Exclusive: UFC 165’s John Makdessi ‘When I’m 100 percent mentally, I truly believe no one can beat me’

MakdessiFor a fighter like John Makdessi to achieve success inside the Octagon, he needs to have confidence. When you’re capable of finishing someone with a wide assortment of flashy kicks or punches, having the ability to throw those strikes without fear of being put in a perilous position is perhaps more important than anything. Just look at his incredible UFC 127 spinning-back fist knockout of Kyle Watson. Makdessi had a wake-up call against Dennis Hallman, a fight which really got him to focus on improving his ground game and his hard work paid off, most recently fending off several takedowns from Sam Stout and Daron Cruickshank in consecutive bouts to earn decision victories. “The Bull” will next be squaring off opposite Brazilian Renee Forte later tonight (Sept. 21, 2013) on the UFC 165 Facebook preliminary card. Makdessi spoke with MMAOddsbreaker about rounding out his game, having the right mind-set and learning to train smarter in this exclusive interview. Check it out: Brian Hemminger: You have several teammates fighting on this card with Francis Carmont, Mike Ricci, Ivan Menjivar. Is it helpful to be peaking at the same time as your teammates in training camp for this event? John Makdessi: Yeah, I’ve been training with Ricci for a long time so we know each other very well. There’s so many good fighters at TriStar, a lot of great sparring partners. There’s a lot of local good fighters that are still building their name and getting up there. TriStar is a pool of talent with a huge roster of fighters so there’s a lot of people to spar with. It’s a great team, great atmosphere and it’s a very competitive atmosphere there. Brian Hemminger: You’re a guy that focuses more on your weaknesses than your strengths in training. Do you feel it starting to pay off yet, as if your wrestling, submissions and everything are catching up to your taekwondo? John Makdessi: Well it’s like this. I started in taekwondo, went into karate, then kickboxing, then Muay Thai and I developed so many skills learning so many different disciplines of martial arts. At the end of the day, I like at fighting like I need to go with the flow. If I have to do certain things, I’ll do them. I don’t really focus on what I’m going to do because I’m more focused on the moment. I prepare myself as best I can. I train smart. That’s very important for me, training smart. In the gym, I’m very comfortable training wrestling, grappling, the stand-up. If it comes out in the fight, it comes out in the fight. I showcased my wrestling skills many times in my last fight, but just because I’m not taking the guy down doesn’t mean I’m not wrestling with the guy. I was using it to defend and that’s also a wrestling skill. Brian Hemminger: Now I know you have a special diet leading up to the fight, but is there any specific food that you can’t wait to get your hands on after you’re done competing on Saturday night? John Makdessi: Of course. I’m more of a steak and potatoes kind of guy. A big piece of steak, a good meal. That’s what I’d be looking forward too. Brian Hemminger: Fighting in Canada is great especially for Canadian fighters, but does it add any pressure with the way they cheer you on and expect you to get the win? John Makdessi: Yeah. I’m always gonna try to win the crowd. I believe my style of fighting, the way I fight, I try to make it entertaining, exciting. I’m also very technical and I try to focus on my skills. I don’t really think about the pressure or anything like that. I fought at different places and I believe the fans just respect the fighting game. Brian Hemminger: You were able to showcase the improving well-roundedness of your game in your last bout against Daron Cruickshank, outstriking him on the feet while fending off takedown attempts. Do  you feel like that was a showcase of the evolution of your fighting style? John Makdessi: 100 percent. For me, it was never about the training or that stuff. It’s about the comfort. Being more focused on the positive. A lot of athletes, it’ a tough sport, a lot of fighters put pressure on themselves, start doubting themselves. I train with some of the best coaches and fighters in the world. For me it was more of a mental thing and that’s what it comes down to. Mentally, when I’m 100 percent, I truly believe no fighter can beat me. Brian Hemminger: And once you gain that comfort and confidence in your skill-set, will that open you up to be able to take more risks? John Makdessi: 100 percent, man. The more I train, the more comfortable I get, the more loose I get on fight night. As my confidence in my takedown defense increases, you’ll see many more wild forms of attack. I train them every day, just need the confidence to utilize them on fight night. Brian Hemminger: You had to pull out of the Edson Barboza fight due to overtraining. What did you learn from that experience in regards to pacing yourself in training? John Makdessi: Yeah, that was a big wake-up call for me. I’d been training hard, pushing my body to the limit and and not giving myself enough rest. I was definitely doing too much. I was preparing for a tough opponent, a big name and I thought I needed to do more than I should have. It all built up and I had to pull out of the fight. I definitely learned my lesson. It’s not about how long you train, it’s about getting the right training in and doing everything the right way. Brian Hemminger: How do you visualize success against Renee Forte on Saturday night? John Makdessi: I just want to fight my fight, stick to the gameplan and focus on my skills. As long as I stay calm and collected, good things will happen for me. John would like to thank TriStar Gym, his trainer Firas Zahabi, everyone who helped him in training, his brother, Hector Castro, Fear the Fighter, and everyone who’s supported him. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnMakdessiMMA.

Written by Brian Hemminger

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