Sunday, March 18, 2018

Scottish light heavyweight Paul Craig won one of the most memorable finishes in a very long time at UFC Fight Night 127 on Saturday night. He was dominated by then-undefeated Russian invader Magomed Ankalaev, and with seconds to go, went for a Triangle choke. Ankalaev tapped, with by some calculations 1/3 of a second to go.

Craig, 30, went 8-0 in MMA, capped by winning the BAMMA light heavyweight championship. That win was via Triangle choke too. He entered the UFC in 2016 with a win over Henrique da Silva at UFC on Fox 22 in 2016; that one won a performance bonus too.

Next, he was finished with strikes in Round 1, back to back, by Tyson Pedro and Khalil Rountree. With three losses, he would surely have been cut. But instead, he won in an extraordinarily spectacular fashion.


“I heard that wee chap [with the 10 second clapper] and I just thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’” said Craig to the Simon Head and Abbey Subhan team for MMAjunkie. “Fire up a triangle, see what happens. And as my coach says, it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

“I don’t know if you saw me take a big body shot. But after that I was like ‘Aaaah, goddamn. Please help me!’ I had to just dig deep. It’s hard when you’re up against a guy who’s very, very strong. He’s got some sort of Russian strength about him – I don’t know what they feed them up in Russia, but he’s solid.

“I managed to get two takedowns, but when you’re lying and you’ve been on your back for 10, 15 minutes, it feels like a lifetime, and it’s really, really hard to dig deep.”

However, in a moment of characteristically extraordinary modesty, Craig still fears he could be cut.

“I don’t really know if I’ve done enough to get my contract renewe,” he said. “We never know. The UFC have got this massive roster, and if I was Dana White and I was watching that, I’d be like, ‘Ah, mate. You’re getting no contract. You can fight for somebody else.’

“I’m being genuinely serious. I’m not gonna lie to you and sugar-coat this. But you know what? In another six months, and I’ll be better again. And another six months again, and I’ll be better again. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to get better. I’ve only been doing this sport for five years. There are guys who have dedicated their whole lives to this.”

“I’ve got good jiu-jitsu. We’ve seen that before through BAMMA to the UFC (and) my first debut. My jiu-jitsu is my bread and butter. I’m always trying to work on my stand-up. I know I’m not a great striker. I’m not gonna lie to you and say, ‘You seen my striking, big fella? You’d better watch it!’ I’m good, but it’s hard to improve.”

“You’ve got a lot of time in that cage. It’s 15 minutes, and the only person there is you and your thoughts. Things run through your head. I’m thinking about my family. I’m thinking: ‘Paul, is this what you want? Do you want this?’

“But I just kept thinking about my daughters and how much I’ve taken from them, time with my family, to go into the gym and train. Freezing cold, raining, you name it, I’m in that gym. It’s a horrible existence. Fighting in the UFC is hard, and the people that suffer are your family. But you know what makes it wee bit better? We just got a win, and we just got a submission win. I’m over the moon, man.”

UFC president Dana White gives out the performance bonuses. Paul Craig will not be cut