You can almost see Jared Cannonier smiling through the phone line. It’s December, but for the first time in eight years, he doesn’t have to wear a winter coat and 800 layers of clothing underneath it. He’s traded Alaska for Arizona, and that suits the 33-year-old light heavyweight contender just fine.
“I love the heat, so when I got here, I was soaking up the sun like I was a Kryptonian,” he laughs. “But yeah, it's been good. My family has adjusted to the temperature and they're actually liking this winter weather, where it's not covered in snow. I read a report today that Alaska is expected to get almost ten inches an hour, or some craziness like that.”
Nick Roehrick during their bout this July" align="center" />
Cannonier was in the heart of that Alaskan craziness from 2009 to 2017, as he worked for the FAA, but earlier this year, he decided that with his MMA career on the upswing, it was time to see how far he really could take this. So it was off to Glendale and The MMA Lab.
“Ultimately, the main question was, what are we gonna train in the aspects that I needed training in,” he said. “And two, how will my family fit into that? My family is with me in the gym every day, so that's something I wanted, to keep my family in it with me. That's another reason why I'm happy - I get to be with my family the whole time.”
And he has a new one in a gym that has produced UFC champions, contenders and prospects, all while keeping their own personality under head coach John Crouch. That was another key in the decision making process for Cannonier, who faces Jan Blachowicz in Winnipeg on Saturday.
“That's always something that should be considered when choosing a gym,” he said. “In this sport, you have to be creative, and in being creative, you have to be yourself. You pick up techniques and stuff, which is perfectly fine, but I'm always aware of my fighting style and how I'm adjusting to the game and trying to get better.”
That style has made him a must see, as he rebounded from the first loss of his career to Shawn Jordan in 2015 to go 3-1 in his next four, with the only setback coming against Glover Teixeira in February. It was after that bout that he decided to make some changes, and in July, those changes paid dividends when he halted Nick Roehrick in the third round.
Next up was expected to be veteran Brazilian star Rogerio Nogueira, but a potential anti-doping violation pulled Nogueira from the bout and put Blachowicz in. Cannonier was initially disappointed, because having a name like that of “Little Nog” on his record would have been a nice way to end the year.
“I don't know the circumstances of him getting flagged, but I was looking forward to that fight,” Cannonier said. “I was excited to fight someone of his caliber and no longer test myself against those guys but to go in there and fight them. That's what I was prepared to do and that's what I'm gonna do (this weekend) - I'm gonna go in there and get into a fight and I'm gonna come out with my hand raised.”
It’s a good place for Cannonier to be in because he’s right. At No. 14 in the 205-pound rankings, the days of testing are over. He’s proved that he belongs and now it’s time to march up the ladder and fight. It’s an old school approach that’s made him popular among UFC fans, and in keeping with that attitude, he doesn’t have an elaborate plan or New Year’s resolution for 2018. He’s sticking to the basics.
“I just want to keep winning,” he said. “That's my main goal, to keep winning and let everything else fall into place. And to do that, I've just got to keep getting better. And I get to be selfish. All I have to do is work on myself, get better, and then sit back and enjoy the fruits of my labor.”