James McSweeney has gone the distance once in 23 professional bouts. | Photo: James Goyder
Fighting is more than a job for heavyweight mixed martial artist James McSweeney; it is an addiction. What began as a career in Thai boxing evolved into his current fixation: MMA.
“MMA was blowing up with a lot of hype behind it,” McSweeney said. “I was looking for a new challenge and was offered to fight MMA, and the pay was very good due to my standup background. I won the first fight with just my standup skills; naturally, as a fighter, I was instantly hooked. You can say it was love at first fight.”
Throughout his career, McSweeney’s obsession with MMA has led him to train with some of the best teams and fighters in the world, including Jackson-Wink MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., where he became good friends with former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder Rashad Evans. When Evans left for the Grudge Training Center in Colorado, McSweeney followed, and the two joined forces with Shane Carwin and Nate Marquardt. Later he trained at his own gym, Sledgehammer MMA in England, before moving on to work with two-time Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships medalist Robert Drysdle. McSweeney currently trains with Phuket Top Team in Thailand.
“I felt I needed to change my camp,” he said. “This gym is amazing, not only [with] standup but wrestling and jiu-jitsu coaches. I learned so much there, and I have decided to have my camps there from now on. The owner has done amazing things in Thailand with this gym, and his students [and] I can’t speak highly enough of him.”
McSweeney reached the semifinals on Season 10 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” enjoyed a three-fight stint in the UFC and has also competed inside the British Association of Mixed Martial Arts, Legacy Fighting Championship and Championship Fighting Alliance promotions. The 33-year-old last appeared at a Final Fight Championship event in November, when he needed just 35 seconds to submit Stefan Traunmuller with a first-round armbar in Slovenia. McSweeney recently agreed to terms with Asian MMA powerhouse One Fighting Championship.
“One FC is the largest promotion in Asia,” McSweeney said. “I had been watching their shows on television. I was attracted to them because I love the Asia-based fans, and the global rules of One FC fit my style perfectly. We got in contact with them, [and] they showed interest and actually wanted me to make my debut earlier, but it fell through. I think, because I accepted fights so fast and was game to fight at different weight classes, One FC liked that and offered me a multiple-fight deal, which I happily accepted.”
McSweeney will make his organizational debut at One FC 15 “Rise of Heroes” on Friday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. There, he will meet Chris Lokteff, a promising Australian heavyweight prospect on a four-fight winning streak.
“Lokteff is a heavyweight; he has some great fights and good wins,” McSweeney said. “He is definitely a strong opponent. I can’t say who has more power. I can answer that after we fight. I do not underestimate any of my opponents; they’re all future champions [in my eyes]. I have fought [at] heavy and light heavy. Now this fight is [at] heavyweight, [and] I’ve gained productive weight. I’m now 244 pounds -- lean.
“I’ve worked very hard to gain this weight and feel great,” he added. “I’m excited for this fight. I have trained extremely hard and can’t wait to show you all the new James McSweeney. I can only guarantee that our fight will end with a knockout.”