Interview: Andrew Craig

“…you can’t say he’s easy to prepare for, but the motivation is obviously there.”

Andrew Craig

Interview by: Barry Laminack

If you’ve never met Andrew Craig or had the pleasure to hang out with him even for a little while, you’re missing out on knowing one of Houston MMA’s funniest and most laid back guys, not to mention one of the best pound of pound fighters locally. That “locally” part could change after his fight with Eric Schambari at Legacy Fighting Championship 8 because with a win Craig could be headed to a national promotion; he’s that good.

This interview was really cool for me on a personal level because Andrew was one of the first guys I ever interviewed.  Two years later it’s amazing to see that so much has changed about him as a fighter, but he’s still the same like-able character as a person.

TCD: Man, how long has it been since we first interviewed? You (and Jace Pitre) were one of the first interviews we ever did here at TheCageDoor.net.

Andrew: That was a while ago. It was before my Pete Sprajc fight I think, so maybe September or October of 2009?

TCD: Wow, almost 2 years! So you’re 5-0 as a pro and you’re going into the biggest fight in your career so far. Are you ready?

Andrew: Shit, I hope so.

[Laughter]

Andrew: Yeah, I’m ready. I didn’t take a whole lot of time off after the Bubba Bush fight. I kept training and never stopped. I let my body heal more, but I kept on training, working on technique and stuff. I jumped into this fight camp early. Usually I start a camp 6-7 weeks before my fight. Plus, with my strength and conditioning, once I started doing it, I never stopped because I wanted to be bigger and stronger at this point.

TCD: Are you putting any extra pressure on yourself for this one? Does it feel different going into this one?

Andrew: No. Although it’s the biggest one, I always want to win a fight. It’s a fight. It’s very competitive and the other guy is trying to take your head off so I prepare the exact same way. I don’t think I’ve ever had an easy opponent. Even the guys I don’t know I assume they are going to be tough as shit so I tell myself I have to train properly.

A guy like Eric Schambari, you can’t say he’s easy to prepare for, but the motivation is obviously there.

TCD: You fought and beat Rodrigo Pinheiro, a world class BJJ black belt; you also beat Jon Kirk who is a very experienced fighter. Do you use those experiences to help you in this fight?

Andrew: Well, I don’t think you can compare Kirk and Schambari, even though they both have a lot of experience. Schambari’s fights have been a lot more high profile. For example, 2 of his 3 losses have been to Bryan Baker whose two losses are to Chael Sonnen and Alexander Shlemenko when he had cancer, so the dude is kind of a bad ass.

So Schambari has lost to him twice and then got knocked out by Anthony Smith who just got his first Strikeforce win. You can tell I’ve done my research.

TCD: I know, I was like, daaaamn!

Andrew: So between the WEC and Bellator Schambari has gone 4-2. I know that he’s had like a two year layoff because of injury, so that is probably why he is not as high profile as he could have been.

So anyway, I think my previous fights help because I was on my back against Pinheiro and on my back against Bubba. Obviously Pinheiro is submission savvy, although I do think he’s undersized at middleweight and probably a better gi guy.

Schambari is one of those no-gi grappling circuit dudes, kind like any those Cobra Kai guys like Roy Nelson. They’re all no-gi Grapplers Quest guys. With that being said, I think I’ve trained with very talented guys in the past to get me ready for this. I’ve trained with Tim Kennedy, James Head (who’s fighting in the UFC now) and I spent a week in Colorado with Adam Schindler training with Nate Marquardt.

TCD: That didn’t suck huh?

Andrew: No, that was fairly helpful. [Laughs]

TCD: It can’t hurt training with Travis every single day either.

Andrew: Yeah. Nobody puts it on me like Travis puts it on me.

TCD: That’s good though right? You need that.

Andrew: It’s annoying as anything, but it’s very good.

TCD: How did that go, training with Marquardt?

Andrew: Real good. It was my second time going up there. The first time I didn’t get much time in with him because he was preparing for Okami, so they had all these Judo Olympian guys in there and for some reason they didn’t want me.

This time around everybody had just fought so I got a lot of good time in. They are big on wrestling up there so it was really helpful for me because I don’t do any wrestling. Even during their warm-ups when they would use some terminology I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about.

TCD: Did you fake it?

Andrew: no, I’m pretty up front about my ignorance. I would just ask.

TCD: So are you getting used to training with these big named guys or do you still get a little awe struck?

Andrew: I think so, yeah. At first you kind of freeze up and get your ass beat a little worse than you probably should, but I think after training with them long enough you see that you’re doing a lot of the same things in your everyday training here in Houston. It’s not like they have some secrete formula to success that all the big names know about that you don’t. They are just working really hard, and that’s what you do when you get with them, you work really hard. Yeah they are going to have some advantages over you in certain parts of the game, but there is no secrete to that success.

TCD: Mindset wise, how are you going into this fight? I said on our podcast that I think this is your, what I call, “next level” fight. That one fight that can get you to a national promotion should you win. Are you going into this any different mentally?

Andrew: No. Mentally I do the same positive re-enforcement all the time. I tell myself I’m going to win. I tell myself I’m going to play my game and I’m not going to go into his game. I know he wants to be on top and that he wants to arm triangle me. I want to keep it standing and use my cardio and length to pick him apart.

TCD: Is that were you think you have the advantage, cardio and length?

Andrew: I think so. I wouldn’t say he has bad cardio actually, especially for a muscular guy. Those guys usually don’t have as good of cardio, but I think his cardio is pretty good.  I think I have the advantage striking and he has the advantage on the ground.

TCD: So how do you see this fight going?

Andrew: I see a lot of circling by me. Unfortunately it’s not a five rounder because I feel like the longer the fight goes the better it is for me. God, I would love to finish it early. It seems like I always go too far into the fight, like I did with Bubba Bush. That was NO fun. It gets nerve racking and it makes everybody else nervous so I’d like to get an early stoppage.

TCD: TKO?

Andrew: Yeah, that would be super cool. Or a flying toe hold.

TCD: Oh wow, I’ll have to have my camera ready for that one. So anybody you want to thank?

Andrew: Yeah, Team Tooke, Team Rabadi who is my Muay Thai coach in Round Rock. Plex who I do all my strength and conditioning with. Of course you guys at TheCageDoor.net.

You know, I’ve also been going and training with the guys over at Paradigm and with Saul Solis and Ike over at Metro.

TCD: Really? How has that been going?

Andrew: Really tough over there because it’s REALLY hot, but it’s really cool getting that kind of knowledge and experience.

TCD: What’s it like training with Saul?

Andrew: Everything is so routine to him because he has so much experience. He’ll be teaching you a technique and you’ll be like, “Oh my god!” but for him it’s just normal. Jace and I went over their one day and we were talking after ward and we were like “Of COURSE you would do this combo instead of that combo.”

TCD: How had the training been going with Paradigm? Are you worried that doing this much cross training is going to limit the amount of fights you can get?

Andrew: No. If you look at my fights I’ve never had an issue.  Kirk, Bush and now they are bringing in a guy from Vegas. Hopefully I can continue to do that. It’s advantageous to be able to train with the best guys in your weight class and to not do that would be awful.

TCD: Thanks for your time Andrew, good luck in your fight.