by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
MMAWeekly.com spoke to Aaron Riley, who on Saturday faces Ross Pearson, the winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” season nine, on Pearson’s home soil.
MMAWeekly: You’re scheduled to face the winner of the ninth season of “The Ultimate Fighter.” What have you been preparing yourself for in this fight?
Riley: Well, the training camp’s been great. I’ve had a lot of great training partners. When I first got out here, Joe Stevenson was getting ready, (Donald) Cowboy Cerrone was preparing for his fight in the WEC, Cub Swanson, Leonard Garcia. Clay Guida’s out here right now. Greg (Jackson) is a great strategist and game planner, so he will take what we do well and say these are the specifics that you need to work on for this particular fight.
MMAWeekly: You’ve been in the game for a while… how is Greg Jackson’s camp different than others?
Reilly: What I really like is Greg’s attitude. He’s such a great guy. It’s just all in the atmosphere of the place – it’s a family atmosphere with all the training partners, and Greg is just such so encouraging and such a great guy that you want to do well for him. It’s not like, well, I just want to learn this. You want to learn it for him, for the team, you want to do the best you can do.
MMAWeekly: What was the focus in this camp considering Ross’ strengths as a fighter? Obviously, he likes to come forward and he’s aggressive on the ground. What were you working on?
Riley: Without getting into specifics, Greg was just trying to tighten up my game overall, different things with movement and techniques. Things he felt I needed in my repertoire, regardless, then some specific things for this fight.
MMAWeekly: What do you think of Ross as an opponent?
Riley: Well, I respect all my opponents. They look at me as a guy that would be a great person to get a win over because of the fact that I’ve been around for a while and people know me. I expect him to be a tough opponent. I know he is. I’ve seen his fights. I expect it to be a good match.
MMAWeekly: He’s also got far, far less experience than you. Do you feel that will play a factor in this fight?
Riley: It helps, but at the same time, with my experience comes the knowledge he’s really going to be gunning for me, that’s what I can tell you from having more experience. He’s going to come to fight.
MMAWeekly: You’ve said in the past that you don’t watch The Ultimate Fighter. Did he force you to watch the show?
Riley: I watched this fights from the show, I watched his finale match-up, and that’s where we’re looking for tendencies and weaknesses to exploit.
MMAWeekly: Do you think there’s more pressure on him in this fight because he won the show, you’re on the main card, and he’s fighting on his own soil?
Riley: Yeah, I definitely think there’s pressure on him.
MMAWeekly: Is that a good position for you to be in? Do you have less to lose?
Riley: Oh yeah. It’s easier for me. I’ve been in his position before, and you definitely feel added pressure, but the trick is to turn that around and use that as a positive, so we’ll see how he adjusts to that.
MMAWeekly: Some younger fighters find it hard to adjust to that.
Riley: Well that’s the thing. I’ve definitely been the bad guy before, like I’m going to be in this situation. My trick is to use those boos as motivation.
MMAWeekly: What would a win over Pearson mean for your career in the UFC?
Riley: It would be good, because he’s definitely got a lot of attention on him for winning the show. A young, strong, up-and-coming fighter, so a win over him would be awesome. Hopefully, with that win, it would put me in a position where they would think maybe we can give him a couple of fights against a top ten fighter, and then if I can get those match-ups, we’ll see what happens.