If a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter then Tom Breese may have to be accompanied by a parental warning sticker when he makes his walk to the Octagon at UFC Fight Night London tomorrow night.
The former welterweight prospect suffered the first loss of his 11-fight career last time out, dropping a lackluster split decision to Sean Strickland at UFC 199 in the summer. But over the last nine months heâ€™s moved his training back to the UK, moved up to 185lb and judging by the smile on his face, he couldnâ€™t be any happier.
â€śIâ€™m in a great place and really looking forward to bouncing back with a big performance,â€ť the 25-year-old tells FO. â€śIâ€™m here in London looking to steal the show with a big finish. Iâ€™m feeling big and strong and fitter than ever and Im going to be getting after the finish, looking to put on a real show for the fans.â€ť
Breese spent the last two years at Tristar in Montreal working with head coach Firas Zahabi and the gymâ€™s plethora of talent. And while he admits it was a great time in his career development he also accepts life in Canada ultimately tamed his style and the big team mentality was in some ways counter productive to his fighting ambitions.Â
Breese admits: â€śItâ€™s great to go there and be amongst high level guys, but it ultimately wasnâ€™t for me. I want to build a team around me and really work for the future. Iâ€™m still in contact with the coaches at Tristar and Iâ€™ll continue to go out there and also to New York, but my feet are firmly back on UK shores now. I have everything I need right here to achieve my goals.
â€śThe level in both grappling and MMA has really leapt forward here in the UK. Itâ€™s become so much more popular, more people are doing it, and also more people like myself are gravitating back home and bringing back the stuff weâ€™ve learnt away. So Iâ€™m in a really good place.â€ť
He adds: â€śSometimes at a big gym where there are so many high level fighters you may not agree with what a coach is telling you so I wanted to retain ownership of my entire training.Â
â€śAs fighters we know better than anybody what we need to work on and develop. And also I was a bit fed up being away from home. Iâ€™m happiest when Iâ€™m back home in Birmingham, when Iâ€™m in the UK with my friends and family around me. And Iâ€™ve really felt and benefitted from that in this camp.
â€śSince moving back home I also have a lot more pride in my work. When it comes to fighting and training I really do feel like I want to make myself and everybody around me proud. Itâ€™s crazy but when you are in another country it just doesnâ€™t have the same feeling, going to the gym every day.â€ť
Breese was quick to shoulder the blame himself for the Strickland loss, but admits the mentality of life in Montreal perhaps neutralized his natural fighting instructs.
â€śThe performance against Strickland was my own fault,â€ť he says bluntly, â€śthat didnâ€™t have anything particularly to do with Tristar. But I learnt a lot of lessons from that fight. The main one is to just to go after it far more. Iâ€™m fitter now than Iâ€™ve ever been and so I really want to be stepping on guys and pushing them hard. Distance control was a big thing, perhaps too big. I was trying to do everything perfectly and not take chances, but now Iâ€™m feeling like my old self again I just want to get in there and get stuck in.
â€śI really want to push forward and finish fights again, like I used to. In the Strickland fight I felt like I had more quality than him, I felt like I was more rounded than him. But my volume was low and I was letting him push the pace too much. But Iâ€™m not going to let that happen again. Iâ€™ve been getting a lot of quality boxing sparring with Team GB in and thatâ€™s very physical and really pushing the pace. My cardio is there, I know that. Iâ€™ve really focused a lot on that. So when the door closes Iâ€™ll be looking to close that distance and put the fight on my opponents for sure.â€ť
Oluwale Bamgbose will be standing across from the Brit when the Octagon door closes tomorrow. A hard hitting Thai fighter from the Bronx, he rarely takes a backward step and obviously carries his biggest threat in the striking department. Yet Breese admits heâ€™s happy to take on the New Yorker wherever the fight goes.
â€śI see a lot of weaknesses in his game,â€ť Breese states. â€śHeâ€™s a very dangerous opponent if you let him strike. If he gets his shots off he can hurt you with his power. But I am going to come at him at a pace and Iâ€™m going to come at him from all angles. And I believe thatâ€™s how Iâ€™ll get the finish.
â€śEveryone keeps asking me if Iâ€™ll be looking to take him down and get the submission, but I donâ€™t ever like to think any fight is going to go one way. This is MMA so anything can happen. But if the takedown is there Iâ€™ll take it. If the left high kick or the uppercut is there Iâ€™ll take that. Iâ€™m comfortable with my own ability to be able to take the fight as it comes and not plan for one specific type of outcome.Â
â€śThe only thing I will be focusing on is the finish. High volume, make him clinch and finish him. The victory is everything.â€ť
BreeseÂ finished: â€śThe '0' has gone now so the pressure is off not having to protect an unbeaten record. I feel like I can be let off the leash now and really express myself. The new and improved Tom Breese is coming to the O2 on Saturday night. Iâ€™m super motivated and really hungry for this one. Hopefully, I give the fans the type of finish I know they want to see from me.Â
â€śIâ€™m only 25 years old but I have lofty ambitions in this sport and still believe Iâ€™m going to be a world champion. Everybody has losses. This is only the beginning for me. Iâ€™ve got a long UFC career ahead and the future is ultimately championship class. Iâ€™m three or four wins from the top 10 in this weight class. Itâ€™s not as deep as welterweight and thatâ€™s good for me. Three fights this year then a fight against someone in the top 10 early 2018 is what Iâ€™m hoping to achieve. Iâ€™m just getting started.â€ť
* Breese vs. Bamgbose is part of tomorrowâ€™s UFC Fight Night London prelim card, live on UFC Fight Pass worldwide and on BT Sport in the UK. Check local listings for start times.