Exclusive Interview: Chasing Down KO’s with Drew McFedries

April 9, 2015 9:00 am

I was looking through the archive on my laptop last night (as we were snowed in) and found this gem that I never published from a few years back. There are a few more like this that I’m editting up to post as well. Look for them.

When I asked middle weight contender, Drew McFedries to give me some predictions for the upcoming year, his response was a bit apprehensive. This might be attributed to the fact that Drew McFedries isn’t a guy who likes to make predictions. He would much rather show you by the way he fights, and frankly, he doesn’t care because no matter what anyone says, he’s already won his fight. You can see it every time McFedries steps into the cage. He attacks. He even admitted to me that, “I’m not the kind of guy who goes the distance. It’s just the truth.” In an era of mixed-martial arts that is full of new competition, there are plenty of people who want to give the sport a try and plenty more who want to make sure they don’t succeed. There are many more, as Drew puts it, “Princess Fighters” out there looking to “impress their girlfriends”. Due to the growth of the sport, it would make sense that the talent pool will grow and eventually thin out before only the strongest will survive. It would also make sense that as more and more people enter into the octagon the sport will see a rise in decisions over the course of the next few years because as there is more to gain, there is also more to lose. There can be more hesitancy to mix it up and more of a tendency to wait for your moment to attack. This can sometimes lead to some less than exciting fights.

Then there’s Drew McFedries, who said,

“You put me against Joe Blow, it doesn’t matter who it is, (and) it’s gonna be an exciting fight because I go after it. You got some of these guys, (sighs) you know they say like Mirko Cro-Cop, yeah, he has a great leg kick and he’s a tough guy, but he just prances around kinda, you know what I’m sayin’? There’s some of these guys who don’t just like, fight, you know what I mean? They’re just taking their time like they’re in training, like they’re just hit or miss”.

As I wondered aloud whether this was because McFedries is just a bit more old-school harkening back to the days of the Tough-Man Contests, or was it because people need to be a little more careful because there is more talent out there, McFedries answered,

“I think you definitely do (need to be more careful). Here’s the problem, when you look at somebody like me, I don’t think I have anything to lose. I won my fight a long time ago. I battle Crohn’s day-to-day. To me, by the time I make it down to that ring, you know, people don’t know what I go through on a day to day basis to judge me (solely) on my fighting skills, or whatever, you know what I’m saying” McFedries laughed. “Bro, I won that fight before I even stepped in the ring…no matter what that ref says, to me, I already won, because just being there on that platform that’s a huge accomplishment for a guy who spent weeks in hospital beds and, you know, I’m on medications and there are times when if I don’t take my medication, I’m done for, that’s bottom line. There’s so many different things in my life I’ve battled, as of recent, this year? Staph Infection, I just lost my mother, a fight is nothin’ to me anymore. A fight, you know, I don’t care what that ref has to say, I’m going out to fight my fight. I’m doin’ it for me, I’m not doing it for anyone else.”

Fighting “his fight” could mean trouble for Patrick Cote who needs to be aware of whom Big John McCarthy said, “Hits as hard as anyone he’s ever seen”. Coming from a guy who has seen a hell of a lot of fighters throw a hell of a lot of punches, this was news to Drew, who apparently had never heard the interview from Big John. McFedries was noticeably humbled by the praise, “If that’s what he’s sayin’, I mean, wow, then that is a big deal for me because he referee’s only the biggest of fights. He’s never reffed a fight for me; he ref’s only the biggest fights so he’s seen the biggest and the best. To me, that’s a huge compliment…you know, to me, in my mind, I wouldn’t even think Big John would have anything to say about me because all he ever sees is champion level fighters most of the time”.

Getting ready for his upcoming fight against Patrick Cote, I asked what challenges Cote might pose for him and if he has been preparing for anything in particular, or if it was business as usual. True to form, Drew responded in a manner that accentuates his “come get some” attitude. I joked about him having to go buy some new creatine supplements before the fight.

“The only challenge that Patrick Cote really brings to me is the fact that he’s a gamer, he’s not a guy who really plays off emotion. He will sit back and wait and kind of play his cards. He’s not really a guy who presses the fight, and he’s not a huge closer. He’ll try and just squeeze out decisions most of the time. That’s the guys I have a hard time with because they won’t want to come forward, they won’t want to commit to anything. You’re saying Kendall Grove; to me Kendall Grove isn’t a huge opponent for Patrick Cote, and I wouldn’t see as a big opponent for me. Not to take anything away from the guy, he’s a fighter, I respect him, but I wouldn’t see him as a major opponent.

“I will never change my strategies of training for anybody. I always do a lot of boxing, muay-thai, as far as wrestling and grappling goes, same thing. I train everything and I don’t really change up much. I will try and get a look. If I think this guy is gonna do a lot of one thing, I will have my training partners do that for me, but other than that I don’t really go out of my way to try and tailor a fight to any specific person.”

When your training camp includes guys like Pat Miletich, Matt Hughes, Tim Sylvia, Jens Pulver, Joe Pearson, Ben Rothwell, Jason Black, and a slew of other top level guys it would be hard not to at least pick up something along the way. With every big name fighter starting his own gym recently, I asked Drew how Miletich Fighting Systems continues to produce not only world-class talent, but World Champions,

“I really believe it comes from a solid group of guys who all have the same goals. Another thing is when the guys are in different weight classes that helps because they’re not competing directly with each other and they all have the same goal. When I got into it (MMA) this was eight, nine years ago, Jens Pulver had just won the championship. He had just knocked out, oh God, what was the guys name… (Joe Lewis)…I know it was just a bombin’ left hand that…he shattered this guys jaw. Aside from the point, Jens had just won the title, Matt was entering the UFC who was just behind Pat, and Pat had the title. Then Matt came in and took the title, there was nobody at ’85, but we did have guys frequent the gym like, Dave Manet, at the time, who had the title and he frequented Pat’s. Then you had guys like Jeremy Horn, who he’s been all over the world and all over everywhere! I mean he been everywhere! He’s fought for anybody and everybody from $500 to $50,000 matches he’s done it all. When you have that solid group of guys, who all have the same goals of trying to meet, match, and meet those high bars, those high standards, and their trying to win titles, and they’re all competing with each other in the same gym, and not only that when a guy has a chance to get a title? You got guys like Jeremy Horn teaching you Jiu Jitsu, you got guys like Pat Miletich teaching you Thai and wrestling, and you got guys like Jens Pulver on your back pushing you and pushing you, that’s how those guys win those titles and maintain them for so long. You look at a guy like Tim Sylvia, I remember when he first came into the gym I didn’t think anything of him and personally thought he’d be there for three months and he’ll be going home. It was the mentality that those guys carry that was instilled onto Tim, and people are wondering now like how he maintains himself, and how he carries himself as a World champ and maintains that level for so long. Look at Matt Hughes; he’s done the same thing. The guy didn’t get beat in, what’s his record, forty-five and six? You know, between like his sixth match and his last couple he won something like thirty some matches straight! You know what I’m saying? How does a guy possibly do that? How does he do that? He does it with guys that, you know, these guys are pushing each other to their breaking limits and beyond that. I’ve been in the gym I think maybe one time when I’ve broke down, but I’ve seen Tim Sylvia breaks down millions of times over and he’s still there, you know, he doesn’t give up.”

Having to maintain such a high level of intensity and mental toughness is just another reason that this sport isn’t for everybody. It takes hard work and a mental toughness that just simply doesn’t exist in everyone. Not everyone can wake up knowing that by the end of the day there’s a good chance their going to get their ass kicked. Or at least there’s going to be somebody trying. So to guys like Drew who are out there really doing making a go of this sport, it’s easy to understand where the disdain for those princess fights might come from. It’s also easy to understand that when something like mixed martial arts starts its ascent towards mainstream popularity, it’s inevitable that more and more people will think, “Hey, I could do that”, but as Drew puts it, “Hey bro, this ain’t modeling.” To be a successful fighter there needs to be something inherent in an individual. There needs to be a desire to compete at a level higher than anyone else. This sport will not wait for you, you need to attack and you need to win. You at least need to impress the right people along the way. I was interested in how Drew’s relationship with Pat Miletich and Miletich Fighting Systems began, and the story McFedries told didn’t include a win, but it must have impressed the right people.

“My relationship with Pat actually started with a fight that I lost as an amateur. It was like a bar room thing. What happened was, I was bouncing at a club where they were having some fights and I started participating in the boxing matches. I was approached by my (current) manager, Monte Cox, who was running the show. Monte asked me if I had had any previous training. I said, ‘No.’ at that point he called me a liar, and he kind of… (Laughs), you know, he tried to, I don’t know if he was trying to get me to say something, but I really had nothing to say. He kept grilling me about where I was training, what I was doing, this and that, because basically, I was pushing a lot of Pat’s guys around. I was beating up on a lot of Pat’s guys who were, you know, basically coming out there just to get some ring experience, you know, beat up on a guy like me who doesn’t know anything. So, what happened was Lee Murray came into town from England. If anybody knows who Lee Murray is, Lee “The Lightning” Murray he’s one of the baddest mother-fuckers that ever came out of England… Lee Murray was a bad boy at the time. Pat was interested in him. Pat had no interest in me. So at the time, Monte was looking at me kind of like I’m the bad guy. Lee was there and they wanted to kind of try Lee out, like see how Lee would do against kind of a local guy. So they threw Lee in the ring with me and, Lee had like previous pro shows, he had fought PPV, in Australia, in Europe, I mean this guy was good. When we started fighting, I tell you what I fought then just like I fight now, I just didn’t have many skills. So I just took it right to him. Basically, we had it out for about eight and a half minutes. Three and a half minutes into the second round, I just gassed – hard. You know I wasn’t really training for fighting, I was just kind of doing it…Lee rolled into an arm bar and I had to tap, but at that point, Lee Murray was beat all to hell.”

Since then life has been, well, kind of like “life”. There have been ups and downs. There have been positives and negatives. Just like in life in order to be successful, you need to persevere. This is a mentality that Drew carries with him in everything he does.

“If you’re not mentally strong you can forget it, there’s just no way. There’s going to come a point where you’re burned out, broke, tired, or whatever. It’s easy to step away from fighting. It’s very easy because, I’ll tell you what, I’m not going to go into the gym and stand in front of anybody and get beat all to hell. You got to go in there knowing, ‘Ok, I had a tough morning lift, I ran after that, and I grappled for an hour. Tonight, I’m going to get my ass kicked, you know? You just know it, you just know going in (Laughs) you know what I’m saying? And it sucks, you know, I won’t lie, it sucks. If mentally, you can’t prepare yourself for that and fight through it, (then) how do you expect to make it through three, five minute rounds with anybody of any stature? You know? If you want to be a professional fighter how do you expect yourself to reach any high level of competition, If you can’t stand saying, ‘Ok, I’m going to go in (to the gym) and it’s possible I’m gonna get my assed whopped tonight!’”

So what keeps him motivated? What keeps him wanting to do that knowing that he has to get up, run, and lift, and then possibly get his ass kicked for a night time activity? Why subject yourself to such punishment? Again, it goes back to Drew’s mentality and his inherent desire to compete. It doesn’t matter what he’s doing he wants to win.

“Again, I’m just really, I think I’m a pure competitor. I’ll tell you what, here’s kind of a funny story. The other day I’m playing Xbox® Halo 3 with my cousin- he’s nine years old. I am smashing him beyond belief. I am showing him no mercy, you know what I mean? I up around thirty kills; I think he’ got like one or two, you know what I’m sayin? He says to me, ‘Could you just like slow down and take it easy for like a minute?’ I’m thinking to myself, ‘No!’ I don’t give a damn! That’s just my mentality, I guess, I don’t have that off switch. I don’t have much patience for these guys who, I keep saying this…I call them princess fighters…don’t come in here and put your Warrior Wear on and you think you’re me. Don’t come in here and try and flex your Tap Out shirt and think you’re a fighter. This takes skill and this takes time and effort to build and I don’t want to hear any pissing and moaning…It’s a mental thing because you got to be a head in the race. If I can be thirty wins ahead of a guy who’s 1-5. Say I’m 30-5 and he’s 1-5 going into a fight that’s intimidating as hell! When I fought Jordan Radev and I knocked the guy out so quick people said to me, ‘Man, the way you destroyed him that was kind of vicious all those extra punches and stuff’. I was like, ‘Hold on, dude, you’re looking at a guy – he was like 11-0’. You know how motivating that was for me? That was intimidating, but it motivated me to train so hard that when I went in there I had only one thought in my mind. This guy is not taking me with me going down in flames! So I put it all out there and thirty seconds into it, BOOM, look what I got.

It’s this attitude that makes people root for Drew and it also probably makes some people hate him, but that’s why they fight the fight. Getting back to my request to Drew McFedries to give me his predictions for the ’08 season he just laughed and said, “I got no predictions, man. I predict I knock a couple more guys out. That’s about it, I’m chasing’ down KO’s that’s it.

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