Stuart Graham steps into the cage tomorrow night when he competes on the Animalistic MMA card, live from the Guild Hall in Preston.
Stuart has been developing in the sport for many years now and just hearing from him you can tell his passion for the sport and his own career.
He faces an experienced opponent this weekend and I caught up with him to learn a little more about him and get his thoughts ahead of his match up.
Thanks for your time Stuart. I wanted to start by asking about your time in MMA so far. What is it that first attracted you to the sport?
“I think its the most exciting sport in the world. Its not like football or tennis were if you miss or make a mistake you lose a point. You make a mistake in this game and its lights out. As soon as I went to my first class about six years ago, I was hooked. I wanted to compete straight away”.
All the work for competing comes in the gym and you have a fantastic team behind you. Who have been some of the bigger influences on your development there?
“The biggest influence has to be my long time training partner Sam Wilkinson. We’ve pushed each other for years. My first Thai coach Tee really helped mould my striking. Along side that, Mel Leathley from fight ministry and all the guys from there have been a huge help”.
How long is a typical fight camp for you and does it ever get hard fitting in the training around work and other pursuits?
“My fight camps go from about 6-8 weeks but I stay in shape and train all year round so not a huge deal changes on fight camp. Training around work can be hard but I have a good team around me, so I always have people to come in for any extra I need”.
Next up is Animalistic MMA’s first show in Preston. How much are you looking forward to competing on the inaugural show?
“Yeah, I’m really looking forward to the show. There’s some great fights, especially the main event, and the promoter seems to look after the fighters, which is great to see”.
How much do you know about your opponent and what are you expecting?
“I’ve seen him fight a few times, hes fought some people I know and I’ve seen a lot of footage on him. He has dangerous hands but I think my skill set is far too varied for him and he will struggle to keep up”.
Do you think this will be the biggest test of your career so far?
“No, I think I’ve faced tougher guys with better skill sets but he is the most experienced person I’ve fought, which could play a factor in the fight”.
Preparing for a match up can sometimes be a challenge in itself for some people. How much do you work on the psychology side of the sport?
“This game is all psychological. You can be the strongest, fittest, technically best fighter in the world but if you cant keep it together and stay composed, you’ll get broken mentally. Developing that mind set is gradual though, it wont change huge amounts from one fight camp, that’s a constant development, just as much as our skill set is”.
Are you hoping to have a lot of support and how much does that support mean to you?
“Its a far drive for me so i wont have that many there for this one but I’ve had great support at home from my family, team and friends. My fighting has always terrified my mum, as you can imagine, but shes been fantastic on this fight camp. Its been great having her support behind me, I know its hard for her, so it really means a lot”
And finally, is there anybody you would like to thank/give a shout out to?
“Yeah, a huge thanks to all the guys from fight ministry Hull and all my training partners and a big thanks to my sponsor ‘Nellist and co’ for providing me with good nutrition”.