Top Canadian mixed martial arts (MMA) prospect Sheldon Westcott has had a rather difficult learning curve for the sport.
While most fighters have a base in some sort of martial art whether it be wrestling, jiu-jitsu, judo, sambo, etc, the welterweight Westcott was a complete newbie when he first started training, having been a nationally relevant track and field athlete coming out of high school.
It turns out the Edmonton native was a quick learner as within a few years of training, he was on a three fight win streak in which he finished all of his opponents within the first minute.
Westcott spent all of 2011 feuding with veteran Thomas Denny, drawing in his first fight and then ending the conflict with a dominant victory in their second bout. After just missing out on being a contestant of the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, the Canadian brawler has big plans for 2012.
Westcott will be battling Jay Jenson this Saturday night (February 11, 2012) at Aggression MMA 9 in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He spoke with MMAmania.com during a guest spot on The Verbal Submission this past weekend where he discussed getting into MMA, his fights with Thomas Denny and what led to him no longer being employed by MFC in part one of this two-part interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had some pretty good exposure in 2011, getting two fights in MFC, both against Thomas Denny, so that must have been pretty wild, right?
Sheldon Westcott: Yeah. My fight with Thomas Denny, I learned a lot from the first fight. I thought I still won the first fight with Thomas Denny but it went to a draw and then the rematch, I won all three rounds. I even got a point taken away in the third round and I still ended up winning that round, i dropped him and stuff, but yeah, i had a good 2011. 2010 and 2011 were both really good years for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Definitely 2010, you had a streak there where you were finishing everybody not just in the first round, but inside the first minute.
Sheldon Westcott: Yeah, I had three fights. One was 51 seconds, one was 30 and one was 28. The thing was, a lot of people were like, "Oh, you beat the guys really quick," and then they'd look at the guys' records and, "This guy who you beat in 30 seconds was 10-4. This guy who you beat in 28 seconds was 9-3," and then my next fight, I'm fighting Thomas Denny in my 4th fight where people were like, "What the heck is this guy doing in his fourth fight?" I'm supposed to be fighting some guy who's like 0-3 in my fourth fight, not some guy who's got 46 fights.
Ben Thapa: Going back to one of your last fights, the very first round of the first fight with Thomas Denny, you had a 10-8 round, you were dominating him and you tried a couple times to get guillotines and unfortunately they didn't work, they didn't finish Denny and he went on to kind of come back. I'm wondering, did that change your fight strategy from then on?
Sheldon Westcott: The thing is, I've watched that first Denny fight probably like 30 times and you know what? All the simple mistakes I haven't made in my earlier fights, I made in that fight. Like all those guillotine chokes, if you look, if you watch any of my other fights, I didn't throw a single punch to set up that choke. I didn't even set up that choke. I just jumped on his neck. Even if I'm in training, if I don't have that choke deep, I don't waste my energy. I'm not gonna waste my time trying to rip it off and I thought, "Hey, you know what? I think I've got it enough," and I burnt my arms out in that first round.
Then at the start of the second round I was like, "Holy geez, my arms are on fire!" and if you look at the second round, he went down in the second round and I had three takedown attempts and one of my takedown attempts, I had my arms underneath his legs and he jumped into guard and the thing is, I don't know if the judges were looking at that as a takedown or if it looked like him jumping into guard and the last round, he won the last round hands down but it changed it a little bit. I made a lot of mistakes in that fight where I didn't set anything up. I didn't work to finish the guillotine choke and the choke is, if you don't set it up, you don't get it deep, there's no point wasting your time and your energy trying to finish something that's not there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I was doing some research and I saw you were talking a couple months ago that you were preparing for December 9th. Now did you have a fight that got cancelled on December 9th that you were training for?
Sheldon Westcott: Actually, it was a boxing fight. In October, I've been training at Avenue Boxing in Edmonton, Alberta Canada and the promoter of KO Boxing, they brought a guy in from Toronto, which is about five hours away. They flew him in and his opponent got sick, he had a massive infection and they're like, "Hey Sheldon, do you want to take this fight?" and I'm like, "Well, it's a boxing fight on three days' notice. Yeah, sure, why not?" and they say, "There's one catch," and I'm like, "What's that?" and they're like, "It's at heavyweight." I'm like, "Okay, let's do it." So in October, I took my very first boxing fight at heavyweight and it went really well. I won in 1:02 and then December 9th, I was looking to have another boxing fight, again it would have been at heavyweight because I was gonna fight a local guy from here in Edmonton and he had about 5-6 pro boxing fights but there was a little bit of complication with me and the gentleman who owns MFC and The Ultimate Fighter tryout is a big tangled mess so I ended up getting an injunction put against me for my boxing fight so I couldn't take my boxing fight because I went out to Las Vegas to try out for The Ultimate Fighter show.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I heard that you bought yourself out of your MFC contract because this upcoming fight's for Aggression MMA, right?
Sheldon Westcott: Yeah, absolutely. What happened was, I was with the MFC and I got the okay to do a pro boxing fight so I took the pro boxing fight of course going through all the avenues that I possibly could and I enjoyed it. I got the opportunity to take another one and I went to the MFC and I asked them if I could take a boxing fight because I need their okay because it's in Canada and the owner of the MFC said, "Yeah, sure, that's fine," and my contract with MFC was up in February and Ultimate Fighter tryouts were December the 3rd and obviously, like any athlete who's coming up, they see that avenue and they think, "Why not take that route?"
So I decided, "Hey, I'm gonna go try out for The Ultimate Fighter," and once the owner of the MFC found out, he said, "If you go down there," because he wanted me to fight for the MFC and it was just Canada-wide and if I went down to the States and I made the show, I'd be leaving MFC, he said "If you go down there, I'm gonna put an injunction against your boxing fight and I won't let you box," and you know what? I had to take the leap and I had to try out for the show and I wasn't able to have the boxing fight because of it but it was a good opportunity and I've found myself in a better place now and I'm fighting in Aggression MMA February 11th and I left the MFC and now I'm with Aggression.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's crazy. Did you hear any feedback about your tryouts with The Ultimate Fighter? Did you get a call back or anything?
Sheldon Westcott: My manager got a call. I didn't end up making the show. I made it to the very end stage but I didn't end up making the show. It happens. There's 400 guys trying out and in all honesty, I had a little bit of a cut in front of me trying to make the welterweight division. Anyone that can make a fight at heavyweight in boxing, you can understand that I cut a little bit of weight to make 170 and I think that was one of the defining factors in having to cut weight five times over the course of the show.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now going back to getting into mixed martial arts, most guys who get into MMA, they get into it because they've got a base in wrestling, they've got a base in karate, boxing, something, but you were a track and field guy and you had no real base in any mixed martial art. You were more of a pure athlete, right?
Sheldon Westcott: I started out as a high jumped and I realized, "Hey, I'm about 6'0-6'1, I can jump high but I'm never gonna be able to compete at that level and I got into the decathlon and I competed in the decathlon nationally. I finished fifth in the country, I went as high as finishing third. I had a scholarship down to the United States for the decathlon and I ended up hurting myself in my senior year of high school and I took a year off.
I came back and I went down to Washington State University for a track meet they had down there but I came back and one of the guys I worked with at the time fought in MMA and was like, "Come try, come try," and I'd always watched the sport, always been interested. I'm a guy. This is the meat and potatoes of what guys do and I'm like, "Oh, sure why not?" I went there the first day and I thought 20 minutes had went by and an hour and a half later, I'd lost six pounds of sweat. Never would I ever run on a treadmill again. I was hooked. I'm just way too competitive not too compete and I won my first jiu-jitsu tournament three months later and I was fighting six months after that.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will Westcott continue to develop in 2012? Did you get a chance to see him fight in either of his tough battles with Thomas Denny last year?
You can follow Sheldon on Twitter @SheldonWestcott.