MMAjunkie recently interviewed UFC fighter Sean O’Connell ahead of his UFC Fight Night 43 bout with Gian Villante. Below are some highlights.
O’Connell on MMA being a sport of love: “I just want people to know that this is a sport of love, and it’s one of the few ones left in the professional sporting world where you actually have to love the grind and love what you’re doing. The money isn’t enough to justify getting yourself punched in the face all the time and putting your body and your health at risk. I hope that every fighter gets respect from people because it’s one of the last bastions of true athleticism in the professional sporting world. It’s not about chasing that contract and chasing that money. It’s about achieving a dream.”
O’Connell on being inspired by the cast of TUF 1: “I realized those guys weren’t necessarily any better athletes than I was. They were just tough and willing to push themselves. I remember Chris Leben doing a treadmill test on the show, and no one else could do it. He didn’t look like anything special in terms of being an athlete. He’s just got the mental fortitude of going when everyone else was like, ‘I’m done.’ That impressed me. I was always a tougher guy than I was truly an athlete, so I was like, ‘I think I’m tough. I think I can do this.’”
O’Connell on how he got into the UFC by asking Dana White for a contract on his radio show: “The UFC was doing their big media tour, and we had Dana White on my show. We asked him the typical questions. My co-host didn’t know a damn thing about MMA, so he was like, ‘What should we ask him?’ I gave him a few questions he could ask, but I was like, ‘I’m going to ask him for a contract.’ My boss was like, ‘You really are?’ I told him, ‘The worst-case scenario is he tells me I’m an idiot, and it’s good radio. Everyone driving in their car will get a laugh.’ So I was like, ‘When you’re doing this media stuff, have you ever had anyone ask you for a contract.’ Dana laughed, and I was like, ‘No, I’m serious. I’m 14-4. I’m on a five-fight winning streak. I train under Jeremy Horn. I was on Season 8 of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ but I lost my fight to get into the house. I’m a prospect. I want a fight.’ He was just like, ‘Huh? Are you being serious? Alright, when we get off the phone, I’m going to give you (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva’s number. He’ll check you out, and we’ll see what happens.’”
O’Connell on his fight with Ryan Jimmo: “Right up until that punch landed, I felt like it went as well as it could have gone. As I’m walking out, I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, this is too big for me.’ I wasn’t nervous. I was just kind of enjoying myself and having fun. I had the right people in my corner. The first round was going well until I threw a big, sloppy hook, and he came back with a nice turn-over right hand. That was sh-tty. I was conscious when I hit the ground, and then that one after put me all the way out. You get about four-and-half minutes of what you want and then five seconds of disaster, but that’s the sport. That’s the game we play.”
O’Connell on being nervous about being cut with a loss with this fight: “I’d be lying to you if I said I was less nervous than for my first fight. I’m actually more nervous about this one. Going into that fight against Jimmo, I felt like it was a decent matchup for me. It was my debut, and I took it on kind of short notice. That was a bit of a win-win situation, where he’s a much more well-known guy. Let’s be honest. Everyone expected me to lose that fight. I believed I could go in and win and make a mark for myself and make a name, and that’s not the case anymore. This is where if I lose, my run – my dream – might be over, so it’s a little bit more nerve-racking. I’m one of those people that if you dwell on those things, if you think too much about what an opponent’s going to do and how tough he is, it’s just going to build into this looming nightmare monster in your head, so I’m just trying to have as much fun with it as I possibly can.”
O’Connell on being done with MMA if he’s cut after this fight: “This is probably the first time I’ve said it publicly or even out loud, but when the UFC cuts me, I’m done. There’s other things I want to do with my life. I love to travel the world. I have a semi-successful radio career going that this takes time away from. I want to write. I’m an aspiring author. All these things take a bunch of time, and MMA is the priority right now, but if you’re going from the major leagues back to Triple A, it’s a lot less appealing. I believe I can beat Villante, and I believe this is going to be the fight where I actually get to show a lot more of what I have to offer the UFC. If it doesn’t turn out that way and they don’t like my performance and they decide that they want to be done with me, that might be the end of my run in the sport.”