The UFC just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

Even if you don't watch it, you'll have certainly heard the buzz around it. Whether it was the horrific GIF of Anderson Silva's leg break in December or the likes of Brittney and Arianny on our cover, MMA is taking over the UK.

More specfically, it's taking over the UK this Saturday 8 March when UFC Fight Night London hits The O2 arena.

On the main card, Brad 'One Punch' Pickett and Jimi 'Posterboy' Manuwa will be flying the flag for Great Britain, with Manuwa in the main event against Sweden's Alexander Gustafsson.

To find out what it takes to be a UFC fighter, we caught up with Brad Pickett. What the 5ft 6in ex-footballer had to say might just surprise you...

I always knew I'd be a professional athlete. Not because I think I'm amazing, but I've always been a jack of all trades. I seemed to be good at every sport I did. Every kid wants to be a pro footballer but, in the back of my mind, I thought I'd make it in some sport.

Football is my first sport. I've played it all my life, basically since I could kick a ball. It's my main passion, always has been and always will be. I used to get paid to play when I was younger. I've played at quite a good level, for teams like Rushden & Diamond.

I took up boxing when I was 19. It was a way to keep myself fit in-between days of training for football. Then I found I was quite good at that too and started competing.

I never got into combat sports because I was a violent person.
That's not me at all. I went there to train and, one day, someone just said, "Hey, do you want to have a fight?" and, being the proud little guy I was, I said, "Yeah, sure."

Brad Pickett

It was almost all over when I suffered a really bad knee injury at 21, while playing football. I had to stop everything for a while, but I always said I'd go back to football. The problem was, where I used to play at a good level, I ended up coming down a few and just playing with my mates on a Saturday.

When I tried to get back into boxing at 25, it didn't have the same appeal to me as it did when I started. It wasn't as good fun. One of my mates suggested I try out MMA instead.

On my first session, I got completely manhandled by a 16-year-old. He just did whatever he wanted with me. As I was 25 and we were the same size, I did not like that feeling. I just thought, "Wow, I need to learn this. I can't ever have anyone doing that to me." So that's where it started off.

Suddenly, I was completely addicted to the sport. I couldn't get enough. Every time I went to a training session, I was learning something new. That's the great thing about MMA. There is so much you can learn.

MMA is like a decathlon of sports. If you're good at the decathlon, you have to practise your long jump, your javelin, your sprints. If you're just a sprinter, that'll be all you do and I'd find that too boring. I had to go do some judo, boxing, wrestling, grappling, ju-jitsu – it was a lot more exciting for me to learn all these different sports together.

I still have no ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in my leg from the football injury. I never had it reconstructed. As far as learning MMA was concerned, I adapted and trained without it. I could have an operation now but not having one hasn't done me any harm. If you're an amazing piano player and you lose a finger, you'll still be able to play, you just have to learn to adapt. I just learned without the finger.

I've won most of my fights by submissio
n, despite having the nickname 'One Punch' from my boxing background. When I first started, a lot of people used to take me down to the floor because, being a boxer, they'd think I was no good. I'd end up submitting them. I want to be the best I can in every area. It's not a sport where you can be one-dimensional, so I'm dangerous no matter where the fight is.

Brad Pickett

Sometimes, it's not about how much damage you can dish out; it's how much you can receive. I can take a lot of punishment and keep coming forward and it breaks people mentally.

I have a way of fighting called The Art of Manbeasting. It's being able to take someone down and completely manhandle them. With my majority of wins by submission, it's not really me submitting a person, it's them looking for a way out. I've broken them mentally and they just want to get out of the fight. I've overwhelmed them and beaten them and they're just like, "Get me the hell out of here. I don't want to be here any more."

I never fight with aggression. I'm a very aggressive fighter but it's what I call 'controlled aggression'. I don't lose my temper. I never have any animosity to any opponent I ever fight. To me, it's a job. You've always got to keep yourself calm. I think every sport is 90% mental, 10% physical. If you don't have the right mindset, you will never succeed.

I walk out wearing a trilby hat and braces. It's a tribute to my grandad. My mum's dad was a bare knuckle boxer and it's what he used to wear. I'm from the East End of London so it's very true to me.

My entrance music is Chas & Dave. They're family friends of mine. They played at my wedding. I could come out to gangster music but I'm not a gangster so it's not true to who I am.

Being entertaining helps you stand out from a crowd. A lot of fighters don't realise that it's an entertainment sport. You have to keep the crowd happy and put bums on seats.



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Being 5ft 6in has never been a problem. Because there are weight classes, you're always fighting people your size. Even when I played football, I was better than most people in the air because I got good at jumping. To me, it's just a height. Whatever you're dealt with in life, it's all about how you play it.

At 26, you could say I started the sport quite late. Most people would have been in their sport a lot longer. Luckily for me, this sport was growing as I was growing. I grew with the sport. If it was the standard that it is now, it would have been a lot harder for me.

If I wasn't a fighter, I'd be the best dustman in the world.
Or the best salesman in the world. I have a good mindset and a good work ethic so I'd adapt that to anything and succeed.

It's going to be hard to stay grounded on Saturday. Fighting in my home town is going to be exciting. It's going to be loud, and it's going to pump me up, but I need to keep my professional head on. I'll enjoy the crowd after the fight, not before.

Interview by Ally Sinyard

UFC Fight Night London: Gustafsson vs Manuwa is live at The O2 arena on Saturday 8 March. Catch all the action from 7.30pm on BT Sport.