Bellator 107’s Peter Graham: ‘If you’re not looking for a title shot, then why show up?’

peter-graham_mb_600Peter Graham wasn’t supposed to be in this position so quickly into his Bellator career. The 38-year old Australian has been fighting professionally, whether it be boxing, kickboxing or mixed martial arts, since 2000. His initial transition to MMA didn’t go so smoothly, losing five of his first six fights. But since rededicating himself to the sport and learning how to keep the fight standing, he’s been unstoppable. Graham has now won nine straight fights including a leg kick stoppage over Aleksander Emelianenko and most recently a dominant one-sided beating of former Bellator title challenger Eric Prindle in his promotional debut just three weeks ago. When Vinicius Queiroz was forced out of the season nine heavyweight tournament finals due to injury, Graham had no qualm stepping up on severely short notice to face UFC veteran Cheick Kongo for the right to earn the heavyweight number one contender position. And that’s just how Graham wants it. “The Chief” spoke to about recovering from jet lag, making strides in his ground game and his expectations against Cheick Kongo in this exclusive interview. Check it out: Brian Hemminger: How are you feeling? You’re coming off a pretty grueling three round war against Eric Prindle less than three weeks ago, yet you’re fighting again here in the Bellator 107 main event this Friday night. Peter Graham: It was a tough fight but I didn’t come out of it with any injuries or anything. My shins were a little sore from kicking him so many times, he was a tough bastard. It was a long flight, coming from the other side of the planet literally, but apart from that, I’m good. We got here a little bit earlier this time so hopefully that helps with the jet lag. That should help me deal with any fitness issues I had last time. Brian Hemminger: I know you’ve fought in kickboxing all over the world. How long had it been since you last fought in America before your fight against Eric Prindle? Peter Graham: Let’s see, way back when I was young, say 20 years old. I did the North America Karate Championships in New York and I fought one K-1 fight in Hawaii if that counts. That’s it. Brian Hemminger: You mentioned that you’re coming out here earlier this time around. How did you feel the jet lag against Prindle? That was a tough fight against a tough guy that just wouldn’t go away. Peter Graham: Shit yeah. Eric Prindle’s the toughest guy I’ve ever met. I’ve never hit someone that hard that many times and not have them stay down. If I fight him again I’m gonna ask if I can bring a 2×4 piece of wood (laughs) and I don’t know if it would make much difference. The biggest thing with the jet lag was we didn’t know it would be as much of an issue as it was. It was rough and I definitely slowed down in the fight. This time around we’re hopefully going to do much better. Coming out early, I expect to feel better in the fight. I sure hope I will. If not, we’ll keep tweaking it until I get it right. Brian Hemminger: Now I know Bellator occasionally holds these tournament alternate fights. Did you know heading into the bout with Prindle that if you won, you could end up stepping up and fighting as a substitute in the season nine heavyweight tournament? Peter Graham: No, that was quite the surprise. They just told me, “Here you go, here’s your chance. This is Eric, let’s see what you can do.” I went in trying to get a big performance. I had no clue I could be entering the finals of the tournament. Brian Hemminger: So how did it feel when they go, “Hey, how about fighting a UFC veteran with less than three weeks to prepare for our number one contender position?” Peter Graham: Yeah, it was fine man. Cool, I was excited. I spoke to my coach and he said, “Yeah, you can do it.” I’ve done some of those big kickboxing tournaments where you have to fight three times in one night. I come from the karate background where you were sometimes fighting 5-6 times a day. I’ve fought on much, much shorter turnarounds. I didn’t get injured and I love fighting. I just want to go and fight again. If my body’s good, I’ll fight. Brian HemmingerI know you have tremendous experience in kickboxing and karate, but you’re a relative newcomer to MMA. Did it give you a lot of confidence knowing you put on such a one-sided fight against Prindle, who was a former Bellator heavyweight tournament winner and title challenger? Peter Graham: It’s kind of funny that confidence thing. It’s not really me being confident or not. I just go out there and do my job. I just have to make sure to go out there, clock in, it doesn’t matter how big or how small someone is, how many wins they have or don’t have or how many cool people he’s surrounded himself with. It doesn’t matter. If you turn up and you’re in the same ring or cage as me, I’m gonna fight from the first bell to the last bell as hard as I can. That’s it. I’ve just got to fight, fight, fight. Either until you knock me out or I knock you out. I’m just looking to get that win and I expect anyone who gets into the ring with me to have the exact same mindset. It doesn’t matter who it is or how confident either of us are. That’s irrelevant. Brian Hemminger: What did you think of your opponent Cheick Kongo’s performance in his Bellator debut? He dominated his opponent positionally along the fence and then put him away with some brutal knees in the clinch to advance to the tournament final. Peter Graham: Yeah, Cheick Kongo’s a good athlete. He’s been a good athlete for a long time. Nothing unusual about it though, that’s just who he is. Kongo just wants to come in and say, “Yeah, I’m here too.” That’s cool. I like a fighter that wants to fight. There’s no point in fighting someone that doesn’t want to fight, doesn’t want to be there. Brian Hemminger: While Kongo has a pretty solid striking background, he’s at times gone into a fight and just clinched or worked for takedowns the entire time rather than trade on the feet. Do you think he’ll want to stand with you? Peter Graham: I have no idea what he feels or thinks. I don’t leave any of that to speculation. I know I’m a good striker and that’s what really matters. If he tries to make the fight another way, I just have to stay intent and focused on what I want to do. Brian Hemminger: Can you discuss the strides you’ve made in the other parts of your game? You’ve made some decently big strides since the beginning of your MMA career. Peter Graham: I went from living i Japan to living and training in Australia. I worked with a two-time heavyweight national champion as my wrestling guy and both of these guys are bigger and stronger than me and they spend all day trying to take me down and keep me down. I also have a bunch of Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts trying to tap me out so I’m getting much better on the ground. Yeah, I work hard to stay where I want the fight to be which is on the feet but if it goes to the ground, that’s cool too. So far, at least the last three years, people haven’t been able to get me there. Brian Hemminger: Did you expect to have a chance to earn a title shot this soon into your Bellator career? Peter Graham: No, I didn’t, but that opportunity is always there. If you’re not looking for a title shot, then why show up? Brian Hemminger: When you visualize success against Cheick Kongo, what do you see? Peter Graham: I see a win by stoppage. Every fight I get into, that’s my goal. I want to get it over with as quickly as possible. If we go the distance that’s fine, but I’m going to be going after him the entire time. Relentless, relentless, relentless. Peter would like to thank his trainers and his US fans and everyone who’s shown interest in him since signing in Bellator. 

Written by Brian Hemminger

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