By Dwight Wakabayashi
Canadian light-heavyweight Ryan Jimmo is set to make his long awaited return to the UFC cage next weekend in London, England, at UFC on Sportsnet: Barao vs. McDonald. Many people are already wondering what he will do for an encore?
Jimmo announced his arrival into the promotion with a dramatic statement last July at UFC 149 in Calgary when he knocked out veteran Anthony Perosh in seven seconds with one straight right to the button. The seven-second knockout tied the record for the second fastest knockout in UFC history, even prompting president Dana White to state in his post-fight press conference that it probably would have broken the record had the referee been in a better position to stop it after the shot landed.
Jimmo has a large following in Canada from his days as a champion in the Edmonton-based promotion Maximum Fighting Championship and I wondered if his world blew up a bit after his debut, and if he gained some attention south of the border.
“Yeah, I would say after that win that interviews and things blew up a bit for the next week and a half and I got a bit more recognition and that kinda stuff but,” Jimmo said in a phone interview. “I made a point to not get too caught up in it and to be honest with you, I just went right back to the gym.”
A debut fight in the UFC can be a different animal with the media — bright lights and fight week responsibilities — but it was Jimmo’s training camp leading up to the fight that was the biggest difference. Prior to UFC 149, he moved his life to Boca Raton, Fla., for a chance to train with some of the best of the best at the Blackzilians camp.
“The biggest difference for me is I am training in Boca Raton now and I had the best training partners going into that fight. I had the best possible resources available for my training. Sometimes in the past, I didn’t have access to the best training available and so that was huge.”
Two of Jimmo’s teammates in the Blackzilians team camp are Rashad Evans and Alistair Overeem, both of whom suffered bad upset losses this past weekend at UFC 156 in Las Vegas. I wondered if the team pulled together after a tough night like that or if they each prefer time and space.
“There are some very strong friendships in the camp and we all pull together and we all support each other in tough times,” Jimmo said. “We are all so competitive but we are always there to make sure the other guy is getting better every day.”
Evans and Overeem were both in fights that they were favoured in and expected to win and I asked Jimmo if he thinks they took their opponents a little too lightly going in.
“I think that might have been the case,” Jimmo admitted. “With Alistair I definitely think it was, I’m a little bit closer to him than Rashad, but Alistair was beating him pretty good for two solid rounds and then he got caught. Silva’s a big strong guy and that happens.”
In my opinion, Jimmo will get the toughest fight of his career in England against James Te Huna, and the New Zealander is a large step up in calibre to Jimmo’s last opponent Anthony Perosh. Both these men are 31 year olds and right on the cusp of the UFC light heavyweight top 10 rankings. The winner here will land a big-name fight before the end of the year.
I asked him if this is the perfect match-up for him at this point in his career, but with so much at stake, Jimmo’s focus is zoned in leading up to the fight.
“I haven’t really thought about that. I just know I have a fight on February 16th, I don’t know anything beyond that.”
Jimmo comes from an accomplished karate history, is a precision striker, and will be sure to not get too carried away and brawl with Te Huna.
“I’m not a brawler. I am a technician and I will be looking for his weakness and I will exploit that weakness and get the win.”
Jimmo is always looking to land the big shot in any fight but he isn’t reckless in his pursuit to get it. He will throw his shots one at a time, constantly looking for that small opening until one hits the mark and does the initial damage.
Te Huna brings a more aggressive and sustained attack and will look to pressure Jimmo into going toe to toe with him as a way to take away space and get him out of his karate comfort zone.
It has been a long time since Canada has had a real contender in the heavier weight classes and Jimmo can get there with a couple more strong wins. It starts with Te Huna at Wembley.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.