Andre Winner: I'm going to put on a great performance and light a fire within my teamPosted on May 5, 2011, 05:48 PM by Joey Santosus
A member of the U.K.'s famed Team Rough House, Andre Winner (11-5-1) will look to ascend the ranks of the stacked UFC Lightweight division in 2011, beginning with Anthony Njokuani at UFC 132 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
After a successful 9-2-1 stint on the European fight circuit, Winner was introduced to the American MMA scene as The Ultimate Fighter 9: U.S. vs. U.K. runner-up. Since making his debut, he's went 2-2 in his last four outings, most recently coming up short against rising contender Dennis Siver at UFC 122 in Germany.
Here's what Winner had to say about his preparations for Anthony Njokuani, his Team Rough House training partners, making the most of 2011 and much more:
It's been about six months since we've seen you in action Andre. How is your training going?
I just got back from a striking session about an hour ago and had my jiu-jitsu session this morning, so everything is going well. I was away with (Paul) Daley for his fight, but I got some training in out there, which was fun. I've been keeping up with it.
It was recently announced that you'll be fighting Anthony Njokuani at UFC 132 in July. What do you think of him as an opponent, and how do you feel you match up with him stylistically?
I think Anthony is a good fighter with great kickboxing skills. It's a good match up and will be an exciting fight for the fans to watch. I saw his fight with Barboza and I loved it! Both guys impressed me. It was one of the best technical striking MMA fights I have seen and I think Anthony was a little unlucky to come away with the loss.
Is there any added pressure going into the bout being that you're coming off a loss in what is, perhaps, the most talent rich division in the UFC?
No, there isn't any more pressure than there normally is. It is what you make it. I treat every fight as if it is my most important and that's because it is. There is no fight you can afford or be happy to lose. I love being in a division that is so rich with talent. It means I fight the best guys and if you want to be the champ, those are the guys you want to beat.
Team Rough House has been quite busy lately with a lot of big fights. Jim Wallhead's Bellator bout with Rick Hawn, Dan Hardy fought Anthony Johnson, and then of course Paul Daley's title fight with Nick Diaz. What's the energy been like around there?
The energy is always good wherever we are. I mean, we're not on a good streak at the moment, we've lost a few fights. Paul has been on a bit of a tear, but lost to (Nick) Diaz and Jim (Wallhead) lost in Bellator. So we've had a few disappointments, but the energy is always high because we've got a real good vibe between us and we're friends. We're always there to push each other and help each other up when we fall down. Then, of course, we'll be there for the highs as well. So its all good, that's what Champions are made of.
As you mentioned, you were in San Diego for the Diaz-Daley fight. What did you think about Paul's performance and the fight overall?
Obviously it didn't go the way we wanted it to go. I thought the fight was stopped a little early, considering it was a title fight and there was just a few seconds to go in the round. I didn't see any of those punches actually landing clean, so I am a little disappointed that they ended the fight there. I mean, well done to Diaz. He boxed well, he got rocked twice and came back, so I take my hat off to him for that. I think when Paul dropped him, he put to much energy into trying to finish him that first time and just tired himself out. And when you got a guy like Diaz, he's going to put pressure on you. I think the gameplan and everything just went out the window and Paul lost himself in a brawl. I mean, that was probably one of the best brawls I've seen in a long time, so it was a very entertaining fight. I'd watch that over and over. I'd definitely be up to watching a rematch as well. But like I said, I was a little disappointed because the one thing we had talked about leading up to the fight, and it was Paul's idea, was composure. A lot of guys that have fought Diaz in the past, they buckled under the pressure, lost their form, and then he'd start to pick them apart. Watching the KJ Noons (vs. Nick Diaz) fight, he kept his composure quite well and managed to do fairly good against him. So the whole thing for us was for Paul to use his skills, because he can be very technical and he's a real good boxer when he wants to be. So I was a little bit disappointed, but its always easier said then done. He went out there, he put on a great fight, showed a lot of heart, and put it all on the line. He went out there looking to finish and, in the end, it was a great fight - I loved it!
Switching gears a bit, you were pretty athletic growing up. You were involved in Football, Sprinting, etc. What ultimately led you to transition from those types of sports into Mixed Martial Arts?
I think its because I've got a really determined personality. I got into quite a few fights when I was younger, but I wasn't bullied or anything like that. Somehow trouble would find me though, and I was one of those kids who refused to bow down. I always stuck up for myself, so that's what got me into scraps here and there, and that's how I first learned I could look after myself. Being athletic and being in those situations a few times, it led me to enjoy combat sports like boxing, karate, etc. And I loved my Martial Arts movies, even before I'd started the sport really. I loved my ninja movies, like Blood Sport, Kickboxer, or any Jackie Chan type movies. I also loved comics as well, and the idea of being like a super hero. So that kind of merges in with becoming an MMA fighter or a high level combatant - doing things that most other people couldn't. Kind of like a modern day super hero. I was just always intrigued by it and had a real passion for it.
Funny you should mention that because I was going to ask you if there was any truth to the story that your desire to reenact the heroes in your comic books actually played an early role in leading you to MMA. So with that in mind, because you were such a big fan of comics, if you had to choose just one character that you feel you most relate to, who would it be and why?
I don't know about who I can relate to the most, but I know who I like the most. I like Apocalypse from X-Men, the villain. Apocalypse can do all sorts of things: He has powers, he can shape shift, and he's very clever. I just like him for some reason. As far as who I can relate to, I'm not sure. My life is not really like a super hero's (laughs).
Fair enough. And from what I understand, that hobby led to another. Do you still enjoy drawing and illustrating characters?
I haven't drawn in years. I used to love it so much. I think that is one of the things that helped me out in combat sports, my ability to copy something. You have to have a keen eye and be able to pick up the little details, and I think that transferred over into my training because often when people come into camp I'll try to imitate (their opponents) as best as possible to help my teammates out. I think that really helped me in learning new things in MMA, but other than a little doodling here and there on the plane, I haven't drawn in a long time.
After turning pro in 2006, you went 9-2 over the course of two years, but eventually hit a point where you became discouraged and actually considered retirement before making it into the house on The Ultimate Fighter 9. Can you talk a little bit about your source of frustration, as well as the opportunity to join the cast of TUF 9?
I was doing pretty well on the European circuit, but it got to the point where I was struggling to get fights. I needed to do something a little more to get recognized by the bigger shows, like the UFC, so I could get a chance to face better competition. But I reached a point where either people didn't want to fight me, or it was a fight that wasn't going to do anything for my career. So, it got to where I was fighting like maybe twice a year and on the British or European circuit, you're not getting a lot of money. I was doing this full time, so I couldn't really support myself with the money I was earning. I wasn't getting any money from sponsorships and fighting only twice a year, it just wasn't worth it at the end of the day. Luckily for me, The Ultimate Fighter came along. I was going through a bit of a rough point at that time in my life, but I thought, "You know what, I'm just going to go for it." Originally, they wanted Middleweights and Welterweights, and I thought that I'll just have to go at Welterweight. But I went down there one day and it worked out well for me because there was quite a few Lightweights that had the same idea, and I don't think that many top Middleweights turned up. So they scrapped the idea of using Middleweights and just went with Welterweights and Lightweights, and I was fortunate enough to get picked.
You did very well on The Ultimate Fighter, you made it all the way to the Finale where you were matched against your teammate Ross Pearson. After a close contest with Pearson, you bounced back with two impressive victories, but faced a couple set backs in the latter part of 2010. What are your goals for 2011 and where do you envision yourself by this time next year?
Ideally, I know where I'd like to be, but the reality of it is that you have to go out there and do it. So I take it one fight at a time. The losses I had were a little bit disappointing, but at the same time it didn't discourage me to much because I fought a good guy in Nik Lentz. He's a good wrestler and he stuck to his bread and butter to get the win. In that fight, even though there was a lot of criticism about it being boring, which it was, I think for someone who doesn't come from a wrestling background at all, I was pinned up against the fence for the majority of it, but I think I gave him a lot of problems in trying to take me down. I also did well with getting back to my feet. I'm a better wrestler now than I was then, so I think I could have done better in that bout, but it is what it is. In my following fight (against Dennis Siver), I trained hard for that and I feel I performed well and did the things I wanted to do until I got caught with a punch and got dropped. At the same time though, I wasn't to discouraged by it because I was letting my hands go with the intention to hurt him and I was. Obviously I'm disappointed in the loss and in being dropped because that was the first time I've ever been dropped. I'm not just talking about MMA, I'm talking about any fight I've ever had. I've been hit in the head by a lot harder things, so I'm disappointed in that, but I'm just looking forward to 2011 being a great year. I want to go out there, put on some great performances, stack up some cash, and just light that fire within my team. Not that the fire has gone out, but obviously we've had a few losses like I said. There's always people who like to jump on (and off) bandwagons and get on some type of forum and try to knock us, so I just want to shut them up. Hopefully I win this next fight effectively and by this time next year I've won another three or four fights, and I'll be looking at being in contention.
Excellent. On behalf of myself and the staff at LowKick.com, I would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with me Andre. It's been a pleasure. Is there anything you would like to add or any sponsors you would like to mention?
I'd like to thank all of my friends and family, and all of the guys I train with. Also my sponsors: Venom, Jaco, Head Rush, Maximuscle, Cherry Active, Meesha Graphics. There's a load of people out there that have helped me, so I want to thank them if I've forgotten anybody. And all of the true fans out there that enjoy the sport and are positive about MMA, the fans that go out there and support the sport, they make it better. I want to say thank you to all of them and you guys over at LowKick.com of course.