Brad Wheeler – “I am the number one contender!”

Brad “The Crazy Kid” Wheeler moved himself one step closer to his title aspirations with a decisive first round stoppage of Jason Cooledge at Cage Warriors 69. His wishes for a top opponent following that fight were met when Cage Warriors offered him UFC veteran John “The One” Maguire at Cage Warriors 74 on 15th November. While Maguire may be in negative figures in his last few bouts, Wheeler is taking his opponent very seriously and has a lot of respect for what Maguire has done in the sport. “He was a UFC veteran and UCMMA champion and although he is not on a good streak at the moment you can’t take it away from him. He has just been unlucky of late, I guess. He is still a big name and a big step up for me. In the rankings he ranks high and as soon as they offered me the fight I said yes straight away. I’m very happy with the fight and I can’t wait to beat him.”

The two fighters are currently at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of performance with Wheeler riding a four fight win streak with three stoppages, in comparison to Maguire who is 1-2 in his last three fights. But rewind the clock back to early 2012 and Wheeler found himself in a very similar position to the one which Maguire is currently in. “You know I was in the same position before so I know what he is feeling at the moment. After my loss to J.P. Reese because I had trained so hard for that fight and was so gutted, I just wanted to get another win under me as quickly as possible. So I jumped in there on three weeks’ notice against Mansour Barnaoui. Obviously that didn’t work out and instead of picking up a win I had two losses on the bounce. Maguire has done exactly the same and I bet he just wanted to win after the Saul Rogers fight and unfortunately got caught. Thinking back on that now it was a silly move on my behalf. It just gets to you when you have trained so hard.”

It was almost an unwritten rule that a win for Maguire over Saul Rogers would have put the BKK Fighter into a title shot, so does Wheeler think that a win over Maguire will put him in the title mix? While he is confident of getting a shot at a future date he believes there are potentially three Lightweights fighting at Cage Warriors 74 who, with a dominant performance could be next to fight Stevie Ray for his strap. “I think a win over Maguire does put me up there. I can’t think of any other Lightweights on a five fight win streak aside from Damir Hadzovic and until he beat Maguire nobody even knew about him. I have been with Cage Warriors since 2011, stopped my last three opponents and am 5-1 in my last six fights. If I get a stoppage win over Maguire then that sends out a huge statement. I think it really depends on performance on the night. Looking at the rest of the card I think it could be either me, Saul Rogers or Joe Duffy who get a title shot depending on performance. I spoke to Ian and Graham after my last performance and I asked them how long would I have to wait to fight the Champion. They said probably two more good wins. So I’m going to get the first one on the 15th and see what happens.”

For Wheeler who hails from the MMA Clinic in Romford, Essex the prospect of this fight leading to bigger opportunities has seen him venture out to train at other camps across London. Most recently with Team Titan alongside the likes of Brad Pickett, Walter Gahadza and Joe Duffy which he picked in particular to sharpen his wrestling skills to help deal with Maguire’s grappling. “I have mixed training up a lot for this fight and have been going to Team Titan to work on wrestling, with the likes of Pickett and Bola coming back from ATT I have learnt so much. Also at Titan there are more guys my weight and the level of wrestling is very high. I have also been boxing at Five Star which is where I have boxed since I was 13 and I have been hanging in there with professional boxers, so my striking is very sharp.”

Fighting out of the MMA Clinic, Wheeler often is deemed to have more reliance on his jiu jitsu game, and although he picked up a submission win in his last bout it was his slick striking which really was the highlight of his performance. Something which Wheeler puts down to experience and maturity as a fighter. “I have had a lot of fights now and am just more experienced which makes me more relaxed. I have learnt from a few fights that while its entertaining to scrap and fight that you can’t always win like that. For example when I fought Jamie Rogers I just completely underestimated him. He dropped me 10 seconds into the fight and I spent the rest of it trying to knock him out. I turned it into a war, whereas if I had used my head I would have won that fight as I was technically better than him. I was coming off a massive win over Merv Mullholland and then threw that away. I feel like I am definitely maturing as a fighter and not mucking about as much. I take training a lot more seriously now and don’t party in between fights.”

While Wheeler may have put his partying days behind him he is hoping to be celebrating at the Copper Box on 15th November, an arena which is about as close to home as it can get for the Romford based fighter. “I can’t describe how excited I am for this fight, I literally can’t wait to get in the cage. The Copper Box is a great venue and is really local for me so I will be brining a big following. The support charges me up and when you walk out and hear that crowd it just spurs you on. I also don’t want to let them down so I will definitely not be losing on 15th.”

One thing which is at the forefront of Wheeler’s mind ahead of this one is his weight. His last fight against Cooledge was fought at a catch weight as a result of neither man coming in at the 155lb limit. With title aspirations on the horizon for Wheeler he is very aware about the need to address this issue and has already planned out his strategy to making sure that he is on point come weigh-ins. “If I want to fight for the title I have to be 155lbs. To be fair I think the last time I was actually on weight was against Jazbutis back in 2012. But I know what I need to be and I have already been stricter on my diet and will start the weight cut earlier. I don’t need the stress of having to cut additional weight within the 2 hours. My plan for this fight will leave me with about a kilo to cut on the day. I don’t want to be cutting any more than that.”

What really stood out to me when speaking to Wheeler was the confidence which was oozing out from him and his excitement ahead of this fight. It’s a true test of his skills and ability and a golden opportunity to show the world what he is capable of. “I would say I am a top 5 Lightweight and I just I need some more wins over top ranked fighters to underline that fact. I will do this next Saturday and show everyone I am the number one contender and am next for Stevie.”

Brad would like to thank “Funky Gums, London Fight Store, all of my coaches and training partners at the MMA Clinic, Graham & Ian, John Kelly at Five Star, Team Titan, Rob Dawson at Mindsport and everyone who has supported me for this fight.”

Be sure to follow Brad on twitter @BradTheCrazyKid

Leave a Reply