Monday 19 February 2018

Norman Parke takes the Fighting Irish to Brazil as a prologue to UFC189

Fergus Ryan

Fergus Ryan

This weekend ‘Stormin’ Norman Parke from Bushmills, Co. Antrim fights at UFC Fight Night 67 in Goiânia, Brazil. Norman UFC record boasts four wins against and Englishman, an American and two Japanese fighters. His record also shows a draw and a loss against Brazilian opposition.

In his last fight at UFC Boston in January, Gleison Tibau became the first man to beat Norman in an MMA contest since Jospeh Duffy in 2010. On Saturday night Norman will look to return to winning ways in Brazilian against a gritty Brazilian fighter in Francisco Trinaldo.

With all the hype surrounding the Conor Mc Gregor v Jose Aldo fight in July, relations between the Brazilian and Irish MMA communities are pretty tense at the moment. Some might prefer to shy away from stirring up the rivalry any further.

Not Norman. He’s heading down to Brazil quite conscious that he’s heading into hostile territory. Rather than try and avoid an extra pressure, the Next Generation Northern Ireland man is relishing in the tense atmosphere.

When describing the opportunity to fight another Brazilian in front of the notoriously partisan Brazilian MMA crowd, Norman was clear it was his choice to go – “I just wanted to get away and fight in enemy territory. I wanted to feel that pressure.”

Parke is looking to channel all the energy Conor McGregor has created after the UFC 189 global press tour. Since Parke and McGregor burst into the UFC in December 2012 and April 2013 respectively they have been followed by six more Irish fighters. The UFC capitalised on this by creating the #FightingIrish hashtag for twitter, which has been accompanied by one Conor McGregor’s taglines ‘We’re not here to take part, we’re here to #Takeover’.

Norman is leading the #Takeover into Brazil this weekend hoping to lay down a marker for Irish MMA in the lead up to UFC 189 in July.

“It’s gonna be a great opportunity, especially the way things are at the moment. There’s a lot of rivalry between Irish people and Brazilians at the moment. This fight makes sense and it was a good idea for me to come here and compete against one of them. That just makes it a little sweeter.”

Having tasted defeat for the first time in almost five years, Parke received some criticism on social media in the aftermath. It was then revealed that the Northern Irishman was laid out with flu for six days and came close to pulling out of the Tibau fight.

None of this was in evidence in Boston as Tibau needed all three rounds to take a razor thin judges split decision.

Preparation has been much better for this fight.

“I’m feeling healthy, my weight is lower than where it usually is and I’m feeling strong. I’m a strong 155lb’er so its just a matter of putting it all in place. Training has been going really well. I know we’ve had a switch up of opponent. Trinaldo is a tough fighter a tough task but it doesn’t matter I’m not thinking about him I just coming in and going to smash it and that’s the only thing going through my mind” Norman told us.

Despite the change of opponent Parke has had time so examine the opposition and look for ways to win. But, someytimes the best plan is not to have a plan  –“I see holes in his game, where he likes to come forward too much and it goes against him. We’ll see what happens once the fight night comes. You can go in with a plan but it never really happens to plan so you have to adapt. I’m going in with an open mind and I’m gonna let my natural instincts take over.”

After signing with the UFC Norman split his training camps between his home team at Next Generation Northern Ireland under long-time coach Rodney Moore and Alliance MMA in San Diego under Eric Del Fierro. For this fight he’s concentrated his entire training camp in Ballymena.

For a long time the belief in MMA was to succeed you needed to train in the US. A constant criticism of European fighters was their wrestling wasn’t up to par.

However, in the case of the Irish fighters so far, while wrestling may not be the strongest suite it certainly hasn’t hampered the progress of the athletes in the UFC to date.

Having trained abroad and at home Norman is adamant the level of martial arts on this island can rival that of any country in the world.

“I’ve been there I did it all. I’ve trained with American wrestlers but a lot of it is hype. I believe in where I’m training and I believe in the people I train with… I believe there are young lads in the gym who’ll get their opportunity in the UFC in the future. There’s no part of me wants to go to America to live there I don’t believe I need that, I’m happy where I am and everything is good.”

You can watch Norman fighting at UFC Fight Night 67: Condit vs. Alves on BT Sport 2. Coverage of the preliminary card begins Saturday night/Sunday morning at 0100. Norman’s fight is second on the main card, which begins at 0300.

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