(Champ in action at BAMMA, courtesy of Sherdog)
On Saturday 3rd April, Nathan Champ (5-2) was scheduled to join his team-mate Greg Knapp (now 5-3) on the Turku Fight: ‘Resurrection’ bill. Both men went into with a great deal of optimism but didn’t reap the expected rewards, as Knapp lost a decision to Joni Salovaara and Champ didn’t even get to fight. Having travelled 1200 miles only for his bout to be cancelled, Champ was undeniably disappointed.
“I was really gutted,” admitted Nathan. “I was mentally and physically prepared for it as usual, and my weight was good. I knew with being in Finland there would be saunas everywhere so I wouldn’t have a problem cutting over there. It was just a last minute let-down unfortunately. It’s always a bit of a let-down when that happens, and to be honest it’s not happened to me a lot in the MMA game, and I’ve not had too many pull-outs.
“I spoke to a few people over there though and there’s been quite a lot of stomach flu going round over there, and the Fins seem to be quite a sturdy nation, so I don’t think it was a bottle case. I genuinely think he did have stomach flu.”
The 1999 ABA semi-finalist continued to explain when he found out, and the logistics of the trip from there-on-in. He divulged, “I found out the day before the weigh-in. I was told there could still be an opponent though so I came in under the weight, but I didn’t have any problems doing that. They had another lad that was fighting on the show that said he would fight whether he won or lost and if the doctor ‘OKed’ it then he’d fight me, but his coach wouldn’t let him fight me either way. Greg got the attention of me and Paul in his corner, and the rest is history.”
Unfortunately, Knapp couldn’t take home the win but, as Champ explained, he by no means disgraced himself.
“We saw the lad Greg was up against at the weigh-ins, and we thought that he looked quite boyish and young,” he began. “Greg’s quite a strong-looking fella, but by fight time, the kid had blown up quite a lot and was looking bigger. We knew he had the jab as well because we’d seen some footage of him on YouTube, and we were trying to get Greg prepared for that.”
Champ continued, “Greg’s a very confident guy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone going into an MMA fight as confident as Greg, but at the same time, I don’t think he takes it for granted. He’s not overconfident. The lad he fought was very strong though, had that sharp jab and solid defensive skills.
“He caught Greg with a few punches in the first round and put him on the back foot, so Greg was having trouble finding his distance without getting tagged. He then went for a few takedowns, but they were defended because the other guy was strong, but he managed to go the distance in a two rounder. At the beginning of the first, it was a little bit a case of survival, but he did try and put a few things on him.
“I think he had his opponent in a guillotine at one point but he managed to get himself out of it, and there was stuff Greg went for, but it was stuffed in one way or another by the other lad. It was unfortunate, but he wasn’t robbed or anything like that. It was a good, respectable fight. Later on that evening, a lot of people were coming up and shaking his hand and respecting him for putting on a good show.”
Even with the disappointments in Finland, Nathan refused to be downbeat about the trip. “I look at the positive side of things. I won’t be too negative about it, and I had a weekend away paid for, which was really nice of the promotion. We saw a bit of life in Finland and that was nice, and I can’t knock them for that. It was a disappointment not having a fight, but it’s all part of the experience and you can do nothing but take positives from it.
“Greg had a good experience one way or the other. He was gutted to lose, but he got so much adulation from the Finnish crowd and a cheer from them at the end. At the aftershow party people were even coming up to him to shake his hand, so he became a minor celebrity in Finland that night which was nice.”
Champ does still have ambition in MMA too, and is keen to right a recent wrong in particular. “I’ve been wanting to get back in there ever since my loss to Stu Rickman,” said the Olympians MMA fighter. “I’ve been dying to get back in and put things straight in my mind and get a ‘W’ back on the record. It was definitely a let down, and going into someone else’s town and country and doing the business there has got to be a really good feeling. The week was a big anticlimax for me really.
“Since then, I’ve just been having food and being a bit normal,” he carried on, “Because I’ve had to make weight a couple of times this year, I had a fairly busy year last year and kept pretty active, but I’ve got a few little niggles here and there, so I’m just going to try and iron them out and really concentrate on my ground game.”
Nathan admits he has no idea when he’ll next step in the cage though. “I haven’t got a clue at the minute,” he asserted on the subject. “I normally get a call from Paul Reed about that, and he’s been absolutely great. He’s acted as quite a few roles in my fight career; he’s been a manager, a coach, a bit of a mentor and I know he’s a couple of weights below me, but he’s a fearsome sparring partner – he puts anyone on the back foot! I just wait to see what Paul has to say, because he’s been good for me.”