James Mulheron looks forward to stand up war with Lee Chadwick

Bellator returns on Saturday 4th May 2019 for the next installment in their quest to dominate the European market. The promotion make their debut at the Resorts World Arena in Birmingham for a night that features a host of domestic talent. There will be action aplenty as there are currently 18 fights scheduled for the show with 36 competitors vying to be the ones talked about come Sunday morning. One of the standout bouts on the evening’s preliminary card that is also an early contender for fight of the night sees James Mulheron (11-3) take on former Cage Warriors champion, Lee Chadwick (24-14-1), in a light heavyweight contest.

Following a fight against Justin Wills in the UFC and a run in with USADA, Mulheron ended a year and a half long layoff back in February when he took on Arunas Andriuskevicus at Bellator Newcastle. The man from South Shields made his light heavyweight debut in front of his hometown crowd but things didn’t go to plan. Following two full rounds of big punches being thrown from both sides, referee Leon Roberts called a halt to proceedings as Mulheron picked up an injury just under a minute into the third stanza. It was a big change for Mulheron competing in a lower division for the first time in his career but was an experience that will be vital to adjusting to his new weight class moving forwards.

“Fighting Arunas at light heavyweight was a big shock to me,” said Mulheron. “At heavyweight, I was used to guys gassing in the second round. The first few minutes against him was a feeling out process and then in the second round he just took over. The time where he began coming on strong is when I’m usually used to people dying off. He didn’t and actually excelled more as the fight went on. That’s just due to experience so this fight I will not be making that same mistake. I’ll be exerting my cardio right from the start as mine is ridiculous. I can go 15-25 minutes flat out so I know in this next one it’s going to be all go from the off!”

“I felt good at light heavyweight. It’s just going to take some adjusting with me coming down from heavyweight,” explained Mulheron. “I’m still training with Phil De Fries so I’m continuing to work with heavyweights who have big strength. However, I’ve also changed up some aspects of camp and have got a few different training partners in as well to help out. Training has been great overall.”

When it comes to career turnarounds, it’s hard to find many better recent examples than heavyweight, Phil De Fries (17-6). After going 2-3 in the UFC, he alternated wins and losses in other shows for a couple of years before going on a five fight winning streak, capturing the KSW title in the process. He is now widely regarded as one of the best heavyweights not signed to one of the major American promotions and Mulheron indicated that training alongside him every day is an invaluable experience that is only elevating his own game.

“Phil is one of the best in the world,” stated Mulheron. “He’s got a world title in KSW and in my eyes he is at the top of the division. He should be in the UFC again. It’s a shame because when he went to the UFC he was just learning his trade. If he had got signed now, I do believe he would be challenging for world titles there as he is doing brilliantly.”

Mulheron’s second test at light heavyweight comes against veteran of the UK scene, Lee Chadwick. While Mulheron is recently moving down from the heavyweight division, Chadwick is moving up from middleweight
for the first time in 12 years after a series of challenging weight cuts. Both are trying to navigate new waters in an unfamiliar weight class but that shouldn’t have too much of an impact on their fighting styles. Mulheron is looking forward to the prospect of coming up against another opponent who will meet him in the centre of the cage and go toe to toe.

“Lee is a great opponent. He’s tough and he’s like me in that he’ll look to come and have a fight,” said Mulheron. “There is no mystery to what kind of battle you are going to get between myself and Lee. We both have knockout power so it will be a great fight. I think I am hungrier this time round and I can see myself winning by TKO maybe in the second or third round. I predict that my cardio will play a massive part in this contest.”

It is well known at this point that many of Bellator’s recent European signings are now able to make a living doing MMA full time. Unfortunately, Mulheron is not currently in the position to do so and still has to work another job to supplement his family’s income. He works as a taxi driver around his training but doesn’t feel bitter that the sport doesn’t allow himself to live more comfortably.

“It’s quite tough working as a taxi driver and fighting as well,” claimed Mulheron. “However, the taxis are quite flexible so Richmond Taxis, who I work for, support me massively. They help me out with training and I don’t pay as much rent so they really look after me. Richmond Taxis are a great company so all thanks to them. It doesn’t really get frustrating that I can’t dedicate more time to MMA – it’s just life! You’ve got to work and if you want money you’ve got to graft for it. I found with fighting when I was in the UFC and after the USADA stuff went on (which was my fault really) that money didn’t come to me as much as I hoped it was going to. I had always thought that you had made it when you got to the UFC but it’s actually just the start. Fighting isn’t as cushy as everybody thinks. You’ve got to work hard and stay hungry to be a world champion constantly.”

Bellator Birmingham: Primus v Wilde can be watched live on Channel 5 at 10pm on Saturday night. The preliminary card can be streamed live on the Bellator App from 6pm.

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