Nearly every great mixed martial artist reaches a specific crossroads in their career. A moment where it's make or break, time to train full-time or keep scraping by as a part-time fighter with a side job.
For Graham Spencer, despite all the comfortable aspects of bonus income, it was time to take the leap.
So the Canadian quit his job, went into training full-time and even branched out, moving his camp to Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California alongside Urijah Faber and his stable of talented wrestlers.
Spencer is hoping the bold move pays off this Friday night (Oct. 26, 2012) when he takes on UFC veteran Shane Nelson at MFC 35 in the first ever featherweight fight under the Maximum Fighting Championship banner.
The talented 145-pounder spoke with MMAmania.com during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission last night about making history with the MFC, big changes in his life and even the possibilities of fighting for a title in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What's it feel like to be competing in the first featherweight fight in MFC history?
Graham Spencer: It's a really big honor. MFC has always been the top show in Canada and I've always been a 145-pounder so it's never really been an option for me. I've always been a fan with the way they run their shows and everything and I'm super-excited to be a part of it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Even though you normally always fight at 145, you beat current MFC top lightweight contender Mukai Maromo in one of your prior fights, something no one else in the MFC has been able to do.
Graham Spencer: That fight was actually a catchweight, 150 or 151. It was short notice and I took it on two weeks' notice so I didn't really have to worry about cutting weight. It was a good fight, he was a tough guy but I came out victorious.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I spoke with MFC President Mark Pavelich earlier and when asked what fight fans should be looking out for other than the middleweight title fight, he sent straight to your bout against Shane Nelson. Does that put any pressure on you to go out and make him look smart?
Graham Spencer: A little bit but pressure can be a good thing sometimes. I think he's right. Me and Shane are both fighters that love to come forward. He's Hawaiian, is a super tough guy, trains at a good camp and I don't see this fight being anything but exciting.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): One of the big changes you've made recently was deciding to uproot yourself and go train with Team Alpha Male. They're one of the best gyms for the lighter weight class fighters so was that the motivation behind it, they're reputation for building lighter fighters?
Graham Spencer: Yeah, I get good training here in Nanaimo, but if you want to train full time, then Nanaimo is not a good place to do it. We don't have an actual MMA gym we go to, we just trained at the gymnastics club. I trained at Alpha Male before so I had some relationships with guys down there and whatnot. They've just got a whole crop of 135-ers, 145-ers and 155-ers. They've just got a whole group of studs down there. No matter what time of the year you go down, there's always guys with fights coming up and tons of different sparring partners to work with. I knew I had a really tough opponent for this fight and I wanted to put everything I could into it so I went down there, slept on the floor in somebody's living room and grinded it out in training camp. Now I'm super excited to see everything pay off.
Graham Spencer: Well Lance is fighting a week after me so he was right in this training camp and he's a southpaw too like Shane is. This other kid is a stud, Chris Holdsworth is fighting a week after me too and I got a lot of rounds in with him too. T.J. Dillashaw is always in the gym, Mendes is in the gym and they've got a whole bunch of guys who are not quite in the UFC but almost there, just a whole crop of fighters. It was great for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You actually quit your job and basically turned into a full-time mixed martial artist. How difficult of a decision was that for you?
Graham Spencer: It was pretty tough financially. I had a pretty good career and make good money and I've got a mortgage and stuff like that but the level of guys I'm fighting, I can't really do MMA part time and expect to compete at a high level. You've got to be able to sacrifice and put everything you can into it and that's what I did. I went down there to the States for six weeks away from my family. It's kind of like living the dream, training all day but being away from home is not easy. I did it and it's gonna pay off on Friday.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you seen any noticeable differences or improvements since making this decision?
Graham Spencer: It's kind of hard to tell right now. I haven't really been back and trained with the guys I was training with before. I know one thing for sure. I'm ready cardio-wise. I was sparring with high level guys 3-4 times a week so I don't think I could be any more ready than I am right now.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about your upcoming opponent Shane Nelson. He's spent the majority of his career, which included four UFC fights, at lightweight. What do you think about him coming to the MFC and dropping down to featherweight?
Graham Spencer: Yeah, Shane's a stud. There's not much else you can say. He's done some pretty big things, was on The Ultimate Fighter, trains with a good camp, but that's the reason I came to the MFC. I didn't want to just keep fighting the local guys from around British Columbia. I want to be fighting big name opponents and see how I stack up against them.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Mark Pavelich mentioned that the winner of your fight on Friday night, whether it's you or Nelson, he'd like you to call out Mukai Maromo afterwards and fight potentially for the lightweight title. Is that even something that's even on your mind as a possibility?
Graham Spencer: (laughs) Not really. I'm not really the kind of guy that calls people out. I really don't want to look past Shane right now. If I get the win, after that, whatever happens, happens I guess. Getting an MFC belt is a big deal so that would be something that would be tough to turn down.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you're visualizing success in this upcoming fight against Shane Nelson, what do you picture?
Graham Spencer: I think it's gonna be where I've got to make it into an all-out bloody battle of wills. I kind of think that he thinks he's gonna just come in and walk all over me and that's not gonna happen. I'm going in there to win. I'm not going away easy. It's gonna be a war and I love fights like that. That's what I live for.
Graham would like to thank his two gyms, Impact MMA and Team Alpha Male. He'd also like to thank Klench Custom Mouth Guards, Rua Apparel and Darcy McBride from Echelon Fighters. You can follow him on Twitter @GSpence145.