Exclusive | Tyrone Spong Talks MMA Transition: “I Feel Like A Real MMA Fighter” (Part One)
Tyrone Spong’s Kickboxing resume is nearly a mile long; having won various titles in different organizations including It’s Showtime, World Full Contact Association, World Kickboxing Network and so many others. Keep in mind he has accomplished all this fighting some of the biggest legends the sport has to offer.
When a fighter of Spong’s stature consistently is at the top of his sport fans begin to wonder when he will make the move to mixed martial arts. Making the transition was something he pondered for awhile, but the idea was driven home when he was called upon to help a former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in his quest to recapture the title.
“I had come to Florida to help Rashad Evans prepare for his fight with Jon Jones and while I was there I did some ground training,” Spong told BJPenn.Com Radio. “All the guys in the camp were surprised and felt I had a lot of potential and I was able to make the necessary adjustments and pick things up very quickly. I’ve won everything in Kickboxing that there is to win already and I needed something new.”
We are a little over two weeks away from watching Spong compete in MMA for the first time. When the World Series of Fighting came calling, the voice on the other line was a familiar one and it didn’t take Spong very long to accept his proposal.
“I’ve known Ray Sefo and I’ve fought against him,” said Spong. “He approached me and I was very enthusiastic about. Ray is a gentleman and if he says something then he makes it happen. They gave me the flexibility to compete in Kickboxing and that’s very important to me because I make pretty good money doing that. This is the best decision I could make, it allows me to build up my MMA resume while participating in Kickboxing bouts.”
Spong has been preparing for his MMA debut before he was called upon to assist Evans in his fight against Jon Jones back in April. The members of the Blackzilians have acknowledged that Spong is a quick learner and when you combine that with his athletic ability, MMA seems like a natural fit. He will face Travis Bartlett on November 3rd, but it doesn’t matter who stands across from him that night, he will be prepared.
“I’ve been living in the states for almost two years now,” offered the 27-year-old Spong. “I’ve been training in MMA for the past year already and I feel like a real MMA fighter. I’m gifted, I’m a natural athlete and I pick things up fast. I must say I like MMA and on November 3rd I want to showcase what I’ve picked up.”
“I don’t know much about Bartlett, they’ve switched my opponent a few times. Originally I was supposed to face Houston Alexander, that fight was pulled and they had someone else in mind, but that didn’t work out. I’m just focused on myself and I’ve been like throughout my whole career. I don’t focus on my opponents strong points; I can only focus on what I am capable of and what I want to do. It’s better like that and it works for me .”
After competing in a variety of weight classes in kickboxing, Spong is going to make the light heavyweight division his home in MMA. We asked him if there was anyone in mixed martial arts who he feels could compete with him on his feet. Anderson Silva was mentioned and Spong spoke about the middleweight champion’s performance against Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153.
“I don’t see anyone in MMA that can strike with me,” Spong said confidently. “I’ve fought Alistair Overeem; but other than him I don’t really see a guy who can strike like I can. Kickboxing and MMA are not the same, they are very different. I would love to have a fight with Silva, but I don’t know how much longer he’ll be around. I always like challenges and in MMA he’s the man.”
“He put on a great show for the fans, I like Bonnar too, and I know him personally. He tried, but he came up short. Silva is a guy who has the guts and the balls to do things in the Octagon. Silva and Jon Jones both have the balls to try new things and it works for them.”
As with every fighter who has a great striking game, but hasn’t had a lot of training on the ground, Spong can expect his opponents to try and force him to the canvas. Taking advantage of the fact his team has some of the best grapplers in MMA has Spong very confident in his ability to make his opponents pay for their mistakes.
“I think right now I’m better with my takedown defense, but because I’ve been training for quite some time I feel more comfortable on the ground,” said Spong. “I’m training my ground game with a lot of bullies like Brauilo Estima, Rashad Evans who has sick wrestling, Overeem who is a huge guy and Jorge Santiago who has great BJJ and will give you nightmares. If I feel comfortable with some of those guys on the ground that means I’m headed in the right direction.”
There is another light heavyweight who Spong trains with at Imperial Athletics. Anthony “Rumble” Johnson has made 205 his home and Spong sees big things in his teammates future, especially once he gets acclimated to the weight.
“His stand-up game is pretty good, Anthony is just a beast and it’s coming out right now,” Spong explained. “The whole world hasn’t had the opportunity to see the real “Rumble,” yet. Believe me, AJ is a beast and I think he’s going to showcase it in his next couple of fights. He’s murdering people right now in the cage; he’s straight up killing them. I think he’s going to do real good in the future.”