With James McSweeney coming off back-to-back first-round stoppage wins over solid opponents inside the ONE FC cage, the Englishman is finally starting to realize his potential as a mixed martial artist.
He has always had high-level striking, but the results have only recently started to go McSweeney’s way. He will be looking to maintain this momentum against Roger Gracie at ONE FC: Warrior’s Way in Manila next month.
There is a stark contrast between the form McSweeney showed in the first half of his career, when he went 4-8, and the 10-3 streak he has been on since then. It is something he puts down to having coming into the sport with a very one-dimensional skill set.
“There is huge improvement in my career as it took me some time to adjust from a Thai boxing and K-1 style to MMA and to learn and understand MMA. Now I do and I have jiu-jitsu and wrestling in my arsenal and that allows me to strike at a high level again because I have no fear of being taken down. So I can show my talent and you can see from my last two ONE FC fights.”
McSweeney’s record was 3-4 when he was picked as a cast member for The Ultimate Fighter: Heavyweights in 2009, but despite being comparatively inexperienced and fighting against much bigger men, he went all the way to the semifinals, where he was stopped by 13-fight veteran Roy Nelson.
According to McSweeney, he was only in the U.S. to work as a striking coach at Jackson’s MMA and the opportunity to compete on season 10 of TUF came completely out of the blue.
“I got asked to go to Greg Jackson’s gym in New Mexico to help some fighters there with their Thai boxing and within three months I got the opportunity to be on the heavyweight season of TUF.”
It is a testament to the respect that McSweeney commanded at the time that he was Rashad Evans’ first pick and he was subsequently signed by the UFC, but says that in hindsight he realizes things were happening much too fast.
“I got a UFC contract when my MMA career had only just started really, so I was trying to learn the game as I went and I just wasn’t ready at that time. Now it’s different because I’ve been in MMA for seven years now working hard on all aspects. I’m now a complete fighter.”
McSweeney’s last ten wins have all come courtesy of a first-round stoppage and there are signs that he is finally starting to realize his undeniable potential. He is currently the leading contender for the ONE FC light heavyweight belt and is enjoying life with Asia’s biggest MMA promotion.
“I decided to sign with ONE FC because I felt their rule set really fitted my fighting style, they offered me a great six-fight deal, plus I liked the company and feel they are growing and are now a power house in the MMA scene.”
Next up for the 34-year-old is a light heavyweight bout against promotional newcomer Roger Gracie and McSweeney is confident his third ONE FC fight will finish in exactly the same fashion as the first two did.
“Roger Gracie is a great athlete and his jiu-jitsu is of the highest level. He’s growing and learning. He’s fought on the highest level. So he’s a veteran as I am, but I am going to knock him out. I don’t believe anyone can beat me right now.”
McSweeney, who is currently based in Phuket where he teaches and trains at Tiger Muay Thai, has his sights firmly set on claiming not one, but two, ONE FC titles and believes a win over Gracie would be a big step in the right direction.
“I do believe when I beat Roger my next fight will be for the ONE FC light heavyweight world title, and I will win that belt no matter who I fight. I will be the champion at light heavyweight and then I want to fight for the heavyweight title straight after.”
Fans around Asia can catch all the action live on FOX Sports 1. Check your local listings. Also, fans from around the world can witness the action online via live streaming at http://www.onefc.com/livestream. The event will be available for purchase at just US$9.99.
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