Chris Clements: “I’ve Had Opportunities To Tap People Out, But I Just Enjoy Punching People In The Face”
Predicts KO for UFC 149 matchup with Siyar Bahadurzada. “One of us is going to sleep.”
By Tom Taylor
Lately, it seems that no fight is safe. As a tidal wave of fighter injuries have ravaged several promising looking cards in the past weeks, it’s become clear that a signed fight agreement does not actually guarantee a fight.
Such was the case when welterweights Thiago Alves and Yoshihiro Akiyama agreed to fight at UFC 149, on July 21 in Calgary. First, Akiyama pulled out of the fight against Alves, following an injury he sustained in training. Then, an eager Siyar Bahadurzada stepped up to face Alves, only to be left without an opponent when Alves was hurt in training.
Enter Canadian MMA staple Chris Clements.
Clements, who won in his first UFC appearance at UFC 145 by earning a split-decision win over Keith Wisniewski, agreed to step in against Bahadurzada. The matchup we are left with, between Clements and Bahadurzada, is one between two powerful strikers with a lust for knockouts, and one that promises to be exciting.
In the midst of a condensed training camp, with the fight just over a month away, Clements agreed to speak with Full Contact Fighter about his upcoming matchup in Calgary. According to Clements, attempting to become Alves’ replacement against Bahadurzada was an obvious course of action.
“I called my management and asked them to try to get me that fight, but my manager was in Singapore. By the time he got my message, he checked his messages, I was asking for it, and I think at the same time (UFC Matchmaker) Joe Silva had called and asked me. So both of us were going for it at the same time,” he explained.
The stars aligned for Clements, and so began the lead up to his fight with the only Afghan fighter on the UFC’s roster, Bahadurzada.
While the recent bombardment of fighter injuries has worked out in Clements’ favor, he does believe that the injuries are having an adverse affect on the sport, and that it may be wise for fighters to be smarter with their training— something he takes care to do in the weeks leading up to a fight.
“I went through a phase of injuries myself when I was getting injured quite a bit, back a couple of years ago. Then when it came time to fight, I just backed off on the crazy sparring and stuff. I did it once or twice a week but that was it. Most of the times now I just focus my training camps on my conditioning,” Clements said. “I want to protect my body during my camp.”
Barring injuries to himself or his opponent, when he fights at UFC 149, it will mark his second appearance in the octagon. Finally getting the call to join the UFC is something he had been anticipating for a long time.
“It was amazing; it was a dream a come true. Not to sound cliché, but it literally was. My whole goal in fighting was to get a fight in the UFC, just to say I did it. That’s why I kind of went into the fight so happy, with a big smile on my face from start to finish, just because I was just happy to be there. I didn’t look at it as the UFC jitters or nervousness, because everything was a bonus to me. To win was a bonus, to lose, you know it didn’t matter. My goal was just to get there.”
When Clements fights Bahadurzada in Calgary, he will have the opportunity to continue living his UFC dream. On the front end of his preparation for this fight, Clements says things are going well so far, and he isn’t too worried about the shortened training camp he will have.
“I found out about (the fight) and, boom, right over to the gym I went,” he said. “I didn’t fight that long ago, so everything will come back pretty quick. It’s going to be a little different trying to get to my peak with only six weeks to prepare as opposed to my normal ten weeks. I’ll have to play it out and listen to my body and go from there. “
Bahadurzada holds 11 of his 21 career wins by KO, and has become famous for his power. Clements also knows his way around a KO, however, owning 10 of his 11 wins by KO, and when it comes down to it, he believes he hits harder that in his upcoming opponent.
“Yeah I think I hit harder. I think I hit harder than anyone (else) in the welterweight division.”
Despite Clements’ confidence, Bahadurzada demonstrated his enormous power by flattening the always game Paulo Thiago just 42 seconds into their fight at UFC on Fuel 2. Clements is still not convinced, however.
“I think a lot of it had to do with Paulo Thiago’s jumping into it. Paulo Thiago was ducking down, and he caught it on the chin and it wasn’t even a clean shot with his hand, it was more of his wrist. I’m not looking at that like a lot of people are, like ‘Oh wow, he’s a killer, he’s a killer.’ We’re big guys. If we hit a guy at the right time they’re going out,” Clements said.
While the victor of a striking match between the two men may be a coin-flip, a grappling match between them could be interesting as well. While Clements holds no wins by submissions compared to opponent’s six, he feels confident about his chances on the mat with Bahadurzada.
“I think I’m better than him on the ground,” Clements said. I don’t have any submission wins, but that’s because I choose not to. I’ve had opportunities to tap people out, but I just enjoy punching people in the face and putting on a show more than I do holding onto something and going for a submission. I’m not concerned about going to the ground with him at all.”
Regardless of where this fight unfolds, the winner will take a big step up the crowded welterweight ladder. Despite the improved status a win over Bahadurzada would give him, Clements said he is in no rush to start fighting top 10 opponents.
“I don’t really want to go fight a top 10 guy right after this fight. Even this is a big jump up. I’m just getting used to the UFC right now. Siyar is just a good matchup I think, but I’m not trying to jump into the top 10 instantaneously.”
Clements, for the time being, is happy to take it slow in the UFC, and enjoy his time in the promotion. So much so, that he is unconcerned with an eventual title shot.
“No, I haven’t thought about the title, not once,” he said. “It’s not even something I’m concerned about. My whole thing is showing the world who I am, let them see me, and let them like what they see. I just want to go in there, put on a good fight, and be someone the fans want to watch.
“My favorite fighter of all time,” he continued, “and the best career you could ever ask for is Chris Lytle. He’s my dream fighter, and he’s the guy who I think did it the right way. He may have never been champion but he’s someone people wanted to see and people always respected him. I think he did it the right way and I’d like to emulate my career in the UFC after him. I want to be that guy people want to see fight—whether he wins or loses, you’re going to like what you see.”
While he will have the opportunity to throw an exciting fight against Bahadurzada, as the Canadian fighter in the matchup, Clements will also have the chance to represent his country in the fight.
“I’m excited for that. Even though I’m Canadian, I always fought in Québec, against a Québec fighter. So, I was getting booed a lot, even in my own country. I’m not used to having the fans on my side, so it’s going to be nice to not be the one getting booed. I want to see what the energy is like, and see if I feel it, because usually I just block it out and don’t pay attention to it, but if it’s a positive vibe, I’m kind of excited to see if I can feed off it at all.”
With throngs of Canadian fans behind him, Clements believes his fight with Bahadurzada will be a spectacle.
“I’m not sure how Siyar’s chin is, but I know how hard I hit. The fans can expect a knockout at any time— one of us is going to sleep.”