There is no looking past Emmanuel Sanchez at Bellator 226 this weekend for Tywan Claxton, who isn’t worrying about titles, money, or anything but the fight itself.
Air Claxton is set to take off once again this Saturday night. At Bellator 226, Tywan Claxton (5-0), a member of Bellator’s prospect stable, will enter the featherweight grand prix. His assignment, that he refuses to look past, is Emmanual Sanchez.
Claxton, an affable enough character, has been all business ahead of the Bellator featherweight grand prix. Case in point, asked if there was any pressure to perform, based on his early-career unbeaten streak. “It’s one fight at a time for me. There’s no pressure at all. I just prepare for one fight,” Claxton said.
“There’s really no pressure, and for me there’s no streak. Maybe there is for Bellator, but if there is, that’s on them,” he continued. “It’s not on me. There’s no streak for me in my mind, it’s just, this is the guy you have to fight next, to get a couple dollars.”
A couple dollars here might be an understatement. To the winner go the spoils, in this case, a million dollars to the man left standing at the end of the grand prix.
That’s another topic Claxton wasn’t about to worry about, however. Money, even tournaments, aren’t on his radar. Just one singular focus: Sanchez.
“I can’t even tell you the first time I saw a UFC fight or a PRIDE fight or a Bellator fight.”
Interestingly enough, Claxton wasn’t a fan of the tournament format coming up — because really, he wasn’t a fan of fighting at all. “It’s weird, because as a wrestler, I wasn’t a fan of wrestling,” he said. This, from a NCAA Division II All-American.
“I’d never watched fighting. I was never a fan of fighting. I can’t even tell you the first time I saw a UFC fight or a PRIDE fight or a Bellator fight,” Claxton admitted, “and I don’t even watch fights now. I’ve never been the type of guy to fan out on anything. Except for coding, hell I fan out on coding, but that’s about it.”
“I just like to fight,” he added. And code. Claxton’s pursuits in the computer programming field have been well-documented. It’s something that makes him a unique find in the fighting world. Alongside the likes of teachers, like Rich Franklin, or Rosi Sexton, a mathematician with a PhD in theoretical computer science.
Coding “just makes sense. It’s logical. And I’m a logical person for the most part,” said Claxton. “Depending on how many beers I’ve got,” he joked.
Logic is why the grand prix appeals to him, rather than the nostalgia factor that attracts many fight fans. “I just think that it makes the most sense. You can’t really hide behind your resources, and by resources, I mean the promotion and things of that nature. Because at the end of the day, if you’re in this tournament, and you lose, you just lose. Nothing can save you from that loss. You can’t say ‘I’m still the best guy, because blah blah blah, blah blah blah,’ or this critic, or this ranking.”
“All of that disappears,” said Claxton. “I think you’ve got to respect that.”
The logical side of Claxton is why coding appeals to him. Because “there’s a million different ways to do the things I want to do, to build the things I want to build. It’s the same thing with fighting. It’s about development, it’s about growth, it’s about options. It’s about using your brain. And then at the end of the day, it’s about persevering, it’s about dedication, it’s about commitment.”
“These are all things fighting and coding share,” he continued. “You can make one of them work, you can make the other one work, eventually the two will start to intermingle. I feel like fighting makes me a better developer, and I feel like coding makes me a better fighter. Because it allows me to think in ways that other people can’t think.”
Claxton feels that advantage can lead to some “pretty spectacular things” both on the spot, and in the long run.
The long run isn’t in the picture right now, however. Only the immediate future. Claxton admits that, between money and title, “it’s the money. The title’s cool, eventually I think the title brings more money and makes me more marketable.” However, he added, “at this point in my career, I’m taking it fight by fight. It’s not even the million dollars or the title. I’m fighting and I want to win, I’m a competitor.”
“Everyone keeps talking tournament, and I get that there is a tournament, I really do understand that. But for me, there is no tournament,” he revealed. That singular focus we spoke of? This is what it comes to.
“The world stops September 7. For me the world ends September 7. That’s when I fight Emmanuel Sanchez,” said Claxton. “That’s World War I. I keep going back to that analogy, because I can’t find anything better than that. Guys in World War I weren’t thinking about fighting in World War II. They were thinking about winning World War I.”
“When you ask a question like is it the title or is it the money? Well f*ck at this point, it’s neither,” he added. In the same vein, “there is no next opponent for me right now.”
Emmanuel Sanchez, rather, is “the last fight that I have, that’s the only fight that I have. That’s the only thing that’s on my mind.”
For any critics who feel a fight against a former title challenger is too much, too soon, Claxton had a clear message: “Watch me shine, baby, just watch me shine.”
“No one knew who the hell I was coming into Bellator, when I made my debut,” he pointed out. “I had to beg to get in.” His manager, he explained, similarly had to beg to get his debut in the promotion booked. That was at Bellator 186, just under two years ago. Now? “Look at all the prospects they threw their money behind,” said Claxton. “Look where they’re at, and look where I’m at.”
Thus Claxton is dismissive of critics who know neither him, nor what he’s been through on the way up. Ones who know only what he chooses to tell them, what he chooses to let them see. “Critics will be critics. They’re probably on their couches, wishing that they did what I do.”
“I don’t really pay it too much mind. After this performance, we’ll have another conversation, and I guarantee there’s going to be another take on it,” the featherweight prospect added, “and somebody else is going to have something negative to say. We’re going to have people jumping on the boat, and it’ll be what it is.”
“I feel like I’m ready to take on Emmanuel Sanchez, I’m ready to take on anybody in this world that I want to fight.” And does anything else really matter in the end, outside what Claxton and his own team think?
As for the key to victory against Sanchez, it’s “executing the game plan,” said Claxton. “I can’t reveal more than that.” He did, however, promise to reveal all after the fight. Fair enough.
And in case you think he might slip, and let loose on who he’d like to face later in the grand prix, think again. “September 7 is the end of the world. I have to stay in that mind set.”
This outlook is actually a calculated effort on Claxton’s part. “It’s something that I thought about. I think that I had the best tournament of my life when I was in high school when I took this approach.” And so this is the mindset he has to have.
“Take it one fight at a time, one person at a time. That’s your only challenge, that’s the only person, and that’s your target. Once you eliminate the target, then you see what else the universe has to throw at you,” he explained. “But til then, it’s all about taking on that target, and taking out that target.”
And the world ends on September 7. At least until he wins.
Watch Tywan Claxton take on Emmanuel Sanchez at Bellator 226, live on Saturday, September 7 at the SAP Center in San Jose, CA. The main card airs exclusively on DAZN.