Sports Editors Note: Bradley is a 2001 graduate of South Tama County High School. He was a two time State Champ runner up and won a State Championship his senior year of high school. He attended the University of Iowa where he was a two-time All-American wrestler and finished as high as fourth at the NCAA Championships.
I was able to have a phone interview with Bradley on Sunday, February 5. The following is our conversation.
Allison: Hi Paul. How are you today?
Paul:I'm good. How you doing?
Allison: I'm good. I'm good. Thank you. Well, I'm just going to jump in here with some questions I have for you. We're just a little over a month removed since your last fight with the World Series of Fighting Promotion at Madison Square Garden. Can you catch us up to where you're at now and what's coming down the pike for you?
Paul:Yeah. It was a good fight. Close fight. A lot of ballots had me winning it but that's neither here nor there. I lost a close split decision to Okami. I took a little time off, went back to San Diego and then my manager actually approached me with an offer for this fight in Russia against Alexander Shlemenko, one of the top fighters in Russia and in the world. Money was really good and pretty much made the decision for me.
Allison: I think you're in Pittsburgh right now so can you tell me about the training camp you put together for this next fight in March.
Paul: I got the call. The training camp started about two weeks ago. I'd already had this flight booked actually to come up to Pittsburgh, to kind of check out some gyms. See about possibly after fighting, possibly working out here and looking at some different gyms and what-not. The trip was already booked thankfully. It was with my good friend who's actually going to be flying with me to Russia, Lou Armezzani. I just came out here and been training every day, twice a day. Going to get back to San Diego and get back down to the grind and just do it all over again. The fight's a little over a month away so still got time, but it's time to get down to nitty-gritty.
Allison: What's it like to have such quick turnaround between your fights.
Paul:It's good but it's surprising. Like I said, I just wasn't ready for it. It kind of came out of the blue. With that being said, like I said, it's a great opportunity. It's one of those opportunities I couldn't turn down. It's good. I'm still in shape. I was healthy after that last fight other than a few cuts and bumps and bruises but overall healthy and feeling good.
Allison: You're moving up a weight class from welterweight to middleweight. How did you come to that decision and how's it going for you?
Paul:I usually fight 170 but Schlemenko, he's not a huge 185er so I took that into account. I'm also pretty decent size 170 pounder so 185, I'm not terribly small. I finally got back to lifting weights heavy. I haven't done that in two or three years just because making the weight cut down to 70 doesn't allow me to do that so we're back to lifting heavy weights. My weight's gone back up about 195. I don't want to go any higher than that because I know the last time I moved up a weight class to fight at 185 on short notice for the UFC actually, I just tried to put on a bunch of unneeded, unwanted weight and it was kind of pointless. I felt sluggish, I felt out of shape so we're doing it the right way thankfully.
I signed the contract with six weeks to get ready for it. Like I said, we're back to lifting heavy weights and I get to eat whatever I want and the fact that it's still going to be healthy but I still have to lift weights so that's cool. Like I said, now I'm traveling all the way to Russia and I don't have to focus on such a hard weight cut. Like I said, Schlemenko's not a big guy. Once they offered me the deal it was just a really good deal so it was kind of a no-brainer.
Allison:Your MMA career has taken you all over the country and now to the other side of the world to face Schlemenko in Russia. How does the travel aspect factor into your preparations and will you have an opportunity to experience the city while you're there?
Paul:They're flying me out five days before the fight so that way I can acclimate several time changes. It's 11 hours from San Diego, eight hours from Pittsburgh. The good thing is I'm not cutting a lot of weight so I'll be able to go out and check out Moscow and see every ... But honestly, I'm there for one thing. I'm there to win a fight. It's more of a business trip than it is a vacation and as soon as I'm done, I'm getting out of there. I have no aspirations to stay an extra day. We go in on Monday and then fight Friday, fly out Saturday.
Allison:Pretty quick turnaround.
Allison:I read that both you and Alexander Schlemenko have spent time at the Bellator Promotion. Have you two crossed paths before?
Paul:I've seen him at the promotion. We've never really talked or anything. His student Andrey Koreshkov was at my weight and I was more focused on fighting him. It was kind of crazy. There was a few times in Bellator I was like, "Man, for some reason I think we could fight one of these days." Sure enough, here we are a couple of years later.
Allison:I'd like to kind of transition and talk a little bit about your early years as a wrestler. What do you remember about this time of year, just because so many high school and college wrestlers are gearing for their runs toward the postseason.
Paul:I just remember ... My biggest thing was it's such a long season and this is the exciting part of the year because there's light at the end of the tunnel. The grind isn't going to be going on forever now. When you start the beginning of the season it's all fun but then you get about mid-season it's like, "Man. I'm sick of cutting weight. My body's beat up." For me it was the most exciting part of the year. You're starting to peak and like I said, there's light at the end of the tunnel and your biggest tournaments are coming up. I was always real excited when the postseason was coming just for that fact.
Allison:As a former Iowa High School State Champion and two time state runner-up, what advice can you give to these young wrestlers, particularly those that are trying to make return appearances at the state tournament?
Paul:Just go out and have fun. The more pressure you're going to put on yourself the worse it's going to be. That's one thing. My first two years I was runner-up for the fact that I put so much pressure on myself. My senior year, I really enjoyed the tournament. I actually watched most of it instead of sitting down in the basement so I knew what the atmosphere was going to be like. Yeah, just go out and have fun. Let it hang out and whatever happens, happens. You don't want to sit back and not attack and basically let it run right by you. Basically have no regrets. Go out and have fun and just wrestle.
Allison:Good advice to give to those young guys. One last question for you. I just kind of want to hear what you remember about your senior year at State and that championship match. I can tell those who are listening in that I was mat-side as a cheerleader so I definitely remember the emotion of watching you win. What do you remember about that match?
Paul:I remember right away, because the year before I was a state runner-up. I was wrestling the defending champ. I remember I got taken down right away. It woke me up immediately. With that being said, I had to start wrestling immediately. It was one of those matches I kept attacking. I didn't even need to take that last double leg takedown but I kept attacking. There was a lot of emotion obviously because it's my last match in my high school career as far as the State Tournament with Coach Hoskey. It was pretty emotional, like I said after all the pain the year before it was amazing to finally get that championship.
Allison:I remember it being amazing to watch. I just want to say thank you so much for taking time out to talk to us and before I let you go I do want to know, can people in the US watch the fight online somewhere?
Paul:Yes. If you go to the M1 Global Website, it's going to be streamed live on there and I believe YouTube is going to be streaming it live. Unfortunately it's on the biggest network in Russia as far as their TV goes. They're basically, their CNN is covering it but as far as for the Americans yeah, it's M1 Global. Their website will be streaming it live and I believe YouTube too.
Allison:Wonderful. Awesome. So there's a way we can watch you. Thanks again Paul and I know that you'll have a lot of people here, Entertainment Toledo as well as all over the country cheering you on. Good luck to you and thank you again.