Exclusive | Road To Glory USA Runner-up Eddie “Showtime” Walker Talks Glory 5, Working Full Time, and Kickboxing’s Growth In The U.S.
“I want to be a champion just like everyone else does. I basically want to go wherever this sport is going to take me,” stated Glory 5 competitor and American Muay Thai standout Eddie “Showtime” Walker. “I’m not putting all my eggs in one basket, I have got to where I am at now by making smart decisions, surrounding myself with people I need to be surrounded by, and not getting caught up with needing to do this as fast as possible, taking a fight because I have no other choice. I have a career; I have a family, so I am pretty set where I am at. But if the right fights come along, I am more than willing to take them.”
BJPenn.com’s Kinch got a chance to catch up with the Atlanta based up-and-comer this week leading up to his fight against British standout and 6x champion Stephen Wakeling March 23rd at Glory 5 in London. “That’s how I ended up getting the fight with Wakeling,” stated Walker, “I mean what other fighters can just sit back and wait for these types of opportunities? They really don’t have that, they kind of have to take what they can get when they can get them. I really don’t have to force myself to do those things; I can pick and choose what I need to do. By doing that, I have excelled to the position that I am at, and I look to excel further within this year.”
Walker was the runner-up in the Road to Glory USA tournament that took place in Los Angeles on February 9th, losing in the final to eventual winner Mike Lemaire via leg kick TKO. “I went in there kind of expecting that I needed to make the finals just because I put on this high pedestal,” said Walker, “I believe it was the first time that I wasn’t an underdog, and I just felt like if I lost in the first or second round, I wasn’t ever going to be taken seriously in this sport, and the wins that I had previously were going to be looked at as lucky wins.” Eddie went in as a heavy favorite to win the tournament, but it was the damage taken from his two previous fights that evening that left the Atlanta native without a leg to stand on, no pun intended. Walker tells us, “I went in there determined that I was going to perform the best that I could. Unfortunately when I made it to the finals, I had a couple key little injuries that Mike Lemaire took advantage of, which I would have done the same thing. So hats off to him. Even when I lost to him, I didn’t feel like I did anything out of the ordinary, so I really didn’t beat myself up about it. I walked away with two knockouts and I ended up losing just because I couldn’t stand on my leg anymore. I didn’t really quit or give up. The body can only take so much I guess.”
It was his impressive performance leading up to the final at Road to Glory USA that landed Eddie Walker his spot at Glory 5 later this week. While it is a big step up in competition moving to the premiere kickboxing organization on the planet, Walker is staying focused and not letting the pressure sway his goal of beating Stephen Wakeling. “It really doesn’t bother me at all. I put more pressure on myself training in the gym then I do in my fights. Only person I am actually worried about when it comes to fighting is my coach (Manu N’toh). He is a 6x World Muay Thai champ, he’s well known in Thailand, he has a history of experience, everybody knows him, and he’s the only man I’m really scared of. When I go in there with him, he puts it on me, and I’m afraid that if I disappoint him, I am disappointing myself. So all the pressure that I ever have is in the gym training, the fight is just a bonus, it’s what I enjoy doing. When I go out there I try and have fun, but at the same time I want to test skills at the highest level, and I feel that once I leave the gym, I have pretty much done that.”
When BJPenn.com asked Walker how his preparation for Glory 5 is going, he replied, “Preparation is going good; I was just training this morning. I feel really good, really strong and fast, my cardio is there, I am already on weight, which is a little awkward because I have never done that before. I’m feeling good man.” In regard to what he is doing differently in his training to get ready for a technician like Wakeling, Eddie says, “Nothing differently really, still training the same. My coach had to go to Tokyo for the UFC with Brian Stann for about two weeks. So while he was gone I just tried to stay in shape, you know, running, bag work, working on combinations, just the normal stuff. Now that he’s back we just picked up where we left off, going hard with everything.”
Walker did not always have the aspirations to be a kickboxing champion; in fact, Eddie got into Muay Thai as a way to cut body fat and build up cardio. “I used to be really big into lifting weights. I would go to the gym just to lift weights; I just wanted to be that big strong guy. I got to the point where I was getting stronger and I was getting bigger but I didn’t really know how to actually cut body fat, and that’s what I really wanted to do. I wanted to be lean and all cut up like the dudes in the magazines. I was sitting at home one day, and I saw a commercial for Knuckle Up Fitness. They had just built one out where I live and I was like ‘I want to check that out,’ but at the same time with the typical male ego I was like, ‘I don’t want to go and get punched in the face and then get really mad and want to fight.’ I really didn’t want to go there for that one simple reason.” It ended up being Walker’s motivation to get shredded that eventually led him to Knuckle Up Fitness, Eddie told BJPenn.com, “They were guaranteeing you could lose a thousand calories in one class. So I went down there and checked it out, and I met a really great guy in Anthony Nieves. I started taking the kickboxing class, and I noticed a lot of the weight coming off, and Anthony came up to me one day and said, ‘hey you have some really strong kicks. Would you be interested in taking a Muay Thai class?’ I wasn’t sure at first, but the technical aspect of it interested me. I started taking the Muay Thai class, started learning a little technique and my competitive nature kicked in. So I sat down with Anthony and asked about private lessons, but I didn’t realize how expensive they were.”
Being a frugal fighter, Walker decided to try and learn as much as he could without the private lessons, telling Kinch, “I started working on the bag and memorizing combinations we learned in class, then he (Anthony Nieves) asked me if I wanted to compete in a smoker in about a month. I said no problem, I had only been training about three months when I went in, and I won my first two fights by knockout and in the third fight I was extremely gassed. I couldn’t breathe at all and I kind of just gave up. I loved that competitive nature, and I was like ‘man I can’t believe I gave up, I couldn’t breathe and I never want that to happen again.’ I just started training harder man, its addicting; you just keep going with it and never stop.” Those are the words of a dedicated individual, so dedicated that like many of today’s combat sport athletes, Eddie still works full time to support his family.
We asked Walker how difficult it was trying to find balance between providing for his wife and two children, as well as finding the time to train effectively to compete at the highest level. Eddie stated, “It’s one of those things you really can’t do by yourself. My wife is one of my biggest supporters, she is always there for me and she always helps out with some of my marketing, and my graphics, she is a graphic designer. She helps with the kids, and she understands that this is going to be big. Without her being there for me and helping me out, there is probably no way I would be able to do it.” While Walker has the support of a loving family, you might wonder how he can manage to keep a full time job while training full time. Eddie went on to tell us, “Even my job is understanding, luckily I have been there for 13 years so I get to use my vacation time whenever I have to go out of the state or travel out of the country. So I am not able to do it all by myself, it’s a lot of hard work, a lot of negotiating, scheduling, it’s pretty much a damn headache but well worth it.”
Eddie, like all kickboxers, is very grateful that Glory has saved Muay Thai competition from its demise. Not only does Walker praise the promotion for the great job it is doing around the world, but he also looks forward to the sport becoming a big thing in the states. Walker told BJPenn.com, “Man I think Glory is doing it the right way. The U.S. market has never been too big when it comes to kickboxing or Muay Thai, and that’s because we don’t really have promotions over here really pushing kickboxing like MMA is being pushed by the UFC. For Glory to come over here, and show that they are willing to put forth the money, and put together these tournaments that don’t usually happen over here, it says a lot. Eddie went on to say, “I think this year and probably next year, it’s really going to blow up in the United States. Now that Muay Thai is on a national level, and millions of people watching Muay Thai for the first time on TV, it gives us even more exposure, and we never had that in the past. Americans get to actually see what high level striking is all about, instead of watching striking in MMA which has to be altered for takedowns and things like that. So when you get to see two top-level strikers get in there and bang it out, it’s amazing to watch, and now Americans have the opportunity to see that.” Walker is absolutely correct when it comes to American fans, we all crave a knockout, and many casual MMA fans still don’t understand or appreciate the ground game. Eddie continued by saying, “I believe it’s going to expand and the audience will get much larger. Hopefully with that, the paydays get a little bit better for kick boxers and Muay Thai fighters.”
A win over Stephen Wakeling on March 23rd would undoubtedly be the biggest victory of Walker’s career. When we asked what he would like next assuming he beats Wakeling at Glory 5, Walker made it clear he is here to compete and move forward. Eddie told Kinch, “Whatever Glory wants. Whatever my manager has got in store for me, I don’t feel the need to call anybody out; I want to be the No. 1 guy in the world just like everybody else does. I’ll do whatever I have to do to get to that spot, so that is what I am shooting for. I don’t really put that much stress on myself, so hopefully one day I get the opportunity. Me fighting Steve Wakeling right now man, that’s a pretty damn big fight so I am just looking forward to this fight and hopefully I will be able to go in and do what I need to do to get the win.”
The fight between Walker and Wakeling is of course over-shadowed by the main event at Glory 5, being the bout between Remy Bonjasky and Tyrone Spong. We asked Eddie what he thinks the outcome of the main event will be, and he feels it is too close to call. Walker told us, “Man, I don’t know if I even fighting or if I am going to be a fan for this card. So many legendary fighters and a lot of really good current fighters now, Tyrone Spong is new upcoming young guy, he is a beast. Remy is a beast as well, it’s going to be fun, I have seen Remy look like he is losing then next thing you know a flying knee or a flying kick is coming for the finish. Tyrone is just a solid beast; he goes out and just dominates so it’s going to be very interesting. I am not even picking sides on it, I’m excited to be able to sit back and watch.”
While the main event at Glory is sure to be a barnburner, the same could be said of Walkers fight with Stephen Wakeling as well. When asked how he sees the fight going, Eddie is expecting a war, telling BJPenn.com, “I see it being a battle. He is one of the best in the world, he is a top guy, and he is traditional Muay Thai guy, so it is going to be an interesting fight. I’m known for my hands, he is known for his kicks, I have pretty durable solid kicks as well, I just don’t really show them much. It is going to be a war man, and I have said in other interviews that I only have one way to win this fight. I have to knock him out or win by TKO; because if it goes to the judges there is no way in the world they are going to give me the fight. With it being in London, in his hometown with him being the favorite, I have no choice but to go in and fight for a win.”Even though Walker feels the pressure to avoid the judges’ scorecards and get the finish against Wakeling, the game plan doesn’t differ from his usual fighting style. Eddie continued with, “I never fight to just win on points, I have always gone in to finish fights and because I am going in there like that, I know he is going to come in like that. It is going to be a war. There is no doubt about it, that’s how I am training right now. Every fight that I have ever had, going in I don’t trust judges. Human beings have their own opinions, and I don’t trust anyone else’s opinion on something that I’ve trained so hard for, and to go in and work my ass off for, and then either get screwed or you know something comes up to where I didn’t get my hand raised at the end of the day. I am going to put in the effort to train, I am going to put in the effort to diet and sacrifice time away from my family, and I’m going to put in the effort to finish the fight before it goes to the judges.” I think some MMA fighters should heed Walkers advice as well.
When it comes down to it, fans in attendance at Glory 5 and everyone watching across the globe is in for a treat. The card is stacked, and is sure to supply fans with nonstop action. Kinch asked Eddie Walker if he had any final advice for Stephen Wakeling going into Saturday’s bout, Walker showed respect and had few words for his opponent. Walker stated, “I have no advice for Wakeling, I mean he is 6 time world champ, the guy knows what he is doing, he is well prepared, I have no words for him. He is going to be ready; I am going to be ready and it’s going to be skill against skill. Whoever is the better man that night is going to win, and I am looking forward to the battle. So let’s see what happens on the 23rd.”
Glory 5 takes place this Saturday, March 23rd live from the ExCel Arena in London, England. Available only on Pay-Per View, the stacked card is likely to be slug fest from front to back. Be sure to tune in this weekend and witness the high level striking that only a promotion like Glory can deliver.
For the official results and latest news from Glory 5, stay tuned to BJPenn.com!