, I mean, we don't really gameplan too hard. I'm not going to sit there and have a whole gameplan in my head. We worked on a couple things that are specific for each fight, but in the end of the day it's a fight and you're gonna get punched in the face and they don't say 'Your game plan worked so you get punched in the face.' That's why we don't stress about 'I gotta do this exactly right.' Because if it doesn't work, what are you doing? You're stressing yourself out. 'Oh, my gameplan's not working.' So that's why we just go in there and fight. I'm just in there to hurt somebody, and hopefully beat someone's ass. That's what the fights for. I'm not gonna go try to score points, take em down, hold em down, let em up, jab em, take em down, hold em down. That's not the fight people want to see and that's not the kind of fighter I want to be. I want to be a guy that's in there to hurt somebody and put on a good fight for everybody."
I fear once Wanderlei Silva leaves the UFC a lot of the mentality that fighters should fight for the fans will leave with him. A lot of young fighters seem more concerned with building their brand than fighting exciting fights.
"Not to disagree with that, because I mean one of the biggest brands ever in the UFC was Chuck Liddell. And people love Chuck because he goes out there to fight. He goes out there to finish fights and hurt people. He'd fight anyone any time. Never was like 'Oh, I don't want to take that fight because I'm not ready.' If they said 'Hey Chuck, fight this guy', he'd show up and put on a great fight and try to knock him out. I think that's why he had the biggest, best brand to date. He's one of the highest paid fighters ever, still to this date, because he was such a people's champ and went out there and tried to hurt people."
"And honestly I'm not stupid and I know what I got to do to win a fight and I know how to win fights and I've showed that winning is one of my strengths. What I'm saying is that I'm not just going to go out there and go into a brawl, but I'm still not going to go out there and try to make it an unexciting fight. There's kind of that balance you gotta find to make it an exciting fight and still winning. Because if you're losing your gonna get cut and lose your job, but if you're winning in a boring fashion people don't want to see you fight. You just gotta find that balance. That's the great thing with John. He's always working on... he's like 'You gotta take someone down, but you don't just take em down and hold em down, when you take em down you start beating on em.'"
Where do you see that happy medium between winning and entertaining?
"The other thing too, it's definitely a little stressful the way they cut people so fast. You get in your head 'I have to win,' but then you just gotta win in exciting ways. Your gameplan can't be to take someone down and hold them down. Look at Jon Fitch, he's one of the most winning fighters ever to come out of the UFC, or to be in the UFC. He has one of the best records and he's up there with most wins, wasn't he? Or something like that. And he got cut. It just shows that, necessarily, winning's not everything. It's about being a fighter and showing that tenacity and that heart to be a fighter. That's what really motivates people to watch you and that's what people want to see. It's kind of hard, I feel like the UFC will sometimes send a little bit of a mixed message, but they've shown time and time again if you go out and fight your heart out and you lose that they'll keep you. If you put on a great fight and it's an amazing fight, that's what they want. They're a brand that's there to entertain people."
When you have a three fight win streak like you do, you've gotta feel a little safe that you can go out there and be a little wild. Do you feel like "Maybe I can let it hang out a little bit more because I don't have to fight safe"?
"Maybe a little bit. And that's probably why I'm talking the way I'm talking. Maybe if I'm on a couple-fight losing streak I'd talk differently, I guess. I don't know, I really feel that no matter what I'm gonna have an exciting fight. Even if I'm taking him down, I'm still gonna take him down and... you take someone down, you gotta posture up and start throwing punches. And if they get up and escape, then take them down again. If you're that much better a takedown artist than they are, just keep taking them down and beating on them. Let them stand up, take em down and beat on them some more. I just think my game plan is just the way I am and I know that I'll just always be in exciting fights. My whole game, when I'm getting ready for a fight, is to try and keep it tighter, not get so wild. Because when I get hit I just like to throw and brawl and so I guess just more the way, naturally, I fight. I gotta actually pull the reins on myself and say 'Alright Ramsey, relax, don't just go out there and brawl with people.'"
Do you ever watch fights and find yourself going "Man what the hell is this guy doing"?
"Sometimes I do. Sometimes I'm like 'What the hell's going on?' I'm still a fan. I enjoy watching fights just as much as you or any other fans. I keep up on UFC and I watched it before I was ever in it. So I'll watch it and if there's a boring fight I'm not going to boo anyone or talk crap about anyone because I know how hard it is to fight. It's definitely different if you've never fought a day in your life and you're booing people, saying that they suck and this and that. It's like, oh yeah, well that's easy if you never fought. But I definitely sometimes catch myself, like 'Man, come on dude, put it on, put it on the line.' I want to see a fight. Just like everybody else I wanna see a freaking fight out there."
What is it that goes through a fighter's head when they're told that they have to go out in the third round and get a finish?
"I feel like I bring that mentality from the first bell. I won't sit around and wait for the fight to be almost over; losing the fight to start going. If I'm not going from the get go, and I'm losing the fight, I feel like you're already broke. When these guys don't come out that third round swinging, trying to finish the fight, It's almost like they're broke in their head because they don't feel like they can win it anymore. I just feel like I'm mentally tough and I'll always be in any fight no matter what. I feel like I can make a tough fight for anybody because I have some good wrestling and I'm just kind of awkward on my feet and I come forward and I'm in good shape. So I'm a bad fight for anyone. And if I catch myself in the third round losing, down two rounds, I gotta finish, I'll just swing for the fences and hope for the best."
Follow Ramsey Nijem on Twitter: @RamseyNijem