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Paul Craig of Scotland poses on the scale during the UFC Fight Night ceremonial weigh-in at O2 Arena on July 22, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Paul Craig Feels It All Coming Together

Despite Suffering His First Loss In Two Years, Paul Craig Is As Determined As Ever To Chase UFC Gold At UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill

When Paul Craig made the walk to the Octagon in London at UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs Aspinall, he was a man riding a six-fight unbeaten streak that included five finishes and four performance bonuses throughout the two-year stretch. With all that in tow, it was reasonable, if not plausible, that a win over former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir would launch Craig into a top-5 matchup and perhaps leave the Scotsman only a couple wins away from title contention. 

Despite a decent effort, Craig came up short and dropped a unanimous decision nod to break his streak, a result he admits is “hanging over the top” of him since. Craig has a chance to show that result is just a speed bump on the light heavyweight ladder rather than a setback when he faces Johnny Walker at UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill. 

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“I believe the UFC have got a bit of faith in me,” Craig told “Obviously, with the light heavyweight division being a bit topsy-turvy - we’ve got long-term injuries, we’ve got the belt changing hands - there’s a lot of movement happening. A victory over Johnny Walker gets me in title contention, but it can’t just be a victory. It has to be a performance victory, showcasing my standup, showcasing that jiu jitsu that I’ve got, and I love coming to Brazil and showcasing Brazilian jiu jitsu in the home of Brazilian jiu jitsu.”

The bout is Craig’s second in Brazil, his first coming in 2019 at UFC Fight Night: Błachowicz vs Jacaré, when he fought Mauricio Rua to a split draw. He looks upon that experience fondly despite the anti-climactic result, and it showed him the Brazilian crowd is one – although initially hostile toward someone fighting one of their countrymen – that appreciates a good scrap over anything else. Craig would go on to fight “Shogun” a second time at UFC 255, where Craig would stop the Brazilian – who fights for the final time at UFC 283 – in the second round. 

Paul Craig Fight Week Interview | UFC 283
Paul Craig Fight Week Interview | UFC 283

On January 21, Craig is scheduled to open the main card while his former opponent Jamahal Hill, who Craig submitted in the first round, headlines against Glover Teixeira for the vacant light heavyweight title. Craig’s armbar finish remains Hill’s lone professional loss. Although that irony is a justifiable reason for Craig to feel a little snakebitten by the way things have shaken out for the two since their bout at UFC 263, he only wishes Hill the best.

When the two sat down to sign posters as part of their usual fight week duties, Craig said Hill told him the next time they were sitting down to sign posters, he hoped it would have both their faces on it ahead of a potential rematch – this time with gold on the line.

How To Watch UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill

“Jamahal is saying he wants to return that fight,” Craig said. “It makes sense for him. He’s only got one loss on his record, and I do believe, after Saturday, he’s only going to have one loss on his record after he beats Glover. It’s a tough ask for him, but I believe he’s got the skill, and he’s got the belief, and he’s got all the things that tick the boxes for the UFC light heavyweight champion.”

Regardless of who wins the light heavyweight belt, Craig knows he needs to take care of the man in front of him before he can think about his golden opportunity. 

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: (R-L) Paul Craig of Scotland attempts to submit Nikita Krylov of Ukraine in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena on March 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 19: (R-L) Paul Craig of Scotland attempts to submit Nikita Krylov of Ukraine in a light heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at O2 Arena on March 19, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Walker, who came into the UFC on a highlight-littered tear, has been a bit inconsistent since, although he still poses a thrillingly dangerous threat each time he walks (or usually, dances) into the Octagon. After the Brazilian fell to Hill via TKO in a main event, he bounced back with submission win over Ion Cutelaba in September 2022.

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“I’m not looking past Johnny Walker because I know he’s a tough opponent,” Craig said. “But what I need to do is I need to be thinking about the long-term. Where am I going in 2023? I had set myself some goals way back in 2020 with a bit of topsy-turvy few years then. Then we started getting back to normality, we’re starting to see regular fight cards in front of fans, and what I’m hoping for is 2023 will be the year of the ‘BearJew.’ I think it’s the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese New Year, but it’s the year of the ‘BearJew’ in the UFC’s New Year.”

Part of Craig’s confidence is the fact that he settled in with a new team and coach. Craig cited clashing with his coaches as part of the reason for his last two losses, but now that he linked up with James Doolan and Higher Level MMA in Scotland, he feels “a wee bit of spark” back when he is headed to the gym. 

Bonus Résumé | Paul Craig
Bonus Résumé | Paul Craig

With that confidence in tow, Craig is soaring into Rio de Janeiro with as much confidence as ever. Although the heavyweight division has a particular stranglehold on highlighting the unpredictability of mixed martial arts, 205 has yet to see a champion successfully defend the belt against another light heavyweight contender since Jon Jones defeated Dominick Reyes in February 2020. Craig was knocking on the title picture’s door half a year ago, but in Brazil, he hopes to kick, punch, choke or snap his way through it. 

“I think you’re going to see a much more composed Paul, and what I’m hopeful for is people see me as a light heavyweight contender. That’s what I want them to see. I was in that mix going back two years and being unbeaten in this sport. I was in the mix, but I was still trying to improve my trade, be a better jiu jitsu practioner, be a better striker. 

“I’m hopeful that this is when you see this all come together, and you say, ‘Wow. Watch out, top-5. Paul is coming.’”

UFC 283: Teixeira vs Hill took place live from Jeunesse Arena in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on January 21, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass