It’s been over a year-and-a-half since we’ve seen Emil Meek compete in the Octagon. On Saturday night in Auckland, the Norwegian makes his return to the cage against Australia’s Jake Matthews.
We caught up with “Valhalla” during fight week in New Zealand to talk over his last few months, the fights he has been campaigning for, the future of MMA in Norway, and much, much more.
FO: Hi Emil. How have things been since we last spoke?
Things have been great. The process has been perfect. My confidence comes from my preparation and I’ve never been more confident.
FO: You kindly agreed to do an interview during a weight cut. How is it going?
I’m in the final stage of my weight cut. Just about to sweat out the last five kilos which is sure to be absolute hell.
FO: The last time we spoke, you were campaigning to fight Diego Sanchez. After that, Mickey Gall. What happened?
Like I’ve told you before, Mickey [Gall] has been avoiding me. I don’t really care about that now – I just want to beat him.
With Diego [Sanchez], I spoke to Sean Shelby and they wanted to give him the opportunity to fight in Brazil, and me an opportunity to fight in New Zealand and give us good opponents.
Maybe we will fight later on, but we did train together one time in Las Vegas. It was very weird and very experimental.
FO: Yes, that brings us to ask about your training with Sanchez and his trainer Joshua Fabia in particular. How did that come about and what occurred?
Well, he got a different fight, I got a different fight. Diego hit me up when he was going to Las Vegas to train.
Everyone was like ‘f**k, this is going to be sick! Are we going to hang upside down and make lion noises? What’s going to happen?’ It was one session on one day and we were just going to go for it. Ask no questions.
It was just as crazy as we would imagine. None of us really wanted anything else, either. We were playing touch butt in the cage with five guys. Suddenly, Joshua [Fabia] came running into the cage with a sharpened knife like ‘now you’ve got to start moving mother**kers.’ We were like ‘oh f**k!’ and we ran!
To be honest, we didn’t do much MMA in our training.
FO: So instead of Sanchez or Gall, you’ve got a talented, young – yet experienced – opponent ahead of you in Jake Matthews. What are your thoughts on the match-up?
It’s a great fight. We were happy when the UFC called us for the match-up and I’ve seen in most articles that this fight is a fantastic piece of match-making from the UFC and it really is.
Next to the main event, I think this is a fan favourite on this Auckland card. I think it’s going to be a good scrap, to be honest.
Both of us are here to fight. Both of us are looking for the finish and to make a statement. And I’m definitely after that $50,000 bonus.
FO: You haven’t fought since your decision loss to Bartosz Fabinski in 2018 in a performance you were bitterly disappointed by. What has changed in your preparation since?
Lots of things, really. I’ve been in Las Vegas – at the UFC Performance Institute and at Xtreme Couture – I came in great shape and left in even better shape. I worked with Gray Maynard and he’s going to corner me.
We’ve also been in New Zealand for two weeks already. Just the whole theme around me has been a lot better. I feel like the energy and the result we’ve managed to produce has been a lot better than before.
Along with Maynard, I also have Thomas Formo, my best friend from the Evolve Acedemy in Trondheim. We started the gym together 10 years ago and he has been with me the entire time, putting other things on hold.
He has been a great sparring partner, training partner, grappling partner. He’s my best friend and he’s been with me the entire time in this camp and I really appreciate that and it’s given me good energy.
I’ve just been staying isolated from everything and have focused solely on one goal.
FO: This will be the 11th different country you’ve fought in. What goes into the preparation of fighting abroad?
My strength has always been the mental and physical aspect of the game.
I’m not the best technical striker, I’m not the prettiest grappler, I’m not a great wrestler. But, all in all, I put it together well and I am very good at preparing. Training, I am always in great shape every time I fight and I feel I have a physical advantage over everyone I fight.
Preparation also includes dealing with time zone changes and travel. That was always included in our plan. One reason why we trained in Las Vegas is because the travel is much shorter to New Zealand than from Norway. Also, in terms of climate, Las Vegas is much closer – at least more similar – to what it is in New Zealand. Instead of going on a 36-hour flight from Norway – from deafening cold to a tropical environment – that’s a recipe to get sick and f**ked up.
So we went to Las Vegas and flew from there, the jet lag wasn’t that bad and we only really lost a day. We came here earlier than everybody else. In my heart, I believe we are the most prepared fighter on this fight card, to be honest.
FO: The fact that you’ve fought in so many different countries leads me to ask you about the state of Norway in MMA. Can you see yourself ever fighting in your home country?
It’s a big dream of mine to fight in Norway, on home ground. That would be absolutely insane.
I just think it’s a matter of time. I don’t know how long it will be, but as the generations shift and younger people are coming to positions in government, as politicians become younger and younger, you see more people in power who are pro-MMA.
Also, the better us Norwegian athletes do it, the more popular the sport gets. All in all, it’s just a matter of time, I think. Norwegians are stubborn but the older ones are even more stubborn!
FO: Final question, and one I’m sure everyone will want to know the answer to: did your axe make it through customs?
No. I left it at home this time. At first I had to travel to Las Vegas. Then from Las Vegas to New Zealand. With all these things from Donald Trump, I thought it was best to leave it at home.