Not many people, whether they be fighters or fans, picked James “Lightning” Wilks to defeat Demarques Johnson in the welterweight finale of The Ultimate Fighter 9: US vs.
UK. Johnson had rolled into the finals with an abundant showing of technique, grit, and verbal hyperbole; Wilks entered the finals with two victories against technique-challenged Frank Lester. Sherdog’s preview of the TUF 9 finale declared that Johnson would “go “…from journeyman to star by beating down Wilks in half the time it took England to win the Falklands War.”
Less than five minutes of combat later, there was no question about how wrong the experts were.
With a one-round demolition of Johnson and a TUF title in the rear-view mirror, Wilks still has his feet on the ground as he prepares for his future in the UFC while running Lightning MMA, his new gym located in Orange County, California.
Speaking to UofCombat’s Justin Eleazer, Wilks comments on his fight at the finale, training under MMA pioneer Erik Paulson, life in the TUF house, the benefits of catch wrestling, and more.
UofC: How long have you been training with CSW affiliated programs?
James Wilks: 10 years with Erik, first seminar in 99 in England. Bought the video tapes, and went to seminars.
UofC: What’s one of the areas of your game that CSW training has helped you improve?
JW: Everything, Erik is very well rounded. Great at looking at game plans, very complete submission game.
UofC: Does your proximity to Erik Paulson’s home gym excite you or scare you, I’ve heard he can be a tough coach.
JW: He’s definately a tough trainer. But he knows my game very well and it’s exciting to live near him.
UofC: You threw an uncommon leg compression lock against Johnson (at the TUF finale). How long has that been in your repertoire?
JW: Leg locks in general are a big part of my game from early on. It was a leg lock I learned later on, I’ve been practicing, been using that move for 4 years.
UofC: Your opponent Demarques Johnson had a lot of tough words before the fight, did he have a legitimate issue, or was he just getting himself worked up for a fight?
JW: I don’t think he cared for me too much legitimately, but I think he hyped it up because he needs to feel angry to fight somebody.
UofC: Styles make fights, given your style who would make an exciting fight for you?
JW: A good kickboxer, varied muay thai striker. I don’t know, I don’t like to pick any names.
UofC: Forrest Griffin, Anderson Silva?
JW: No, no, honestly I think those guys are too good for me, and too heavy. I don’t know I suppose a well rounded kick boxer that uses all of his skills, a real test.
UofC: What is Michael Bisping’s clinch game like?
JW: He’s got a good clinch game. He’s definately more technical than I’d have thought from watching him on TV.
UofC: They say you learn the most from your mistakes. What did you learn from your fights with Patrick Speight and Jimmy Smith?
JW: For Speight, cardo. Smith, don’t kick right off the bat, especially to the body… and how I should have or could have gotten out of the knee bar, cross face, which erik was shouting, generally you grapple to escape grappling and I was punching.
UofC: People say the house really tests your mental game. Did you find it challenging?
JW: It was challenging, I definately missed people from back home, my girlfriend and my parents and my brother. I had a great group of guys to on Team UK. Overall it was an enjoyable experience.
UofC: Who’s the UK fighter you are most likely to see in the UFC again, Pearson aside?
JW: I think Nick Osipczak. He’s given good performances, I think he’s exciting to watch, and he’s well rounded.
UofC: Which American impressed you the most?
JW: Jason Dent, not in his first two fights, but in his other two. He was a lot better than I thought he would have been, very technical.
UofC: CSW employs a lot of catch wrestling, which doesn’t get nearly as much airtime as BJJ, what’s the biggest advantage of catch?
JW: The varied number of attacks. Also, the fact that a lot of people don’t know those submissions because it’s not as common as jiu-jitsu.
UofC: Tell me about your new facility.
JW: Over 3,500 square feet. a full cage, sports massage, and full shower. Great atmosphere.
UofC: Is Paulson doing any seminars at your facility?
JW: Yea, he definately will, but the dates have not been set.
UofC: Having knocked out four teeth with it, are people at your gym afraid of your knee?
JW: (chuckles) No, not at my gym. we train in a safe manner, and we don’t throw full contact knees to the head during training.