The opening fight of the Cage Warriors 76 main card is a bantamweight bout between Sam Creasey (5-0) and Kris Edwards (8-8). Creasey will be making his Cage Warriors debut and returns to the cage for the first time since his victory over Rhys Hall at Macto 1 last summer. Edwards’ last fight was under the Cage Warriors banner, losing a decision to Jordan Desborough at Cage Warriors 72 in September 2014.
Creasey was originally scheduled to face Martin McDonough, but the latter dislocated his elbow in April, and Edwards was eager to get onto the first Cage Warriors card in Wales since their return to action. Edwards has focused on staying in shape and being in the right frame of mind, rather than concentrating on how his opponent approached the fight.
“Martin was originally matched with the opponent, I was training with him, and he got injured in one of the sessions. I’ve been bursting to get a fight lined up and get back in the cage. I said to my coach that I wanted to take the fight, they put the fight to Cage Warriors and I got it. I’ve been training for 7 weeks now. I feel brilliant. I’ve been focused, not missed a training session. I’ve trained harder than ever, and smarter, than ever.
“I actually don’t know what he looks like. The guys and coaches at the gym have told me a bit about him. At the end of the day, I’m going in there for me. I’ve been in there with enough people to know that I need to focus on myself. When I show up, when I’m 100% focused, I’m a match for anybody in the UK.
“I feel so prepared, so ready, so mature. I know how I’m going to fight. I’m going in to take his head off, not to be going backwards. I want people to watch me fight and then ask ‘how did he have a 8-8 record?’.
“You’ll see that everything I’m saying will come true. I’m going in there to finish him.”
This isn’t the first time that Edwards has replaced his team-mate in a fight. The Tillery Combat man replaced McDonough at Cage Warriors 59, where McDonough was due to compete in the promotion’s tournament for the bantamweight title.
The 26-year-old has been using his experience to help the younger members of his team, hoping that they learn from his mistakes.
“I think a lot of the boys at the gym saw me rise, and then saw me fall, and now they are seeing how hard I am working to make it to the top. It shows them that they need to be focused on MMA,” he divulged.
Edwards recently offered advice to his teammate Jack Shore, a highly regarded prospect, about making sure that he only took the right fights. Shore is fighting on the same card, but his original opponent fell through a few weeks back, and Edwards wanted to make sure that Shore was making the best decision for his career.
He mentioned that he was naïve and would fight any opponent when he was younger, even if it meant moving up a division. In his first encounter with Ian Dean (Cage Warriors matchmaker) following his pro debut, Dean told him that he needed to fight at bantamweight, advice that Edwards took on board.
Richard Shore, the founding director of Pain Pit (the promotion that Cage Warriors purchased and renamed Cage Warriors Wales), is also head coach at Tillery Combat, and Edwards is thankful for the support that his coach has given him over the years.
“Richard has been brilliant,” Edwards said. “He has always been there for me. Everything he has said to me has been right. He tells me that I can still get to the top. And I believe him.”
Some fans – especially those newer to the sport – will look at Edwards’ record and think that this could be an easy fight for Creasey, since Edwards is on a 5-fight losing streak and hasn’t fought for 21 months. It would also be reasonable to look at that losing streak and ask how the Welshman is fighting on the main card of a Cage Warriors outing on Fight Pass.
Edwards says he isn’t paying attention to people making that argument, and fans who have followed the UK scene understand that Edwards was a legitimate prospect 3-4 years ago, but simply stopped taking his MMA career as seriously as he should have, but he has shown his coaching team and Cage Warriors that the hunger is back.
“It doesn’t really make a difference to me, people who know the game understand what I’m about. Philpott finished me, but the other losses were down to me not being right in there mentally. It was me fighting negatively. I had a little wobble in my life, and that changed me as a fighter.
“The Desborough fight for example, he would still be in the cage trying to finish me 18 months later, he was never going to finish me. It has always been myself, I became too laid back.
“Graham and Ian could have bombed me off ages ago, but they’ve stuck with me, given me chances. I think they want me to do well. And I think I’ll have more fights with Cage Warriors if I impress them.”
The bantamweight’s management team had spoken to the UFC to find out what he needed to do to get signed with the biggest promotion in the sport. He needed two more victories and then the UFC would look at signing him to their roster. Unfortunately for Edwards, things started to go wrong for him inside the cage. Reflecting on his career so far, Edwards highlights the loss to Alan Philpott as the pivotal moment in his career.
“The loss to Philpott disappoints me the most, I was cutting weight to face Mark Platts, and the day before the weigh-in, we had a pull-out and I had to move up a weight again. I sort of looked past him (Philpott) a little bit. I don’t normally, but I went in there too calm. It was because I was young and was too comfortable.
“It disappointed me the most because he has gone on to do some big things, and I think the win over me really boosted him. He did an awesome job, he finished me. I don’t want to make excuses, but I do think that the losses have come from me not being in the right frame of mind.”
He wanted to become the first Welsh fighter in the UFC, believing that people don’t remember the second or third. There are a few Welsh fighters on the scene who could beat him to the UFC, but Edwards is just happy to be back in the cage for now. He mentions that Neil Seery is someone he looks up to, a fighter with a similar style, and who has worked hard inside and outside of the cage, and eventually got a UFC contract.
There was a short period of time where Edwards started hanging out with associates who were not a good influence on him. He ended up spending less time training and going out every weekend and getting drunk.
“I went off the path, like it was the end of the world. I never drank through the week, but was just out on the piss every weekend. And when I lost, I started going out more. It was just the weekends. But you end up getting drunk on Saturday, and then you’re hungover on Sunday, and it has a snowball impact on your week, and you don’t end up training properly. I was training once a week, just going into the jiu jitsu classes; I would be training ten times a week before that. “
He managed to get sort out the problems connected to his socialising, but then he had to address his biggest problem. His mentality ended up costing him fights, putting him into a position where he felt his dreams had been crushed.
“My demon was the mental aspect of fighting. I used to go in there with a ‘f**k it, I can’t lose’ attitude. I went in there thinking that I would blitz Philpott. I had a choke on him, and instead of focusing, I got comfortable and ended up rolling onto my back. I went in there as if I was sparring in training. I shouldn’t have done that.”
That confidence (or arrogance) had vanished by the time he faced Shaj Haque in a flyweight bout at Cage Warriors 54, and it got worse with every loss. He lost a decision to James Pennington at Cage Warriors 59, a loss that knocked him out of the tournament for the vacant 135lbs title. He then lost to Aaron Blackwell at Cage Warriors 60, and that was followed by a loss to Jordan Desborough at Cage Warriors 72. The Kris Edwards that defeated Janne Elonen-Kulmala and Brian Hyslop was no more, he was unrecognisable. He wasn’t the predator anymore, he was just trying to avoid becoming the prey.
“Then I became more reserved, because I would worry about getting caught or suffering another loss. I became a defensive fighter, rather than going to attack. It wasn’t me. It was the mental aspect of the sport that hurt me. I was my worst enemy. I wasn’t fighting to win; I was just trying to make sure that I couldn’t lose.
“It got worse with every loss, because I didn’t want to lose the next fight. I should have been moving forward and hurting my opponents, but I was just trying to make sure that they didn’t hurt me.
Edwards looks back at his last 5 fights and doesn’t recognise himself. He was making a name for himself because he was aggressive, but the 4 losses that followed the Philpott defeat showed anything but.
He feels that he has grown as a mixed martial artist over the last 18 months. The fire has been lit, the dreams of being able to take care of his family through MMA are back. He gets up at 6 a.m. every day to go on a 5km run, he trains at Tillery Combat more than he used to, fitting it around his full-time job. His confidence has returned, he feels mature and focused again. He feels that the Kris Edwards that had UK MMA fans talking about him is back.
“I’ve definitely grown as a fighter. I would say that I was always an example of dedication and discipline when I was younger. I lost that, but I’m back to that old level. Now I’m back, training even more than I used to. I’ve grown up, I’m doing things properly now. I’m no longer naïve, I took things for granted back then. It was a missed opportunity, now I’m focused on making things right. I feel better than before, I feel brand new.”
Kris Edwards 2.0 is fighting on a card not too far from his home, with a few of his Tillery Combat stablemates. The crowd at the Newport Centre in Newport, Wales will be rooting for Edwards, but he hopes that they will applaud his opponent.
“It is in my backyard, I know people are going to support me. I just hope that people don’t boo my opponent. I hate that. It really annoys me. I’ll be the first person clapping when Creasey’s name is called.
“I don’t like the booing; I want the fans to show respect to him because we’re both going to put on a show. You have to take your hat off to him, he is coming to my backyard.”
Edwards vs. Creasey will stream live on UFC Fight Pass tomorrow night as Cage Warriors host CWFC 76 in Wales.