This Saturday, eight men will compete at Glory 9 in NYC, a kickboxing event which will see the eventual winner having to best three different opponents to claim the $200,000 prize. In short, the winner is going to be one tough son of a bitch, and they don’t come much tougher than Glory 9 entrant Tyrone "King Of The Ring" Spong. As a kickboxer-turned-MMA star (he’ll be showing his MMA skills at the World Series of Fighting in Ontario, CA on August 10), we spoke to Spong about what it takes to translate kickboxing skills into mixed martial arts prowess.
How do you feel about tomorrow’s fight?
I feel normal - I’m just really confident and relaxed right now and I’m looking forward to making it happen.
How many fights do you think a professional fighter has to go through before they can feel “relaxed and confident” right before entering a fight?
I think you’re born with it - if you’re a natural fighter, you get used to it quicker and faster. The hard work you put in makes you confident that you did your homework good, and that you’re just now waiting for the exam to be taken and that you pass flawless.
You’ve moved into MMA in the last couple years – how do your kickboxing skills translate to a sport that tends to rely more on groundwork?
The thing is, even an MMA fight starts on its feet - it starts with striking, so you’ve got to be able to adjust your stance and your strikes because it’s not a kickboxing fight, it’s MMA. You can whatever – you can do all the techniques, but the thing is, you gotta be able to adjust and be creative enough to make it work and not to get taken down or get caught. That’s the thing - it’s fighting, it’s a physical chess match.
In terms of your opponents, would you prefer to fight someone who's a striker, or someone who’s a grappler?
If I had to pick, I would pick a striker, but in MMA I’m not about to pick my opponent, so I’ll fight whoever!
When you first started training for MMA, was the transition from striking to grappling a difficult one?
Yeah, it’s a big change, you know, it’s a different technique, you use different muscles - your body gets sore and gets tired, it’s not something you’re used to, laying on the ground. So it’s a big change, of course.
Do you have a particular favorite grappling move that you’ve learned since you started training?
When somebody’s in my guard I like a certain move – it’s to sweep the other guy and to get up.
Do you think guys who trained purely in MMA have an advantage over guys who transition to it from another discipline?
For guys who come from a wrestling or jiu-jitsu background, the only thing they really have to learn is to strike, so I favor them - it’s easier for them to go into MMA.
Do you think you’ll move completely into MMA and leave kickboxing behind?
No, I do both, and I do boxing too. I’m just an all-around combat athlete!