Brad “One Punch” Pickett is 12-2 in his last 14 appearances. | File photo
Brad Pickett is one of the United Kingdom mixed martial arts scene’s favorite sons and one of the sport’s true roly-polies. Over the course of his eight-year career, the well-rounded Englishman has had to cope with his fair share of setbacks, only to come back with more vigor than ever.
Now 34, Pickett will take on former World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight champion Eddie Wineland at UFC 155 “Dos Santos vs. Velasquez 2” on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The bout carries with it genuine bantamweight title implications for 2013.
“The Top 10 speaks for itself,” Pickett told Sherdog.com. “[Champion] Dominick Cruz is out for some time now. Then you have number two-ranked Renan Barao defending his interim belt against Michael McDonald, who is number three. You have Urijah Faber, who has another fight scheduled, and then you’ve got me at five and Eddie Wineland at six. So we’re in a type of fight where the winner could be fighting the winner of the Barao-McDonald.”
A quasi title eliminator is familiar territory for the man famous for wearing a string vest, cutoff jeans and his customary trilby hat for his entrances.
“I’ve been in this position a few times before. I was in this position when I fought Renan Barao. If I had beaten Barao, I would have gotten a title shot,” Pickett said. “And also when I was supposed to fight Miguel Torres [at UFC 130] and then I got injured and Demetrious Johnson, whom I already beat, took my place. He beat Torres and went on to get a title shot. Finally, when I fought Scott Jorgensen in the WEC and he beat me, he went on to get a title shot. Hopefully, I don’t fall over at the final hurdle like I’ve done these few times before.”
In order to maximize his chances, Pickett has once again traveled 4,400 miles from London to Coconut Creek, Fla., to hold his training camp at American Top Team.
This is the seventh year in a row that the bantamweight star has dropped anchor in the Sunshine State to prepare for his fights. When he first arrived at American Top Team headquarters, the tatami was full of well-known standouts like Marcus Aurelio, Gesias Cavalcante, Denis Kang, Jeff Monson, Thiago Silva and Din Thomas. Many of them have since left the team or retired, like Charles McCarthy and Mike Thomas Brown. Still, Pickett insists the team is more than strong enough to be considered one of the best in the world.
“Any training camp has their ups and downs. A lot of guys come and go,” he said. “A lot of guys have obviously left for [the] Blackzilians, because they are paid to train there, so essentially what they are doing is buying training partners. Still, if you look at their track record in the UFC, that’s not very good. Meanwhile, our guys at American Top Team are all winning this year.”
The recipe for sustained success at American Top Team comes down to two ingredients, according to Pickett: new blood and diversified training.
“There’s a lot of up-and-coming guys [there], like Dustin Poirier, Sirwan Kakai and Mirsad Bektic,” he said. “What American Top Team has been doing, as well, is recruiting a lot of high-level NCAA Div. I wrestlers to help out with the training. In the past, ATT was known to be a place with a lot of high-level jiu-jitsu guys and some good strikers but lacking the wrestling. That’s not the case anymore.”
As part of the UFC 155 prelims, Pickett must confront the heavy-handed and experienced Wineland. The 28-year-old Duneland Vale Tudo representative staked his claim at 135 pounds in June when he knocked out Jorgensen -- one of only two men to have beaten Pickett since 2007. Pickett respects his opponent’s power but has no plans to back away from it when the two bantamweights meet in the middle of the Octagon.
“I know that I can take a punch, but that’s still not a case of I let him punch me to see how much power he’s got,” Pickett said. “On the other hand, I’m not gonna be afraid of him, because then I’m not gonna be able to implement my game plan [if I fight afraid]. It’s the fighting game, so I’m gonna get hit. I just need to make sure I’ll keep my hands up and keep my defense tight, as well as my offense.”
Even though he trains with familiar teammates like onetime WEC champion Brown and good friend Kakai, from Sweden, Pickett has made a concerted effort to fine-tune his game. It has yielded positive results, as he has scored back-to-back finishes on Damacio Page and Yves Jabouin.
“I’ve been working this year with a new pad guy called Paulie Gloves,” Pickett said. “He’s been working really well with me. I’ve always had power, but he’s helped me with a few different things; for example, my timing is a bit better. What we like to say what I do is controlled chaos. I come in aggressive, fight hard and use technical brawling to get my opponents caught up in my moment, caught up in a fight, and that’s where I can catch them. This is what I want to do against Wineland, whom I consider a very well-rounded counter striker.”
A win over the former WEC titleholder could finally catapult the likeable Londoner into a major title fight -- one of the few achievements missing from his resume.
“Fighting for the title would be a nice way to end my career,” Pickett said. “Win or lose, just being there and making that experience would be great.”
If securing such an opportunity means training and dieting during the holiday season, so be it. The man they call “One Punch” is all-in.
“For me, it’s a much better Christmas present to get a nice win than to be able to eat my food,” Pickett said. “I’ll be happy with a nice win for Christmas.”