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MMABay’s EXCLUSIVE interview with Dave O’Donnell ahead of UCMMA 26

February 1, 2012 All MMA News, Exclusives, Interviews  Comments 

With just days to go before UCMMA 26, MMABay sat down for a chat with promoter Dave O’Donnell to discuss the promotion’s first card of 2012. Dave speaks out on Pete Irving vs Luke Sines, Linton Vassell’s last minute change of opponent, Cory Tait vs Spencer Hewitt, Big Tomasz vs Big Stav, Iain Martell’s toughest test and more!

Cage Rage UK is no more. After briefly reverting to the name last year, the promotion has opted to return to the fresher, mainstream friendly UCMMA branding for 2012. We asked Dave what had prompted the change…

“I’ve had lots of strategy meetings over Christmas about the way forward. We’ve done 26 shows now including this weekend and we’re doing really well. We’ve built a big fan base…UCMMA is the way forward. A lot of people still have a grudge against Cage Rage, it’s too ‘in your face’, too barbaric. We’ve sat down and had a big meeting and said from this year onwards we’ve got a new logo, a new brand…so let’s go with it and see what 2012 holds for UCMMA!”

Saturday night’s main event has piqued the interest of combat sports fans in the UK for a number of reasons, most strikingly it features long-established MMA veteran Pete Irvin’s first foray into the world of K-1. We asked Dave what had prompted Pete to take a stand up fight against a lethal kickboxer like Luke Sines.

“Pete took (this fight) in a heartbeat. A lot of people don’t realise that I’d offered him a fight with Jemaine Facey in MMA and he actually turned around and said “Dave look, I’m loving stand-up at the moment, I’ve been to Thailand, I’m training with Keiron Keddle, I wanna prove what I’m worth in the stand-up game.”. Of course this is a big step up for him, but it’s just what he needed to get well known as a K-1 fighter. Personally I think both these guys are at the top of their game, I can’t see anyone getting knocked out, but I can see a close decision. They’re both gonna go at it, and there’s gonna be no feeling out!”

The co-main event of the evening recently suffered from the withdrawal of one of it’s participants. Dave discussed the reality of fighters balancing MMA and their home lives, and the importance of depth in an MMA card.

“MMA is an f-ing nightmare! We all know it, and I’ve said it time and time again. I don’t build our shows on one fight, or two fights, because of what MMA is. It’s hard enough with training and what they go through day in and day out, then on top of that they’ve got families, wives, jobs, mortgages, kids, illnesses…they’re human, just like us. If something does happen, you need a backup plan. I believe you need a strong card right the way through, because we’re only human at the end of the day and I don’t believe on selling a show just on one fight.”

Misiek may be out, but Aurelis Kerpe has stepped up to the plate at the eleventh hour. While many may be writing him off, we asked Dave if the late change might have affected Linton Vassell as he looks to claim the light heavyweight title.

“100% You look at (Aurelis’) record and you think “Ah, it’s a walk in the park”. But then you see some of the guys he’s beat… Y’know what, Ben Smith just said it to me today…you can’t underestimate anybody. It happened to Ben, he had a late replacement come in…you underestimate them and you get caught, and it can throw your whole gameplan off. So we’re hoping that Linton can just keep a straight head and do what he does best!”

Also on Saturday’s bill is an MMABay favourite, and one of the most exciting fighters in all of mixed martial arts, Cory Tait. Back at bantamweight after capturing the featherweight title in his last outing, Tait faces the challenge of Spencer Hewit. We asked Dave how good Cory is, and what he’s in store for with Hewitt.

“I think he’s the real deal. I’ve quoted him as being the next Anderson Silva. But I don’t give these guys a bum to fight. Spencer Hewitt is no mug, he’s been a champion in many other events. This guy has got a wicked ground game…he’s strong, he’s powerful and if Cory gets past him….then you know you’re dealing with someone who is right up there.”

Rounding out the card are two of the UK’s biggest, punchiest heavyweights, Stav Economou and Tomasz Cerwinski. Dave gave his thoughts on this titanic clash between two of the UK MMA scene’s biggest bangers.

“It could be ‘don’t blink or you’ll miss it’ or ‘oh my god, it’s gonna me a massive slugfest’. Both these guys are known for slugfests. Stav has been in some of the best slugfests ever, with Neil Grove, in with The Doctor (Marcin Barkeiwitz). Then you’ve got Tomaz vs Ian Hawkins, Tomasz vs Kiane…both of these guys don’t want to lay and pray. They want everybody on their feet!”

Never one to leave without a soundbyte, Dave offered this for anyone still on the fence about Saturday’s card

“Saturday is round the corner, so get your seatbelts on! I can’t wait for it!”

Neither can we. All the action goes down at London’s Troxy Theatre this Saturday Saturday night, with the main card being broadcast on Sky Sports next Wednesday. Check out www.UCMMA.tv for more info.

By Brad Wharton                             Follow me on Twitter @MMABayBrad

Thanks to Harry Shoebridge of UCMMA for setting up the interview.

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