(Blackledge in action, scoring a knockout in the M-1 Challenge. Courtesy of M-1)
Not many fighters can say they have had a more exciting last twelve months than 9-6 Wolfslair man, Tom Blackledge. From being an assistant coach on Season 10 of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ to representing England in the M-1 Challenge, Blackledge achieved more in 2009 than most could achieve in their careers. The veteran was due to take on the active Shaun Lomas on March 19th at ‘Blitz at the Ritz’ in Manchester although, as he told FIGHT! Magazine, that fight has now been called off.
“It’s with a chest infection,” revealed Blackledge “I’m on antibiotics now, but to be honest I wouldn’t have made weight anyway. I haven’t been able to train for a couple of weeks, and because it was only short notice with the fight anyway, I would have really been pushing it to make the [light-heavyweight] limit. I cut a lot of weight, but I couldn’t cut that much.”
He continued to display his disappointment, saying, “I wanted to get in and fight again; especially with having the opportunity to fight in Manchester because that doesn’t come round very often for me. Last year, no one could come to watch me fight locally, so it would have been nice.”
In general, this hasn’t been a great couple of weeks for Tom, with his fighter Neil Dutson also losing at the OMMAC show last weekend. However, there is a completely reasonable explanation as to why his man lost on points to the rough and ready Michael Reed. Blackledge pointed out,
“What happened to him, I found this out later on, was that he tore his bicep at the end of the first round. His bicep snapped off the bone and had gone up to his shoulder. Marc Goddard [referee] even said after the fight that he was thinking his arm looked different. He’s a tough guy and how he carried on fighting I don’t know. I have a different type of respect for him now. At first I was fuming because he wasn’t doing the stuff I wanted him to, but when I found out about the injury, that obviously changed things.”
Even with these early setbacks though, Blackledge is convinced 2010 will be a big year for him. “It definitely will be,” asserted Tom. “I’ve waited ten years or so for a shot, but because of one thing or another, things haven’t really happened. Up until last year, I haven’t shown what I’ve been able to do. People on the UK scene will know me but, other than that, a lot of guys up until the M-1 wouldn’t have seen a lot of my fights. Hopefully now I’ll get more recognition, get where I think I belong and prove anyone who doesn’t think I should be there wrong, then stay there and keep rising.”
In his career, Tom has been known for his excitement nature, finishing multiple fights with head kicks. Putting on a show is something the Northerner intends to do in every scrap he has. “I always try for head kicks,” he admitted. “I think I’ve got three on my pro record at the minute in MMA, and it’s always nice to finish. It looks good on your highlight reel, and it makes more people interested in watching you fight if you can finish fights like that.”
Tom carried on by stating where the roots of his success had come from, and where his continued development was taking place. “A lot of it is the Wolfslair, and a lot of it is my drive, and wanting to fulfil the targets I set myself a long time ago,” he determinedly explained. “I’ve been doing it for so long, and to feel like you’ve been fighting on small shows for ages and not getting anywhere, as well as breaking bones and getting injuries that stick with you for your life, is disheartening. However, I’m still fighting, and the Wolfslair is a massive part of what I do. The management team, the coaches and everyone; there’s not one person in there that I could single out as having done it. To be honest, it’s helped being good friends with ‘Rampage’ – we get on well, he helps me out a lot and gives me advice.”
Talking of UFC fighters, Blackledge now knows more than his fair share, after being an assistant coach to his close friend Quinton Jackson on Season 10 of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’.
“It was really good,” said Tom of the TUF experience. “It was interesting to be there and see how it all goes on without actually having to be in the house. I wasn’t really surprised by anything, but obviously the gym looks different than it does on TV and the way it is run seems different when you’re there, but you soon adjust to it and at the end of the day, it’s something that most people won’t get to experience.”
When asked to pinpoint one special moment one the show, Tom struggled to pinpoint one particular time, although he lauded the show in general. “There’s a lot of stuff that they didn’t have time to show,” revealed Tom, “So it’s hard to pick one point that was particularly entertaining. The biggest thing for me was that the guys on the show were so cool, and we got on with most of them. It was a great experience and I’ve took away some good friendships from there which is always important.”
The M-1 Challenge was another international event that the Brit took part in last year and, as with TUF, he enjoyed it massively – heading out to the likes of Japan and Russia to ply his trade.
“It was great,” beamed Blackledge. “It was a shame that I didn’t get to see more of the places, as obviously I go there and I have to cut a lot of weight, and I’m not in any mood before the fight a few days before the weigh-in to take much in really. Then, after the weigh in, I’m usually just trying to eat and drink to get everything back in me, and rest up for the fight. Then there’s the fight and normally the day after we have to go home anyway. You get to see a lot of it, but I would have liked to have stayed a little bit more to see more of the places.”
As well as his own fighting career, another focus for Tom now is teaching the up and comers of UK MMA at his gym (such as the aforementioned Neil Dutson), ‘Blackledge MMA’. “I’ve been teaching for as long as I’ve been competing, if not longer,” he mused. “The new gym where I’m at now has just opened though – it’s a brand new facility. It’s not a huge place; it’s a good size with all my padded walls and bags, and I’m now able to offer what I’ve been wanting to offer for a long time. I’ve got quite a few guys now that regularly compete in submission wrestling and do well, but while I was away for so long last year with ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ and the M-1 Team, they couldn’t compete and numbers slowed down a bit, but when I came back and started my own gym, everything picked up and now it’s all looking good!”
So look out for Tom and his team this year. He’s looking to make a splash, and has the explosiveness and excitement in his well-rounded style to make people take note.