Hackney UFC fighter relishes rare opportunity to perform on home soil

Brad Pickett

Brad Pickett - Credit: Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Hackney-born Brad Pickett says he has trained ‘harder than an Olympian’ in preparation for his long-awaited homecoming in the UFC Fight Night London this weekend.

Pickett, who fights out of Coconut Creek, Florida, flew into London on Saturday with his American Top Team trainer Mike Brown and will be taking nothing for granted against UFC debutant Neil Seery at the O2 Arena.

The 35-year-old, who recently moved down a division from bantamweight to flyweight, told the Gazette that he has left no stone unturned in the build-up to this much-anticipated bout on home soil.

“People now see us as proper athletes. I train harder than an Olympian. I do boxing, wrestling, judo and grappling – Olympic sports that together make me who I am,” Pickett said.

“I don’t smoke, I don’t drink, I eat very well and I’ve been dieting all year – I’ve dedicated a lot to the profession.

“The sport is only going to get bigger and better. UFC in America is massive and it’s now growing everywhere around the world.

“For me to fight for the UFC in my home town, in the best arena in Europe, is amazing. It’s nice to fight just a stone’s throw away.”

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“One Punch”, as he is nicknamed, was born in Whitechapel and grew up in Bow. He began his education at Gatehouse Primary School, Sewardstone Road before moving to India at the age of eight.

Pickett returned to England two years later, initially living in Northamptonshire and, having moved back to London in his 20s, he got into ultimate fighting via a well-trodden path.

“I was originally a footballer, who sought boxing as a way of keeping fit. I had a bad knee injury at the age of 21 which meant I had to give the two a bit of a break.

“I tried to get back into boxing after a while, but it no longer felt the same for me. After I was advised by my friend Del Edwards to try out mixed martial arts, I fell in love with the sport and never looked back.

“I couldn’t wait to get to the next training session and loved learning so many new aspects of the discipline.”

Irishman Seery, only a year younger than Pickett, is a former Cage Warriors world champion, so the Londoner will be wary on Saturday against his ‘dangerous’ challenger.

“I go into the fight as a heavy favourite, but he may have the luck of the Irish, with absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain,” said Pickett.

“I’m very professional – I treat every fighter I face with the same mindset. I never look at anyone lightly, so long as they have two arms and two legs.”

Pickett has held both the Cage Rage featherweight and Ultimate Challenge featherweight world title since turning professional in 2004.

The orthodox striker, who won on a post-fight award in each of his first three UFC bouts, believes he has a bright future now he has dropped to 125lb.

“I beat the champion of my weight class a couple of years ago, so there’s a good chance of me becoming a world champion,” he added. “If that is the case, I would become the first European world champion in the UFC.”

“It is a title that I believe is very achievable for me – that’s my goal at the moment.”

Brad Pickett is part of an exciting card, with world number two Alexander Gustafsson’s clash with undefeated British fighter Jimi Manuwa topping the bill on Saturday.

The event – which sold its 14,000 tickets within 48 hours – will be shown live on BT Sport.