Houston’s Andrew Craig was impressive in his UFC debut, defeating the heavily favored Kyle Noke in his home country of Australia on short notice. Next up is BJJ black belt Rafael Natal at UFC on Fuel TV: Weidman vs. Munoz on July 11th in San Jose, CA. I had a chance to have a burger and a milkshake (don’t worry, it was before the fight camp got really serious) with the undefeated Texan before the fight.
Examiner: Congrats on the win in your UFC debut! The fight was in Australia, in your opponent’s home country. How intense was that first UFC fight?
Craig: I don’t know what it is.The more fights I have had, the calmer I get. So even there, the biggest fight of my career, I was totally relaxed. I was more relaxed for that fight than I was my first amateur fight. The lights, the music, the fans, it was cool. I thought people were clapping for me, but I realized when Noke came out just how loud it could get. Either way, it was still pretty cool.
Examiner: The fight itself, you started off slowly. It has kind of become a habit for you. Is that a concern?
Craig: Before the fight Travis and Robbie were saying, “You might have noticed you are a slow starter. So get out there and pretend it’s the second round.” So that is the mentality I went in with. I am the same way in training. With Travis, when we start rolling he usually taps me really quick, and then I get better. That is definitely something I will be working to fix before my next fight.
Examiner: Did you ever feel like you were in trouble in the fight?
Craig: No. I knew I wasn’t gonna get finished. I also knew that first round didn’t look good to the judges. It’s funny, when I got that takedown in the third round, I wasn’t even thinking about it. I just saw it and kind of football tackled him. I landed there in front of Florian and Anik and they got excited, and that just fueled me a little. I knew it was 1-1 and the third round had been kind of boring, and I needed to make something happen. I figured that would do it.
Examiner: How was the crowd?
Craig: They booed the shit out of me when they announced me, but I didn’t care. Everyone was really cool after the fight. We went to the casino and took a bunch of pictures with Australian dudes, sadly no chicks. It was pretty cool. When I was leaving the cage, everyone was clapping, but one guy yelled at me to “get a haircut.” Overall they were great though.
Examiner: Since you brought it up, the hair. Is it getting to be a distraction?
Craig: It was obnoxious. I think I am going to corn-row it. When I get to California I will either corn-row it or shave it. Two of my favorite fighters, Belcher and Faber, have done the white guy corn-rows. The last time I shaved it was 2010, and it took a long time to grow out. I might be bald in two years. I can’t take that chance, so I would rather go with the corn-row option.
Examiner: After the fight, everyone obviously wants to hear from Dana and Joe Silva about how you did. What did they have to say to you?
Craig: Never talked to Dana. Not even once the whole time I was there. He gave us a pump up speech right after the weigh ins to try and get everyone to put on a show. It worked, everyone was stoked. But Joe was cool. He did the “not a bad first fight” thing, and I honestly just was too excited to notice much more.
Examiner: How long did you have to wait before you got the next call?
Craig: They got back to me pretty quick. I had an automatic 180 days for my foot, but they called me before I was even cleared. I got it cleared as soon as I heard the fight was a possibility. So maybe I waited about a month, so it wasn’t too bad. I wasn’t concerned really. I just take the fights as they come. I usually wait for the right fight, but when you are low man on the totem pole in the UFC, every fight they offer you is the right one. But I was on cloud 9 anyhow, so the wait wasn’t too bad.
Examiner: Talk about your new opponent. What are your thoughts on the matchup?
Craig: I like the matchup. It’s the second black belt I have gone against. Pineiro was a Saulo Ribeiro black belt. I think he is Draculino and Renzo Gracie black belt, so they carry a lot of weight. I know he is really good at tennis. Oh, that’s Rafael NADAL. I feel like Travis can prepare me for anyone on the ground. I fought a top wrestler in Bush, fought a good submission guy in Schambari, I fought a guy with a complete ground game in Noke, and now I am fighting another complete ground guy in Natal. I am also just stoked to be on this card. The main event (Mark Munoz vs. Chris Weidman) is going to be awesome. It will be really cool to be a part of it.
Examiner: What has this training camp been like for you?
Craig: I have already been working pretty hard. I am trying to get together a good group of guys here in Houston from my team and other teams. I did a week in Austin with Robby Rabadi and got beat up by Tim Kennedy. Then I went to Colorado for a week or so. I have been working a lot with Michael Corley. I have never done this much pad work before, so that is new. I even start jogging this time. Crazy, right?
Examiner: Is there anyone you want to thank before the fight?
Craig: Team Tooke, Team Rabadi, Jace Pitre MMA, Plex, Lou at First Round Management. That’s about it.
Examiner: Thanks for the time Andrew, and good luck.
Craig: Thanks buddy.