(“I’m ready to go in there and shock the world.”)
By CagePotato Special Contributor Ben Fowlkes
Chris Wilson is in a difficult spot. The Team Quest welterweight and former member of the IFL’s Portland Wolfpack was offered his first UFC fight just a few weeks ago, against one of their toughest, most highly touted 170-pound contenders: Jon Fitch. Of course he accepted, but now oddsmakers have him as one of the biggest underdogs going into UFC 82. In this exclusive interview he indulges in a little straight-talk about taking a pay cut to fight in the Octagon, training with Dan Henderson, and how he plans to prove everyone wrong on Saturday night.
CagePotato: Jon Fitch is obviously a tough fighter, and he’s riding a fourteen-fight win streak. What are you expecting from him and how are you planning to deal with it?
Chris Wilson: I expect him to come in and do the things he does best, which is throw hard punches, try to get you in a corner, and get on top. That’s his game plan. That’s where he’s most comfortable and that’s what’s worked for him, and I don’t see him trying to change that now. If he were looking to come in and show how good his striking is, I think he would try and do it against someone with much less chance of knocking him out. But if he’s going to stand in front of me it will make his night a lot harder.
A lot of people talk about Octagon jitters when a guy has his first UFC fight. You’ve fought in front of big crowds before in several different organizations, so how do you think your first UFC fight will affect you?
It’s hard for me to say that I won’t be affected by it because I haven’t been there yet. But like you said, I have fought in front of crowds of many thousands of people. Maybe not as many as the UFC brings in, but I know what that kind of pressure feels like. There are certain things that I think will help me deal with it. Being an underdog helps take some of the pressure off me. Also, it helps that I’ve been to UFC events and cornered my teammates there. I’ve walked through that tunnel and out into the arena with the screaming fans. Even if it wasn’t me who was fighting that night, at least I know what to expect. I guess I just have to wait and see.
Tell me about how you were offered the fight against Jon Fitch after Akihiro Gono got injured. I heard you were on vacation when you got the call.
Yeah, I had just arrived in Hawaii for a vacation. Obviously I was ecstatic and I was ready to do it, but I wasn’t in fight mode. I wasn’t completely out of shape, but I wasn’t training for a big-time fight like this. But I took the fight, so I can’t complain. Who’s going to pass on that opportunity?
Did that kind of ruin your vacation?
Yeah. Honestly, it did. I went from training every other day to training twice a day. My wife is seven months pregnant and she and my four-year-old son were with me and I wasn’t able to spend a lot of time with them, so it threw a wrench in our vacation. There was a lot of money down the tubes in that sense.
What went through your mind when they told you they wanted you to fight Fitch?
The first thing that went through my mind was, “What happened to Gono?” I knew that was the fight they had scheduled. The very next thing that went through my head was, “Wow, this is my chance.” Of course, after that, I started thinking, damn it, I’m getting this opportunity with only four or five weeks to train. But I’ve done everything I could in the time I’ve had to prepare for this fight. I trained as hard as I could in Hawaii. I trained hard when I got home. I trained hard for two weeks up in Big Bear with Dan Henderson and those guys. I’m ready to go in there and shock the world.
I read that you’re taking a pay cut from what you usually make just to take this fight. Is that true, and how do you feel about your compensation and the UFC pay scale in general?
As a professional fighter, there are three things you look at when you’re offered a fight: the opponent, the money, and the promotion. When I left the IFL they had a TV deal, but I had already fought several of their best guys. I never fought a bench guy. The only guy I hadn’t fought was Delson [Heleno]. If I stayed, I would have probably just fought most of the same guys again. I thought the money could be better if I went elsewhere, and it was. With the UFC, it’s a bit of a pay cut, though they’re giving me more than lot of first-timers get. It’s still a pay cut, but the opportunity for exposure is so huge and the talent pool is so deep, it’s just a business decision that makes sense for my career.
Honestly, have you ever fought anyone who was tougher than Jon Fitch will be? Are you expecting this to be the most difficult fight you’ve had so far?
I would say this is the biggest fight of my career. In terms of the name he has, it’s definitely the biggest. But in terms of skill set, that’s different. I’m not saying he’s overrated — he’s a tough opponent, he’s got a ton of willpower and a ton of great skills — but everybody’s beatable. I think I’m competitive at the highest levels of this sport. Despite being a tough test, I definitely think it’s a winnable fight. I’m not thinking, “Oh no, Jon Fitch.” I can definitely win this fight.
Since you’ve been training with Dan Henderson, are you able to give an objective analysis of how you think his fight with Anderson Silva will go?
An objective analysis? Probably not. I’ve got to go with Dan. I admire Anderson Silva’s style a lot. He’s a tall, lanky striker, just like me. But I know Dan Henderson. I’ve trained with him, and he’s my teammate. Not only do I want him to win because he’s my teammate, but I know how he’s training and I’ve seen what he can do to a guy who fights like Anderson and I do. It’s hard for me, for that reason, not to pick Dan. I think he’s going to win.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us Chris. Is there anything else you want to add?
Yeah, don’t miss the fight. I’ve got my heart set on making it fight of the night, and hopefully knockout of the night. I definitely want to thank Premier Fighter and Metabolic Adaptation, Phil Quad at the Sports Lab, and Mike Dolce at strengthcoachonline.com.