An Interview With KSW Middleweight Jason Radcliffe
By Arwen Sheridan
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to chat to KSW Middleweight Jason “The Assassin” Radcliffe. The Londoner is getting ready to take on Antoni Chmielewski in front of his home crowd in The SSE Arena on September 9th.
This will be first of a three fight deal for Radcliff with the Polish Promotion. This deal came a decade after Radcliff initially got involved in combat sports.
In 2009 he was initially interested solely in Jiu Jitsu. There were some professional MMA fighters in the gym and although they occasionally cross trained, he was much more focused on the gentle art.
This all changed for Radcliffe when he attended his first MMA show, UCMMA. One of his teammates was fighting on the card, and he experienced first-hand the hard work and dedication that the sport requires.
“It was fascinating to see the whole process and everything that he put into it. The one thing that stood out to me was that he definitely was a cannibal. You have to be a cannibal for what you’re doing. That was a big trigger for me…That drew me into the whole MMA scene”
After just 5 months training MMA, Radcliffe went up north to compete in an MMA tournament. He didn’t tell his coaches about it prior to going. When he returned to the gym having won the tournament, Eddie Kone congratulated him, but warned him that MMA is not to be taken lightly.
Shortly after, in the Spring of 2011, Radcliffe took his first and only amateur fight. He secured a victory via submission in the second round. It seemed like a fairy tale start to the young Englishman’s career.
His first professional fight was in UCMMA 24, where he was knocked out in the first round by his compatriot, Ben Callum. After what had been a dream introduction to MMA, I asked Radcliffe if this defeat had been a rude awakening.
“At some stage it was going to happen. It was good it happened straight away. I don’t know if it was a rude awakening, but I definitely smelled the coffee a little bit. It was a strong f**king coffee!”
After this early set back, Radcliffe went back to the drawing board. Watching and attending lots of MMA shows and working on all aspects of his game. He understood that he could not rely on Jiu Jitsu alone to get him where he wanted to be.
“I had to understand MMA as a whole, it’s not one dimensional.”
A mere six weeks after that first professional fight, Radcliffe returned to the UCMMA cage. This time he emerged victorious, and went on to have a five-fight winning streak. Racking up four first round stoppages.
Around this time Radcliffe began training with London Street Fighters. He was seeking out professional athletes to work with. He spent three years training there, mixing with the whose who of the London MMA scene.
During his time there, he suffered an injury and wasn’t able to be as active as he had previously been.
He describes this phase in his career as being extremely stressful. He also experienced bereavement following the tragic death of his best friend.
Understandably Radcliffe found it difficult to keep his head in the game with everything that was going on.
In the run up to his Bellator fight against Jack Mason in 2016, Radcliffe decided a change of scene was needed and he went to train with Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket. With renewed focus and determination, things were once again looking up for the Londoner.
“I ended up getting my scholarship with the gym. Things started to get better, because I started to focus on it a lot more and my determination was back. The owner of the gym kinda saw it. I thought, why not? You only have one life to live, so I took the chance. It was the best training camp I have ever had and I beat him in ten seconds.”
Radcliffe was to have another fight with Bellator in 2017, when he would come up against John Slater. Slater is renowned for his Jiu Jitsu skills and Radcliffe knew going to the floor with him might prove costly.
“You don’t go the floor with this guy, cause his Jiu Jitsu is really good. I remember over thinking it too much, don’t go to the floor, don’t go to the floor. The other side of my head was thinking go to the floor, you’re good on the floor, just relax.”
In the end this paralysis by analysis overcame the Assassin and he found himself unable to be effective in the cage. Slater executed a first-round submission.
This proved a valuable learning experience for Radcliffe however, and he has worked with a sports psychologist to help him dial in the mental side of his game.
“I have learned from that train of thought, be direct. Know exactly what you want to do.”
Following the Slater fight, Radcliffe parted ways with his manager and found himself eager to get his career back on track.
“Inside I was kinda heated, possessed maybe, to make everything right…It was a weird feeling, I just wanted to get back in there and make things right.”
2018 was a year with a lot of ups and downs for the Englishman. He told me a story about fighting against an opponent 10-15kg heavier than him. Another about having to fight against an unskilled fighter making his debut.
Yet another involved having a fight stopped prematurely. All I could think as he recounted these tales of adversity, was if this was a movie, we would need a montage right about now.
“After that I just sat down and had a think about what the hell is going on. I took a bit of a break. I left (Tiger Muay Thai) and went over to Phuket Top Team with Eric Uresk… I messaged him and said ‘this is the worst two years I have ever had in my whole career, can we sit down and have a chat?’”
After Christmas 2018 Radcliffe went over the Thailand again. For the first two weeks Uresk did little more than greet him each morning. Radcliffe began to wonder if he had made a mistake. He worried that all the great things he heard about Uresk may have been exaggerated.
His fears were to prove unfounded. One day after class, Uresk asked Radcliffe to stay behind, and he shared with him everything he had observed over the previous weeks.
He had noticed everything about he fighter, from how he trained to how he conducted himself outside the gym.
“It was such an eye opener. I had never had somebody break everything down like that for me. A big weight got lifted off my shoulders.”
Radcliffe spend four months with Uresk in Thailand. Uresk recognised that The Assassin had been over thinking in his recent fights and he encouraged him to take risks. His next two fights were both wins and 2019 looked set to be the year when it all came together for the 33-year-old.
His most recent fight was with Cage Warriors in June, when he faced Hakon Foss. He won this fight via a first round TKO.
After this fight Radcliffe was in a really good place. Feeling fit and injury free and having spent time working on his mindset. He was eager to get back into the cage as soon as possible.
When the call came from KSW, offering a three-fight contract, he was delighted to accept. KSW are an exciting outfit and always put on thrilling spectacles.
Radcliffe is enthusiastic to get the first of these fights under his belt. This fight is rumoured to be the veteran Chmielewski’s swan song, as he approaches retirement.
The Polish fighter will be looking to go out on a high note and Radcliffe knows better than to underestimate him.
“I am as mentally geared up as I was for the last fight. Yeah he has lost his last three fights, but anyone can lose. He is a veteran. You gotta give the man respect for being a pioneer and putting MMA more on the map. I train really hard and I train to finish and that is exactly what I plan to go in there and do. I am putting my foot down, it’s my hometown.”
This certainly promises to be a very memorable night in London. We wish Radcliffe all the best in the fight and for his future career. I will start thinking about who should play him in the movie.
Radcliffe wanted to thank his training partners and coaches as well as all of his sponsors.