(Jim Wallhead. Image by Robert Swann/Cagewarriors)
Good news is not something Britain’s ‘Judo’ Jimmy Wallhead (18-5) is particularly used to. He has been the victim of bad luck on many occasions, most recently his spot in the Bellator welterweight tournament was compromised by a volcanic ash cloud hanging over the UK (and concurrently most of Europe) which stopped him flying out for his big bout. All looked to be lost for the Rough House man, but an interview with Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney conducted with USA Today last week seems to bear excellent news. In this, Rebney states that Bellator will, ‘absolutely be bringing him [Wallhead] back,’ and that it would be ‘sooner rather than later.’ Jimmy is buzzing about the news.
“It’s good stuff,” he declared. “It’s reassuring and I was over the moon. It can’t get much better than him saying those words about me. It makes me feel good. I just want to get in there now. I’m definitely happier now I know I’ve got a future with them. I was worried because I didn’t know what their opinion of me was and at least now I know, and it’s instilled me with a lot of confidence.”
Jimmy also admits this was excellent news in the face of such bizarre events with the volanic ash cloud. “I was gutted,” said Wallhead of the natural phenomenon. “It was just Jimmy Wallhead not catching a break. I’ve had bad luck after bad luck, and I just couldn’t believe it. It worried me because I didn’t know if they just wanted me for the tournament and I think in my contract there was a certain amount of fights in the tournament, and a certain amount out, and if they didn’t want me in the tournament, they could have got rid of me.
“Of all things as well,” he continued. “Even when it started happening about a week before, I thought it would be OK, but when it got to a couple of days away from the fight I thought ‘this is going to put me out.’ I wasn’t overly worried though, because with Bellator doing back to back shows, I thought worst case scenario would be them postponing me a week, but they got back to me saying they couldn’t because of the TV schedule and that would have been really hard work for them, and then it hit home. I just couldn’t believe it, but it’s all for a reason.”
Initially, the Leicestershire fighter was meant to take on the then unbeaten Jacob McClintock [who has since lost to Ryan Thomas]. “He’s a great fighter,” said Wallhead of the American he was meant to take on. “He got overwhelmed by Thomas and that made him look a little bit overrated because I expected more from him, although his Jiu-Jitsu’s wicked. Before that, I thought he was awesome and a super fighter, but now, I just think he’s a little bit overrated and that I would have definitely have come out on top in that fight. He might have had a bad day – I’ve had bad days and we all have bad days and it might just have been that. He’s definitely a good fighter, and I was really looking forward to the test against him.”
A fight against Jacob isn’t something that ‘Judo’ Jimmy is going to actively search out though. “I ain’t fussed who I fight to be honest,” he admitted. “I’m not gunning for McClintock. I don’t really care; whatever Bellator want to do, I’m happy to go along with them. If that’s what they want me to do, cool. If it’s not, then I’m not bothered. I’m not gunning for anyone in particular so I’ll take it as it comes.”
Jimmy is still massively excited about signing for an up and coming promotion like Bellator. “I’ve been watching it as the weeks have gone on, and it’s good stuff,” beamed the team-mate of the likes of Dan Hardy, Paul Daley and Dean Amasinger. “Not really knowing where I was, I hoped it would come good because it’s a great show, and signing guys like Filho and Huerta and putting on wicked fights like Neer and Alvarez is great. I knew when I signed for them I was part of something special, and I hope that I do it justice, and as the promotion grows I grow with it. I’d like to validate a nice place there.”
Although his initial opponent Mikey Gomez pulled out yesterday, Wallhead is still scheduled to fight on this weekend’s Cage Warriors show. Jimmy is confident ahead of this. “I’m looking forward to it,” he divulged. “I’ve had a massive camp with the Bellator fight, because I think it was something like sixteen or eighteen weeks I spent getting ready for it. That fell through so I had four or five days off and eased my way back in gradually, and I’m just ready to fight.”
Whoever steps up and takes the contest, Wallhead thinks they won’t appreciate his ever improving all round game. “I think people underrate me a lot,” he stated. “A lot of people haven’t seen me perform in the likes of the [Fabricio] Nascimento and [Igor] Araujo fights and my knockout of [Fabio] Toldo apart from the people who were there, because they’ve not been on TV or DVDs. I possess the power to knock people out, and I’ve been taken down three times in twenty-five fights. My submissions and submission defences are also always improving.”
Making a statement is something Wallhead would like to do here, but he refuses to let the pressure get to him. “One of my best friends coaches other sports and does the psychology side, and put it to me a couple of years ago that it only matters about performance,” told Jimmy. “It’s true, because I just want to do myself justice. If I go in at Cage Warriors, fight like an absolute trooper, do the best I could do physically on that day and lose, then I’d be pissed off, I’d be crying and I’d be gutted, but the day after, I could look in the mirror and be cool with it because I’ve done my best.
“If I go in there really worrying what people think in the crowd, worrying if Bellator are going to cut me and I fight like a knob then that’s going to haunt me. I don’t really think about it; I just get on with it. There’s a lot riding on it but I’m not going to think about it. I’m just going to enjoy the scrap. My dad’s coming to watch me for the first time ever. He’s never been to my fights before because he’s worried, but he’s always watched my fights on DVD. My missus is coming as well with my second child, and my unborn son’s there so I’m going to smash it up!”
Now, it appears Wallhead might just get chance to finally fulfil his huge potential. “We’ll just have to make sure there’s no more volcanoes due to erupt,” noted Wallhead with a hint of sarcasm and good humour. “It’d be just my luck. There’ll probably be a tsunami or something, or I’ll be fighting in Texas and there’ll be an earthquake there. We’ll see, but fingers crossed it will go to plan.”