“I think he's a good fighter for me, and he'll pose a good challenge. We'll see how the fight goes on the night, but I'm confident that my skills will be victorious. It's a good test, though, and he's the kind of fighter that will show me exactly where I'm at right now."
On Friday, July 30th, Andre Winner 'destroyed a pack of Oreos and Maryland double choc-chip cookies with a nice, tall glass of milk'. Thanks to the wonderful world of Twitter and the honesty, or perhaps guilt, of Winner's 'tweets', his dark secret was out. The Leicester lightweight admitted the misdemeanour was 'not ideal 4 my weight' but, with four weeks to go until his next UFC bout, he indulged in a final act of gluttony ahead of another hard week's training.
“I train hard all the time, but that week I had trained particularly hard and was just craving by the end of it,” pleads Winner with a laugh, when pulled up in front of the judge and jury for his actions.
“I couldn't help myself. Obviously, Oreos and Maryland cookies aren't ideal and won't help me lose weight, but they were too good to turn down. My weight's alright at the minute, so I was able to cheat a bit. I never really struggle that much with weight, so don't have to be really, really strict with what I eat. I just had a treat and went a bit overboard, that's all.”
While perhaps not the prescribed diet for a lean and lanky lightweight, Winner insists his grasp on the weight-making science allows for such short-cuts from time to time. With two back-to-back wins in the UFC to date and eleven career victories in total, Winner's sweet tooth hasn't hurt him so far. A runner up on season nine of The Ultimate Fighter, Winner dazzled on his official UFC debut last November, with an opening round blitzing of Rolando Delgado, and then more recently defeated Rafaello Oliveira over the three-round distance in March.
Line them up and the vicious striking Winner will swallow them whole. Opponents, not biscuits.
“I'm always looking to fight as regular as I can,” says Winner, who competed six times in 2007. “This is what I do and it's the only thing I want to do.
“I prefer to fight a bit more frequently, but I still fight three maybe four times a year, so I'm happy with that schedule. I had five fights in 2009, including the ones on The Ultimate Fighter, and that was a great year for me. I'm definitely better when I'm active. I like to stay ring sharp, so the more I can fight the better.
“On the flip-side, if you're fighting all the time, you're never really going to improve that much, as you have less time to train and learn in between fights. The UFC gives you time to go out there and improve yourself, and that's what I'm doing right now.”
Winner introduced his unique brand of power-punching to the UFC last November, in crushing Delagdo, but relied more on clever boxing and positional sense when outscoring Oliveira last time out. Unable to make a significant dent in the durable Brazilian, Winner instead settled down and picked apart his opponent at range. Always keen to finish matters early, Winner was content with the decision victory, but craved so much more.
“I think it was an average performance from myself,” recalls the 28-year-old Winner with a sigh. “It wasn't great, but it wasn't bad, either. There were some good points to take away from it, and a few things I was unhappy with, too.
“If you look back at the fight, the only thing Oliveira really hit me with was a right leg-kick. Other than that, I didn't really get hit, I wasn't taken down, and it was all fairly comfortable. I should have checked my kicks better and probably pushed the finish of the fight a bit more. I thought he was going to engage me a little more when I was trying to throw my combinations, but he used the ring well and stayed out of kicking and punching distance. I maybe should have closed the distance a bit better. It's like any fight, in that there are good and bad points, and plenty to work on moving forward.”
Built to seek and destroy, Winner's voice is tinged with disappointment whenever he falls short of fulfilling his duty. Performances in The Ultimate Fighter aside, Winner has now travelled the distance in eight of his last nine outings and, while he has clearly demonstrated boundless fitness, skills and energy resources, the lightweight is never more invigorated than when knocking foes out.
Winner's next opponent, Minnesota’s Nik Lentz, is also familiar with travelling the full three rounds and, when the pair meet on August 28, fight fans can expect their money's worth. Wrestler Lentz and striker Winner are the types to establish a fast pace from the get-go and, whether short or long, the lightweight match figures to be engaging at all times.
Gunning for a knockout, but expecting a rigorous battle to get there, Winner has nothing but respect for Lentz' capabilities and mindset.
“I think he's a good fighter for me, and he'll pose a good challenge,” admits Andre. “We'll see how the fight goes on the night, but I'm confident that my skills will be victorious. It's a good test, though, and he's the kind of fighter that will show me exactly where I'm at right now.
“His strongest attribute is his attitude. He's one of those hard-working, hard-grafting guys that just keeps going and going. He's probably a quiet guy who just gets his head down and works real hard on a daily basis. That alone makes him dangerous and someone not to overlook. He's got a few tricks to go with that, and is very effective at following game-plans.”
The 25-year-old Lentz, like Winner, boasts a decision victory over the aforementioned Oliveira, as well as a more recent upset of Rob Emerson, again via decision. Sandwiched in between those two victories was a drawn bout with Thiago Tavares, another result that came as a surprise to the many that picked the talented Brazilian to come out on top. Seemingly suited to the tag of underdog, Lentz cares little about reputation or so-called superior talent, and instead sticks diligently to the task in hand. Winner is aware of Lentz' knack of upsetting the odds and, with that in mind, is intent on starting and finishing fast.
“I'm looking to try and dominate him everywhere,” states Winner, 12-3-1 in his mixed martial arts career. “When I fight I'd rather think less about what my opponent is going to do and more about what I'm planning to do. I want to exert myself on them and not worry too much about what they might bring to me. So long as I can make them worry about my skills, I know I'll come out with my hand raised. I've studied him hard, I know what he brings to the fight and hopefully I'll be able to deal with it and then show him a little of what I can do.”
Keen to put the record straight on his recent eating habits, Winner concludes by proudly declaring he ate “some salmon and rice this afternoon”, as though able to erase the Oreos from his conscience. In truth, the scent of victory on August 28 may be the only thing comparable to the taste of cookies.