COUNTDOWN TO BAMMA 26: CHRIS FIELDS “HE CAME LOOKING FOR ME”

Tuesday July 12, 2016 As part of the Countdown to BAMMA 26, Pete Carroll sits down with Light Heavyweight Title Challenger ‘The Housewives Choice’ Chris Fields to discuss the fight, the build up and his career so far.

Chris Fields may have taken a massive step in setting himself up for his life after fighting, but he’s still a long way from finished.

When BAMMA initially signed him last year, the Dubliner’s plan was to get through Cheick Kone to align himself for a middleweight title shot. His first round knockout loss to the Frenchman last February stunted his trajectory. Despite dominating much of his next fight with Christopher Jacquelin the following September, Fields got caught in a triangle to end his night and add to his woes.

It took only one visit to the light heavyweight bracket before the promotion’s champion came looking for Fields. Finally, at BAMMA 26 in Dublin’s 3 Arena on September 10, he will get his chance of achieving his initial goal with the promotion – to hold the BAMMA title.

Even at midday on a Friday SBG Swords is already a hive of activity as Chris Fields’ beginners’ class is due to start in 30 minutes. Doors that sport the gym’s signature primate greet you on the Main Street. Beyond the door at the top of the stairs, the facility unravels around you.

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Fields is sitting down on a couch beside the main matted area, throwing the last bit of food into his mouth before the session begins. As each student enters they share a bit of a laugh with their coach before they begin warming up for their session.

Around the gym, some insights into Fields’ career are dotted. From his changing room sign lifted directly from the nineteenth season of The Ultimate Fighter to a picture of him raising the Cage Warriors middleweight title – even if you had no idea about the man, just looking around the gym would give you an idea of his storied career. A whole wall is also dedicated to the other head coach of the gym, Tom King, whose haul of silverware is displayed just beside the couch on which Fields sits.

The new facility has taken some pressure of Fields. His usual three-hour round trip to SBG HQ has been taken away and allowed him to immerse himself in his preparation.

Of course, he is aware that his journey to the BAMMA title has taken a little bit longer that expected. That, however, is the nature of the beast when it comes to mixed martial arts, as he explains.

“This is the game,” he tells me. “Who thought Bisping was going to beat Rockhold? There are surprises at every corner. It’s controlled madness. It’s hard to predict anything. I thought I was gonna take Cheick (Kone) down and demolish him. One overhand right later and my situation changed quite a bit.

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“After that, I fought Jacquelin. I hit him with an elbow at one point and he made a face that told me he wanted nothing more of the fight. Then I went to pass and he threw up a Hail Mary triangle. I punched him, got out, then he put me in it again.”

There were many fans in attendance that believed Fields has already forced the tap from Jacquelin that night. Without getting into it, ‘The Housewives’ Choice’ agreed with their sentiments.

“Look, he did tap. I saw the video. Again, that’s the game.”

Some have criticised the fact that Fields will get a shot at unbeaten 205 lbs champion Paul Craig following a sole win in the weight category. Fields himself admits that most contenders need “at least three wins” to be considered to fight for a title.

However, as revealed in a behind the scenes video, it was Craig who came after Fields following his first round submission of Dan Konecke in February.

“He came looking for me. Then he had the cheek to start asking whether I deserved the fight. He was the one up in my changing room calling me out. It was weird. Champions shouldn’t behave like that. Guys should be coming after him. I think he knows that I’m a good scalp for him and I’ve got a big name.

“I wasn’t even trying to offend him when I said I didn’t know him. He was kind of interviewing me, talking about the fight and then he start trying to fight me. It was very weird. It is what it is. It’s good for me, it’s good for him and it’s good for BAMMA. He’s not my favourite person in the world so I’ll have no problem punching him in the mouth. I’m sure he feels the same way.”

Given the respect Fields commands on the Emerald Isle, he isn’t exactly surprised Craig wanted to meet him in the cage.

“He talks like he’s a big deal but he has to come over to Dublin and fight me to get numbers. He’s not what he thinks he is. This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve had 20 fights. I’ve dealt with plenty of bulshit. It means nothing to me.”

Even though there is only one pro contest that we can judge Fields as a bona fide light heavyweight on, there was an urgency to him against Konecke that we haven’t seen for a number of years. Fields outlined what prompted the move down, citing the difficulties he had with getting down to middleweight in his last few outings.

“Cutting to middleweight was killing me. I always felt like I could do ten straight rounds in the lead up to a fight, then when I was in there after the cut, I’d feel exhausted in the second round. The preparation didn’t always have me ready when that exhaustion came into play.

“The cuts have just been getting worse and worse. It’s hard to go through that cut when I have these coaching commitments and then a baby at home. I can’t be a ‘hangry’ bastard with all that stuff going on. When my child cries I don’t want to be jealous that he’s going to get fed. I can’t be like, ‘Hey Tommy! Do you not think I want a bottle as well?’” he laughs.

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Fields’ delight with his showing back in February was obvious from his celebration. BAMMA 24 was the first time he had a camp completely catered to his fight. Knowing that he may not have many bouts left given his pledge to retire when he is 35, he is adamant he will be doing the same kind of preparation he had last time out for the remainder of his career.

“To get that last win was such a release. I think you can tell by my face in the cage after it. Just to know I could go home to my wife and son with a win, and a performance that I was proud of too – that was amazing.

“I know Dan isn’t the highest ranked guy in the world but he is dangerous. I just felt on that night. Everything clicked. That whole camp was about me. It’s been the same for this one.

“That’s not something I’ve done for my whole career, but I think at this stage I’ve got to be selfish. I used to be the guy that would miss his own session to hold pads for somebody else. I haven’t got many left so I want to make sure I put everything into them.”

The common refrain of ‘There is no opponent’ has become synonymous with SBG fighters. Yet, Fields has always been a fan of researching his counterparts. Although he hasn’t watched any tape on Craig yet, Cathal Pendred, Phil Whyte, and King have been keeping a keen eye on the Scot.

“Not knowing what the guy does is madness. Sometimes I would over study my opponents but I haven’t done that with Paul Craig. I haven’t watched any of him yet, and usually when I do that, the whole thing becomes real to me.

“So far, Cathal has watched him, Phil has watched him and Tom has watched him. They give me their perspectives as an MMA fighter, a striker, and a jiu-jitsu player, and we work on the things that they have isolated that I should be aware of.”

As the marquee name on the BAMMA card, Craig will be expecting a frosty reception from the Dublin crowd as he walks in to take on one of the county’s best-loved MMA proponents. According to Fields, it won’t be the reception that Craig has to worry about.

“Walking out in the 3 Arena might not affect him, he’ll probably be ready for that. When you’re getting punched in the face and five thousand people are roaring in celebration, that’s when it gets hard. That could play on his mind, the fact that everyone in that arena wants him to lose.”

After an amazing three years, 2016 hasn’t been the best year for Irish MMA. The death of Joao Carvalho led to a conversation about the legitimacy of the sport. Reacting to that, BAMMA saw it fit to put standards in place to make sure every fighter on the September 10 card is scanned before they compete at the 3 Arena.

Adding to the woes of the Irish, there hasn’t been a solitary win for the Irish in the UFC since Conor McGregor’s knockout of Jose Aldo in December. The Green Army will be out in force in the hopes of seeing Fields claim the BAMMA title, and he would like nothing more to provide them with that moment.

“I’d love to deliver that big night for the Irish MMA fans,” he says. “This event is massive in terms of securing the future of the sport. There’s not a lot of money in the country at the moment and I really appreciate people paying to come and see me fight.

“It’s been a rough few months for Irish MMA, and I would love to put a smile back on everyone’s face. When Joao Carvalho passed away I thought about retiring. It got too real for me all of a sudden.

“I have a friend from Zimbabwe and he’s about the same age as me. I was talking to him about how I felt when Joao passed away and, in turn, he told me about how he used to jump off a cliff and into the sea every day when he was a kid.

“He went back home when he was 33 and decided he wanted to jump off that same cliff again. So he ran towards it, but just as he was about to jump he stopped himself. He couldn’t do it without looking over the side first to make sure the water was there, whereas he never would’ve done that when he was a kid. His 33-year-old brain just couldn’t allow him to do it without looking over first.

“That’s how that was for me when Joao died. I’m still going to jump off the cliff but I want to know what I’m getting myself into beforehand. There are people relying on me now, my kid and my wife.

“For Joao, he’ll always be remembered as the guy who changed the sport, the guy who forced regulation on MMA. He’s going to save a bunch of people, and I guess that’s the best kind of legacy that you can have.”

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