A couple of weeks ago, Ross Pearson returned to England for the first time since his daughter Gracie was born. ‘Cold,’ he chuckled when asked what it felt like to be back in his homeland after a three-year absence.
The Sunderland native now calls Australia’s Gold Coast home. His wife Krystie is an Aussie, he runs Central Coast MMA gym there, he goes on 20 mile mountain bike rides there two or three times a week and, of course, he builds his tools for the fight game there.
Work brought ‘The Real Deal’ back to British soil. On Saturday 16 November, Pearson (20-16-1NC) takes on Frenchman Davy Gallon (17-7-2) to headline Probellum MMA in London’s Brentwood Centre.
“I think (Gallon) crumbles from pressure. Me being in his face, being on him, changing up my attacks from wrestling to striking, I think will be a little too much for him. He hasn’t fought at the level I have fought at. He hasn’t fought an aggressive fighter like myself. So I’m going to take the fight to him and see how he handles it.”
The R word
This is an unusual fight for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it marks Pearson’s first fight in England since his No Contest with Melvin Guillard at UFC Manchester in 2013. His last five MMA fights have taken place in five different countries – USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Northern Ireland.
The bigger talking point is that this bout takes place seven months after he announced his retirement from MMA. In hindsight, he wishes he phrased that Instagram post differently.
“I think I pulled the trigger a bit too early by saying that I was retired. I think I should have said that I was retired from the UFC and I’m moving onto something else. They are the words I should have used instead of spitting my dummy out and saying, ‘that’s it, I’m finished.'”
“I was more frustrated, more pissed off, more down – I was sick of the fight.”
Changing fortunes inside the Octagon sparked his decision to utter the R word. Up until 2016, The Ultimate Fighter season 9 lightweight tournament winner had never suffered consecutive losses. Then he lost four and the bounce before going 1-6 at the tail end of his UFC tenure. An understandable return considering the murderers’ row he was fighting included BMF champion Jorge Masvidal and top 10 lightweight Dan Hooker. After dropping a TKO loss to Desmond Green in March, he decided to turn his attention towards the sweet science.
“I was sick of the way it went for us. I was just over it. I was looking for something new. I was looking for change and boxing was that.”
Pearson won his professional boxing debut in May by stopping Salar King via second round TKO in Sydney’s Star City Casino. After a successful first foray into the ring, he caught the boxing bug.
“I loved it. It’s something I’ve always been passionate about doing and it’s something I’m looking forward to keep doing now that I’m an open contracted fighter. I’m not contracted to the UFC anymore. Definitely down the line I’ll be looking forward to doing more straight boxing camps and stepping back into the ring.”
A funny thing happened to Pearson during his brief time away from the cage. Once weary from the cruel nature of MMA, his body and mindset became reenergized.
“I just let my body rest and the hunger fuel burned back up and I wanted to fight.”
After helping Central Coast MMA fighter Jamie Mullarkey complete the transition from regional stand out to UFC roster member, Pearson knew he was ready to launch an MMA resurgence.
“I came back because I wanted to fight. I came back because I know there’s still lots more to give. I know I’m not done. With me training fighters from an amateur level to a professional fighter and training Jamie Mullarkey for the UFC level, I realized I’m still at that level and I have a lot more to give.”
A change of discipline was not enough to rejuvenate Pearson’s enthusiasm. His desire for change extended as far as his diet. While he isn’t a full vegan – he has eggs and fish every so often – he hasn’t eaten meat in over six weeks.
“I needed something to drastically change because the results weren’t turning out and I needed something to change. I needed to do something different. I changed my diet, changed my lifestyle, changed the people around us, changed what I was doing. I needed all that change to get the fuel back, get the hunger back and everything that I needed to perform at my best. I’m only doing this for better performance.”
He admits that his dietary alteration wasn’t done for ethical reasons. Nor is he employing the use of a nutritionist to aid the transition. This is an experiment to see how it will affect his athletic performance.
So far so good.
“I’ve noticed a massive difference in my endurance and in my recovery. I used to train hard and get into a slump. My body just hadn’t recovered fast enough to get back in there and go do it again. Since I’ve gone vegan I feel a lot healthier where my body has recovered a lot faster and it’s not like I’m dragging my arse to the gym going into that second session or hating going back to the gym because I’m fucking done. I feel fresh and healthy.”
“I’m eating carbs now and I’m on fight week! I have so much energy to train twice a day. When I was doing the Atkins diet, I was losing weight fast, but I was dragging ass. I didn’t want to train, I didn’t want to go cut weight, it was a fight to go and get it done.”
One thing that strikes you when conversing with Pearson is his demeanor. He is calm, confident, content and comfortable. Undoubtedly, being a lifelong martial artist has moulded his character. The lessons he has learned on this journey echo throughout his entire life.
“For every negative thought I have, I think of two positive things to beat that. I do it for everything. I remember my judo instructor telling me this when I was probably seven or eight years old. That kind of shuts down most of the negative thoughts you get before a fight.”
Although he has already spoken of retirement, leaving the fight life simply isn’t an option for Pearson. He is in it for the long haul.
“Since I’ve been a kid, martial arts has been my life. It’s the only thing I’ve been really good at. This professional combat athlete is just an evolution of where combat sports has gone. I’ve always been on that martial arts journey. It’s a job to us. It’s my life. This is what I do. This is how I provide for my family. How I provide a better life is fighting. I fight because I know nothing else and I don’t want to do anything else.”
“All I want to do and all I want to know is fighting whether it be myself fighting or coaching other fighters, I’ll always do it.”