One of the tallest 145-pounders in the business, Will “The Kill” Chope, will be welcomed into the Octagon by Max “Blessed” Hollaway at UFC Fight Night 34 on January 4, 2014 at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.
The event will be the UFC’s first-ever show in South East Asia, which will showcase some of the best up-and-comers in the region. Headlining the card the card is a welterweight showdown between the former Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine and the number one-ranked South Korean welterweight fighter Hyungyu “Ace” Lim.
This is a dream come true for Chope and he is entering the Octagon for the first time with a ton of confidence because he’s coming off a convincing third round TKO win over the current King of Pancrase Featherweight Champion Takumi Nakayama at PXC 40, Chope currently rides an amazing 14-fight winning streak that includes stoppages over tough Filipino fighters such as Rex De Lara, Reydon Romero, and Andrew Benibe.
Chope will be facing a formidable fighter in Max Holloway, a guy who is currently 3-3 in the UFC, including his Decision wins over Leonard Garcia, Pat Schilling, and a second round TKO win over Justin Lawrence. Holloway is seeking his first win after losing two in a row against Dennis Bermudez at UFC 160 and one of the division’s top contenders Conor McGregor at UFC Fight Night 26.
“The Kill” looks to impress the UFC officials and fans as he tries to put on a good show on January 4th in Singapore against the Hawaiian slugger. MMA-in-ASIA’s Zike Sugawara spoke with Chope prior to his UFC debut
Zike: First of all, congratulations on inking a deal with the biggest MMA promotion in the world. What are your thoughts on this momentous event of your career?
Will: It feels like a dream but it won’t mean anything until I step in that cage and prove myself. All I know is I had many hard days of training.
Zike: You made your first MMA fight three years ago at the age of 20 years old. It was a roller coaster ride in the first phase of your fighting career, but you worked your way up, so now here you are close to your UFC debut. Did you ever think that you would get signed by the world’s largest organization in just a short span of time?
Will: I made my pro MMA debut in August 2010 when I was 19. I was so naive back then and really didn’t know what to expect. I just knew I wanted to make fighting my life. These last few years I’ve done everything in my power to make that a reality. Getting to the UFC is just the start – I want to be a world champion and have a lot of work to do to make that a reality.
Zike: What can you say about Max Holloway?
Will: Max Holloway from Hawaii, another tall featherweight. It will be a crazy fight for sure.
Zike: How has training with Mark Striegl and AJ Pyro as well as Phuket Top Team helped you as a fighter?
Will: They have been so crucial to my growth. Mark has helped me out so much for so long and has always inspired me to be a better fighter. Andrew Leone as well. AJ Pyro and Piotr Leib have been awesome guys to have on my team. I could have never have made it here without all of them.
Zike: How many fights do you have in the contract with the UFC?
Will: I signed a multi-fight deal. But in the UFC every fight is a fight for your job.
Zike: What gyms have you trained with in preparation for your Octagon debut?
Will: MuayFit in Malaysia, Phuket Top Team, and Unit-27 in Thailand, and I’m finishing my training at Juggernaut Fight Club in Singapore.
Zike: Do you feel ready for this huge opportunity?
Will: Of course!
Zike: How do you feel about making a run at the featherweight strap?
Will: I will make sure I improve every fight and do everything I can to win. I want to be a world champion and I know it won’t be a short road to get there. The good thing is I am young and willing to take the hard road to get there.
Zike: Clearly, this is the big leagues, and you’ll be fighting in front of thousands of eyes live, and many more worldwide. What’s the biggest crowd you’ve fought in front of thus far in your career?
Will: I fought K-1 in China in front of crowds with 10,000-plus people on national TV where the potential audience is near a billion. But in the Octagon I expect will feel much different than that.
Zike: Let’s move on to your fighting style, in order to introduce you to those who may not yet be familiar with you. Your record boasts both KOs and submissions. Would you brand yourself as mainly a striker or grappler? Or are you well-versed in all aspects of the game?
Will: I used to say I am a Muay Thai fighter, now I’d say I like chokes and they seem to come easier for me than other things.
Zike: Any special preparations for your UFC debut? Are you feeling any extra pressure to train harder than usual simply because it is your first-ever UFC fight and you would like to do well?
Will: I went back to Phuket Top Team to get read. I need people to kick my ass everyday in the gym so I don’t lose the fight and I knew I’d get it there.
Zike: What are your thoughts on the importance of sportsmanship in MMA?
Will: The respect and sportsmanship in MMA is what makes it a sport. If there were no sportsmanship or class then people would still compare MMA to cockfighting.
Zike: What’s the best advice that you would give to young people who want to get started in this sport?
Will: Do believe in yourself even if no one else does – and of course to always train hard.
Zike: What can UFC fans expect from “The Kill” inside the Octagon?
Will: Some crazy Lanky Madness style fighting.
Zike: Any people you want to thank?
Will: Thank you everyone who believed in me from the beginning and supported me along the way to get here.