This was my big moment. It was my first fight in the competition and my first fight on The Ultimate Fighter. I was the first one to compete and I didn’t really have that much time to train beforehand. I knew going into the show that the longer I was in there the better I’d become. I’m a very quick leaner and I love spending time in the gym working on things. I would have preferred not to fight so early in the competition but, in hindsight, I won the fight and got off to a great start.
Looking back, it was actually really useful to fight first. Everyone else was unsure when they were going to fight and therefore had to constantly monitor their weight. They could be called to fight at any time. That’s quite stressful on both the body and the mind. I got my first fight out of the way and then I knew I had at least three weeks to wait before the semi-finals. That gave me a good idea of when I needed to make weight and provided me with some kind of schedule. I was pleased it worked out that way.
I wasn’t too surprised to be picked first by Team USA. I remember I felt pretty tired after my elimination bout with Tommy Maguire, and I figured Team USA probably thought my fitness wasn’t what it should have been. Maybe that’s the reason they picked me.
Later on, while talking to the coaches, we decided that made Dan Henderson liked the idea of Mark Miller getting somebody who would stand with him. We all knew Mark was a striker and perhaps Team USA saw me as Team UK’s weakest striker.
That didn’t bother me. I can fight standing and on the ground. For the majority of my fights in Britain I’ve started standing and then taken the guy down and beaten him on the ground. I was happy to fight Miller wherever he went.
During the fight, things didn’t exactly go how I expected. Straight from the off I became involved in a brawl. All game plans went out the window. I got a bit excited and was enjoying things a bit too much. I’ve never actually done that in my career before.
I should have been using my range more, but I was just getting stuck in and fighting his fight. That was a risky tactic and he actually caught me a couple of times.
We were both a little nervous and we both really wanted to win. That’s probably why things got a little scrappy and hectic in there. He was actually a little better on the ground than I expected, and I was surprised I couldn’t secure a dominant position against him on the ground.
It worked out fine in the end, though. I was over-the-moon with the high-kick to finish matters. The high-kick is probably the most exciting way you can finish any fight and I was delighted to knock him out with it. It was actually the first kick I’d thrown in the fight and it did the job. I was just glad to just put the guy away and finish the fight, to be honest – I needed a bit of a rest.
It was the first time I’d ever knocked anyone out with a head kick in MMA. I’d put a few people away with kicks in kung-fu, but it was my first in MMA. I was so pleased to win like that.
A lot of the Americans were backing Mark to win the whole thing and they all saw him as one of their strongest competitors. Mark and his coaches were just expecting him to run through me with ease. It was nice to prove them all wrong.
After that fight, the mood in the house changed dramatically. The Americans always saw us UK guys as the underdogs, and my knockout of Miller provided them with a rude awakening. We were all buzzing after it. It gave us a lot of faith and confidence and told us that we belonged at that level. All the other UK guys were raring to go after that first fight.
I wasn’t impressed with the Americans’ idea to start writing on our clothes. I didn’t find that funny at all. I’m all for doing pranks and playing games so long as they’re funny, but scribbling stuff on our clothes was neither funny or clever. It was pretty pathetic and we didn’t even really get caught up in that stuff. They hadn’t won a fight yet, and that’s where it all counts. That’s the real scoreboard.
My win over Miller got us off to a 1-0 start and, to be honest, it was probably the proudest moment of my career so far. I was representing my country and I overcame adversity to beat one of the favourites in the tournament…