Chris Clements is somewhat of a forgotten figure among the vast UFC roster. It doesn't help either, that he fights in the incredibly deep welterweight division, where a few months inactivity can quickly remove a fighter from the public eye. He's an exciting, flashy striker, with a flair for unorthodox technique, and a history of violent finishes.
Clements most recently fought to a no-contest against Matt Riddle, after Riddle failed a post fight screening for marijuana metabolites. Now he's sitting down to talk with us, at Bloody Elbow, about his road to becoming injury free, as well as his love of food, and potential drop to a new weight class.
(Interview via MMA Sentinel, transcription via Zane Simon)
Chris how are you doing?
I'm doing pretty good, just getting back into the swing of things after my surgery. So I'm looking forward to getting back in there and punching some people.
You've been out for almost a year, what happened with your shoulder?
I was having shoulder pain after my Rich Clementi fight, even before I got hired to the UFC. I went in for an MRI, but I hadn't even got my results back, and then the UFC called and offered me a fight; I'd waited a long time for that fight. Then my results came in and I had a torn superspinatus and a torn infraspinatus... I had two torn rotator cuffs. But I wasn't gonna tell the UFC 'no, no, hold on,' so I fought anyway. And then I planned on getting it fixed, but then another opportunity came up to get on a pay per view event.
It was against Siyar, who I knew was a striker, and I knew I really didn't have to train for anything new to fight him. So I took that fight, figured it was a win-win situation. By the time I actually got in to see my surgeons for the surgery I had tore my superspinatus two and a half centimeters, right off the bone, tore my infraspinatus right in half, I tore my bicep tendon off, and I tore my labrum. So that's basically how I fought Matt Riddle. I've got it all fixed up now. Everything except for the bicep tendon, because it was torn right off so bad, that it actually shriveled right up and disappeared. So I don't have one of those anymore, but everything's feeling good now.
Jeeze, that's incredible. You're like the six million dollar man now.
[Laughs] Yeah, hopefully. I waited so long for that phone call, I couldn't say no to it. And then once I fought on a Facebook prelim, no one really even seen it. So when I had a chance to get on a pay-per-view... like there's fighters that have been in the UFC for five years, haven't fought on a pay-per-view event. So I had to take that opportunity as well. I could still fight with it, I just couldn't train with it. Basically all I could do was jog, it was really hindering. I haven't been able to wrestle in almost a year. That's why I couldn't get up from my back in my fights, because I can't post my hand... I couldn't post my hand on the mat, to lift myself up. I could only turn... I can push myself up from my hands and knees, is the only way I can get back to my feet without my shoulder popping out.
Did that effect your striking? Is that why there wasn't as much pop on your striking for the Matt Riddle fight?
It was really bad for the Matt Riddle camp, I didn't really get to train at all. And then, to top it off, I hadn't wrestled in a long time. That was kinda why I took the fight with Siyar, because I knew it was going to be a standup fight. And then, when they switched my opponent to Matt Riddle, I was like 'well I better work on a bit of wrestling.' Very first shot I took, because I haven't shot in so long, I herniated a disc in my neck. I couldn't turn my head to the left. Every time I turned my head to the left I would electrocute down my left arm. Basically couldn't do anything for two weeks at all. I was in rough shape, but my theory is if I can walk to the ring I can fight when I get there.
Is your disc fixed as well, or do you have to do anything with that?
I haven't had any problems with it, but I haven't been doing any wrestling. It's the last thing I've been able to start back doing after my shoulder surgery. I was able to come back in and do some Jiu Jitsu right away, without putting any muscle on. I'm already back doing my striking, I'm just kinda getting into the little bit of the clinching and stuff like that with my wrestling. I haven't gone full out yet to really test my neck. Plus I didn't really get a full... I didn't get an MRI on my neck, just in case it was something really bad I didn't want to hear about. So I just left it.
That is fantastic, the amount of stuff you went through, and that you fought that way. Has the UFC said anything? That your next fight or two is guaranteed, that they won't cut you?
No, I haven't had no contact with them at all. Since the... I don't even know if they know exactly how long I was injured for. Maybe that's all because my managers have talked with them. I've never really had any talk with them. I talked to Joe Silva for about 10 seconds in the cage after my first win, and I've seen Dana white in the hallway after my first win and I shook is hand. And that's about the only conversation I've had with them.
You've got to wonder if they'll institute some sort of policy to give fighters a pass or a bonus for fighting late.
Especially guys that are coming off short notice fights, even if they're not injured. You're taking a big risk. In our sport, at such a high level, guys are preparing specially for guys. Every fighter, they have their strengths and weaknesses. You get a last minute guy, you don't have a chance to prepare for 'em, to get a game plan. I could never see a guy like Georges St. Pierre taking a last minute fight, 'cuz he's such a strategic fighter. Where as a guy like me, I just like to fight. I just want to go in there. And I don't make it rocket science, I just go in there and try and knock you out, try and stop you from doing whatever it is you want to do to me. So it's a lot easier for a guy like me, who just likes to fight and leave it in there, than a guy who's more strategic.
Let's talk a little bit about your body and your age. Do you find that things are going "off" a little quicker? Do you have any tips or tricks to taking care of yourself?
I've been doing a lot more taking care of my body training, as opposed to going in there and just getting beat up all the time. Before I used to just spar. I'd just spar every other day pretty much, and, you know, hit pads and grapple. I never really took the time to do conditioning training as much. My conditioning training would be like flip a tire, smash a sledge hammer, go as hard as I can, as fast as I can, for everything I did, just go insane. And now I'm taking the time to do work in the pool. I'm doing a lot of stuff inside of the pool with bands and things, and resistance in the pool. Just going through body motion stuff and mechanics to take care of my body.
I just look at it now as that my body is my weapon, and without my body working right, it doesn't matter how many things I know. If I can't get my body to do it then it doesn't work. I'm just basically taking care of myself a little bit more and working more on technique and stuff like that. Not going so hard on the sparing and things like that. Just let it... basically let myself be healthy. I'm just starting to take up some yoga, some hot yoga, just getting into that. Yoga's tough; that's a really hard workout.
Do you still love to eat, or have you streamlined it more to maintain your fighting weight?
I still love to eat, and I'm starting to write a diet book actually. But it's more like a recipe book on... I love food so much that I've discovered a lot of different ways to make things taste good, that are still good for your.
Have you discovered a way to make diet poutine yet?
[laughs] Not yet. That'd be a tough one.
Diet smoked meat, and diet poutine, and we'll be in business.
Being off for a long time, I couldn't do... even when back from my shoulder surgery, I wasn't even allowed to jog because of the impact. I couldn't do anything for almost at least four months, but I was still eating like a champ after it. I was up at 225 pounds at one time and I was like "whoa," before I realized it. So now I'm just in straight diet mode trying to get myself back down. And I was thinking about dropping down to lightweight, so we'll see how that goes.
Do you think you could do that and still maintain your health status though?
I could, because normally before I fight... a lot of the guys I train with... most of the guys at my gym, like Sam Stout, Jesse Ronson's an up and coming guy in Canada, he's ranked top fifty in the world actually... Chad LaPriese, another undefeated guy... A lot of our lightweights I have, walk around, around 185. And usually, in my fight camp, that's what I get down to before I go to cut. And I start walking around about 185 and I usually feel great; it'd just be a matter of maintaining it. If you look at my weight in between me and Matt Riddle, he's about four inches taller than me at least, and he's got an eight pack sticking out, and I just look like this short guy with a straight, flat stomach. I don't even have no abs at that weight. I don't think I have a lot of chub on me I could lose. It's just a matter of, at my age, my body could handle doing that drastic drop or not. I'm just going to take it slow.
You going to try out a practice cut or two?
Basically what I was going to do, I was just going to eat healthy, and see where I end up and just try and stay that way. I think it would be harder to do my first fight back at 155. Maybe after my next fight, if I don't go making my crazy turtle burgers and stuff like that, I could stay around 180. And then just book my next fight at 55 and then cut from there. Because normally my cuts are only within like eight week camps. I go from 205 to like 185 and then I cut 15 pounds.
A turtle burger is kind of a thing, you can find it on the internet, I made them after my last fight. You take a quarter pound of beef, like a beef patty and you cook it, and then you put a piece of cheese on it. And then you take three hotdogs, and you cut the hotdog in half and you place it like turtle legs on each side.
Oh my god I can't believe I'm hearing this.
Yeah, you place the hotdogs like turtle legs. Then you cut one into a point like a turtle tail and then you stick the other one up like a head. So you have six pieces of hotdog right? Two of 'em are legs, one's the tail, one's the head. You have the cheese... then you take another hamburger and you put it on top, and you squish it together so it kinda makes a body and the legs are stuck in the middle. Then you take a pound of bacon. You weave the bacon together and you cut it into four little strips, so it's like four squares of weaved bacon and you lay that on top of it for a shell. Then you cook it and it comes out looking like a turtle.
*Here is a picture of some turtle burgers.
[wheezes] I'm grasping my chest.
It's amazing, you've gotta try it. Actually, when you get bacon, hotdog, and hamburger all together in one bite it's a magnificent flavor.
That's the most amazing thing I've ever heard. You might have just created a whole new gastronomic delight.
Essentially you're eating a half pound of beef, three hotdogs, and a quarter pound of bacon all in one bun.
What's your favorite food apart from the turtle burger, what else are you eating?
What else am I eatin'? I'm a pizza junkie. I love pizza; I love the Chicago style stuffed pizzas. Pizza is pretty much my weakness.
Did you learn anything from the Matt Riddle fight?
I realized I gotta take time to make a game plan a little bit better. I never had any lefties, I never trained with any lefties. I never trained with anyone who was 6' 2", and the range was off. I kicked with a kick... You know, I watched the video, and in my head it was simple, 'he's going for a left hook and he throws a swing kick. So when he does it, I'm going to throw a cross.' Which worked out great in my head, but when I went to do it against a guy who was 6' 2"... you see me throw the punch when the kick lands, and I'm still at least a foot away from his chin. So I gotta put my game plan together and prepare better. I don't think there's a lot to really learn about, skill wise, it's just my preparation.
What's more satisfying for you a knockout or a submission?
Well, I have no submissions on my record, they're all knockouts. I'd like to get a submission, I have a lot of submissions in my bag. And I spend most of my time doing jiu jitsu and submission wrestling at my gym, I've just never had one. Usually when I get in there, I see a face and I want to punch it from every position. Usually when you go for a submission and you miss, you end up in a bad spot. It's just my thing to go for knockouts, it's what I like to do. I'm a striker at heart, so I'll have to stick with the knockout.
Have you got a favorite fight from your career?
I would have to say my favorite fight would be, probably the Keith Wisniewski fight. I was having a lot of fun in that fight; I was so happy to finally get my shot in the UFC. I was just happy to be there, I didn't really care about the win. Everything was a win-win for me. I accomplished my goal, which was to fight in the UFC, and if I won that was the a bonus, I never really cared. When I lost to Matt Riddle I realized that was kind of bullshit. I was really pissed off, because it had been a long time since I'd lost. Keith Wisniewski fight was definitely my favorite, I had a lot of fun. I threw some really weird stuff, like i threw some... I call it a donkey punch, like a tomahawk. I threw my spinning back kicks, I threw a jump knee, I just had a lot of fun in the fight. I talked a little bit of shit to Keith, and made some jokes during the fight. I just had a lot of fun in there, definitely my favorite fight.
You said your original goal was to fight in the UFC. What's your goal now, what are you aiming for?
My goal has always been just to be, just an exciting guy who people want to see. My favorite fighter's career I think people should aim after, is a guy like Chris Lytle. He had a 50/50 record in the UFC, but he always put on a show. People always wanted to see him fight and people always respected him because of his style. That's kind of what I emulate myself after, I want to be the same way. As far as a goal is, I just want a knockout of the night bonus. I just want some of that cash. I still think that Dana White owes me 120-grand for both my fights. I think, for fight of the nights, but I never got either one of them. So I intend to earn one soon.
I think you're well on your way to it, 155 needs finishers.
I really think that it would be a great spot for me, especially height wise. Like Keith Wisniewski is 6' 1", Matt Riddle 6' 2". The reach advantage... I think Cat, that just fought Meisha Tate the other weekend, I'm pretty she has a longer reach than I do. A 155 lb woman and I'm a welterweight man; I have a really short reach. My whole family is short. I'm the tallest one in my whole family, my mom is 4' 9". I think my reach is like 68 inches, maybe 67. I have a really, really short reach. I'm just more fitted... I'm a striker, I just can't reach anybody. At 155 the guys would be a little bit closer to my height. I jut think I'd be able to showcase my skills a lot better there.
What is your projected date to come back?
I'm looking at coming back in September. I remember talking to the UFC a little bit about it, they messaged me for the... or talked to me and my manager about fighting in Winnipeg in the summer. But I would have been pushing it for then. And I could have come back before September, but I elected to wait all the way until September, just to guarantee that I got on a Toronto card in September. Because my whole family is here in Ontario. I live an hour away from Toronto, and hour and a half away. It's been kinda my dream to let my family see me fight live in the UFC. When I'm fighting before, in Calgary, in Atlanta, plane tickets are $600 just to get there so you can buy a ticket to the event. My projected fight time is September, so I'm really hoping to get on that card.
You can follow Chris Clements on Twitter: @menaceclements