One of the UK’s most recognizable shows is back in business, with Almighty Fighting Championship set to host a total of five shows to close out the calendar year. Almighty FC promoter Ray Thompson has faced countless challenges with his beloved MMA promotion during the global pandemic. However, there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel.
Ray Thompson’s last show went down on February 22, 2020, at Almighty FC 16. Following that, two scheduled shows were cancelled in Liverpool due to the restrictions in the country.
With regional scene shows opening back up and restrictions in the country moving in a positive direction, Almighty FC will be heading to Barnsley, Liverpool, Gateshead, and Coventry. The first stop on the Almighty FC tour will be Barnsley on August 7, where Thompson has put together a spectacular 26-bout fight card that will go down under the bright lights of the Metrodome.
I enjoyed speaking with one man who is among the action on the night in Matthew Camilleri, who is determined to bounce back from his first loss as a professional fighter. Camilleri will meet Dan Gibbon, who attempts to snap the two-fight skid of his own.
The Malta international Matthew Camilleri (3-1) has showcased some exceptional potential in the early stages of his career. However, he was faced with a minor setback in his last outing, when finished by Jordan Barton at Full Contact Contender 25. Previous to the defeat, Matthew Camilleri had a sizeable three-fight winning streak under his belt, consisting of two first-round finishes in his native country Malta and a unanimous decision victory over Harry McKnight on Cage Warriors Academy.
Matthew Camilleri moved from Malta to the UK after understanding to improve as a mixed martial artist. He had to level up his training regime and partners. At the same time, he was testing the waters at the famous AKA Kickboxing Academy and Thailand. The twenty-five-year-old made Next Generation MMA, Liverpool, his new home, and firmly believes it’s the best place for his development.
Interview with Matthew Camilleri
We are closing in on fight day at Almighty FC 18. Talk to me about how preparation and training have gone ahead of your clash with Dan Gibbon on August 7.?
Matthew Camilleri – “Preparation is going quite well. I have been training nonstop since the first-ever lockdown and never stopped. Since the last lockdown, I came back and trained even more and was so happy to get the opportunity to fight again.”
I want to rewind to the beginning of your career. I see your fights took place in Malta. For outsiders, could you enlighten us on how the MMA scene is in Malta? Can we start to see athletes from Malta breakthrough in MMA competition, or are they a while away yet?
Matthew Camilleri – “MMA in Malta is quite new. Only I and three others are at a professional level. I’d say we have top-level boxers, kickboxers, wrestling, and BJJ as well. I always liked to train with the best at their sport makes me better.”
Half of your amateur fights and the start of your pro career had taken place in Malta. I suspect you stayed there and then decided to move to the UK? Can I ask you why the switch and how beneficial you think it has been for your career?
Matthew Camilleri – “Yeah, I went to my first ever training camp at AKA for my first pro fight. It happened after I competed at the IBJJF European championship and didn’t get the results that I wanted. I believe this was because I wasn’t training with top-level fighters. So instead, I decided to go and train at AKA that has everything. Then I went to AKA Thailand, which was the best experience of my life. With that being said, I spent from December 2 2018 to February 29 2020, with no fight. Every match. Everyone turned me down or didn’t accept the fight. I made a move to Next Generation as I still to this day think they are the best gym in Europe, and as always, I want to train with better people than me and learn from them.”
Seeing your social media over the last few years and seeing you spend a lot of time at AKA in the US. How often are you there? Tell me a bit about how training at AKA came about. Also, how many improvements and growing as a martial artist do you feel you have done, spending time with names like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Daniel Cormier, and much more.
Matthew Camilleri – “I spend about seven months in total split between them. It changed my fight style, and I have learned so much. I plan to do some camps when all this pandemic settles down and even go to AKA Thailand and see some of my coaches as well I miss all my AKA and AKA Thailand coaches. They are more than coaches. They were my friends.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen you in the octagon. The reasoning for that could be the global pandemic we are all battling. What have you been doing to keep yourself mentally sane and in shape over the last year? Have you been consistently training?
Matthew Camilleri – “Well, in this pandemic, the only thing that kept me going is the training. I stayed in the UK and did not go home for that reason, to train and compete as soon as possible. I never stopped training and bought some training equipment when everything was closed. I remember the first lockdown. I kept doing three training sessions every day and then relaxed watching Netflix. I started looking more at F1 and the past races and behind the scenes. Another sport which I love. One more thing I did was watch a lot of my matches, wins, and losses. It allowed me to see where I went wrong.”
With such a large period of inactivity, are you expecting ring rust to play a factor at all, or do you not believe in such a thing?
Matthew Camilleri – “Well, I hope not, but since my last fight, I had the same amount of time out. I don’t think it is ring rust. It’s just the nerves at the beginning of the fight, but that’s it.”
Your last outing against Jordan Barton resulted in you taking your first loss as a professional. Many fighters I have spoken with have taken their first losses differently. What did you learn from that loss, and does it have a psychological effect on you at all? Some fighters lose one, and then their confidence gets knocked massively. I’m interested to see what you take from it and how you feel?
Matthew Camilleri – “My first loss, I would say it changed me the way I used to think, but in a good way. It fired me up even more, and every time I lost in BJJ and wrestling, I always came back much better.”
This will be your first time competing on Almighty Fighting Championship. Although you’ve never competed on the show, is Almighty a promotion you’ve heard about or been familiar with? What are your thoughts on the show itself?
Matthew Camilleri – “I’ve heard about it from my teammates. It looks good. I’m excited to fight for them and looking forward to putting on a show for them.”
So, you’re taking the co-main event slot on the nights against Dan Gibbon. Gibbon has competed on Almighty twice, winning both. What are your thoughts on this matchup and Gibbon as an opponent?
Matthew Camilleri – “Yeah, another co-main-event. I think he is a good fighter.”
Are you a guy who likes to study tape on his opponents? If so, are there any strengths or weaknesses in Gibbon’s game that you’ve managed to identify?
Matthew Camilleri – “Yeah, I like to see and study everyone. I enjoy studying myself to see how I can beat myself. So, I can anticipate what they will try to do. But at the end of the day, I focus on what I will do, not what my opponent will do.”
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All image credits to KO Media