Home SPORTS UFC’s Jared Cannonier recharged for another run at title

UFC’s Jared Cannonier recharged for another run at title

by NYPost
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Jared Cannonier (15-6, 12 finishes) returns to the cage for the first time since coming up short of his bid for the middleweight title in July, headlining the final UFC Fight Night of 2022 against Sean Strickland (25-4, 14 finishes). In advance of the event Saturday (7 p.m. ET, ESPN+) from UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Cannonier spoke Wednesday with The Post’s Scott Fontana for this week’s Post Fight Interview Q&A session.

Q: This fight was originally scheduled for October before Strickland pulled out in August, which would have been a quick turnaround for you after challenging for the middleweight title in July.
A: You’re absolutely right. I was gonna fight two months ago. I would have preferred the fight earlier, but it’s all good; more time to train, more time to get better, more time to ingrain all the techniques I need for victory.

Q: You haven’t had fights that close together since the start of your UFC run in 2016. Why the interest in fighting again so soon?
A: I’ve dealt with injuries in between fights, especially 2020 and ’21, so I wanted to get right back to it. I want to stay busy in general, but things happen. At first, it was work, early on in my UFC career. Not most recently, but in the past, the injuries. I just want to stay busy. Of course, the title is always a goal, so forward progression is a must. And the only way to make that happen is to fight.

Jared Cannonier faces Israel Adesanya in the UFC middleweight championship fight during the UFC 276.
Zuffa LLC

Q: You’re coming off your first UFC championship fight. It didn’t go your way against Israel Adesanya, but what were your takeaways from the experience?
A: I learned a lot from that fight moving around with Israel, one of the best in the game, and experiencing his ability to avoid damage and pick his shots and stuff. I learned a lot from that experience. On top of that, being in the championship fight, title fight on one of the biggest pay-per-views of the year. And on top of all that, all the things I started developing during camp, all that has carried over into now, if you will.

Q: What was going through your head at the time the Strickland fight was postponed at the end of August?
A: We figured out what was going to happen. I figured they were gonna reschedule it. At that time, “Oh, crap. Oh well. Go back to the gym, get back to work.” Took the family to Hawaii, so we took a nice little vacation, came back to Arizona and got right back to work. Got the phone calls I like to get, and here we are.

Q: How was the Hawaii trip?
A: Oh, Hawaii is nice. Maui was really nice. … We were in Paia. It was real nice. Some good food. The weather was nice, and the water was even nicer.

Q: Probably a good recharge because you were still coming off that big fight.
A: It was a really good recharge. When I got back and I got back to training, I felt very refreshed. I felt really good, so it was a really good reset button.

Q: As far as Strickland goes, do you two have any history? Have you interacted or trained together over the years?
A: No, I’ve never trained with him. Never interacted with him. The closest I’ve been to him was the press conference for the title fight.

Q: What’s your assessment of Strickland as a fighter and how you two match up?
A: I think he’s a hard-nosed fighter. He comes forward. He puts his fist in your face. I heard he’s a pretty good grappler on the ground as well, just haven’t seen it because he hasn’t needed it, which is a testament to how good his fighting is. He’s a good competitor, a good opponent to have, and I’m excited to have him. 

Q: Strickland is coming off of his loss to Alex Pereira, who’s now the champion. You’re coming off the loss to Adesanya, who lost to Pereira at Madison Square Garden last month. What goes through your head in the aftermath of a fight that creates some upheaval and maybe a new opportunity at the top of the middleweight division?
A: The thing that went through my head was that — and I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — the belt changing hands the way it did brings more interest to the division as opposed to bringing more interest to Israel himself. It’s unfortunate that he lost the belt the way he did; I thought he was on his way to winning that fight. But it is what it is. It’s the name of the game. It happens. Congrats to Alex.

Jared Cannonier reacts after winning his middleweight fight against Derek Brunson via a second-round knockout during UFC 271.
Jared Cannonier reacts after winning his middleweight fight against Derek Brunson via a second-round knockout during UFC 271.
Getty Images

Q: Are you thinking you’re maybe just a few fights away from another championship opportunity?
A: Yeah, absolutely. In this position, I’m ranked No. 3 [in the UFC contender rankings]. That’s always the thought in my mind because it’s right there. You can reach out and touch it. I can damn near taste it. It’s right there. So hell yeah, who could ignore that,? I definitely want to perform the way I want to perform this weekend [to] definitely tell the matchmakers or whoever it is out there that makes the decision that, “Yeah, maybe we should give him a title shot again.” Or a contenders fight, one or the other.

Q: You had your own Garden moment in 2018 against a local guy in David Branch. That was a big win for you. Take me through the feeling of that moment?
A: It was a good moment. Those moments are fleeting, though. … It was quickly overlapped by Brazil, though, because I fought Anderson [Silva] after that fight. So it was quickly overlapped. And I would say that fight was matched by the performance in Copenhagen [against Jack Hermansson] after Brazil. But it was good. The pre-walkout motivation I got from the fan in the stands, I forgot the kid’s name; Ironside MMA, I think, is his name on Instagram. And then the performance, fighting a top-level [former] dual-weight champion in another organization. And he’s a legend of the sport. He’s been around for a long time. He’s fought a lot of different top names. At that point in my career, I was shooting for the moon.

Q: What was your first experience watching MMA?
A: I had left college and I was at home at my momma’s house, and I was getting ready to enlist in the Army. I can’t remember who was fighting. It was 2005. … It was one of those Hall of Famers. I remember watching that, and I was like, “Man, that looked fun.” And at the time, my mother was opening our home up to foster kids and stuff, and one of them was a friggin’ martial artist; lived in a Buddhist temple in Ecuador, El Salvador or someplace like that, and he was a refugee. So he knew some stuff, you know what I’m saying? We had gloves, we would spar and stuff like that every now and then. Then I joined the Army, and they had Modern Army Combatives, and that was my first real taste of formal martial arts, not just in the backyard with gloves on, trying to do some stuff. 

Q: Typical walkaround weight between fights?
A: About 212 [pounds], 215. … But I fluctuate big-time. I can get up to, like, 230 If I’m not doing anything for weeks on end; I’m just eating like I don’t have a fight coming up (laughs), eating like an undisciplined oaf.

Q: Typical weight on fight night?
A: Maybe a light heavyweight: 205, 202.

Q: Favorite post-fight meal?
A: I try to stay clean. I try to stay as natural as possible. I don’t go to a fast food restaurant and gorge myself on chemically-created foods and stuff because that ain’t really food to me. I might indulge somewhere, somehow, but it’s gotta be a top-quality type thing for it to draw me. Other than that, I keep it pretty general: a meat, some fruits, some veggies, something like that. If I could find something extraordinary, extravagant, then I’ll go for it. But I try to stay as natural as possible, as clean as possible.

Q: What’s the coolest technique in combat sports?
A: I have a few of my repertoire that I think are pretty cool. I got some spinning s–t in there, some acrobatic-type stuff. I call [them] my $50,000 moves. I don’t want to say what they are on camera. I want to show the world. … The best technique, I would say, is to have no technique, as the grandmaster Bruce Lee once said.

This story originally appeared on NYPost

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