Jason Knight is taking the next step in the journey that is his MMA career when he heads to Liverpool to take on Makwan Amirkhani.
If you want to get an idea of who Jason Knight, fighting this Sunday at UFC Liverpool, is as a fighter, look no further than how he got into the sport. Like many fighters getting their start, MMA helped Jason Knight stay out of trouble. “I was a bad-ass kid, and I stayed in trouble fighting all the time,” he recalled. In his teens, his future brother in law taught him how to box, which gradually led to MMA training. At just fourteen, he signed up for his first amateur bout. His age wasn’t a barrier, as he recalls the promoter in Mobile, Alabama saying “I don’t give a s*** if you’re twelve, if your momma signs for it, you can come fight.”
And so he did. “I go down there that Monday, I signed up, I fought that Wednesday, and I haven’t really slacked up since.”
The dream, he told Cageside Press, has always remained the same since the beginning: make it to the UFC. “Now that I’m here, set a goal, accomplish that goal.” Fighting completely changed his life, keeping Knight out of jail, and out of the shipyards. Away from partying and drugs as well, something that plagues his home town back in Mississippi.
We spoke to Knight just over a week out from UFC Liverpool, and he assured us that training was going smoothly. “No major injuries or anything,” Knight said. “Little aches and pains like any training camp, but everything’s been great.” At that point, he was simply excited to “get to next week, and beat this guy up!”
Excited is a great way to describe Jason Knight in advance of his trip abroad. Making his first trip to the U.K., Knight’s excited for the experience. Which makes dealing with hassles like extra taxes a little easier. “The taxes and all that crap, who cares,” he told us. “It sucks and everything, you’ve got to pay taxes, but what can you do about it. The way I look at it is, I get to travel the world, the UFC pays for my plane tickets and pays for the hotel and everything while I’m there, pays for a lot of the food. Pretty sweet.”
“It kind of sucks that the taxes come out,” he added, “but oh well, I’m just excited that this journey takes me all over the world, and I’m ready to see where it takes me next.”
Before going forward, we took a look back to his previous fight with Gabriel Benitez. Needless to say, it did not go according to plan. One issue? Strep throat the week before the fight. “I took a shot of penicillin to try to get rid of it,” Knight said. The antibiotics he was on seemed to drain him. “Halfway through the first round I gassed out,” he continued.
That led to disaster. “Once I got gassed, everything started getting sloppy. My punches were sloppy, my takedowns were sloppy. I just wasn’t myself out there.”
Like every fight, it was a learning experience, and in this case the lesson was “don’t take a fight if you’re sick. You can deal with maybe a broken foot or something like that, or a broken rib, you can fight through that. Just push yourself through it. But if your body’s not letting you perform the way you’re supposed to perform, there’s nothing you can do about that,” he explained.
Still, there was no thought of backing out at the time. “It’s not in my DNA to back out. If I feel like I can fight, I’m gonna fight.” Nor did he feel pressure to stay in the bout. “If I break my foot and I’ve got six weeks until the fight,” Knight said, “I’m gonna see if I can get my foot healed in six weeks enough to walk on it. That’s just the type of person that I am.”
“I think I have more of that dog in me than he does. I think that if we go out here and s*** gets down and dirty, he’s going to break before I do.”
Knight added that “I don’t really care what nobody thinks, I don’t care about the ranking system, I don’t care if I’m on top of the world or whatever. I want to fight.” It’s what he loves to do. It’s also how he supports his family. Another reason why you won’t find him backing out of a fight.
With no major hiccups in training, hopefully UFC Liverpool will be smooth sailing for Jason Knight. When asked to size up his opponent, Knight broke it down stat by stat. “The only place he might be better than me is wrestling,” the featherweight allowed. “He’s got nine wins by submission, I have thirteen wins by submission. He has one win by TKO, I have four wins by TKO. He has one decision, I think I have like four decisions.”
“On paper, I look better pretty much everywhere.” Of course, that’s on paper. Yet Knight figures that while Amirkhani’s wrestling might be better than his, “if he does take me down, I think I’m going to be better on the ground. If he keeps it on the feet, I think I’m going to be better on the feet. I think I have more of that dog in me than he does. I think that if we go out here and s*** gets down and dirty, he’s going to break before I do.”
So that’s the plan: break Amirkhani by being “aggressive and relentless.” And never stop coming forward. “I’m not going to worry about losing,” Knight said of the bout. “I’m just going to go out here and have my fun, and make it a nasty fight.”
While Amirkhani hasn’t been the most active, Knight doesn’t figure ring rust will play a factor. “The way I look at it,” said Knight, “if you put in the work that is necessary to go out there and fight your best, then that’s what you’re going to do. If he slacks in training thinking that it’s going to be an easy fight, than he’s going to have a long night.”
“If he’s looking at my last two fights thinking that guy is going to show up, then he’s going to be sadly mistaken,” he added. Besides the Benitez fight, Knight also took a loss against the always tough Ricardo Lamas at UFC 214. Yet being 0-2 heading into UFC Liverpool won’t change Knight’s approach.
“Not at all. I look at every fight the same, as another guy. As another stepping stone on the road to where I’m going. Win, lose, or draw, nothing’s ever going to slow me down.” Everything is a learning experience for Knight. And ultimately, he’s looking for a Hall of Fame career. “Like Randy Couture, Forrest Griffin. Stuff like that. Chuck Liddell. I just want to be remembered. That’s the most important thing to me. I would love to get the belt one day, I would love to be number one one day. But if that doesn’t happen, then I’m fine with that. I’m going to go out here and give it all I’ve got to the better end.”
Speaking of Chuck Liddell, news of ‘The Iceman’ coming back to MMA had broke just a few days prior to our chat. On the subject, Knight said that “I don’t want to see Chuck fight guys like Jon Bones Jones and D.C. or nothing like that, because I don’t see the older version of Chuck holding up.” Reason being, “unless in his time off he has evolved, then I don’t see Chuck being able to hang in there with those guys. Because that’s what happened to Chuck, the sport evolved and Chuck didn’t. People started, they figured Chuck out and started knocking him out.”
That said, Knight has no issue if Liddell is taking the right fights, with other older veterans of the sport. “I’d love to see Chuck come back, and let him fight somebody like Tito.”
As for Knight’s own career, he’s back to that “set a goal, accomplish that goal” mindset. This year, it’s to get back in the top fifteen. And to stay active. “This will be my first fight this year, I want to try to get at least three, maybe four,” he told us.
“If I go out there and get my hand raised, I’m going to get on Sean Shelby’s ass, for taking so long to get me back in there,” he added, “and try to make sure that he doesn’t do that s*** again.”
Catch Jason Knight taking on Makwan Amirkhani at UFC Liverpool (UFC Fight Night 30) this Sunday, May 27 at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, England. The bout airs as part of the main card on FOX Sports 1 in the U.S. and on TSN in Canada.