London, England — Scottish light heavyweight Paul Craig appears to have found his comfort zone, and is finally getting the respect he deserves ahead of Saturday’s UFC London card.
For years, critics and even Craig himself questioned his ceiling in the division, looking at him as a gatekeeper. After going 5-0-1 in six fights since 2019, that’s no longer the case.
“I remember using the line saying I was like the Homer Simpson of the light heavyweight division,” Craig (16-4-1) recalled during the UFC London media day this week. “You know when he starts boxing, he’s getting these people just wailing on him, and all of a sudden he’d just push them over. I had tapped myself that. I’d also tapped myself as like the gatekeeper for the top 15. I was the doorman, I was standing there outside the night clubs like ‘aww you can’t get in.'”
The way Craig saw it, “if you could beat me, you deserve to get in and if you can’t beat me then you were out.” For a long time, he added, “that’s the guy I was, but now I’m getting the recognition. People are like ‘Paul’s got jiu-jitsu, and his stand-up’s not too bad.'”
There was at least one thing Paul Craig admits he had to change in his own head. “Trying to be a stand-up fighter when it’s not in your nature is very difficult. You can train it and you can get good at it, but what you need to do is you need to lean into what got you to the dance.”
Or, as he put it, “if you’re a goalkeeper and you decide ‘you know what, one day I’m just going to start playing left back’ in football— it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to actually train in these positions. You’re a keeper, just stay there. I’m a jiu-jitsu fighter, just stay there. Lie on my back and let guys fall into my triangle.”
Craig will look to lure Volkan Oezdemir into that triangle this Saturday.
Watch the full UFC London media day appearance from Paul Craig above. The event takes place this Saturday, July 23, 2022 at the O2 Arena in London, England.