Article by Nick Walshaw
ROSS Pearson landed in Sydney this week with a special addition to his luggage – a pair of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belts.
Speaking with The Daily Telegraph on his first day of shooting The Ultimate Fighter: Australia v Great Britain, the tattooed Englishman revealed he had flown a group of sparring partners Down Under to help prepare for his December fight with Australian George Sotiropoulos.
The lightweight rivals, now squaring off as head coaches in the UFC reality TV series, are both desperate to win their next fight.
Which is exactly why Pearson – who three years ago won the lightweight division of The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom – has brought black belts JT Torres and Jimmy Harbison with him from the Master Lloyd Irvin Academy in America.
“I’m not stupid, I know exactly where George will want to take our fight,” Pearson says. “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise the BJJ black belt from Australia will want to take the fight to the ground.
“So that’s why I’ve brought two with me. While routine isn’t really a big thing for me until about five weeks out from a fight, this match-up is a huge one for both of us . . . George is going to be absolutely desperate to win and I wanna be as prepared as possible.”
Despite recently moving down to featherweight, Pearson has agreed to once again step back up to his old division so that he can lead his country against sporting arch rivals Australia in The Smashes.
“But to be honest, the whole cricket rivalry thing, I was never into it,” Pearson laughs. “As a kid I played a bit of it like everyone else. But cricket, rugby, football, or soccer as you call it, none of that interested me.
“But when I walked into a boxing gym, my eyes lit up like a kid in a sweet shop. I was home. And it’s a great privilege to now be involved in this series because I know from first hand experience what effect it can have.
“Before my stay on TUF, I was laying bricks in the north of England. Since then I’ve fought in Australia, Brazil, Las Vegas twice, I’m living in America . . . all that has come from winning that show.”
Another benefit for Pearson, as revealed by The Daily Telegraph last year, is that his girlfriend is stunning Central Coast model and fitness instructor Kristie McKeon. The pair, who met when Pearson was training for UFC 127 at McKeon’s North Sydney gym, have since been catching up sporadically everywhere from San Diego and Rio De Janeiro to the beachside township of Copacabana on the Central Coast.
Asked about the ramifications of moving back up to lightweight, Pearson added: “Look, for me, this fight is about bettering myself. I’m not worried about divisions, weights, my position in the rankings. I just want to win this fight and win it convincingly.
“I want to prove that whether it’s lightweight, featherweight, whatever, I can win fights against quality opposition.”