Bellator MMA makes its much-awaited return to the United Kingdom as the SEE, Arena in London, England hosts a total of thirteen fantastic contests on Friday, October 1st. Headlining the fight card on the night is the highly spoken-about rematch between former champion Douglas Lima and the showman that is Michael Venom Page.
The co-main event slot features Northern Ireland’s Leah McCourt as she looks to make it six consecutive victories on the bounce with a win over Jessica Borga. The line-up is propped to be a night of fast-paced action, with plenty of British athletes receiving the opportunity to shine.
Talking of fast-paced action, I had the pleasure of speaking to a man among the carnage on the night who knows all about fast-paced battles inside the Bellator sphere. I caught up with a twenty-nine fight veteran in Charlie Leary ahead of his clash against Gavin Hughes.
Interview with Charlie Leary
It will be a year on fight night since we’ve last seen you compete inside the octagon. How’s life been treating you, and how beneficial has the break been for you?
Charlie Leary – “I can’t believe it’s going to have been a full year since I last fought. To be honest, life has had its ups and downs. Being in lockdown again was horrible and not being able to fight and capitalise on the publicity from my last win was annoying, but the break has had its benefits. I’ve been able to get some great high-level training in and I feel like I’ve made some big improvements.”
Staying on the topic of your last outing with Crosbie in Milan. You’ve had plenty of time to digest the performance, looking back, how did you view your overall performance?
Charlie Leary – “Overall I’ve got to be pleased with my last performance because I got a good win against a decent opponent, but there were definitely mistakes made. With that being said, I feel like I’ve learnt and improved from the mistakes so all in all, it was good for me.”
I’m not lying when I say it’s one of the best rounds I’ve ever watched in MMA, and it should be getting talked about a lot more. How many times have you watched that one back, and what did you take from the fight itself, any lessons about yourself?
Charlie Leary – “Thanks I felt like it was a good exciting fight that had its back and forth so I’m pleased people enjoyed watching it. I’ve watched it back a few times now but mainly because every time I go to see my Dad he puts it on. Like I said lessons learnt not just in the physical aspect of the fight but also my mentality and self-belief.”
As proved in your last outing, age doesn’t seem to be an issue with you, but how demanding and tough are the camps for you at the latter stages of your career? How do you cope with the niggles as you get older?
Charlie Leary – “I feel like my age is actually a benefit for me at the moment. I didn’t start training until I was 25 so my body hasn’t had the same amount of punishment as some of the younger guys. I think I’m a lot more mature now, so I listen to my coaches and take advice easier. Every camp has its niggles but I’m very lucky to have a great physio in Hemel Physios, a cryotherapy company that help me out and the best sports masseuse around in Shaniel. All three make a massive difference.”
On that same note, how long do you want to continue to compete on the highest level? Have you had that talk with yourself on a timeline to step away, and do you have any plans for after fighting?
Charlie Leary – “I honestly haven’t put an age or time frame on retirement. I feel like along as I am competing with these top guys and I’m putting on exciting fights I’m gonna keep going. I’ve got more I want to achieve and a lot more money to make before I stop. I already do some coaching so I’m sure when I do hang the gloves up I’ll either continue that full time or maybe add in some fighter management, whatever will keep me close to the sport.”
I believe this will be your 6th walk under Bellator. Talk to me about the promotion, how they run, how they treat you guys, how you evaluate your career thus far with them? Also, at this stage of your career would fighting in the US interest you with the show or are you happy and content competing around the UK and Ireland?
Charlie Leary – “Yeah this will be my sixth fight for Bellator and I couldn’t be happier with the way they treat me. I feel valued and competing for them has been great. It put me on the world stage, not just domestically, so it’s huge for my career. I would love to fight in the US, that has been a dream from when I first started training so hopefully the world gets back to normal soon and we can make it a reality.”
Your opponent on the night in Gavin Hughes, a tough opponent with a record of (10-2). Have you been aware of Hughes before and what do you think of him as an opponent?
Charlie Leary – “As you said Gavin is a tough opponent he comes from a good team and has a good all-round game but at this level, you don’t get anything but tough fights. I had been aware of him before because he had fought Chris Bungard before I fought him, and then fought Scatizzi too so he’s someone I had looked at before.”
Are you someone that’s watched a lot of tape on your opponents in preparation? If so, are there any flaws you’ve picked up in Hughes game that you feel you can capitalise on?
Charlie Leary – “I actually don’t watch too much footage on my opponents before we fight. As I said before we’ve fought a couple of the same people so I have seen his fights, but I feel like I do better when I focus on my game rather than looking for holes in his. I let my coaches watch and pick them apart and if I perform to my abilities he doesn’t beat me anywhere.”
When you visualise this fight day in day out, what type of fight are you expecting from Hughes?
Charlie Leary – “I’m expecting a tough gritty fight that has it all. He is high level everywhere and I’m expecting his best.”
If you look at your and Hughes skill-set. How do you feel use matchup against each other in each department? Wrestling, BJJ and striking?
Charlie Leary – “Looking at both our skill sets I honestly feel I’m better everywhere. Most importantly I think I put it all together better too at this level you have to have the ability to merge the striking with the grappling without leaving holes and I think my experience at this will show through.”
Last one from me and a fun one for the Bellator fans. If you could have one dream matchup within Bellator, who would it be and why?
Charlie Leary – “A couple of names come to mind when you say dream matchups. If weight didn’t matter right now a fight with AJ Mckee would be awesome because I think he’s the best in the world at the moment and I would love to test myself against such a great talent. Another fight would be Rumble Johnson because being able to say you shared the cage with one of the scariest fighters on the planet would be a hell of a story to tell.”
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