UFC debutant Paul Craig used to run away from fights as a boy now he’s out to become the new Conor McGregor – Scottish Daily Record

 In Sports
Paul Craig used to run away from fights as a kid in Airdrie but is now making his name in a brutal sport where there is absolutely no hiding place.

The Craigneuk cage fighter landed his big break in MMA after signing a four-fight deal with UFC where he will make his debut in America next month.

And Craig is hoping his Sacramento scrap with Brazilian Luis Henrique da Silva is the first step on his road to becoming Scotland’s answer to Conor McGregor.

Irish phenomenon McGregor has helped put the world’s fastest-growing sport on the map and 29-year-old Craig is now looking to create his own success.

Craig has been promoted from BAMMA where he became champion light heavyweight champion and is the first Scot to be headhunted by the UFC.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Lanarkshire hopeful who took up the sport by accident just four years ago after nipping along to the Scottish Hit Squad gym in Whifflet where he learned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Conor McGregor lands a punch on Eddie Alvarez
Conor McGregor lands a punch on Eddie Alvarez

He has since fought in empty arenas up and down Britain, joking he was so far down the card that only the janitor was around to watch as he cleaned up after the evening’s entertainment.

That will all change for Craig when he heads across the Big Pond next month to take his place on a star-studded card on December 17 in the 18,000 Golden 1 Center, home of the Sacramento Kings basketball team.

But the 750 square foot Octagon will remain the same and it’s not a place for the faint hearted which makes it all the harder to believe he has never been someone who was up for a fight.

“My best defence for a fight was being able to run,” the Scottish grappler told Record Sport. “I’m very tall and I could run. I swung about three punches during my time at High School.

“When I was growing up my dad used to always say that if you were in a fight then you should go for the big guy. The problem was everyone’s dad was telling them the exact same thing – and I WAS the big guy!

“I spent a lot of time running away. Even my big brother Barry used to beat me up – that’s probably why I’m good at Jiu-Jitsu because I was always very defensive trying to stop myself from taking a beating.

“That was what it was like growing up in Craigneuk but it’s changed a lot for the better. If someone was to go for me out in the street right now I’d probably still do the same.

“I’m tall and people automatically think I’m this big, aggressive guy but I’m not. It’s more about the technique. Every MMA fighter in the world wants one thing and that’s to fight in the UFC and I’ve got that chance.

UFC fighter Paul Craig in training in Coatbridge with his coach Brian Gallacher
UFC fighter Paul Craig in training in Coatbridge with his coach Brian Gallacher

“I keep thinking someone is going to give me a shake and tell me it’s all a wind-up. It was a surreal moment when I got the phonecall, to know that everything I had worked towards was there.

“It’s hard to get noticed – everyone is fighting for that contract. UFC is becoming more popular and it’s because of Conor McGregor. Kids call it the Conor McGregor show. He’s sold himself well.

“He’s got loads of charisma and he’s massive for the sport. He is getting young guys, adult and women interested in MMA. It’s one of the fastest growing sports in the world and it’s because of guys like him.

“If I could achieve half of what he has then I’ll be more than happy with my career. MMA in Scotland will get bigger and I’d like to think I’m in the same boat as Conor McGregor where I can get life-changing fights.

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