‘I always had feeling that I would fight Shlemenko one day’: Paul Bradley ahead of M-1 Challenge 75
The two-time All-American wrestler from Iowa, who began his professional MMA career in 2006, now has a record of 23 wins and 7 losses over 30 fights.
“He is a high-level fighter. Look at his record – he always fights tough opponents,” Shlemenko said after the fight was announced. “Yes, he has some losses, but almost all of them were decision losses, not stoppages. He has a really good American freestyle wrestling base. He’s a big, strong guy.”
Nicknamed ‘The Gentleman,’ Bradley also describes himself as “a tough all-round American guy from the country.”
Catching up before the fight with RT Sport at the Holiday Inn hotel in Moscow on Wednesday, Bradley didn’t hide the fact that he is “super stoked" for his fight with Shlemenko.
RT: It’s your first time in Russia, what are your impressions so far?
Paul Bradley: It’s good, man! I like how the fighters are treated out here. [They’re] treated like the superstars, man! It’s kind of crazy back in San Diego. I tell the people I fight. ‘Oh are you in UFC?’ Well, no, I am fighting for this company. They’ll be like ‘are you pro? How many pro fights?’ and I’m like ‘...another one of these guys.’ So I have to explain I have had 30-something fights, this is a real job for me. I am not fighting in Sheraton Ballroom in San Diego, where I had my fifth amateur fight. That gets a little discouraging. Out here it’s like, the people are great. I have already been acknowledged by a lot of people who are the fans of the sport – passionate fans. Russia has been great so far.
RT: How did it all come about you working with M-1 Global?
PB: You know, it kind of came out of nowhere. I finished up my fight with the World Series of Fighting, pretty disappointing decisional loss to Yushin Okami. M-1 ended up being contacted by my management about a month later, saying Shlemenko needed an opponent, he wanted to fight a tough wrestler. I thought about it for a little bit and I am like ‘You know, I am pretty big right now.’ So what I did, I went to my first sparring session after the fight, felt great, and it just made sense, you know. It was kind of an easy decision for me.
RT: Shlemenko is a middleweight, you are a welterweight. Does it bother you he might be heavier?
PB: I started my career at 185 (pounds) – I think my first nine pro fights were at 185. I am already a pretty big welterweight. I already carry around a lot of weight. With that being said, he (Shlemenko) is not an overly huge middleweight. You know, he is not like Luke Rockhold. He’s not tall, he is not lanky. He is only an inch or two taller than me. That played a factor in my decision, obviously. It seems like the right fight for me. If that wasn’t a great match-up I wouldn’t have taken this fight.
RT: You have arrived in Russia just four days before the fight. The time difference is almost 12 hours. Are you jet-lagged at all? Is four days enough to acclimatize?
PB: On the first day we weren’t feeling hot, but we did it the right way on our flight from New York to Helsinki. We made sure that we stayed up the entire time, so when we got here we could sleep at night. It’s actually been a very smooth transition. It’s now starting to feel like back home. Like I was just saying to my coach, it’s crazy, it’s 3am back where I am at, and we’re up here and it’s 2pm. But we definitely had a chance to acclimatize, which is good.
RT: You don’t have to cut a lot of weight coming into this fight. What weight-cutting technique do you use when need to?
PB: I’m surprised more people don’t do this over here, but we do this thing called the over-hydration technique. I don’t have to do it for this fight because I’m fighting at 180 but if I have to cut I will legit start on a Sunday, with the weigh-in on Thursday.
So I will drink a gallon (of water) on Sunday, two gallons on Monday, two gallons on Tuesday, one gallon on Wednesday before 5pm. Then I cut all my water out until the weigh-in on Thursday. What it does is it tricks your body into thinking I’m way too overhydrated. So you start peeing that out, and it's super easy to cut the weight. Whereas people are so used to the old ‘Oh, I have to dehydrate myself down the week of the fight’ – well, you’re actually making it a lot harder to make the weight, so it’s kind of crazy. The first time I did it I got super freaked out, because I was fighting at 170 and I weighed 190 two days before the fight. I was like, ‘This ain’t gonna work’ but thank God it does. Every workout I’ll take off 10-12 pounds. Try it out. I would try a test run, I wouldn't advise anyone to do it for their first hard weight cut, but do a test run and see if you like it – because it’s the right way to do it.
RT: Shlemenko is known for his spinning moves and body shots. How do you plan to combat his style?
PB: He’s a tough dude, he comes forward. I watched his last fight in M-1 and it was a dogfight. He was actually losing that fight and you can’t ever count the guy out, he comes out hard. With that being said, I got to pressure him. If you start going back on Shlemenko, that’s when he spins. You can’t play the waiting game with him, you got to pressure him and you got to meet that spin before he can fully extend on it.
RT: Did you previously follow Shlemenko?
PB: I’ve been following Shlemenko for a while. We were in the Bellator organization at the same time. I always remember thinking when I was watching him, thinking we might fight someday. It was really weird. Even though we were in different weight classes and Koreshkov, his student, was in my weight class, I always thought we could meet up someday and it’s kind of crazy we’re meeting up here in Russia. But I’ve been following Shlemenko for a long time. I’ve seen all his fights. I know what he brings to the table – it’s just about meeting that pressure when he spins, which he’s great at.
RT: What do you see as your key to the victory in this fight?
PB: I’m not just a straight wrestler – I got great hands. You got to watch out for that too, my last fight in Bellator showed that; I knocked out Chris Honeycutt in 40 seconds and moved him up a weight class and out of my division. That put a big wrench in the Bellator game for that kid. I got hands too, I can wrestle, my ground game is great.
RT: How would you rate the Russian MMA market compared to the US market?
PB: I would say that the Russian market out here – I’ve yet to see what the stadium is going to look like when full, but overall I think it’s going to be a lot more people, a little more exciting like I said. I fought in New York City in front of two or three thousand people in the Ballroom at Madison Square Garden, which was amazing, but I’m expecting probably 15-20 thousand people in the stadium, so I think it’s going to be awesome. In the States, you’re only going to get that at a huge UFC event, you’re not even going to get that at the Fight Nights.
RT: What do you think the perks of fighting in Russia are?
PB: I’m actually making really good money over here. It’s one of the main reasons why I decided to take this fight. In the States, the grass isn’t always greener. You have thousands and thousands of guys trying to get into either UFC, Bellator, or World Series of Fighting. So when you have that – you are expendable. People will fight for less. Over here they treat you great, you get paid well. Over there, so many fighters are trying to get into big organizations. Like I say, there goes your paid job so, you’re expendable pretty much.
RT: If everything goes well, would you come back and fight under M-1 again?
PB: Yeah I would like to, definitely. M-1 is cool, man. I am getting to do a thing that is a chance of your lifetime. I get to fight on an Olympic stadium. I get to fight arguable one of the best fighters in the world at 185 outside of the UFC. In the UFC he’d be top 5 or 10. With that being said I am super stoked to fight in the Olympic stadium. It’s going to be huge. It’s going to be awesome. You know it’s going to be in front of a bunch of passionate Russian fans.