England’s Phil De Fries is a man unafraid of poking at the status quo. Before his UFC debut last November against Rob Broughton, it was important to point out that he was a heavyweight submission specialist hailing from a country that primarily produces standup fighters among the big men.
This time around, as he travels to Omaha, Nebraska for his Wednesday meeting with fellow unbeaten Stipe Miocic, De Fries’ curveball is the fact that in a world that can often be filled with mean mugs and fierce stares, he’s not afraid of smiling and poking a little fun at himself, his nickname “S11” being a prime example.
“I love my B movies and my friends always joke about it, so I thought I’d put that on,” said De Fries of the moniker inspired by the title creature of the horror film Sharktopus. “You’re just a normal person. Everyone’s silly at heart and I always like to vent my silliness on Facebook and see what people think.”
It’s a refreshing change of pace, but while De Fries is quick with a laugh, when it comes to his day job, he’s all business, and his 8-0, 1 NC record reflects that. No win was more important than his three round unanimous decision victory over Broughton at UFC 138 though. Admitting in a pre-fight interview that his opponent was “the number one UK heavyweight for years,” De Fries took that leap into the Octagon with both feet, not only winning the bout, but doing it by going the distance for the first time in a career that began in April of 2009.
“I was nervous, but the full experience of the UFC just gets you really psyched, so I was up for it, and it was a really good experience,” said De Fries, who sat on his stool after round two knowing that he was going into virgin territory, both as a third round first timer and as a fighter who needed a big finish to break open an even fight.
“I knew I went down in the second round, so I thought I’ve gotta put it on the line here and go out and win,” he said.
He did, taking a 29-28 nod on all cards. De Fries was impressed by Broughton’s toughness.
“He’s very, very good at submission defense,” the Sunderland native said of his foe. “I was going for a lot of chokes, sinking D’arces in, and I was trying to tie arms off, but he was very, very good at being very negative and trying to stop my game a bit, but he was really good. He was surprisingly good on the ground. When he turned into that kimura, I didn’t really expect it from him. It was a tough, tough fight.”
And one that added to the 25-year old’s win total and his confidence.
“It’s definitely a good confidence boost, plus I took the most punishment I’ve even taken in a fight as well, so it was kind of encouraging to myself about my own heart,” he said. “I definitely proved something to myself about my fitness, and I’m going to be much more confident in this one.”
Miocic is coming off a solid Octagon debut as well, decisioning tough Joey Beltran at UFC 136. Wednesday’s bout is a nice one stylistically, because while Miocic may have the edge in the standup and wrestling, he yields to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt De Fries when it comes to submissions, as “S11” has earned tap out wins in seven of his eight victories. That’s not even counting the high stakes involved with this being a televised main card matchup between two undefeated heavyweight prospects.
“There’s always the pressure, but the UFC is really good at getting guys psyched for the fight, so I’m sure it will be an awesome fight,” said De Fries. “Stipe’s an excellent fighter, a brilliant boxer, and he was an NCAA Division I wrestler as well, but we’ll see what happens.”
Supplementing his work at The Fight Pit at home in Sunderland with a couple weeks training with London Shootfighters, De Fries is ready for his second shot in the UFC as well as his first fight in the United States.
“It’s my first time away from home, hopefully I won’t be getting booed, but I don’t think I will,” said De Fries, who got used to the States while training with the Alliance team in San Diego for the Broughton fight. “The fans are quite nice. At least I hope so.”
He laughs, not a surprise coming from the 6-foot-5, 250 pounder. But this is a business trip, so the next array of jokes will have to wait for Thursday morning. And that’s fine with him.
“Being in the UFC is one thing, staying there is something else, isn’t it?” he asks. “I did spend a lot of time traveling to different camps and things, and I know there’s a lot of improving to do, but I’m constantly learning and taking it one step at a time, and I’ll take any fight they give me.”
Phil De Fries - Beware of "S11"
"There’s always the pressure, but the UFC is really good at getting guys psyched for the fight, so I’m sure it will be an awesome fight." - Phil De Fries