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Interview by Cain Miller
Q: First off James, congratulations on your recent victory over Daron Cruickshank. You were able to lock on the rear naked choke very early in the first round. Did you expect to finish your opponent as fast as you did?
I did call a first round submission. I didn’t make it public or anything like that, but it was definitely on my goals to do. It was something that I thought I could do; a weakness that I thought I could expose. It’s not a huge surprise to me that I was capable of doing so.
Cruickshank is well known for his flashy style, which he has showcased throughout his UFC career. What was your gameplan coming into the fight in order to avoid his dangerous striking abilities?
I train with a lot of really good Taekwondo guys that are very similar to Daron. Iif you don’t see that style it can be confusing, but I see it every day so it’s not a big deal to me. The gameplan is pretty simple when you’re fighting a heavy kicker like Daron. You have to put pressure on them early and you have to get them on their backs, especially with a guy like Daron who likes to spin a lot. If you put pressure on him and take away the angles early, that makes it very difficult for them to get established and get their gameplan going. If you sit at range and you let him start moving, he’s very dangerous. We just had to go out, put on some early pressure, cut all angles, and I think I did a really good job of that.
Would you say that this is possibly the most satisfying win of your UFC career, with how easily you got your hand raised?
I think anytime you fight in the UFC, your last fight is always the most important one. You’re always looking to progress. For me, the Sam Stout one was much more of an accomplishment because it just had a lot of backstory to it. There was just much more involved, but a win over Daron is a big deal for me. I think he’s a very competitive guy. [He’s] one of the better guys in the division. He’s definitely not a slouch in any way, shape, or form, so I think a win over him kind of put people back on notice with what I’m capable of.
How was your fight camp leading up to this fight?
I stayed healthy the whole time. I felt really good. I changed some things in my strength and conditioning and got out of my comfort zone a little bit. I changed a couple of small things in my training camp. I went out of town for week or two. Just a couple of small adjustments and it made all the difference in the world. I was probably the most mentally and physically prepared that I’ve ever been. I had a great weight cut. Everything just went really well, so I couldn’t really ask for much more. I definitely felt really good. There was nothing that I was really lacking. I had a great camp, I was injury free, great weight cut. It all just flowed together.
Your team Glory MMA & Fitness has had a good amount of success recently both in and out of the UFC. What can you attribute this to?
I think with us, we’re not known to be a powerhouse gym. I think when you put the pillars of a gym all in a fight camp together, it’s a thing called synergy. I think that all of us training together and going through a fight camp together as one, we all have one goal, one direction. It made us so much more powerful. We’re all here to help each other. It’s a very selfless gym. We all help each other rather than ourselves and in turn, everybody else helps us. It’s a different attitude we have. I think that a big part of it was all of us having camps together. The energy and the atmosphere was just unlike any other training camp that I’ve ever had.
You and Cruickshank actually tried out for the same season of The Ultimate Fighter a few years ago. How familiar were you with him before this fight? Did you know him on a personal level?
Yes and no. We’re not great friends or anything but we’re friends on Facebook, we follow each other on Twitter. We weren’t strangers to each other, but we weren’t boys either. We had a couple of mutual friends. I follow his career and I think he’s followed mine, so we kind of just knew of each other. We knew each other from The Ultimate Fighter, just passing here and there. It kind of sucked that we got matched up together but sometimes you just gotta deal with it.
Since you’re back in the win column, is there anybody that you would you like to face next when you eventually get back in the Octagon?
No, I don’t have anybody in mind really. I don’t think I’m in a position to be calling anybody out. The last time I called somebody out, I didn’t get the fight so it was kind of worthless. Right now, I’m just focused on my newborn baby girl. I’m focused on spending some time with her. I’m already back to training, I trained yesterday. Whenever they call again, I’ll be ready. It just depends on timing and all that good stuff. I want to make sure that I’m fully prepared and I can commit myself to a full training camp.