"And the NEW! EFC Middle Weight Champion! Liam! Cleland"

Having heard from Gert Strydom first about what went on during the preperations of a very important fight for Liam Cleland, I decided to find out by the champ himself. This was a very imortant fight for Liam, as he had alot to prove not only to the fighters in the Middleweight division, but to himself also. I had the honour of finding out by the champ what happened before the fight, during the fight, and what his plans are for the future.

Liam, congrats on a well deserved victory at EFC 41. How does it feel to finally have the belt?
"It feels great, hasn't really sunk in yet to be honest, but on fight night, I was on a high. After 15 years of fighting mostly in back yard competitions, it's great to have a belt that actually means something."

It's clear from your stiking coach, Gert Strydom, that you put some hard hours in during your prep time. What did you work on and who was involved with this?
"Every morning with Gert, I would perform bag work and closer to the fight we put in a lot of sparring (both ground and stand up). I had a few valuable sessions at FFM (Fight Fit Militia), both grappling/wrestling and stand up. And then with Denis Ovcina and Chris Clifton at Ascent BJJ, we did a lot of ground work and technique."
"The sessions were very hard, I had my nose broken 2 weeks out from the fight, bust ear drum about a week out (so I struggled to hear my corner), and a torn intercostal 3 weeks out."

In the hexagon, Michiel tested you on almost every aspect that one can think of. He had you on the ground and at times tested your stand up game. How did you manage to get through five hard fought rounds against a guy who refuses to give up?
"Going into the fight' we knew he was a 'never say die' kind of guy. Watching his other fights, we also know he has excellent standup, ground and clinch. I had a very mentally tough ride in round one, but after you resign yourself to the fact that this fight is going 5 rounds, it gets easier."
"Our strategy was quite simple, no takedowns in round one and grind it out for five rounds. I was very nervous about my gas tank but managed to pull it off. We also found that going for submissions can make you more tired than it is worth, so unless it as a guarantee, we were going to punch and grind for five rounds."

With the belt firmly strapped to your waist, is there anyone in the division you'd love to take on?
"No I don't have any guys I gun for. I focus on one fight at a time and build up to that. After some time off, we start looking at the next guy. As it stands however, it's up to the EFC who they put in front of me. Judging by the last few events, it will be an exciting fight as the match maker Graeme Cartmell has been on point form."

Do you feel that even though you are the champ, you can still improve on your skill set and ability? Gert (Strydom) said, he feels you were only at 60% during the fight and that you can do much better.
"I don't want to come across as lazy (or arrogant...actually lazy is ok) but Gert is correct. We started 6-8 weeks out, however I am only able to do 45 minutes in the mornings (5am-6am). I also missed a few sessions due to work/family commitments."
"In an ideal world, I would train twice a day, minimum with a nap in between to recover, but the world unfortunately isn't ideal."

Liam, thank you for your time and may this belt be with you for a long time. God bless.
"Thanks for the interview. I would like to add a special thanks for everyone who I trained with, Ascend BJJ, Tapout, Fight Fit Militia and Tal-Ell Bugai. I could not have won on my own and a portion of this belt should be split between all the people I have trained and fought with over the past 15 years."

The champ had a few words for our young fighters. "I hope youngsters entering this sport, come in with the attitude, that cage fighting is a team sport. You won't go far on your own. Your corner generally wins you the fight."

Some words of gratitude were also sent in the direction of EFC big boss Cairo Howarth and EFC matchmaker Graeme Cartmell. "...thanks to Cairo and Graeme for making the fight happen. I know it might not have been a popular decision but the victory and the fight of the night performance proves it to be a great match up."

Now who can forget the legendary Gert Strydom. "A very special thank you to Gert Strydom. Something about Gert made me pull myself out of bed at 4am (which has never happened before)...to go get hit in the head."

Muhammad Ali ones said..."I hated every minute of training, but I said, don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion". This is surely a statement that Liam Cleland is living by, as he puts everything he has into training, regardless of the circumstances.

Article by: Darren McLean

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