Middleweight Matt “12 Gauge” Thorpe made a strong first impression during Team England’s M-1 Challenge debut on April 29 in Tokyo, Japan.
Thorpe, a better fighter than his 11-7 record represents, got off to a slow start that night vs. Japan’s Yusuke Masuda. But thanks to a tremendous display of heart as well as an equally remarkable display of jiu-jitsu, Thorpe was able to pull off a tremendous comeback and submit Masuda with a rear naked choke at 1:30 of round 2.
Thorpe rates as one of England’s top middleweights and first made a name for himself after suffering a controversial split decision loss to UFC welterweight Dan Hardy in November of 2005.
According to many British fight fans, the five round decision loss to Hardy is a victory that rightfully belongs to Thorpe. But while Hardy is in the UFC, there’s no need to shed any tears for Thorpe. The lanky fighter has a bright future and will look for his career to continue to gain momentum on Friday, June 5 in Kansas City when he faces French middleweight Christophe Dafreville.
A win over Dafreville not only will confirm Thorpe’s standing as one of England’s best 185 pound fighters, but it will help establish him as one of the top middleweights in the entire 16-team M-1 Challenge.
Despite being hard at work in anticipation of his bout vs. Dafreville,
M-1Global.com: You got off to a slow start in Japan vs. Yusuke Masuda but you rebounded. At any point, did Masuda break your will to fight or did you feel you could turn the tide the whole time?
Matt Thorpe: It was a slow start for me in Japan I have been out for 11 months and moving up a weight division I had to shake off a little ring rust also I had been preparing for a different opponent in Riki Fukuda. His and Masudas styles are totally different so I had to do a little adjusting during the rounds to impose my will on Masuda.
Masuda never broke my will to fight no opponent could do that, but his game plan was clearly to take me down, pin me down and allow me to do little work!! It got a little frustrating in the first as I like to be an aggressive fighter and push to end the fight as I don’t like decisions, but as I have said I changed my tactics a little in between rounds and it paid off!!
M-1Global.com: You showed some great jiu-jitsu off your back in that fight. How long have you been training JJ and where did you hone your skills?
Matt Thorpe: Thanks. I have been training my JJ and sub fighting for the last 10 or so years. I have trained all over the shop really my main clubs I fight out of are Team Coliseum and Team Quannum under my coaches Aaron Chatfield and Dave Butlin these guys have helped me loads over the years and put time and effort into developing me as a fighter.
M-1Global.com: You’re facing Christophe Dafreville on June 5. What do you know about your opponent? Do you feel like you should be favored going into he bout?
Matt Thorpe: Me and my coaches have sat and watched videos on him and we obviously saw him fight on the Japan show. He seems like a tough strong guy good on the floor I don’t think he will stand with me as he wont want to get KO’d so I expect him to shoot. It doesn’t really bother me whether I am favourite or not to be honest, all that matters is that I will walk out of there with the win and my hand raised!
M-1Global.com: You’ve got a one fight lead in Group A. Do you feel like England is the team to beat?
Matt Thorpe: Definitely England is the team to beat. I think we went out to Japan and shocked quite a few people with such a dominating win against the favorites of our group. We have some tough matches ahead of us now and we no longer have the surprise factor on our side in the sense that the teams now know what to expect from us. But tough fights are the most rewarding!
M-1Global.com: What was first first M-1 experience like in Japan and do you think M-1 could be a long-term home?
Matt Thorpe: The experience was amazing it was exciting to be part of it, the show was ran great and the Japanese fans were very respectful. It would be great to have M1 be a long term home for me to fight on it is an awesome stage to show my skills as a fighter.
M-1Global.com: Ian Butlin has been the vocal leader of Team England. Do you feel his bold proclamation in Japan that you guys would win 5-0 took some pressure off of the team?
Matt Thorpe: (Laughs) Ian is definitely the vocal leader of our group. I don’t think his statement took the pressure off really as he was just stating what the whole team believed. We felt we had a very strong team and that we could walk away with five wins.
M-1Global.com: Tom Blackledge is out due to injury for the June 5 fight. How will his loss effect the team?
Matt Thorpe: Yes, Tom is out unfortunately due to injury. Obviously it is a blow to have such a strong member of our team out but his replacement will be just as tough and ready for war like the whole of Team England!
M-1Global.com: Japan has a reserved crowd but you and your teammates were quite vocal in your support for your team while you guys were on the side of the stage. Were you surprised just how reserved the Japanese crowd was?
Matt Thorpe: No, the the whole team knew the Japanese crowd would be reserved and respectful. It was an enjoyable experience to fight in front of them. Yes, Team England can be a noisy bunch but we are all proud to be representing our country and we are all there to support each other so we get behind our fighters.
M-1Global.com: How has England been able to bond so easily?
Matt Thorpe: Since the team has been formed there have been regular M-1 training sessions at the Quannum gym. The coaches have brought in specific guys to help improve our games and the team has been sparring together a lot. We are all, apart from Simon, from the North West so this also helps. The UK MMA scene is quite a small tight knitted community anyway so when you have been around a while you know almost everyone in the game.
M-1Global.com: Do you feel the U.K. MMA scene is getting the proper respect it deserves?
Matt Thorpe: I think the respect for U.K. MMA is growing but I think we are still underrated even though we now have some great fighters reppin us. I think over the next couple of years the U.K. fighters will start to get the coverage they deserve and the respect will hopefully grow from there.
M-1Global.com: Is there any special meaning to you in representing your home country or is this just another fight gig for you?
Matt Thorpe: It is a huge thing representing my country and I think it shows in how easily the team bonded as we all have a common goal in winning for our country!
M-1Global.com: Can you explain the difference between your home country being referred to some as the United Kingdom and others still referring to it as England? Which flag and country name do you prefer?
Matt Thorpe: The U.K. is made up of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is an honour to fight under the banner of U.K. or England but as I am English it is obviously the country I want to represent when fighting.