Spurs fan and MMA star Brad Pickett all set for fight finale
16 March 2017|Tottenham Hotspur
Mixed martial arts fighter and Spurs fan Brad Pickett is gearing up for the final fight of his career this weekend with a touch of apprehension about what the future holds after he retires from the sport.
But the 38-year-old east Londoner admits there is one major bonus once the curtain comes down on his sporting career - plenty more opportunities to come and watch his favourite team play!
A lifelong Spurs supporter following in the footsteps of his brother Russell, Brad’s dedication to his sport has impacted on the number of times he’s been able to get to the Lane over the past 12 years.
All that will change shortly though. Brad’s retirement fight takes place on the bill of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Fight Night London at The O2 Arena on Saturday when he takes on Ecuadorian Marlon Vera in a bantamweight fight, hoping to finish his career on a high in front of his hometown fans.
Since making his debut in UFC - considered the ‘Premier League’ of mixed martial arts (MMA) - in November, 2011, Brad has become a firm fan favourite, while his knockout power and exciting fighting style have earned him the nickname ‘One Punch’.
Below: Brad in action against Francisco Rivera at the O2 last year
“All I’ve known for the last 12 years is being a professional fighter and that is about to come to an end,” explained Brad, who trains at Titan MMA in Tottenham and has a professional fighting record of 26 wins and 13 losses.
“It feels very strange. Obviously every athlete’s career comes to an end eventually but it is still very daunting for me. I have mixed emotions because I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead but nervous at the same time.
“But without doubt, I will be getting down to watch Spurs more often and that is certainly a good thing about having more time on my hands.
“I’ve got quite a few plans for once I retire from fighting,” he added. “I’m looking to open a gym near where I live in south London and I’d like to get into punditry with the UFC as well. I do a bit of commentating and hold seminars too, so there are certainly opportunities.
“I’m definitely going to stay within the industry because it’s been a massive part of my life and I love the sport. I also owe it to the MMA community, especially in the UK, to put something back into the sport.”
Currently on a pre-fight training camp in the USA, Brad did manage to squeeze in a visit to the Lane early last month, when he saw us edge past Middlesbrough thanks to a Harry Kane penalty.
“Obviously I don’t get down there as much as I’d like because I’ve been so busy lately,” said Brad. “I think that’s been the worst thing for me over these last few years. I’ve been a Spurs fan all my life, but the time when I’ve been at the busiest in my career has coincided with Spurs being the best they’ve been while I’ve supported them!
“I used to follow the game much more and I’d know every player throughout the leagues and in Europe too, but once I started concentrating on my career I lost track a little. I almost get annoyed with myself but at least now I can get back into again and I’m looking forward to that.
“I grew up supporting Spurs because of Russell, it was common ground for us both. I didn’t get to the Lane that often as I travelled around quite a bit but was always watching on TV and have a lot of good memories, even if the club didn’t have that much success in those days!
“I loved watching Gascoigne, Lineker, Ginola and Klinsmann - I still get goosebumps when I remember his ‘dive’ celebration. We’ve had some great players down the years and these days, I really enjoy watching Dele Alli.
“His story is such an inspiration, coming from MK Dons at a young age and then cutting it on the big stage at Spurs, before going on to play for his country. He really is awesome.”
Below:Brad with brother Russell at the Lane
Had things turned out differently for Brad, it could have been as a footballer rather than a boxer that he made his name, only for the curse of the cruciate knee ligament injury to curtail his playing days.
“Football was always my main sport growing up and I wanted to become a professional when I was at school, although I hadn’t realised the competition there was to make the grade,” continued Brad.
“I was a very athletic kid so I always thought I’d be a sportsman of some kind. At one stage I was playing reserve football for Rushden and Diamonds and I’d started doing a bit of boxing to keep my fitness ticking over.
“Then I picked up a bad knee injury and had to give up both sports, only playing a bit of local football with friends once I’d recovered.
“Eventually though I got back into boxing but found it a bit boring. Someone suggested MMA, so I gave it a go and it started from there. It turned out I was better at fighting than football!”
And so now it’s the countdown to Brad’s own personal fighting finale. The UFC returns to the capital for a second successive year in a fortnight’s time and, as one of the UK’s most successful mixed martial artists, he’s thrilled to be able to perform one last time in his home town.
“I’m an east London boy originally, so it’s amazing to be fighting at the O2,” he added. “I’ve fought in England loads of times but only twice before at the O2 and I’m unbeaten there, so I want to keep it that way and go out with a bang.”