After starting out his career with five losses in his first six fights, Australian heavyweight Peter “The Chief” Graham made a move and altered his outlook on fighting. He has since won eight fights in a row.
“The biggest difference is that I moved back from Japan to Australia to train with my current coaches,” said Graham of the turnaround. “I’ve also worked very hard on my takedown defense and my defense against jiu-jitsu.
“I really enjoy fighting too. Changing my focus from kickboxing to MMA, it’s given me back that excitement and passion about winning.”
There’s no denying that Graham’s slow start in MMA can also be attributed to the fact that he was facing fighters with years more experience than him, such as Kazuyuki Fujita, Rolles Gracie and Dion Staring.
“That’s what you do if you’re a real fighter, you fight real fighters,” said Graham. “If you beat a chump, you’re still a chump; but if you beat a champ, then you really are a champ. I relish the fact that I’ve got to fight some of the best there is and I appreciate the fact that they gave me that opportunity.
“I’ve had to work super hard to get back to where I am now. It’s a lot of hard work for very small paychecks against very dangerous people. Any fighter will tell you if you’re not willing to give up everything for what you do, what you love, you’ll never make it.”
Graham’s recent success has earned him a spot in this season’s Bellator heavyweight tournament, of which he will be competing in Friday’s finals against UFC veteran Cheick Kongo in Thackerville, Okla.
“I work every fight very similar,” said Graham. “I always assume they’re going to be the very best that they’re going to be. I’m going to expect (Kongo) to turn up and have the fight of his life.
“Every time I turn up, I work as hard as I can and keep hunting for that knockout the whole time. I need to go in there and do my job, which is always work to stop the fight and relentlessly attack, attack, attack, until the fight is over and then go get a beer.”
Even with a huge opportunity to win the tournament title and get a shot at the Bellator heavyweight championship in front of him on Friday, Graham is not letting himself get caught up in things, and told MMAWeekly.com that he intends to take it one step at a time.
“I never try to jump the gun,” said Graham. “Of course you (can’t help but) think about if you win this fight you get the (tournament) championship and then fight for the (heavyweight) title, but I’ve got to win this fight first.
“You’ve got to be aware of what’s happening in the future, but you’ve got to live in the now and focus on what’s at hand. After that, come what may, bring it on.”