An Exclusive Interview With UK MMA Legend Brad Pickett:
By Jon Prentice
MMA legend and UK MMA pioneer Brad “One Punch” Pickett (25-14) recently announced that he would be coming out of retirement and making a return to action under the ACB banner. The former UFC and WEC bantamweight stand out will make his return on August 11th as ACB makes its debut visit to Pickett’s home city of London. I had a chat with Pickett this week to get his insight on coming out of retirement, potential opponents for his debut and what the future holds for himself and the other members of Team Titan.
Pickett, a multiple UFC performance of the night bonus winner, last competed in March 2017 at UFC London: Manuwa vs Anderson suffering defeat to Marlon Vera via 3rd round TKO having dominated the majority of the first two rounds. Pickett immediately announced his retirement following the fight having lost three straight in the UFC. Firstly I queried the thought process behind Pickett’s decision to come out of retirement:
“I was happily retired and in my head I was done, 100% done” Pickett said. “I’ve been away from competing for a year and a half but I’ve always never really lost the edge for competing. Everytime I went with one of my fighters to their show I always got that edge and I missed that sort of interaction….don’t get me wrong I really like coaching and it’s great seeing all of the guys at the gym do really well! Also, maybe that gave me a new lease of life as well as I am a very active coach, I jump in hands on and I’m always there. So I’m doing rounds with these guys who are doing really well, and I’m doing well with them, so I’m like yeah I haven’t lost anything if that makes sense.”
“Then ACB came along and sent me an offer. I’m not fighting because I need money at all, far from it, but if someone offers you quite a lot of money you are like why not. I’m not fighting because I need the money but money does talk, that’s going to benefit my family you know. I’ve got a kid and another one on the way and it makes you kind of think about things at my age”.
Over the course of his 39 fight career Pickett is one of only two men who have defeated current UFC flyweight champion Demtrious Johnson, and he also holds wins over the likes of Damacio Page, Yves Jabouin and Vaughan Lee. However as previously mentioned, Pickett made the decision to retire following his defeat to Vera in London in March 2017. I asked if the manner of the defeat, having been on the way to a decision victory on home soil to losing it late on in the fight via a stoppage, had any impact on his decision to retire in the first instance, or whether it was something he had previously thought about going into that final UFC bout:
“Reason I retired really was not through injury, where most people retire because they are banged up here or there, I retired because I kind of fell out of love with it a little bit. It kind of became a job to me. I had 3 fights in 5 months just kind of going through the motions and spending a lot of time away from the family whilst in America training. I have got a young son and he means the world to me, I was missing him, it became all too much, it became a job.”
Pickett did emphasise that had the fight with Vera gone the other way and he would have got the win, the outcome would still have remained the same with him retiring. I asked whether he had considered a return to the UFC when deciding that he was coming out of retirement:
“I was retiring no matter what” Pickett said.
“For me that chapter was kinda done! I have kind of been there, done that, got that t-shirt sort of thing. For me it was like yeah, I’m ready to move on to a new challenge, something else”.
Pickett has signed a three fight contract with ACB, however as of yet he is unsure of what the immediate future holds and whether he will fulfill the entirety of that contract, happier to take things on a fight by fight basis:
“I signed a three fight deal but it doesn’t mean I will fight three fights at all. It’s a case of me seeing how I feel and going from there really”.
An opponent has not yet been announced for Pickett’s return with plenty of speculation surrounding who it could be. Two names being mentioned on social media on a regular basis are those of former UFC man Takeya Mizugaki as well as former Cage Rage foe Paul Reed. Although unable to confirm the opponent as it is yet to be finalised, Pickett did state that it would not be Japan’s Mizugaki:
“I haven’t got an opponent as yet. It’s kind of like, I think we are very close but nothing is signed so I can’t say. I did want to fight Mizugaki and I was led believe that coming out of retirement I was fighting Mizugaki, but something happened where he was fighting elsewhere or something like that so that opponent fell through. So now I am in a position where I am looking at another opponent. I think we are close to getting one, I can’t say at this moment but I am happy by what may happen”.
Pickett’s ACB debut will come at ACB 91 in his home city of London where he competed three times during his UFC tenure. His return to the capital comes alongside the Russian promotion making their debut appearance in the city, and competing in front of his hometown fans is a bonus that pleases Pickett but more so he is focused on getting the win no matter where the fight takes place:
“It’s nice, it obviously makes business sense with it being in London and me being a London boy. There will be a lot of hype around the city if that makes sense. For me it doesn’t matter as such as to where I fight really, but it is nice that all my friends and family can come and watch me again you know. I always like fighting in London”.
Prior to his retirement Pickett spent a vast majority of his time training at American Top Team in Florida. He has also become heavily involved in coaching at Team Titan in London who are producing a number of potential stars, especially at the lower weight classes such as Nathaniel Wood, Dominique Wooding, Chris Miah and Mike Ekundayo. Pickett is now known as one of the most well-respected coaches in the country, and the coaching side of things is something that he is thoroughly enjoying:
“Yes 100% I love the coaching aspect!” Pickett exclaimed.
“As I say a lot of the guys at the gym are doing really well. I’m really really happy with how things are going now and like I say I am very active with my coaching and very involved and I always will be. I’m always going to be helping them out.”
As for standing out as one of the best gyms in Europe at the lower weight classes, Pickett can see the similarities between Team Titan and Team Alpha Male in America who have also adopted a similar reputation for producing exceptional athletes at the lower weight classes:
“Obviously how it starts off, you gravitate towards a gym where someone of your weight class is at a high level and you want to train with them. I always used to go to America for my training don’t get me wrong, but with me being here the majority of my time but then just doing my camps in America I would be establishing good people in England to come over. It got to a stage where I used to go over to America but I had really talented training partners here that I helped bring through myself” Pickett said.
“Dominique Wooding, Nathaniel Wood, Chris Miah, Mike Ekundayo I mean we have a lot of smaller weights and I do say it’s the Team Alpha Male of Europe. We have a lot of high standard guys and we have new guys join all the time. So I think it is one of those one’s where people gravitate to talent…now people gravitate to the gym as they know they are going to get tested.”
When Pickett does eventually decide to hang up the gloves for good he believes that the crop of talent at the gym have all the ability to make it to the very top as his replacement:
“Every single one of those can go as far as they want. Sometimes it is all about lady luck you know, right place right time. They are all definitely talented enough to make it to the UFC…100%”.
MMA fans across the world appear delighted at the news of Brad Pickett’s return to action and no doubt support will be in abundance come August 11th as one of the best MMA talents to come out of the country makes his walk to the cage. Pickett will be aiming for his first win since February 2016 as ACB 91 goes down from the Copper Box Arena, London.