Top Canadian mixed martial arts (MMA) prospect Sheldon Westcott lives for the challenge.
That's why he took on a fighter who was on a six fight win streak in just his fourth professional bout, or someone with a 7-2 record in his fifth.
Hell, by his sixth and seventh fights, he was battling former King of the Cage champion and 45 fight veteran Thomas Denny, who tested him more than anyone else in his career.
Westcott takes on tough challenges because he wants to be battle-tested before he reaches his ultimate goal, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, and he's hoping that 2012 will be his year.
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 his fighting philosphy, realizing he wanted to be a fighter and what he plans to do to Jay Jenson this weekend in part two of this two-part interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I also have a question about how you get into fight mode. I tend to twitter stalk my interviewees and you mentioned how you had insomnia, you just couldn't sleep. Is that something that just happens to you when you get closer to a fight?
Sheldon Westcott: The weird thing is, I'm a horrible sleeper to begin with and around fight time, I'm hit or miss. I'm either sleeping like someone who just had turkey dinner or I can stay up for hours. I usually only get about 4-5 hours a night of sleep but there's certain nights where it'll be 1-2 o'clock in the morning and I'm no where near being tired and if it wasn't -40 degrees outside, I'd go for a run up here in Canada.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I want to talk about this upcoming fight you've got, February 11th, Aggression MMA 9, you're taking on Dave Cochran, right?
Sheldon Westcott: Well, after my Thomas Denny fight, i actually enjoyed fighting a guy who had a lot of experience but Dave Cochran ended up pulling out. He got got injured and now I'm fighting a guy named Jay Jenson. He's out of the United States. He's 7-5 and all of his wins come by finish. He has three TKOs, four submission victories. Almost all of his wins come in the first or early in the second round and his losses come late in the third or really early in the third. He's only been finished once in the second round but yeah, I got a new opponent. I was actually really looking forward to the Dave Cochran fight because he fought in Strikeforce and he fought all these guys. His second to last fight was against Luis Santos, who's 50-7and that interests me.
I love fighting guys who have a ton of experience because if you've ever fought a guy who's been in there with everyone, like a Thomas Denny, you know for a fact there's certain guys you can intimidate but you're not going to intimidate guys who have 50 fights so you have to go in there and just fight and a lot of people, the composure that you keep over the fight, you learn so much more from the fights where you go in there and you blitz a guy and there's a lot of guys who don't have a lot of fights. They make simple mistakes when they get that much pressure put on them whereas you get a veteran guy, you put that much pressure on them and you'll see a whole different aspect and a whole different look in the fight, itself.
Ben Thapa: After some of the troubles with finishing Thomas Denny, are you more hesitant to set up your submissions? Would you rather soften him up with punches, sort of punish him?
Sheldon Westcott: My next fight coming up, I'm gonna set up my chokes, I'll take his neck home. That's one of the things where, even though I didn't finish it in the Denny fight, if I get a hold of his neck, it'll stay in Canada with me.
Ben Thapa: In terms of going up to Canada and going all over the place to get your fights, what's your limit? How far are you willing to go, Brazil? Or would you rather want to stay in North America or even within your area in Canada?
Sheldon Westcott: I love fighting at home. That's something I don't want to ever get construed that I don't. I love fighting at home. I love fighting in front of my friend. I love making an evening out of it. I sell in the neighborhood of 200-300 tickets and all my friends and family get to come out. They get to appreciate the sport and they're all learning about the sport in between all my fights so they know a little bit more to talk to me about but at the same time, me and my manager, we're trying to get a fight over in England and I've even said to myself I'd pay my way there. You guys pay my fight purse, I'll pay for my flight there.
I just want to fight and that's one of the things that separates me from a lot of people is, I just want to fight. I'll fight a guy tougher than I'm supposed to. In my second fight I shouldn't be fighting a guy who's 10-4. In my third fight, I shouldn't be fighting a guy who's 9-2. I shouldn't be fighting a guy with 40 more fights than me but I wanted to fight and I wanted to challenge myself. I want to see how good I really am because, to me, I don't gain anything by fighting a guy who's 2-8 just because I need a win. I want to fight a guy who I think is another step up because my goal is the UFC and I don't want to sit there and smash cans until I get to the UFC and then there's a huge jump in the level of the guys I'm fighting. You see all these guys who go to the UFC, the reason why they have the hardest time trying to get used to the UFC, get through the jitters is because there's a huge jump in competition.
They've been fighting these guys who have no business being there, they couldn't even wipe up the blood at the UFC and they're fighting there and they're almost having a panic attack because they don't know what it's like to be on their back and getting punched. They don't know what it's like to be in a bad position in a fight and for me, that's not where I want to be. I want to fight the best guys at any time and I don't care where. If it's in England, it's in Canada, it's Brazil, it's Australia, as long as I'm getting paid a little money to do it and my opponent's gonna show up, I'll fight.
Ben Thapa: That's a lot of passion right there. Is there a specific moment that you knew that fighting was what you wanted to do, or that this was something you could make a professional career out of?
Sheldon Westcott: It was probably back to one of my first tournaments where I fought a guy. I ended up fighting a guy in the tournament who was a black belt in jiu-jitsu but I didn't know because it was a no-gi tournament and I won the tournament. I was super happy about winning because it was my first tournament and my coach comes up to me and he's like, "Oh yeah, you beat this guy," and I'm like, "Yeah?" and they're like, "He's really good. You need to keep doing this," and then I went into my first fight and I loved it. From the amount of nerves you get to just competing on that level to just competing and being nervous, being nervous before you fight and having those jitters and knowing what you put into it is what you get out of it and you know what, when I first started, it could have been my first practice. I knew that I'm addicting. This is my new sport. This is what I'm gonna do and I just haven't turned back yet.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What are some of your goals for 2012? You tried out for The Ultimate Fighter, I've seen you message Dana asking to fill in for an injured fighter in the UFC. What do you want to accomplish?
Sheldon Westcott: 2012, in all honesty, I want to be fighting in the UFC before the end of the season I didn't make The Ultimate Fighter for. I want to be in the UFC before that season airs. It doesn't leave me a lot of time but I plan on being really active this year. I'm looking at having 4-6 fights this year so I'll be fighting on all the Aggression MMA shows which should be four this year and there's a couple other shows out of Calgary and stuff, I'll probably take a couple fights on and I might even do another boxing fight, probably not at heavyweight but I'll probably take another boxing fight as well just to get as much experience and time in the ring as I can until I win my last fight and get the right look. I got a new management company, First Round Sports Management and they represent a lot of the bigger name guys in the UFC like Jon Jones, Frank Mir, Diego Sanchez and I put myself in a great position to end up fighting for the UFC or Strikeforce sometime this year, hopefully.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Fighting that often would be a huge leap for you because you've been fighting about once or twice a year for the past three years or so, right?
Sheldon Westcott: Yeah, yeah. The thing is, I took my first fight so early that I kind of realized after my fight that, "I should probably learn some of this stuff before I go in there and fight." I took a lot of time off and that's why there's a lot of leaps and bounds in my game in between all my fights. I got to go out for UFC 108, I was in Holland and Nottingham England helping Paul Daley get ready for that fight, helping Melvin Manhoef get ready for his New Year's Eve fight. I was there with Tom Watson and I've been working with a ton of guys who fought in the UFC helping them get ready for their fights and I haven't fought as often as I probably should but the amount of stuff I'm learning in between, you know what, I think it'll be more beneficial to me when I actually fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you're thinking about your upcoming fight at Aggression MMA 9 against Jay Jenson, what do you see? How do you see yourself getting a victory?
Sheldon Westcott: In all honesty, the shape I'm in right now and where I'm at in my training, the bell's gonna ring, we're gonna touch gloves, end up circling. If he gets close enough for a takedown, pick up him, slam him on his head, open him up. I'll probably be throwing punches 4-5 minutes straight and if he comes to the bell for the second round, I will finish the fight and if he gives me anything earlier in the first round or second round or if I catch him clean, he'll go to sleep either by a punch or if I get a submission, I won't let it go and if it's in there tight, he'll take a little nap.
Sheldon would like to thank everyone from Avenue Boxing, Roland his boxing coach, Kyle Cardinal's Sports Gym, Arashi Do Martial Arts, Rockstar Energy Drink, Ron Hobson's Deerhunter in St. Albert, Crystal Glass, ZorBuzz and Maxim Autoworks and the Tint Factory in St. Albert. You can follow him on Twitter @SheldonWestcott.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Is the 27 year old athlete a fighter to keep an eye on in 2012? What do you think of his philosophy of fighting more difficult opponents at the early stages of his career?