Skip to main content

The Pocket Rocket's Fast Blasts

Wayne 'The Pocket Rocket' McCullough, UFC - This week I’ll be taking aim at issue as wide as the Penn v Sherk feud, fellow Irishman Marcus Davis’s love of fighting in the UK and Ireland, whether top boxer David Haye could make it in UFC, the current season of TUF and whether UFC fans will learn to love Machida.

By Wayne ‘The Pocket Rocket’ McCullough

This week I’ll be taking aim at issue as wide as the Penn v Sherk feud, fellow Irishman Marcus Davis’s love of fighting in the UK and Ireland, whether top boxer David Haye could make it in UFC, the current season of TUF and whether UFC fans will learn to love Machida.

BJ Penn and Sean Sherk have a lot of “Ill Will” towards each other ahead of their UFC 84 title fight. Wayne, you’ve fought guys who you didn’t get along with – Naseem Hamed talked a lot of smack about you before the fight – how does this affect a fighter’s performance? How much of this ill will are you conscious of during the fight? Does it help fuel your training? Or can it take you out of your gameplan by getting too emotional?

Hamed verbally abused me and my family in the lead up to our fight in 1998. Unfortunately, the media got sucked in. I didn’t do anything and said nothing to him and I think that puzzled him. After what he’d said to me I really wanted to rip his head off but I stayed calm because I knew he was trying to get me to react. I gritted my teeth and the only thing I asked him was “What happens when you hit me and I’m still standing?” And now we all know what happened - he ran for 12 rounds.

I was conscious of his abuse even during the fight because he had predicted to the very second (2:32 of the 3rd round, I remember) when he was going to knock me out. Funny thing is that at that exact moment I hit him on the back of his head with a left hook and his glove hit the canvas. The referee didn’t call it a knockdown but I consciously had it in my head that there was no way he was knocking me down.

Some fighters can go into a fight and let all the hype get to them and they end up taking chances and getting knocked out. I don’t let outside influences get to me when I’m fighting.

Hopefully Sherk and Penn have the experience to know it’s all hype, but if they really do dislike each other maybe it will make for an even better fight. May the best man win.

Irish-American Marcus Davis is returning to the British Isles for fourth time in 11 months at UFC 85: BEDLAM. Marcus has been “adopted” by both Irish and British fans and it seems he’s adopted them too, even looking to buy a house in Ireland this summer. How impressed are you with Marcus, having seen this former boxer become a true MMA fighter? How do you think he’ll do in London in June with Mike Swick?

I’m very impressed with Marcus because he knew, being a boxer, that he just couldn’t step into the Octagon and use his boxing skills. He learned every aspect of MMA and now I think he is one of the top welterweights in the sport.

Swick is very fast and strikes well, too. He has a slight height advantage over Davis but Marcus has good power in both hands and he’s a lot better in his ground game than he used to be. I’m really looking forward to this fight because I’m a big Marcus Davis fan.

Undisputed cruiserweight boxing champion David Haye, a big UFC fan, has said after he wins the undisputed heavyweight championship he will take a year to learn takedown defence and BJJ and take a look at competing in MMA. How do you think Haye would do if he did take a year to train seriously in MMA? What are the differences between a MMA jab, for example, and a jab or combination you may use in boxing?

First and foremost it’s good to see another world champion boxer, like myself, appreciate the sport of MMA. Hopefully Haye will get a fight with heavyweight boxing champ Wladimir Klitschko and win the heavyweight belt as well.

He’s not a fool like a lot of boxers who think they can just step into the Octagon and win fights purely with punches. Learning the ins and outs of MMA before stepping in there is the smart thing to do. Haye can already punch and he has natural strength, so he’d fit nicely into the MMA heavyweight division and, who knows, maybe become a UFC Champion in time.

I think the difference in an MMA and a boxing jab is that an MMA fighter uses his jab as a range finder, keeping it in his opponent’s face to set up a kick, takedown or a knee. Whereas in boxing, a jab can be a good hard scoring shot or sometimes a knockout punch. It can also be used to set up a combination of punches. In MMA the jab is more like a pawing shot but in boxing it’s used more accurately.

What are you thoughts on the current season of The Ultimate Fighter? As a fighter turned coach yourself, how do you think Forrest and Rampage are doing? What was your first time as a coach like?

I’m loving The Ultimate Fighter: Team Rampage v Team Forrest so far. We, the viewers, are getting action packed fights each week, and Forrest and Rampage are doing a great job. Both admitted they don’t really have loads of experience coaching and, just like the boxing business, being a coach is a lot different from being a fighter. It is a skill in itself but I think it can help you as a fighter because you get to see the mistakes your fighter is making and the shots he gets hit with, etc.

I believe Forrest and Rampage will come out of this experience with more knowledge, understanding and appreciation of their sport.

My first time in the corner of one of my fighters I was as nervous as he was because you just want everything you’ve worked on in the gym to work in the fight. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t!

You are known as a warrior and are remembered for going toe-to-toe with legends like Erik Morales in great fights you lost as much as any of your great wins. You are a fan favorite because when they bought a ticket to see Wayne McCullough, they knew you were doing to go all out. However, you may have lost some fights in wars which you could have avoided with your skills, if you were less concerned with giving fans great fights. With regard to Lyoto Machida, do you think the fans will warm up to this obvious talent if he beats Tito Ortiz in exciting fashion or should he just go for a win, no matter if he uses his cautious style?

When I look back on my unfinished career I can always say I fought the best fighters that were around in my day and I took everything they threw at me – usually on the chin! I won my first world championship but lost my next six world title challenges but at least I can say I didn’t duck anyone!

Machida has great talent. I was there when he choked out Rameau Sokoudjou at UFC 79. He has a lot of wins over top guys and still has youth on his side.

The fans will warm up to Machida if he wins. Ortiz is a well respected fighter and it seems as though he’s been around forever. In his last fight he got a draw with Rashad Evans, even though I thought he won. Ortiz brings the fans so if Machida gets the win, then Ortiz’s fans should respect him and support him in the future.

I think it will be a tough fight and anything can happen with one punch (like boxing!) … or a kick … or a choke … or a knee …. or a submission!

A long-time MMA fan, Wayne McCullough is a world class boxer, writer and broadcaster with impeccable credentials. As an amateur boxer representing his native Northern Ireland, McCullough’s all guns blazing style took his to a gold medal in the 1990 World Amateur Championships and a silver medal at the Barcelona Olympics two years later. After settling in Las Vegas with his wife and daughter, McCullough turned professional and won the WBC bantamweight championship in 1995. He never lost the title in the ring and went on to have classic battles with the likes of Prince Naseem Hamed and Erik Morales.