Turning 30 is a seminal point in the lives of many. It’s the time when your youth is truly over and life starts to look very different. BAMMA welterweight standout Nathan Jones hit this milestone a mere 2 days ago.
“Wow, 30. I thought I’d have a mortgage by now and would be deep into my career”, he told me. “I’ve started to reevaluate every single year rather than in 5-year chunks like I used to when I was younger. For example, at the moment I’m putting my day career to the side and focusing on my fighting. MMA is a shelf-life-sport, so it has to be my priority whilst I can still do it.” He quickly added “I’ve got a good few years left in me yet though, I’ve barely got going”.
Looking back at the decade-plus of adulthood, Jones recounted an early conversation with his mum, “She told me to put money aside every week. Not much, just £10 here, £20 there, just a bit to give me a lump sum when I was older. I wish I’d listened to my mum! Now I’m a bit older and I’m starting to think about what legacy I leave my son (Nathan’s son is nine-years old) my outlook has changed pretty drastically”.
Mr Bag & Tag’s MMA career was on a sharp upward trajectory throughout 2015. Five straight wins meant that he was banging on the door of the upper echelons of the BAMMA welterweight division and anyone who follows the UK scene knows that Nathan wasn’t quietly tapping. Next up came a bout with Irish star Peter Queally, one of the highest rated athletes fighting out of the renowned SBG Dublin on BAMMA 24 in February of this year. Jones suffered a frustrating decision loss which brought the hype to an abrupt stop.
After nearly nine months out of competitive action, BAMMA lined Jones up with unbeaten rising star Walter Gahadza on the BAMMA 27 portion of their co-promotion with global juggernaut Bellator. “I wasn’t siting around for nine months. I decided I needed to work on certain aspects of my game to come back better and stronger. I went to ATT and Tristar. I spent some time in Thailand. I got a silver at the British BJJ Open and took the gold in the German Kickboxing Championships, so I kept myself busy”. This activity clearly stood Nathan in good stead as he took a deserved decision victory against the dangerous Gahadza.
“I lost to Queally because of two things, firstly I got caught with a heavy, heavy shot at the start of the fight and saw double throughout the rest of the contest. Secondly, he was far smarter than me. Ok, he ran away, that was plain for all to see; but he knew how to control where the action took place and made sure the fight was always on his terms. His game plan was to stick and move and he executed it well. I learned a lot from that, which is why I showed far more fight intelligence against Walter”.
“The game plan was executed well. My team and I knew that he’d come out hard and fast so I’d just need to weather the storm. I didn’t get bent out of shape over losing position, I just made sure that in the first I limited the damage I took whilst letting him tire himself out. After the first my corner told me ‘Alright now, he’s done what he has to do. Remember, you’re only strong for so long, so now it’s your turn to go out and get him’. As you could see in that fight, round two was very different to round one. I went out and dominated that round in the same way as Walter dominated the first; but, by putting it on him like that I knew that if I didn’t finish him in the second then I needed to adjust for the third, which again, I did”.
“The plan was simple, apply pressure, move away from his power shots and level change to keep him guessing. He definitely didn’t want to be taken down by me again, which made him more tentative, giving me the victory. I wouldn’t say I had any ring rust going into this. Cobwebs in the closet, maybe, but no rust. I want to give props to Walter though. He was one of my toughest fights to date and man, he hits hard. Before the decision we spoke about training together afterwards, I hope we can in the future”.
As for the event itself, it was a big call for BAMMA to allow themselves to be the junior partner in the equation; although most would agree, the BAMMA portion of ‘BAMMATOR’ certainly gave us the best action. “The event was great, to be fair. BAMMA events always are. To me they’re the best promotion in Europe. They’re well run and this was no different. It was good seeing some of the Bellator guys around. I’ve trained with King Mo before, so I had a catch up with him and his team whilst out in Dublin”.
So, with Cage Warriors trying to line themselves up as the stepping stone to the UFC, does Jones feel that BAMMA is set to be the UK’s path to Bellator? “Listen, I’m happy on BAMMA, they’ve always looked after me, so I appreciate that. Would I be averse to fighting on Bellator? Of course not, they’re a global promotion and I wouldn’t be a professional athlete if I wasn’t looking to improve myself. I suppose at this point in my life I’m ever more conscious of the need to get better at everything I do. The further I go as a fighter the better martial arts coach I’ll be. The better martial arts coach I am the better life coach I become. This in turn will assist me in empowering others to be better. It’s all interlinked”.
And, for now? “For now, BAMMA know what I want and where I think I should be. We’re talking about the future and when the time is right we’ll announce it”.