When did you start martial arts training, and in what style?
My martial arts journey began with Brazilian jiu-jitsu when I was 23 years old. I was an unfit, couch-loving, video game nerd back then. My brother encouraged me to get off the couch and try to find out what I can become. Honestly, it was like magic and changed my entire life. After I had done BJJ for a couple of years, I decided to try my hand at MMA and started kickboxing, wrestling, boxing and even tried a little bit of Northern Shaolin [kung fu] that my brother showed me. Every time I think I have a favourite, I train a little more in a different style and discover something even better.
Ten years earlier, your doctors gave you the dire prognosis that death was imminent. How did you handle that as a 13-year-old kid, and how much influence did that have on you developing the will and determination of a fighter?
It was tough but at the same time, I was too sick to do or feel very much about it at the time. I knew that I didn’t want to die and I did whatever I had to do to push onward. Knowing that I came so close to death has had a profound effect on me as a person and a fighter. In one way, it has given me the sense that you can accomplish almost anything, but you have to be willing to try and to persevere even when it all seems impossible. In another way, nearly dying made me realise how fragile life is and made me value every moment so much more. It has made me realise that I have to enjoy every moment. I’ve been given 20 years of extra time so far and I’m determined to push myself and make the most of it all.
With most of your victories coming by way of submission, how important do you think it is that you have a Brown-belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu?
I’m very aware of the fact that submissions tend to be more dominant in, if you will, ‘amateur’ MMA or the lower end of MMA, and submissions get much, much harder to come by as you get higher in the rankings. I still feel like my jiu-jitsu is very dominant and when I do get the fight to the ground I do get the finishes.
How much does your grappling dictate the way your fights play out?
I feel like I am working my wrestling as much as possible, I’m working my position game and my ground-and-pound so that I can explode when I get the fight to the ground. I’ve been trying to work on my stand-up…it probably wasn’t the best way to test it in the world to go up against Daniel Way (laughs). In retrospect, trying to stand with a guy who is maybe one of the best [standing] probably wasn’t the best idea; I tried to give it a crack for a few minutes and it wasn’t a good idea. After the fight, I said that I wished I’d discovered I had great head movement instead of a great chin! But, having a great chin does give me the ability to get into the wrestle so that I can get the fight to the ground and go for the finish as soon as I hit the ground.
What does your typical weekly training regimen look like?
At the moment, weekdays, I do about 90 minutes of strength and conditioning in the morning at Fast Twitch Performance Centre. In the evenings, I do around two-to-three hours of my martial arts. Depending on the night, that might be BJJ, wrestling, boxing [and/or] kickboxing, and most nights have MMA. On the weekends, I do an MMA class that is specific to techniques on the cage and do my hard sparring in the cage with Trinity MMA. Sunday is always my day of rest because, as my coach always says, rest is training too!
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Andrew Raynor New Hampshire