Cholish won the Ring of Combat Lightweight Title this past October in Atlantic City.
Team Renzo Gracie Lightweight Battles Marc Stevens on Fedor-Silva Card
Years of training and creation of a superior Mixed Martial Arts game reaches its highest level of acknowledgement on Saturday night for lightweight John Cholish (5-1), who will take on Ultimate Fighter veteran Marc Stevens (12-5) on the undercard of Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva at the IZOD Center in New Jersey. With a Ring of Combat and Urban Conflict Championships title already on his resume, Cholish now sets his sights on the biggest stage of his career, and he is determined to take complete advantage of the situation.
“I’m excited and really looking forward to fighting for Strikeforce,” he confirmed this week in an exclusive interview with Resolution Sports. “It’s a great opportunity to be fighting in front of a few thousand fans, and I’m just looking forward to the overall experience. I feel like I’m peaking at the right time, and I’m looking to go in there and display my skill set.”
Considering that he is a prize student of the Renzo Gracie Academy, working with brilliant fight minds such as John Danaher, Joe Sampieri and Erik Owings, Cholish has been turning a lot of heads within the MMA community leading up to this debut under the Strikeforce banner. Among those recently acknowledging the former standout wrestler at Cornell University include 2010 MMA Journalist of the Year Ariel Helwani, who had Cholish on the MMA Hour this past week as an in-studio guest.
“Ariel was great. He’s really well spoken and a great host,” Cholish said of his time on the show. “It was definitely an interesting experience. Ariel does a really nice job with how he runs the conversation and keeps it all flowing.”
While the distinctions that come with rising up the MMA ranks are always a reward, Cholish knows that the grind in the gym is where he must be focused as he embarks upon this huge step in his fighting career. And with that comes some hardships, especially considering the fact that he also has a full-time brokering job on Wall Street, in addition to being a professional Mixed Martial Artist.
“I had a little bit of a rough time at the beginning of last week, which is to be expected,” he stated. “I like to say ‘if I don’t have a few bad days before a fight, it means I wasn’t training hard enough.’ So last week, my body was a little worn down and a little tired, but that just reiterates that I’m training tough and smart for the fight. Towards the end of the week, when I got in my last sparring session, I could feel it all coming back together. Dave Branch has been such a huge part of my camp this time, along with John Danaher, and it’s been great sparring with them.”
With fight day now here, Cholish says this past week was just a matter of taking care of the final business at hand.
“This week, it’s pretty much been just getting the weight off while making sure I’m healthy and ready to go,” said Cholish, who weighed in on Friday at 155.8 pounds. “There’s not much you can improve on during the last week. Your skills are pretty much where they are going to be, as well as your conditioning, so it’s really about maintaining and making weight so you can be ready for the fun part.”
Leading up to tonight’s encounter, Cholish spent a week training in Canada with UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre, something that he regularly does in preparation for an upcoming match.
“Georges is always such a great host,” he commented. “I was able to stay with him and Jon Chaimberg, who was with us as well. I worked out at Tristar, and the immense amount of sparring partners they have up there is just great. I was able to wrestle with the Canadian National Wrestling Team, do pad work with Howard Grant, as well as spar and work on techniques with Georges. It was a short-lived trip, but it was very beneficial. I was able to take a lot away from it.”
When you are in the business of locking yourself in a cage with another man for 15 minutes until someone submits or gets knocked out, one cannot help but have a bit of nerves. Cholish admits that it happens to him on the day of a fight, and he says he has no problem with that fact at all.
“If I’m not a little nervous, I would be worried,” he said of a fight day. “I think a little bit of nervousness is a good thing. I don’t think it’s exactly normal in our human nature to get in a cage with another person and punch, kick and fight, so if I wasn’t a little nervous, I’d probably be reported as being a serial killer or something.”
Competing in front of the large crowd that comes with Strikeforce is something that Cholish has been working toward for years, but the skillful fighter says he hopes to have the blinders on once the opening round begins.
“To be honest, I’m hoping to just focus on the guy across from me in the ring and try to put everyone else out of the equation,” he stated. “I only want to listen to my corner and do what I’ve been training to do the past few years. Hopefully, and I feel pretty confident in myself, everything is going to go very well.”
As a native of the region, the situation could not have been much better for Cholish in that he makes his Strikeforce debut in New Jersey, so close to those who have supported him since he first began his MMA career.
“I’m just really excited to be fighting in front of my fans, family and friends,” he remarked. “You work so hard for so many weeks, all for 15 minutes of time, so hopefully everything comes together, and I can put on a good performance.”
For those unable to make it to the IZOD Center, the fight between Cholish and Stevens will be broadcasted lived on HDNet, with the action getting underway at 8:00 p.m. The main card of Fedor vs. Silva will be aired on Showtime, beginning at 10:00 p.m.
For all of the latest on John Cholish, make sure to follow him on Twitter @JohnCholish.