“I know that everybody wants to hear something sassy, with a little trash talk, but that’s just not me.”
Interview and Photos by: Barry Laminack
In the cage, Andrew Craig is deceptive. When you look at him, you’d swear this 6’1″ 185lb middle weight is taller and heavier than his stats suggest. He’s an imposing figure in the cage, dwarfing his more experienced and older training partners. Just based on looks, one might think that he would be a bit slow and awkward for a guy his size, but Andrew Craig is deceptive. He is neither slow nor awkward in the cage. He moves with the fluidity of a shorter, lighter fighter, but punches with the force of a heavy weight. In fact, a friend of mine who sparred with Andrew said that his punches are so heavy, that you feel like you are being hit by a heavy weight. My friend would know, he’s a heavy weight.
Outside of the cage, Andrew Craig is deceptive. At first glance, he reminded me of Stiffler from “American Pie”. He looks young for his age (24), and he has that look on his face like he’s up to no good; that look that says he’s just waiting for somebody to make a mistake so he can pull a prank on them or bust their chops and then thump his chest and brag about how great he is. But Andrew Craig is deceptive. He’s a confident yet humble guy who can speak freely about his faults, his weakness and his failures. He’s not into bragging or being outlandish, and for his age, he’s wise beyond his years, knowing his limits and staying within his capabilities. He has goals, and he uses those goals to keep him moving forward, just like a mature fighter would.
I had a chance to sit down and talk with him about his upcoming fight, his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter, and who he’s watching on the local MMA scene.
TCD.net: How did you get started in MMA?
Andrew: Travis is my cousin, and when he got back from Brazil (as a black belt) at my age, he was like, “hey man, come by and train”. I trained everyday that summer while delivering pizzas. When I went back to school and started training in Austin, I fell into Jiu-Jitsu, then boxing and kickboxing, muai thai and wrestling, all that jazz. I graduated. Then I was like, man, I want to fight, so I actually got serious about it then.
TCD.net: How long ago was that?
Andrew: About a year and a half ago.
TCD.net: You’ve got some pretty high level coaches here at Team Tooke. What does that mean to have that in your corner?
Andrew: It gives you confidence going into it. When you have guys like Travis Tooke, a black belt, freakishly strong, and technically awesome; and Todd Moore who’s 11-3 as a pro fighter; or Jace Pitre who has sick hands and a brown belt under Travis; and then you have Lewis Wood who’s teaching us standup, it just gives you confidence going in to it because you get beat up so bad in practice that the fight itself can’t be near as bad.
TCD.net: You’ve had a knockout, a submission and a unanimous decision. Which was the most satisfying?
Andrew: I don’t know, they where all equally satisfying. One was my first fight, and I was able to finish it, so that was nice. The second, I knew I could go three rounds in a row and get the unanimous decision. It was good to see that I had progressed to that level. The last one was nice because I had never gotten a knockout, so that was cool as hell.
TCD.net: Let’s talk about that for a minute. What did that feel like, getting a knockout? What goes through your mind as it’s happening and immediately afterwards?
Andrew: I’m a huge fan of the sport, so I’ve seen guys who have dropped somebody. Then, they go in for a follow up shot, and you’re like, “Man, you know he’s dropped”. But then you see some guys who’ll drop somebody, and then just walk away. At that point all you can think is , “Man, that is so cool”. I’ve always wanted to do that.
So I dropped him, and he’s an athletic dude with a lot of energy, so I was thinking that he was going to be one of those guys that just pops right back up, so I threw another punch. I was like AHHHHH; I shouldn’t have done that! I should have just walked away!
It just felt like it took forever. It felt like I gave him a lot of time. Then I hit him again, but when I watched the reply I was like, nope, it was pretty instantaneous.
TCD.net: How long have you been training for this fight?
Andrew: Jace and Travis are my main two coaches, and they usually say 6 weeks. I think we were right at that when we got the word.
TCD.net: Who are your favorite fighters to watch from the local and national scene?
Andrew: Locally? I’ve got to go with my training partners. Todd Moore is awesome; nobody can keep up with his pace, especially not on this local circuit. He’s going to out-work everybody, and he has the tools to do it. He’s trained with Yves Edwards, Lewis Wood, and a lot of these guys forever. He has the experience and the talent. Of course, my coach, Jace, is fun to watch because he’s so aggressive. He’s got a sick stand up. He hits like a bigger dude than he is, plus his ground game is slick. So those are a couple of the local guys to be on the lookout for.
Nationally, I like a lot of them, and I try to emulate them. In practice, I try to do cool things like Anderson Silva, but it just gets me in trouble. I’m just not there yet [laughs].
TCD.net: Any words for your opponent?
Andrew: Good luck, it’s going to be a good fight. I know that everybody wants to hear something sassy, with a little trash talk, but that’s just not me.
TCD.net: Anything you want to say to your friends and family.
Andrew: Thanks for all the support, and thanks to Travis for letting me clean the mats here at the gym.
TCD.net: What do your family and friends think about your fighting and your decision to do this?
Andrew: I couldn’t be more fortunate. I don’t have a really good job, and I’m not fighting pro, so I’m not making any money at this, but they still support me. As long as I’m busting my ass in the gym, working with top guys, training really hard and winning fights, they really don’t have any complaints. If I start slacking, not showing up for practice, getting out of shape and having bad fights, then we’ll have some issues.
TCD.net: Word on the street is you tried out for The Ultimate Fighter? How did that go?
Andrew: Yeah [laughs]. The first thing Dana White said to me was, “so, no pro fights huh?” It was at that point that I didn’t say anything smart or sarcastic. I told my friends that I did, but really, nothing too witty came out, more like “uhhhhh, ahhhh, uhhhhh”. I was just kind of start struck, I mean, I’ve been watching this guy on TV for years. I met Joe Silva and Lorenzo Fertida.
TCD.net: How was your performance?
Andrew: It’s a two minute round, but I tapped my guy in like the first 30 seconds so I did good as far as that goes, but I didn’t get picked to go to the next round. I’ll chalk it up as a cool trip to LA with my girlfriend.
TCD.net: Why do you think you did not get picked?
Andrew: Ehh, no pro fights and probably because I didn’t say anything witty when he said, “So, no pro fights huh?”
TCD.net: So would you try out again?
Andrew: yeah, sure, if I’m still in the sport the next time they are looking for middle weights, and I have some pro fights; sure, why not.
TCD.net: Any shout-outs or thanks you want to give?
Andrew: Thanks to all my training partners. I’ve already mentioned Travis, Todd, Jace, Lewis Wood and Irish. There are a lot of dudes who’s named aren’t mentioned, but they are here every day working with me. They don’t actually compete, but they still put their all into it to make me at my best for my fight. So, thanks to those guys.
You can read more about Andrew’s opponent, John Malbrough, here.