Pearson, Wilks complete TUF 9’s British Invasion
Story by Anthony Springer Jr.
Photos courtesty of Josh Hedges, UFC
Forty-five years after musicians from the United Kingdom crossed the pond and captivated a generation of American music fans; a group of mixed martial artists conducted a “British Invasion” of their own, earning the respect of MMA fans worldwide.
Following in the footsteps of their coach, Michael Bisping, James Wilks and Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson claimed this season’s Ultimate Fighter titles in the welterweight and lightweight divisions respectively.
The wins put the exclamation point on a season of the hit reality show in which Team UK quite frankly kicked ass from start to finish.
Pearson bested fellow countryman Andre Winner, while James Wilks defeated the lone American in the finals, DeMarques Johnson. In victory, Pearson and Wilks—both underdogs at the sports books—were humble and offered no boastful statements about their wins.
“I saw the sports books yesterday,” Wilks said. “I think my friends were trying to keep it away from me. It didn’t affect me at all.”
Pearson echoed his teammate, “I didn’t really realize that I was the underdog going into the fight. I didn’t look at that or pay any attention. I just went on self-belief and knew that I could do it.”
While the pair suffered physical setbacks, the show’s accomplishments served as a great confidence booster to both men.
“Mentally, I was just focused,” Pearson said of his TUF experience. “To me, after the show finished, I thought I beat their better two guys and I was mentally strong going into the fight with Andre.”
“Winning three fights in a row on the show or outside the show—I won three fights outside the show—so that’s six wins in a row,” Wilks said, who stopped all of his opponents en route to the welterweight TUF crown. “Obviously that’s going to build confidence.”
Sitting next to one of the original Ultimate Fighters in Diego “Nightmare” Sanchez, Pearson and Wilks received some advice going forward.
“Believe in yourself and work hard,” he said to Pearson and Wilks. “Surround yourself with good mentors and good trainers and good people that are going to be positive people in your life.”
TUF 9 Finale Odds and Ends
For the first time in UFC history, three “Fight of the Night” bonuses were awarded. Sanchez-Guida, Stevenson-Diaz, and Lytle-Burns received an extra $25,000 for their efforts.
After beating Clay Guida, Diego Sanchez lobbied for a shot at the winner of the lightweight title fight between “That’s their decision and their call, and I respect their judgment…but I do definitely feel that I’m the number one contender,” Sanchez said with a smile. “I always have.”
Sanchez looked more explosive with this victory than he did in his first outing at 155 against Joe Stevenson.
“It’s a science, he said of cutting weight. “I’m getting experience doing it. I was in great shape for the Stevenson fight. I trained really hard for this fight [too]. It’s just a science. This fight, my game plan was to come in a little heavier to make it a little tougher on him to take me down, but that also affected my weight cut. I’m learning and I’m thankful for getting these two experiences before the big one.”
Clay Guida made last night’s fight a family affair. At one point, “The Carpenter’s” mother made her way to the front of the Octagon late in her son’s bout with Diego Sanchez to voice support for her son. And exactly how did everyone in sitting distance know that it was Guida’s mom?
She donned a shirt that said “Guida’s Mom.”
“Fight of the Night” bonus, $25,000. Having the support of your mother at Octagon side; priceless.