Paul Craig is well at ease in the middleweight category, yet he isn’t entirely closed off to the idea of 205 pounds.
Saturday night saw Craig’s inaugural middleweight performance, in which he defeated Andre Muniz in the second round at UFC London. This triumph ended a two-fight losing streak for “Bearjew”, positioning him as a strong contender at 185 pounds. Craig believes his transition to middleweight was long overdue.
“Throughout my light heavyweight career, we often wondered, ‘Could we make it to middleweight? Is it a realistic goal?'” Craig shared on The MMA Hour on Monday. “To answer this, we conducted tests and confirmed that slimming down significantly was indeed viable. It’s been quite an eventful journey in the past six months of my career, evolving from defeat to reconstruction, and now reemerging in the mix not only in light heavyweight but also in middleweight.”
Since joining UFC in 2016, Craig’s career was primarily spent competing at 205 pounds with varying success. While he boasts victories over several top 15 UFC light heavyweights, including ex-champion Jamahal Hill and former title challenger Magomed Ankalaev, Craig has also experienced some tough losses. One of these is a first-round knockout by Johnny Walker in January, which Craig points to as the catalyst for his weight class transition.
Craig recalled his reaction upon sizing up Johnny Walker across the octagon: “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, he’s an impressive specimen. A veritable freak of nature.’ He’s an exception in the division due to his extraordinary height, athleticism, and powerful strikes. So we had to reassess our position in the light heavyweight division, and one of our considerations was whether it would be viable and safe to switch to middleweight.”
Following consultation with the UFC Performance Institute, Craig and his team executed a trial weight cut to middleweight. With positive outcomes, they were all set for the transition. After successfully making the weight with the help of the UFC P.I., Craig found an unexpected advantage in this new approach: he actually became bigger than when competing at 205 pounds.
“I was extremely lean,” Craig reminisced. “But it’s astounding what the body can achieve. Just a few liters of water, and following a scientifically grounded plan with the support of the P.I., completely transformed me for fight night. Upon making the weight, I was 84.5 kg [186 pounds] on Friday morning. By fight time, I weighed 97 kg [213 pounds], even more than when I fought Johnny Walker at 95kg [209 pounds]. This underscores the benefits of such a transition.”
Despite his successful weight cut and a stellar performance in the new weight class, Craig remains open to the possibility of returning to light heavyweight.
“With my victories over Jamahal Hill, Ankalaev, and [Nikita] Krylov, I can still compete in the light heavyweight division,” Craig asserted. “The highlight of the recent fight was not just my transition to 185 pounds but also my collaboration with my new coach, James Doolan. He has been instrumental in improving my striking technique. This newfound confidence after six months with James Doolan makes me wonder, how much more can I improve in a year or two under his guidance?”
For now, Craig plans to be a versatile fighter for the UFC. After defeating Muniz, he is likely to be ranked at 185 pounds while currently standing at No. 9 in the promotion’s light heavyweight rankings, which means he has a wide range of potential match-ups ahead.
Craig is open to fights in either division, provided they meet his sole criterion.
“It depends on UFC,” Craig said. “If UFC offers me an exciting fight at 205, I’m all for it. I’m not looking for easy wins, but rather for challenging battles that test my preparedness. Those are the fights I’m after.”
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Paul Craig UFC London Weight Transition
What was Paul Craig’s performance at UFC London?
Paul Craig made his middleweight debut at UFC London, where he triumphed over Andre Muniz in the second round. This victory ended Craig’s two-fight losing streak and positioned him as a strong contender at 185 pounds.
How did Paul Craig manage his weight transition to middleweight?
Craig consulted with the UFC Performance Institute, where he and his team conducted a test weight cut to middleweight. After the successful test, they proceeded with the weight transition, which resulted in Craig actually becoming heavier than when he was competing at 205 pounds.
Did Paul Craig completely abandon the light heavyweight category?
No, despite his successful weight transition and impressive performance at the new weight class, Craig insists that he hasn’t ruled out a return to light heavyweight. He maintains that with victories over fighters like Jamahal Hill and Ankalaev, he can still compete in this division.
What is Paul Craig’s approach towards choosing fights?
Craig is open to bouts in either the middleweight or light heavyweight division, as long as they offer a challenge. He is not interested in easy fights but prefers battles that test his preparedness and make him question if he has done enough.
Who helped improve Paul Craig’s striking technique?
Paul Craig attributes his improved striking technique to his new coach, James Doolan. Craig has been working with Doolan for the past six months, which has significantly boosted his confidence and skills in striking.