For 34-year old British welterweight Simon Phillips, his MMA career is widing a new wave of momentum after recording a 20 second knockout of long-time Japanese MMA veteran Hidehiko Hasegawa during the M-1 Challenge in Tokyo, Japan on April 29.
The stunning win helped turn team momentum around that had been hurt following Team England Ian Butlin’s loss in the lightweight opener of the best-of-five series in Japan.
With the win, Phillips not only helped him team defeat Japan by a score of 4-1, but he improved his impressive overall MMA record to 7-2. However, Phillips’ name recognition on the U.K. MMA scene is still not quite where it should be. He’s hoping that another knockout victory on Friday, June 5 over Team France welterweight Gael Grimaud could increase his profile yet again.
We recently had time to speak with the former amateur judoka and boxer in anticipation of his next fight coming up this Friday at Memorial Hall in Kansas City, Kansas.
M-1Global.com: You come into MMA with a strong amateur boxing background. Can you talk about your boxing credentials and how long you’ve been training?
Simon Phillips: I’ve only had one amateur boxing fight, which I won. I would of loved to of fought more but in England you can only box amateur until you are 34 years old and I did my first boxing match when I was 33. So as far as having a strong amateur boxing background — I don’t. But for the past six years since I have been training and competing in MMA where we tspar and train boxing all the time; as well as wrestling, Thai boxing and no-GI grappling. I come from a judo back ground and have a black belt in the sport and competed for many years fighting throughout the U.K. as well as Europe.
M-1Global.com: It’s only been one fight for M-1, but what was your Japan experience like?
Simon Phillips: Japan was an awsome experience and it has been a place that I always wanted to visit since being a kid competing in judo knowing that the majority of the best judokas come from there. Also, since taking up MMA with great shows like M-1, Affliction, DREAM, PRIDE, K-1 and DEEP, which have take place in Japan it is a kind of a special place for any fighter to go and compete. Then to meet my heros like Fedor and to have Rampage in our camp was amazing. I was star struck.
M-1Global.com: Hidehiko Hasegawa is an experienced fighter but you needed just 20 second to knock him out. Were even you surprised you dropped him that quick?
Simon Phillips: Yes, I was surprised and very happy — who wouldn’t be — to have knocked Hasegawa out so quickly, as he has had forty pro fights. The majority of his fights had gone the distance so I knew that it was gonna be a tough fight and he was gonna be hard to stop. As he is a southpaw I had prepared fully to fight him and go the distance if necessary and edge out the decision with the help of my coach and the guys back at my gym from Exeter Sdcs. I had been working on kicking his front leg with a quick left up kick then following up with a series of right crosses followed by left hooks, which by the result worked.
M-1Global.com: You’re facing Gael Grimaud of France on June 5. How much do you know about him as an opponent?
Simon Phillips: I watched some of Gael’s fights in japan but apart from that I don’t really know a great deal about him. He looked as if he maybe had a judo background by the way he threw his Spanish opponent and looks as if he has some good striking ability so it will make for a great fight that I am very much looking forward to.
M-1Global.com: What are your long-term goals in MMA?
Simon Phillips: My long term goals are pretty much like most fighters in MMA is to go as far as I possibly can and to fight tougher opponents on the way. I am hungry for success.
M-1Global.com: How come Team England is so closely knit?
Simon Phillips: You will always find that no matter where you are there is always great spirit between the English and Team England is no different. For me to only know Dave and Ian Butlin and to meet the rest of the guys at the airport the way that we supported one another (with alot of piss taking in between) was great. You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys from the fighters to the coaches and the guys putting everything together from Cagewarrior Promotions — thanks. I would also like to say a big thank you to my coach and training partners from Exeter SDCS — thanks guys.
M-1Global.com: Do you have any future plans to get into pro boxing?
Simon Phillips: No, I don’t have any plans for getting into pro boxing if i did i would of done that years ago.
M-1Global.com: What are your thoughts as Ian Butlin as your team captain?
Simon Phillips: I think Ian Butlin has been great as team captain he is the voice of Team England and has been great at getting us all motivated and raring to go. I know alot of people would say he’s loud and opinionated but we need characters like Ian in the sport. Ian just said to the public what the team was thinking and we are all very much behind him.
M-1Global.com: What does it mean to be representing Team England?
Simon Phillips: To represent Team England has been like a dream come true. It is great to help put U.K. MMA in the spotlight as it shows what great MMA fighters we have in the U.K. but don’t get the recognition that U.K. MMA deserves. I know that we team U.K. can keep the momentum going after beating Japan at home and I’m positive that we will come away with the victory after beating France in Kansas. Happy days.