Cholish has won seven consecutive fights (Photo by Lucas Noonan | www.LucasNoonan.com).
Written by John Archibald, Resolution Sports
Team Renzo Gracie Lightweight Battles Mitch Clarke at UFC 140
Lightweight John Cholish (7-1) is currently riding a seven-fight winning streak, including six straight stoppage victories, and the highly talented Team Renzo Gracie mixed martial artist will now get the opportunity to showcase his skills on the biggest stage in the sport. Cholish will take on undefeated Canadian Mitch Clarke (9-0) on December 10th at UFC 140, fighting on the undercard of a Jon Jones vs. Lyoto Machida Light Heavyweight Championship match at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
“The day I found out, one of my buddies called and told me that he had heard I was signed by the UFC and would be fighting in December,” Cholish said of how he initially learned that he was going to compete in the UFC. “I was like ‘what are you talking about?’ Ali (Abdel-Aziz, manager) hadn’t even had a chance to reach out to me before an MMA website had leaked it. I called him and asked if there was something he wanted to tell me. He said ‘Yeah, you have a contract. You’re going to fight in the UFC.’ I laughed and told him that he might want to send it over first. It’s pretty funny that’s the way I found out.”
Cholish has more than earned the chance to show his ability on the platform of the UFC. The former wrestler and Ivy League graduate of Cornell University has already held the lightweight title in three different promotions (Urban Conflict Championships, Ring of Combat and Cage Fury Fighting Championships) since becoming a professional fighter just over four years ago. He also looked brilliant in one outing for Strikeforce this past February, forcing The Ultimate Fighter veteran Marc Stevens to tap out in the second round from a perfectly applied kneebar. That success has now turned the heads of the UFC, and Cholish looks to make the most of the opportunity he has next month in Toronto.
“I’m just really excited and ecstatic,” he commented. “I’m more looking at it as an exciting new challenge and the next step in competition, the highest level on the biggest stage as far as mixed martial arts goes. I’m just looking at it as a great opportunity to take the next step in my career.”
When you train at the Renzo Gracie Academy in New York City like Cholish does, you often find yourself rolling with the likes of such accomplished fighters as UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre and UFC Lightweight Titleholder Frankie Edgar, in addition to daily sessions with some of the most brilliant minds in combat sports. It also presents the opportunity to travel to the gyms where fighters such as St-Pierre regularly train.
“I’m going to try to head up to Montreal at Tristar for a little training camp,” Cholish stated about his upcoming plans. “Frankie’s healing up a little bit, but I was sparring with him before his fight with Gray Maynard (a successful title defense in October). I feel like I have a pretty good coaching staff and a pretty good system. Things have been working out for me pretty well, knock on wood, and you know the old saying. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. So I’m just continuing along the same training regimen.”
Before heading to the Renzo Gracie Academy for training each night, Cholish spends his days brokering commodities in the high stress world of Wall Street. And despite his latest advancement in MMA, do not expect that to change anytime soon.
“I love my full-time job, and living in New York is really expensive. Fighting full-time wouldn’t be an option, financially,” he remarked. “MMA is a sport I really love, and I do it because I love it. I’m really fortunate to be fighting on a UFC card, and I’m looking forward to the experience.”
On the opposite end of the Octagon come December 10th will stand Clarke, who is unbeaten in nine professional outings. He has spent the majority of his career in Canadian promotions such as Evolution Fighting Championships and The Fight Club, so it could be rather difficult for Cholish to find out a ton of information about him before they meet at UFC 140.
“To be honest, I haven’t really watched any film on him yet,” Cholish admitted. “I’ve had so many fights back-to-back, and I’ve always been just training for opponents. I feel that I’ve been doing rather well over the past couple months just training and having fun. As far as Mitch is concerned, you know he has to be really talented to make it to the UFC level, but I’ve spent this training camp focusing on myself and improving on little details. As I get closer, probably three weeks out, I’ll look at some film to see what he has and go over it with my coach John Danaher, Erik Owings and Joe Sampieri to pick things apart. Obviously, he’s undefeated, but fighters can change so much from one fight to another. I don’t want to rely on what he’s done in the past because you need to always come out and expect a new fighter. I’m going to expect him to be really game that night, and I’m going to come out and fight my best.”
The night of UFC 140 will mark a pivotal night in the MMA career of Cholish, but he is focused upon not letting the magnitude of the event deter him from the goal of picking up his third win in 2011.
“I’m trying to look at it as another day in the office,” he confirmed. “It’s the UFC stage, but it’s funny because I’m pretty sure I’m scheduled to be the first fight of the night. I’ve been to a couple of UFCs, and the arena is usually pretty empty in the beginning. It’s still the same Octagon, it’s you and another opponent, and you have the same coaches in your corner. Hopefully, once I get in the cage, everything will settle in, and we can go from there. I’m not trying to get too hype and raise my adrenalin. I’m just trying to look at it as another day.”
To keep up with all the latest from John Cholish, make sure to follow him on Twitter @JohnCholish.