Brad Pickett is currently ranked as the #5 fighter in the UFC’s talent-crammed bantamweight division and is one of the UK’s biggest MMA stars.
The East London born Pickett, a former Cage Rage and UCMMA featherweight champion, is well known and well loved for his crowd pleasing approach to fighting and this has won him many fans, most notably UFC President Dana White.
Pickett currently divides his training time between Team Titan in the UK and American Top Team in the US, where he is now preparing for his upcoming fight with #3 UFC ranked bantamweight Michael ‘Mayday’ McDonald at UFC on Fox Sports 1: Shogun v Sonnen on August 17th later this year in Boston, Massachusetts.
Before Brad set off for the US, I was fortunate enough to catch up with the popular Brit and talk about he started in MMA, his style and how his preparation for the McDonald fight is coming along.
Take a look.
What lead you to get involved with MMA in the first place?
Basically I used to box when I was a little younger, from about 19 to 21 but then I had a bad knee injury playing football. I tried to get back in to boxing at about 25 but I found it a little bit boring and a friend of mine then said why don’t you try MMA, so I thought I’d give it a go. I went to one class in Elephant & Castle, which at the time was called Elite Fighting System, fell in love with it and never looked back.
How soon was it after finding MMA that you joined Team Titan?
I’m not too sure really. I think I had a couple of fights and then I met Mickey Papas, but there wasn’t really a Team Titan back then, we kind of started up together. It was at that time that Mickey and a friend decided to create a team and that’s where it all started. [I joined] pretty early on, I guess.
When did your association with American Top Team (ATT) start?
I didn’t start going to American Top Team until I was Cage Rage champion and then I decided to go to ATT because Dave O’Donnell (former Cage Rage executive) had made some good connections out there and helped me sort myself out so I could get out there. I went once, trained there, met Mike Brown, Ricardo Loborio and all the guys and fell in love with training there. It helped my game so much and I’ve been going ever since.
You found success on the UK circuit capturing the Cage Rage and UCMMA FW title, for you is that still your fondest accomplishment or does having your talents displayed and recognised on a wider scale like the WEC/UFC more pleasing?
Yeah it is. Belts are just belts, it doesn’t bother me. The only belt that matters to me, in my eyes and means everything to me is the UFC belt because that means you are the best in the world. Don’t get me wrong, having a belt here is nice, but to me a belt doesn’t mean a lot. I want to be the best fighter I can be and compete against the best opposition I can and beat the best opposition and to do that, you’ve got to be in the UFC. For me obviously, it’s a way bigger accomplishment to join the UFC and fight for the UFC than winning an Ultimate Challenge belt.
You have received a reputation of someone that enjoys and looks to put on exciting fights, is this a thought that you have in your mind before entering a fight or does it just organically happen when the bell rings?
A bit of both. I think my fighting style makes for an exciting fight. I’m an aggressive, come-forward type of fighter so that can always lead to an exciting fight, depending on the opponent obviously. There are sometimes when I’m fighting and I feel like the fight has been a bit boring that I do try and make it a little bit more exciting because at the end of the day it is a spectator sport. Also I want people to say they love watching me fight, because it shows you that they like your class, it gives you… I get satisfaction out of that, when people enjoying watching my fights.
You’ve characterised your fighting style as “the art of manbeasting”. Could you tell us what that entails and where it comes from?
Sometimes you don’t have to be the most technical fighter and you can just ‘manbeast’ someone through aggression, will to win and that sort of stuff, you know, sometimes you have to endure punishment in order to dish some out. For me, ‘manbeasting’ is someone is not necessarily the most technical fighter, but one that is willing to fight, dig deep and who is just really tough. That’s my style. That’s ‘manbeasting’.
You were last seen securing a decision victory over Mike Easton and it was pretty soon after that fight you were asked who you wanted to fight next and Michael McDonald was pretty high up on that list. What was it that made you want to test yourself against McDonald?
Well basically, I always get a lot of top fights since I’ve been in the UFC but I’m always up against fighters that are ranked below me. Don’t get me wrong, some of my opponents are ranked above me now, both Eddie Wineland and Renan Barao who I fought, were at the time ranked below me. I’ve always been the stepping stone for other people, I have never really had the chance to step up myself, so that’s why I really wanted to fight someone ranked above myself, people like Michael McDonald and Urijah Faber, it was me saying “hey give me chance to move up”, you know. I fought Mike Easton, he’s a tough opponent but he was ranked #9 while I’m #5 so when I beat him, I was still #5, and it didn’t do me anything you know. I just wanted to get a chance to fight someone above me to progress my career and myself.
When this fight was first announced the comments sections and message boards went nuts and was one of the fights they were most looking forward to, but it seems as though it has been placed on the prelims. Are you scratching your head at that decision like the rest of us or are you not fussed when and where your fight takes place on the card?
It’s not my decision, but yeah a little bit, you know. I always like to be on the main card and I do feel that #3 vs. #5 [in the bantamweight division] should warrant being on the main card because obviously for this fight it will put me right in the picture and the same for him, I think the fight is very significant. It does kind of worry me a little bit about that but also maybe they want to… I’m not too sure. If it was a pay-per-view, I could understand then maybe if they wanted to put us on just before the pay-per-view to help try and sell the event, but it’s not pay-per-view. I am a little bit, you know, scratching my head a bit but it doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, a fight is a fight and I’ve just got to concentrate on my fight.
McDonald’s fight with Barao was his first loss, did you see anything in that fight that Barao was able to expose and help make your job a little easier?
Yes and no. For me, myself and Barao are two completely different fighters but I was able to take a bit away and look at certain things keeping in mind his other fights. Maybe be a little bit more diverse and mix things up because I think that against Eddie Wineland I was very one dimensional and then when I was up against Mike Easton I mixed it up a lot more and I tend to fight a lot better when I do that.
Can you see anywhere that McDonald will be able to hurt you?
At the end of the day, he is an opponent that hits hard for the weight class and I could walk on to a punch. I do know that I have a good chin but these are really small gloves and anything can happen, so I’ve got to be careful of that. I haven’t seen much of his other game, I don’t really see him having any submission or his ground game and all that sort of stuff, so I think that he is definitely more dangerous on his feet.
Bearing that in mind, are you working on anything in particular in preparation for the fight?
I’m not working on anything as yet, but when I’m out in America I’ll be looking to add things to my game, but I can’t really say too much about that.
On your end though, how do you see this fight playing out?
For me I’m quite well rounded so it could go anywhere. If I win the fight it could be by decision, knockout or submission but with him, he needs to win by decision if he’s going to win the fight. I think I am always winning the fight.
Recently there has been a report that has come out alleging that the UFC’s show in Boston, your event, is in serious jeopardy due to state laws prohibiting foreign-born fighters from entering the cage without a social security number. As a non-US fighter, have you experienced any issues with getting this arranged?
No, no. It’s not hard for me to get myself a social security number. It shouldn’t be too hard for me to get one and it’s a long way off yet so we’ve got plenty of time to get it sorted.
This UFC event has been chosen as one of Fox Sports 1’s first broadcasts on its channel. Is it a big thing for you that you have been chosen to fight on an event that is being used to help launch a new sports network in the US or have you not given much thought to that?
Yeah, yeah it will be cool. It’s nice to make a bit of UFC history in some way, you know. But for me, fighting for the UFC in general is really good, so the more exposure the UFC gets is only going to help us fighters, so it’s good that it’s going to be on a new sports network.
Going in to this fight, how far away from a title shot do you think you are?
Well, I’m there or thereabouts so if I beat #3, then that puts me where he is, that puts me right up there. The only thing is though, is that there are quite a few other fights that need to happen, I think the division is a little bit up in the air at the moment with [the UFC Bantamweight Champion] Dominick Cruz being injured. Barao is injured, so he didn’t get to fight Eddie Wineland so there are quite a few fights that need to happen before the next contender is going to be there. Barao v Wineland needs to happen and by the time that takes place, you know, Cruz may come back and that would be that fight. The division is up in the air at the moment, so all I can do is beat Michael McDonald and put myself in a great position.
If a title shot did materialise, would you fight just for the win or is going for the finish is something more instinctual for you?
It’s not really my style, you know. I fight how I fight. If I got to a title shot, I’d fight how I normally always fight, I wouldn’t change my game just to… if I think I could win this way and be really boring and win, it’s just not my style.
What does it mean to you when Dana ranks you as one of his favourite fighters to watch?
It is a great honour, because not only does he watch so many fights and watch so many fighters, he is my boss. If you know that your boss likes your work, it makes your job a little more secure, especially now that the UFC is a little more popular and knowing that your boss likes your style, it’s always a nice little pat on the back.
All going well, this fight goes as you hope and you stay injury free, do you think the UK fans could be seeing you at the rumoured October event in Manchester?
No, absolutely no chance of that because I’m getting married in September! I’ll be there, I’ll definitely be there but I will not be fighting on the card. That’s the reason I’ve got myself on this card because otherwise I would fight on that card but I knew that I was getting married in September and that I’d never be ready for the card in October.
Oh ok, so you’ll be having the honeymoon in Manchester then?
That’s it for me, and Brad, thank you for giving up your time, I really appreciate it…
… no problem at all…
…and good luck in your next fight.
Much appreciated, thank you.