When Josh Koscheck fought Georges St-Pierre for the UFC welterweight championship at UFC 124 on December 11th 2011, it was in front of one of the most hostile and vocal crowds the sport has ever seen. This was because the fight took place in St-Pierre’s home city of Montréal, and these Canadians wanted their voices heard.
While it’s fair to say Montréal can call on some of the more hostile atmospheres on the MMA calendar, they tend to rely on GSP being present. The same doesn’t really apply to a UFC event in Brazil, where all you need to be hated is to be fighting one of their own countrymen. This is the case for Norman Parke (19-2, 3-0 UFC), who fights Leonard Santos (12-3, 1-0 UFC) this Sunday in the Nelio Diaz Gymnasium, Rio Grande do Norte in Brazil.
Most people would probably be put out at having to travel halfway across the world to not only fight inside an eight-side cage, but to do so against the backdrop of a crowd that will, to a man, be unanimously against your every effort to win, is another thing entirely. “Stormin” Norman Parke is no such man. He relishes this.
“I was gonna be put out of my comfort zone at some stage and that’s what I love,” Parke told TalkingBrawlsMMA.com. “I love being put out of my comfort zone. It makes me a better person every time. I already have a plan in mind. Jeremy Stephens did the same when he fought in Brazil. When they were jeering him he just smiled and waved so it’s just gonna be the exact same with me. But as soon as I step in that cage there ain’t nobody else there, it’s just me and him.”
That “him” is of course Rio’s own Leonardo Santos, a man who fights out of one of the most impressive camps in the game, Nova Unaio. This camp boasts the likes of UFC champions Renan Barao and Jose Aldo, though Parke has stressed the importance of the calibre of fighter he himself trains with at Alliance MMA in California.
“Training’s going well, I’m training with a lot of good people every day,” Parke explained. “There’s a lot of good guys at my weight and I even like to spar with the heavy guys. I spar with them all the time, all them heavy wrestlers and they all find it tough with me. There’s loads of people here for the same thing … There’s loads of people coming up to fights and we’re all ready to go and I’m excited for this week.”
As for specific people he’s being training with, Parke gave a special mention to his Alliance MMA Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach, Jimmy Harbison, who also coached him when he won ‘The Ultimate Fighter’.
“I’ve been working with Jimmy ‘Jah’ Harbison, a world BJJ champion. He was in Rush Fight Academy a few years ago doing a seminar. He was our jiu-jitsu coach in ‘The Ultimate Fighter’. I’ve worked with him on a daily basis and he’s taught me a lot, you know?,” Parke continued. “How to stay heavy on top, and be calm in bad situations. I’ve been working with a lot of tall strikers, there’s a lot of top boxers here. As I say I’m just ready to go. I’m ready to jump in against any one of those guys in that division.”
In his last fight, Parke showed off his excellent striking skills en route to a unanimous decision win over Jon Tuck. It’s something he’s always known he has excelled at himself. So against a guy that is known for his grappling prowess, will Parke be looking to keep the fight on the feet?
“I’m ready to fight wherever it goes,” said an adamant Parke. “If it’s against the cage, if I’m on top, you know? Realistically, I want to keep it standing and just work every part of the game. I’m well-rounded, I’m good everywhere; there’s no holes in my game. So we’ll see where it goes on Sunday night.
So I tell you what, if D-1 wrestlers can’t take me down, a six-foot lanky BJJ guy ain’t gonna take me down! There’s absolutely NO chance
“I watched some of his fights (Santos) and he has some really good control on the ground but thing’s first all right? The fight starts on the feet. He needs to get a hold of me first. I’m training with Division 1 wrestlers every day. There’s four or five of them I train with and they can’t take me down, they can’t hold me down. So I tell you what, if D-1 wrestlers can’t take me down, a six-foot lanky BJJ guy ain’t gonna take me down! There’s absolutely NO chance.”
It’s no secret that Parke’s boxing skills will be key to a victory in the fight, and he acknowledges as such, but it’s confidence that is more important than anything else in his development.
“I always had good boxing but nobody ever really saw it,” he continued. “People saw it in the gym but when it came to fight it never showed. But now that I’ve been in America training it’s brought my confidence up. I’m at a level now where I saw where I was training with people like this. And that’s what it comes down to: confidence.
“I wanna see what he’s up to. I’m throw a few feints. If he wants to stand and strike then we’ll strike. Hopefully I’ll land a nice clean one and put him out. I ain’t gonna go looking for it. If it comes it comes, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t … I’m good on top, I’m good on bottom. I’m good everywhere,” he finished.
“I’m just looking forward to getting the show on.”
To listen to the full interview, stay tuned for the latest TalkingBrawlsMMA.com Podcast, available on Thursday to download/stream.
“Stormin” Norman Parke takes on Leonardo Santos this Sunday night from Brazil and it’s LIVE on BT Sport 1 and UFC Fight Pass from 9pm, with the main card beginning at 11pm.
Photo Credit: Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images