Ahead of Saturday night’s PPV event in Brooklyn, New York, Fighters Only went toe-to-toe with light heavyweight ‘Killa Gorilla’ Jared Cannonier as he closes in on his potential breakthrough fight against former title challenger Glover Teixeira.
Q. You went 7-0 fighting out of Alaska, then debuted in the UFC in Las Vegas. What was that culture switch like?
A. I’m sure you can imagine. I was a small town Anchorage fighter one minute, then I was on TV fighting one of the strongest guys in the heavyweight division. It was exciting but that was just the beginning. Getting into the UFC was a goal accomplished. Then I had to get a win in the UFC. Then I had to put together a string of wins in the UFC. After that, now I have to break into the rankings and get bigger wins. Once that’s accomplished I have to make a run at the belt and deal with all the things that go along with that.
Q. How much does it mean to you to stay true to your roots and your home team?
A. All these big things happening are great but you can’t let that affect you. Most people get distracted by the spotlight and all the smiling faces that are surrounding you at that point. I don’t get distracted by that. I surround myself with good people up here (in Alaska) and I will keep myself surrounded with them. They’re the ones who helped me get here. There is no point in gong elsewhere and doing other things just because I got a little fame and a little money.
Q. You have a full-time job with the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority), so how do you balance such an important job while striving to be one of the best fighters in the world?
A. It’s easy to juggle three balls, so that’s all I do. Work, gym and family. That’s all I do. Family, gym, work. I go home, I go to the gym, I go to work, then I go home. Most people aren’t ever satisfied with living that type of life. Most people want to go out and find things.
From my standpoint there’s too much sin in the world to be out there messing around with people that don’t care about you. People are out here doing things they perceive as fun and things they perceive as making them happy, but if you look at most of the people going out hitting up the club and having a good old time and banging multiple chicks and doing all that extracurricular stuff, it’s not necessary.
I have everything I need. I have a family that loves me. I have a gym family who supports me and helps me get to where I need to be and I have a work life that supports us financially. What more does anybody need?
Q. That’s an incredible outlook on life. Clearly faith is a big part of your makeup?
A. That outlook comes from my belief system. I believe in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of the bible. That’s all I need. That’s first and everything else has fallen into place. The UFC has fallen in to place. The high profile fights are falling into place. My family is happy. My gym is coming up and becoming more successful. We are just growing. Everything else is extra and everything else is a part of the distraction.
Q. Who or what inspires you?
A. I take inspiration from everywhere. That’s what you have to do. Everything that surrounds you, everything around you, has to inspire you in some way, shape or form. I have to take care of my family. It’s my job to care of them. It’s my responsibility to teach my children to be good people and helping my wife be a good person.
My team, those guys are looking up to me, too. They see all the good things I am doing. I inspire them and watching them working around here, they inspire me. Hell, even the bad things I see inspire me. It inspires me to not want to do things. That’s inspiration. I don’t want to be in the club shaking my butt. That’s not me. That’s inspiration to not do those things.
Q. Do any other fighters inspire you?
A. I watch a lot of fights. I watch a lot of fighters. I take inspiration from a lot of fighters I watch. I see their styles, their personalities and I take inspiration from that. I see something and I think I might have to incorporate that into my programming.
But I don’t want to be a part of the crowd. That was my inspiration from the jump. Even in high school, it was not my ambition to be a cool kid or bad kid or any particular kid for that matter. If you are a cool person then I am cool with you.
Q. What fight on your record best typifies your fighting style?
A. It’s most definitely going to be this fight with Glover this weekend. Outside of my first victory in the Octagon (KO1 vs. Cyril Asker at UFC Zagreb 2016), this will be the biggest win of my career. This is considered a high profile fight for some people. This is an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.
Q. You started out as a heavyweight, but you’re now at 205lb. How’s the weight cut?
A. Man, I am right on point. I am happy. I didn’t have to restrict my diet too much. I got to have a steak every now and then, which was nice. It’s going to be another easy cut. We are going to go through the motions get it done and get into that Octagon… I’m starting to think I could even do middleweight!