(Paul Sass celebrates a victory in Liverpool. Image courtesy of Sherdog)
Many fighters dream of fighting on the big stage. Whether they’re a first time pro, a seasoned veteran or in their prime, everyone dreams of that opportunity to fight in front of thousands. Paul Sass is no different.
The Liverpool born lightweight was one of a number of UK based fighters to sign for the UFC last month and with a record of 10-0 that includes victories over the likes of Jason Ball, Rob Sinclair and Jason Young, the twenty-one year old is expected to have a very bright future in the sport.
The youngster has a fine pedigree on the mat, with nine of his wins coming via tap out and he holds the record for the most consecutive wins by triangle choke after winning his first seven fights with the submission. That streak earned him a popular nickname around the UK MMA scene, with the devastating manoeuvre now called the “Sass-angle” by many fans of the sport.
“I think that was something that started on the internet,” says the lightweight. “I don’t like any of the nicknames really, like the nickname “Sassangle” – I hate it. It’s stupid isn’t it?” laughs the twenty one year old.
The Team Kaobon fighter is training with one of the top teams in the UK and with the likes of Paul Kelly, Terry Etim and Paul Taylor also associated with the gym, Sass says that he continues to look up to the fighters who he holds a lot of respect for.
“They’ve had a lot of influence. I look up to them really and want to be where they are – you know what I mean?” says Sass. “I mean I’m there now, but before [I signed] I looked up to them a lot and I wanted to be where they were.”
It’s something that Sass has yet to come to terms with – he is now a fighter in the stacked UFC lightweight division. Confirming that he’ll likely be on the card later this year in London, he admits to holding nerves about how many people could be watching his next fight. However, the thought of being signed to the world’s biggest MMA promotion is still a dream for the youngster.
“I didn’t really read the contract – I just signed it!” he laughs. “I don’t think it’s hit me properly much yet. It’s getting there but it still hasn’t hit me at all.
“Paul Kelly tells me a little bit,” says the lightweight. “He tells me it’s weird, like when you’re walking out and everyone is hanging over the sides shouting and that”.
It’s an experience that Sass is relishing. Training full time in Liverpool, he points out how much he is improving at the gym and feels head coach Colin Heron and Luta Livre coach Marcelo Brigadeiro have improved different aspects of his style. Still working on his ground game, his training regime for the next few months will also include work on his punches and he’s now working on a conditioning programme.
“Colin is making me punch harder in training,” he says. “I’m working more on my hand use, but he’s just doing it step by step at the minute. Next will probably be kicks.”
“I started strength and conditioning yesterday. It’s new for me; I’ve never done it before. But they reckon I should start doing it, so I started it yesterday and I’ll keep doing that up to my fight now.
With interest in MMA rocketing in the UK last year, the Ultimate Fighter nine featured fighters from this side of the pond taking on their American counterparts for the first time. The UK team consisted of the likes of Ross Pearson, Andre Winner and Nick Osipczak, however Sass wasn’t old enough to take part in the show as he was only twenty years old at the time.
“I probably would have went down [to the trials in London], but I wouldn’t like to have stayed in the house over there,” he says. “I would have done it, but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.”
With a week that will focus on wrestling, MMA sparring, a new conditioning programme and a game of Call of Duty here and there, Sass is excited to see what the future will bring. With an unbeaten record, a world record in the bag and a training schedule at one of MMA’s top teams, Sass is ready to show the world that he is ready for the big stage.
Triangle submission or not, you can guarantee that he’ll push the UFC’s top lightweights all the way when he steps inside the Octagon.