Wigan Warriors ace Oliver Gildart is hoping Mike Grundy can take the UFC by storm ahead of his highly-anticipated debut this weekend.
Proud Wiganer Grundy will face Bristol’s Nad ‘Smiler’ Narimani at the O2 Arena on Saturday March 16.
Gildart and George Williams will be among those in the crowd to cheer him on.
And Gildart – who has been a huge fan of the UFC for several years – is backing the 2012 Commonwealth Games medallist to become a hit in the world’s premier MMA competition.
“I’ve known Mike for about four years now from being in the first-team because he’s done quite a lot of wrestle sessions so I’ve followed his career,” revealed Gildart.
“I’ve watched Mike for a few years – he’s a well-liked person – and representing Wigan in a good light. Everyone wants to see everyone do well from Wigan.
“It’s great to have Mike coming in to train with us, and he enjoys coming watching us when he can so I think other athletes appreciate athletes. It’s a good town that we live in. I was buzzing when I found out that he signed for the UFC – all the boys were delighted for him.
“He’ll be looking to make a statement and hopefully he can do. I think he’ll do very well in the UFC. If you look at his amateur background, he’s wrestled all over the world, and fought all over the world in MMA. I’m looking forward to seeing him fight and hopefully he’ll do the business.
“I believe he can be a world champion eventually. He’s been an Olympic wrestler and won at a Commonwealth Games so he’s got the pedigree there. If you look at most UFC champions, they are built on their wrestling so hopefully he can on and do good things. Even Mike just getting into the UFC is a massive thing but I’m sure he’s just thinking about getting this first win, and then obviously his long goal will be lifting that belt.”
MMA allows fighters to box, kick and wrestle to either a knock-out or submission over three, five-minute rounds (headliners and title-deciders are five rounds).
Gildart has been a fan of UFC – which boasts of being the fastest growing sport in the world – since Conor McGregor broke onto the scene.
Team-mate Craig Mullen is also a huge fan, but the question is – which Warriors player would do best in the caged octagon?
“I think Lockers would do well because he’s weirdly strong and he could throw people about,” said England centre Gildart.
“Jarrod Sammut is actually a really good wrestler so I think he could do alright. Liam Marshall reckons he’s a UFC fighter but I think he’d get folded in a few minutes. I reckon Lockers, Jaz, and Dom Manfredi, who’s pretty handy.
“I’d love to have a go myself but I don’t know much about fighting wise, so I’d rather not get choked out!”
Over the last few years, Gildart and his fellow Wigan Warriors team-mates have worked closely with Grundy at the Elite Fitness Factory to help incorporate wrestling techniques into their performances.
“Certain fitness drills we do in contact wrestling sessions we’ve taken from Mike so it’s pretty similar,” he added.
“He’s helped me improve my game because with the little techniques, it helps me when I come up against bigger opponents who are stronger than me. It’s definitely helped me.”