EXCLUSIVE: MMA Thread interviews Paul Bradley
We interview MMA veteran, Paul Bradley
Paul ‘The Gentleman’ Bradley is one of the most respected veterans in MMA, as he has fought in many organisations, most notably the UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce and currently, WSOF. Before his fight against Alexander Shlemenko at M-1 Challenge 75, Paul was gracious enough to answer a few questions for us.
We know who you are and we know that you’ve fought in basically every major promotion, but we want to know about you. Who is Paul Bradley?
Paul Bradley is a fighter. He’s a wrestling coach, nicknamed ‘The Gentleman.’ I’m from the mid-west here in the US. I’m a good old country boy. Not much else, man. I’m hard-working, devoted to the sport, devoted to wrestling and I love fighting.
You’ve just stated that your nickname is ‘The Gentleman.’ Where does that come from and what made you decide to use it as your moniker?
My first manager actually gave me that nickname when I first started out in 2006. I’m not really sure where he came up with it from. I think it’s a mid-west thing but I really didn’t like it at first, honestly. I kind of hated it and then it kind of just stuck with me and it kind of grew on me. I looked around and no-one else had that nickname and I started to like it so it’s been with me ever since 2006.
Well, it was a lot different fighting a guy like Yushin. Yushin is like 6 foot 2 or 6 foot 3, where Shlemenko is only about 5 foot 10 so I won’t have to deal with that much height this time. We’ll be really close in size. There’s not an overly large 85-pounder. It’ll be really nice to fight someone who’s strong point isn’t wrestling. One thing about Okami, he had really good wrestling, really good takedown defence. That’s kind of what he’s known for. But with Shlemenko, the game plan goes. Get in his face. Put pressure on him and use my wrestling to my advantage with strikes.
How did the fight with Shlemenko present itself?
It kind of came out of the blue, honestly. They were looking for an American wrestler to fight him and they couldn’t really find anybody, so my manager got a hold of me. He knew I was still reeling off of that loss to Okami, so when the fight presented itself, I thought about it and it seemed like the right thing to do, so I went ahead and took it. Like I said, a lot of factors played into it. Fighting him, he’s not a huge 85-pounder, so I think I match up well with him and it kind of just went from there.
You’ve been able to fight all over the world, but what goals do you have for the rest of your career?
Right now it’s to go over to M-1 and beat Shlemenko, first and foremost. Secondly, although I have that loss to Okami, he’s probably going to end up fighting for the WSOF title belt, so the next goal after beating Shlemenko is heading back to the World Series and hopefully fight a tough opponent and get that title shot. The goal is always to be a world champion in a major promotion, and I can only think of a few of them where it really matters with M-1, World Series of Fighting, Bellator, and the UFC, of course. First and foremost, go and beat Shlemenko, and secondly, get back in the World Series to get right back on that title hunt.
What would you say has been your career highlight so far?
Career highlight? I probably say either beating Karl Amoussou in my Bellator debut, or my knockout win over Chris Honeycutt. They were both huge win. Karl Amoussou has been devastating people, and from what I’ve seen in his past couple of fights, he’s probably going to be in the UFC pretty soon, and then with the Chris Honeycutt fight, that was just complete satisfaction as far as all the trash he talked and leading up to fight, and him saying he was gonna pick up where he left off from the last fight, so taking him out in like 40 seconds, it was awesome.
With you having fought for both Strikeforce and the UFC, what would say are the differences between them, management-wise?
Pretty much, Strikeforce, there was eleven people on staff I think. With the UFC, there’s hundreds of people on staff. Strikeforce was well-ran but the UFC was ran like a machine. Everything was on point. You had to be here, here, here at a certain time. They had more of a vantage in terms of employees and having things set up. It was more of a business in the UFC, and like I said, in Strikeforce, I could probably name every employee but in the UFC, I could name two.
What would you say has been the toughest fight for you, whether it be the fight itself or the build-up to the fight?
The toughest fight could have been Amoussou. In the first round I took a beating from him and I got tossed twice, but I came back in the second and third round and took over. Another tough one would probably be my loss to Luke Rockhold. I was, at that point in my career, I was outmatched against him and he was this huge prospect, a lot bigger than me, and it was a good learning experience. It put me on the right path, and sometimes you need those losses to see where you’re actually at.
What would you say has been the best fight for you?
Probably the Amoussou or Honeycutt fight. The Amoussou fight holds a place dear to me. It was my Bellator debut, about forty-five minutes away from my hometown in Iowa, so with that being said, there was a lot of pressure on me to go out and beat this guy. He was coming off that loss to Ben Askren in the title fight, so he’s a very dangerous opponent. No-one was really asking for that fight, but I took it. I went out and I beat him. It was great. It was great to have all the friends and family there, and it’s definitely a highlight of my career.
Do you have any dream match-ups?
Well, you know, if we’re talking World Series of Fighting, absolutely. I think Jake Shields makes sense for me next. Obviously I want that rematch with Okami. I think guys in my division like Okami, Jake Shields and Jon Fitch are match-ups that I would love to get. In M-1, obviously Shlemenko is obviously the biggest name you can ask for. He’s their biggest name. He’s their biggest star and he’s trying to be the next Fedor. The goal there is, like I said, to take him out and get back to business here in the States.
Who would you say is the best fighter in the world in your division?
Tyron Woodley, man. The guy’s devastating. He’s powerful. He’s explosive. He looks great, man. I think he’s probably one of the best right now. Maybe another one I can think of was Cowboy Cerrone for a minute but Jorge Masvidal put an end to that, so overall, it’s a cliche to say because he’s the champ, but Woodley looks great, man. I thought he won that last fight against Thompson just on pure damage and knockdowns, but I think he’s one of the top fighters in world. Then you got Ben Askren out there. He hasn’t fought in a while but nobody can seem to beat that guy, so I guess he’s another guy that you’ve got to put in that category.
Do you see the same result occurring between Woodley and Thompson at UFC 209, or do you see a different result happening?
I mean, I hope Woodley, you know, I understand it’s a business and you’ve got to make your fights exciting, but I hope he goes back to his wrestling and just pummels him like he did in the first round in the first fight. With that being said, if he leaves the distance with Thompson, we could have the same type of fight. Like I said, I think Woodley won that first fight, but I guess two of the judges thought it was even. I’m going with Woodley this fight. I’m thinking he’s going to go with his wrestling and put a stop to that devastating stand-up that Thompson has.
We know that you’ve got a big wrestling background. How important has that been to you throughout your career?
It’s been huge! When I first started out, my striking was nowhere near where it is now. Every fight was based on my wrestling. It’s nice being able to dictate where the fight goes, and I think I showed that in the fight with Okami, even though I didn’t get the W. I dropped him in the first round and hit him with some devastating shots and take him to the ground. In the Honeycutt fight, he was primarily a wrestler, but I was able to keep the fight standing and hit him with a devastating blow and get the knockout, so it’s been huge while I’ve been developing my striking, so if you don’t have wrestling or striking, you’re kind of left out at sea.
— Paul Bradley (@paulbradley184) February 4, 2017
Other than wrestling, are there any other martial arts that you enjoy watching or participating in?
I really like jiu-jitsu. I’m actually a brown belt in Gi jiu-jitsu, and I won a world title a few years ago at purple belt, and it was the IBJJF championships. It goes really well with my grappling and my wrestling, so I really do enjoy watching jiu-jitsu and grappling.
Like you said, you started your professional career in 2006, and since then, MMA has grown massively. What do you put that down to?
Obviously, the UFC have built a brand. Dana White and the Fertitta brothers have bought it into a household name and did a great job. The popularity of the sport has grown through the exposure of Fox, Spike, all these different TV promotions, NBC Sports picking up World Series. It’s broadcast nationally now, whereas before you could only find it on pay-per-view and dish networks. Everyone says it’s a fast-growing sport, but I just think Dana White and the Fertitta brothers really did a great job in getting it where it is today.
Do you ever see MMA taking over boxing?
That’s tough to say, man. Boxing’s been around since the beginning of time. Everyone loves it, but with that being said, I think there’s better fights in MMA now than there is in boxing. I can definitely see it matching up well. I don’t know about taking it over, but it’s definitely doing a good job of getting more viewership over boxing.
How big do you think it was for MMA to finally have the sport legalised in New York?
Huge. I was able to fight on the second card ever in New York in Madison Square Garden. That was amazing. You know, that’s the hub of the United States. For them to be able to get that license is New York is a huge step in the right direction for our sport.
What’s the atmosphere like competing in New York compared to competing in other cities?
It was crazy. A lot of people always busy. There’s always someone you’re bumping into. It was great though. The fans were knowledgeable. The atmosphere was great. The promotion was great for WSOF. It was one of the things I could tick off my bucket list before my career ended someday.
What would say is the best thing overall about being a professional Mixed Martial Artist?
I think just giving yourself the chance to test yourself, day in and day out. Going inside the cage is something that only one percent of people can really do. Everyone wants to go train and call themselves a fighter, but at the end of the day, only a select few can say that they’ve competed at the highest level and I’m lucky to say I’ve competed against some of the best in world. It’s been a great journey.
What’s the toughest thing about being a Mixed Martial Artist?
I would say probably financially. You never know for sure when that next fight’s coming. When you lose it’s the end of the world and when you win it’s like the best thing ever. It’s the highest of high and the lowest of low. With that being said, you’ve got to be able to balance those things and take it all into account. It can be really tough as a fighter. Like I said, you’re one of the select few who know what it’s like. People want to sit there and criticise you and tell you what it takes to get there. It’s a pretty lonely road, being an MMA fighter, honestly.
Going back to boxing and MMA, what do you make of the potential McGregor-Mayweather fight?
I hope it happens, but I don’t see it happening. With that being said, it’s two completely different sports. Mayweather’s a master boxer. McGregor is a great boxer in his own right. He’s amazing, man. I love watching him. The way he judges distances, it’s unreal. It’s like the matrix type of stuff. With that being said, he’s going up to another level if he steps in there against Mayweather. I’m not saying he’s going to get brutally knocked out or anything, but I don’t think he has a chance against a boxer like Mayweather.
You’re entering your eleventh year as a professional fighter now. How long do you see your career lasting?
I haven’t really put a timeline on it yet, but I’ve been looking into other businesses ventures and whatnot. I just want to have myself set up when the time comes to hang it up. We see so many of these fighters that go from the highest of high to the lowest of low. You’ve got Mark Coleman for instance. He’s a legend of the sport and now the guy as a Go Fund Me page to get a hip replacement, he’s so broke, so with that being said, I’m currently putting stuff in place in terms of back-up plans with what I’m going to do after I’m done fighting. That’s the biggest thing. When I feel like I’m losing a step, I think it’s time for me to go. I’m not going to stick around just to fight for a pay-cheque.
What do you make of the talk of commissions making marijuana a legal drug in fighting?
I’m not a marijuana user myself, but I don’t see a problem with it. It’s not a performance enhancer. If anything, it just mellows you out. It doesn’t bring out your aggression or anything. I’ve never understood why it’s been banned anyway. It really does nothing to help you in a fight, so hopefully it soon gets passed. Like I said, all these guys getting suspended, like the Diaz Brothers, for it. Come on, man. It’s kind of a joke to suspend someone for marijuana.
If you could change anything about your career, what would you change?
The one thing I would change? It’s tough to say. The one thing maybe I’d change… I don’t know, maybe not moving out to San Diego a little bit sooner. I have one of the best fight teams in the world and I guess I maybe should have came out here sooner. Maybe in 2009 instead of 2013 or 2014, whenever I came out here. I would say that I would have probably came out to Alliance a little sooner.
At the start of your career, did you see yourself being in the position that you’re in now?
Yeah, I think I had the goal of always being one of the best fighters in the world, or trying to be the best. Did I know I was going to go this far with it? No. I think it all got set in place when I had to make a huge decision when in 2008, I was offered to go on The Ultimate Fighter. It was one of moments where I had to give up a very good job where I was making very good money, a good pension, a good salary. I was doing great so I think that kind of set the course for where I’m at today, and made me become a full-time fighter.
You’re one of the World Series of Fighting’s biggest names, but how big can you see WSOF growing as a promotion?
You know, I’ve been hearing all these rumours from different reports saying they’re going to sell some assets and that, but I’ve been assured by the company that it’s just writers looking for that next story. I hope it can get big. They’re on NBC, and their views on New Year’s Day were amazing. I think they had around 1.5 million views, and I hope it keeps growing. From everything I’ve heard, they’re going to be signing more fighters and growing bigger. We need more promotions like that to compete with the UFC. Bellator’s doing a great job of competing with them. It’s good because it stops that monopoly. All of us fighters can gain from this and get paid a little bit more.
When you aren’t fighting or preparing to fight, what do you enjoy doing? How do you unwind?
Probably my biggest thing is my motorcycles. I bought a Harley Davidson in 2014. It was kind of like a gift to myself after a big win in Bellator. You know, it gets tedious, training for big fights. You’ve got to eat right and you can’t go out and party. You can’t go out and socialise. You’re kind of stuck watching movies or just hanging out in your house. With the bike, I can get out on the road and unwind. I can enjoy the view of beautiful San Diego and the rest of Southern California.
How important is it to have that time to unwind?
It’s huge. If you just hang out day in and day out and continuously think about the fight, you’re going to unravel. You’re going to burn yourself out. The only time I try to think about the fight is the week of the fight and right before the fight. If you’re thinking about the fight day in and day out, it becomes too much. Like I said, you start to unravel and you become unhappy. It’s the same with anything. I mean, you don’t take your work home with you. You leave it in the gym.
What advice would you give to young fighters who are just starting out in MMA?
The biggest piece of advice would be to start slow, get a good manager and train every single aspect of the sport. Don’t just go and become an amazing striker with no wrestling defence. Don’t become an amazing jiu-jitsu guy with no stand-up. In this day and age, it’s important to become a complete fighter. Select your matches right as you’re coming up.
Any last words for the readers?
Thank you for the support. Like you said, I’m on my eleventh year of fighting and I’m still going strong. I’m still enjoying the sport. I love the sports. It’s been an incredible journey and I appreciate all of my friends, family and fans who have supported me and shown me love.
We at MMA Thread would like to thank Paul for giving some of his time.
You can follow Paul on Twitter @paulbradley184.
We wish Paul luck at M-1 Challenge 75.