UFC featherweight Mike Wilkinson (8-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) enters the Octagon once again this week on the main card at UFC on Fuel TV 10 where he meets Rony Mariano Bezerra aka Rony Jason (12-3 MMA, 2-0 UFC) at the Paulo Sarasate Arena, in Fortaleza, Brazil. The card on June 8th will be headlined by a rematch between heavyweights Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Fabricio Werdum who have just finished coaching their teams in season two of TUF: Brazil.
A competitor for Team UK on TUF ‘Smashes’ in Australia back in 2012, Mike Wilkinson made quick work of Grant Blackler in his quarter-final fight on the show via submission in the first round. He then picked up an eye injury during training which resulted in him being unable to continue in the show. The UFC liked what they had seen of Wilkinson and gave him the chance to impress on the UFC on FX 6 card held a few months later, and he was involved in one of the fights of the night against his friend and ‘Smashes’ British team mate Brendan Loughnane.
“Being on the Smashes was a dream come true and suffering the eye injury was a bummer but that was my path to where I am today, everything happens for a reason, hearing that I was fighting Brendan was gutting but at the same time that was my shot to make an impact and get in the UFC. Me and Brendan are good friends and always will be”, Wilkinson told Split Decision MMA UK.
On that season of the reality show the fighters were divided into lightweights and welterweights. In his appearance on TUF and the next fight against Brendan Loughnane he competed at lightweight, but for this bout it’ll be back at featherweight which he feels more comfortable at.
“It was an easy choice as I was a featherweight before The Ultimate Fighter. I went up a weight to get on the show so dropping back down is part of my path to becoming a champ”. Weight cuts can be hard especially in foreign countries in the week building up to the fight, “The weight cut will be the same as I will diet strict and make it as easy as the lightweight cut as its part of the job”.
Wilkinson trains at Atherton Submission Wrestling (ASW), now some fighters arrive on the biggest stage and feel like they need to change their training camp around to keep ahead of the competition, was this something that Wilkinson had considered ? “No, not changed anything about as I am confident in my coaches and I’m where I am today because of them, what’s the point if you’ve already got a world class coach”.
With the experience of competing at the other side of the globe in Australia on TUF ‘Smashes’ already under the British fighter’s belt, his next hurdle is to travel for a day and then acclimatise in South America. “Fighting in Australia has helped because I already know what to expect and with Brazil only being 9 hours away compared to Australia’s 36 hours it’s a bonus”, laughs Wilkinson, “and yeah going a week before to acclimatise”, he added regarding his plans on the journey.
His professional MMA career began back in 2009, every fighter has their own story as to how they ended up in a cage competing for the win, and of course the people that helped guide them in their pursuit of success. “Started wrestling with a rugby team who I used to play for, enjoyed it more than rugby itself, had a break for several months and then seen the UFC and found the local mma gym (ASW) got addicted and here I am today. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for my coaches Daren Morris and Jack Mountford and good friend and team mate Chris Hoban”.
When asked about his MMA career up to this point the fighter from Leigh in the North West of England certainly is not one to put that much thought into the past, and with every fight ending with his hand raised who could blame him? “A fight was a fight to me, didn’t matter were I was fighting as long as I had a decent opponent, my favourite memories was each fight because I won every one”.
His next challenge in the UFC continues with a very tough match-up on the main card of UFC on Fuel TV 10 against Rony Jason. The Brazillian won the first season of TUF: Brazil. Jason has fought all fifteen of his professional bouts in his home country up to now, so with having home advantage once more and almost twice as many fights as Wilkinson on his record the odds will be firmly stacked against the British fighter but that’s not something he’s about to start worrying about.
“I’ve been the underdog all my career so this is no different, I will go to Brazil the underdog and come back victorious like all my others it’s no different to me, a fights a fight”, Wilkinson told Split Decision MMA UK.
“Rony is a tough dude and I respect him he won the TUF Brazil and it’s going to be a tough fight, but I want to test myself against the best so when I win it’s going to look good on my record”, he said.
Brazillian crowds are recognised as some of the loudest and most passionate one’s the UFC has witnessed in recent years since their return to South American shores. With Rony Jason being a home favourite, on June 8th Wilkinson will enter the Paulo Sarasate Gymnasium into a potentially hostile atmosphere which could get into the fighters head. “I’m going to get booed no doubt and probably no one in that arena is going to be cheering for me, but they’re not in the Octagon with him and I know 9 hours away in England that every mother f*cker is gonna be cheering for me”, said the undefeated fighter who is clearly focussed on his task, and it’s hard to argue with him!
Split Decision MMA UK would like to express our appreciation to Mike Wilkinson for finding the time during such an important training camp to give us his thoughts ahead of his fight on UFC Fuel TV 10. Thanks again, would you like to give a shout out to anyone?
“It’s been a pleasure and I would like to thank my head coach Daren Morris, Rob Lloyd all the lads at ASW, Paul Wood from Try Fitness, Austin and Adam from Complemed Leigh, Reebok, Smuggling Duds, Venum, Bodial Nutrition and last but not least my Mum and Dad for their help and support”.
ESPN will be showing the main card of UFC on Fuel TV 10 live from 1:00am on June 9th in the UK.