On Episode #7 of ‘The Insider’, we took a new dynamic by speaking with an athlete who joined and had great success in making a career transition from BJJ and plunged himself into the realm of mixed martial artists.
He is a former Cage Warriors World Champion, and undoubtly has his sights sets on reclaiming that belt again very soon and continue on to even larger heights thereafter as he is in his career prime and still has many great years to give in this sport.
I was humbled to have him speak to us and give such an insightful and honest account of someone who really gets into depth about what the transition from BJJ to MMA is really like and the hard work, discipline and perseverance that goes hand-in-hand with it. So therefore without further or do, it is my great pleasure to introduce Mr. James Webb:
Ian: Tell us who you are, where you are from (or where you reside) and how long you have been training?
James: I’m James Webb, I’m born and raised in Colchester, Essex but I am based now in Dublin, Ireland for my professional MMA career, which only started in 2017.
Ian: Were you a good kid at school?
James: Was I a good kid at school, yes I guess I was, I didn’t do anything too bad to be the years wrongun, haha.
Ian: Where do you currently train and who is on your coaching team?
Ian: How did you make your transition over to MMA, what came before?
James: My transition to MMA was inevitable really, I spent a good few years competing and winning everything in the UK up to Purple belt in BJJ beforehand. I had a few kickboxing bouts too, including a pro kickboxing fight in some London nightclub in like 2013, was a bit underground all that still so looking back at bit mad but it made my transition easier than just going straight into training “MMA”
Ian: Recently BJJ standout Taylor Pearman recently praised you for being one of the toughest rounds he has to go through in sparing. Do you still compete or plan to compete much in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?
James: Taylor is a savage he is one of the top 5 brown belts in the world. I remember us being white belts, Jesus imagine knowing then what was coming.. It’s great I’m still one of his main guys.
He certainly is my main training partner whilst in the UK, I probably train with him more than anyone else individually, 3 times minimum a week whilst trying to juggle the boxing the wrestling the MMA round etc he has cornered me as well for a lot of MMA fights on my run to that CW world title.
But yes I’m really wanting to get back in and compete at brown belt. All the guys I beat coming up are all black belts now and seem to be still doing well throughout the UK circuit. I still believe I’m better than them so yea I’m certainly going to be competing this year I hope.
Ian: You’re a former Cage Warriors World Champion, something that’s obviously taken tremendous blood, sweat and tears to obtain, but what exactly sets apart a champion fighter from the rest?
James: Consistency is the key if I’m honest to being a champion. You have to show up whether your injured or just not feeling it. Now if you’re severely injured that’s a different story, but as long as I can walk, I’ll be training and that’s what makes people champions, just showing up and getting it done.
Ian: Talk to us a little about the fight to win that title… And what the feeling was like?
James: Winning that Cage Warriors title was amazing, the best feeling I’ve ever had in the sport, I knew I had won as well, as soon as I had the trap set for the arm triangle I knew it was on. It was a tough fight which showed a lot of diversity from the strikes to the wall work and then to the BJJ which won that world title for me.
Ian: What is the training like for MMA compared with BJJ?
James: The training for MMA is like training for a triathlon. You have to dabble in lots of things which can sometimes hinder your progress in just one sport. But BJJ is just that gi and no-gi all day and tbh it’s easy on the body. It’s not easy in terms of how complex it is, but it’s amazing to go back to after spending weeks preparing for rounds which guys punch you in the face, & kick you in the head haha.
Ian: I know a lot of people who have tried and failed in making a successful transition, because of the brutality on the body, especially the older people have tried to make that transition. How do you cope with the stresses placed on your body alongside the weight-management aspect?
James: To get other these stresses on the body, again going back to it. It’s consistency, training goes hand in hand with recovery. So I’ll train hard but recover harder, I’m using out in Ireland at the Irish Strength Institute a top of the range complex, from a great gym to floatation tanks, and other recovery tools. They also help me with injuries whilst there and my diet and what I fuel myself with, with every week body fat tests/weigh-ins whilst in camp.
Ian: Briefly what does a normal day/week look like in the gym for you?
James: So a normal week for me in the camp would be around 15 tough sessions a week. Including MMA sparring, kickboxing rounds, shoot box rounds (wrestling and kickboxing)
Bjj rounds, No-gi rounds.
Positional sparring on the wall, strength and conditioning and lastly technical work.
A day would be any of the two hard sessions above, with another technical session added.
Ian: Is there anything about your sport that frustrates you?
James: The sport itself doesn’t frustrate me at all, what frustrates me is perhaps the stigma which comes with “cage fighting”, it’s created some amazing friendships for me and I’ve met some amazing athletes.
Ian: Do you get nervous ahead of your fights? How do you manage that?
James: I do get nervous but my confidence of not feeling like I can lose outweighs that. I’d of been a lot more nervous back in the day, as I wouldn’t invite anyone to watch me. I control it well now, but I have good people around me to also help me with it all and take little stresses away from me.
Ian: When was your first MMA fight and how long after beginning training did you have it?
James: My first MMA fight was in 2014, and I wasn’t training MMA at all for it. MADNESS. I truly believed BJJ was all I needed along with a bit of kickboxing.
I winged a few fights getting subs as an amateur but it took a loss to learn I needed to do an MMA class. It wasn’t long after that loss I met Chris Fields and he changed my whole game. I neglected the cage work for so long not seeing it as a tool.
Now I believe I’m one of the best in Europe on the Cage right now, I take people down and I haven’t been taken down by anyone in a fight on the cage myself. I’m very comfortable there.
Ian: What advice would you give other fighters to help deal with those pre-fight nerves?
James: My advice for anyone when dealing with nerves is just this and again it comes from Chris Fields and it’s stuck with me.
It’s that no one really cares, we care as the athlete but people who are supporting you along your journey won’t care at all on the result, they will just want you to do well.
Ever since hearing that I sort of figured that yea if I lose, come Monday everyone goes back to work. To me, it’s the biggest thing in the world and that’s why the nerves creep in, also you may feel like your letting people down. But the reality is they don’t care they just want you to do well.
Ian: How do you find cutting weight for a fight and what is the process like? Can you talk us through it briefly?
James: Cutting weight for fights isn’t so bad really it’s about 13kg I’ll look to lose in the camp to weigh-ins but as long as I’m 93kg the week before I know I can make it with cutting down carbs, sugars and a few saunas and hot baths to release that water.
Ian: Stand and trade or down to the ground?
James: Takedown, ground and pound or sub all day. Pure dominance that’s called.
Ian: Who has/have been your toughest fight/s to date?
James: Toughest fight to date was against Nathias Fredericks. Night of Champions, 5 rounds of absolute war.
Ian: How do you condition yourself in the lead up to a competition?
James: I don’t condition my self at all, my s&c coach, Adam does everything for me. I literally don’t have to worry about any of that, I show up to the gym and the rest is down to him. My only job is to show up at the gym. My coaches all cover the rest.
Ian: Do you study your opponents ahead of a fight? Do you try and find holes in their games?
James: I don’t know if this sounds bad but I don’t watch any tape on guys I’m fighting. This is me being honest, I don’t care about what they’re going to do, because I’m going to go and impose my will. My head coach Chris Fields would be going more into that himself but again we know the game plan, he will be just looking to see tells of what they like to do.
Ian: Who would you say are your top 3 inspirations in the sport past or present? And why?
James: Anderson Silva was a big inspiration for me at the time as when I was just starting he was literally just running through everyone with ease.
Ian: Is there anyone or anything else in your life who serves as a prodigious inspiration to your progress? Maybe family or friends?
James: To me Chris is a big inspiration too, he fought anyone he could at the time, he struggles to get fights now. But he is a family man, owns a gym, had other business endeavours and still trains just as much as I would be in camp, on that note Alain Pozo would be another, come to this country with nothing and has the best BJJ team in Europe right now, had a vision and followed it, they are both very similar in they pursue their passions but they also believed in me 100000%. It’s those guys like that, that are inspirational and make you realise you can achieve what you want to with the right mind and work rate.
Ian: What is your favourite strike or submission and why?
James: My favourite submission is the rear-naked choke. To me it shows pure skill and class to dominate an opponent, to get to their back and then sink the choke in. There is no luck in that at all.
Ian: Have you ever had a serious injury that hindered your training? How did you handle the recovery process?
James: I’ve had so many injuries and some have been pretty serious but nothing that stops me. There is always something you can do to work around it. Unless you’re not walking then that’s a different story but yea many injuries over the years that I just end up working around. Recovery is easy with a good team, my s&c team have everything I need for optimal recovery.
Ian: Do you follow a specific diet or watch what you eat, especially nearing competition time?
James: I don’t follow any diets at all, it’s sort of my lifestyle now, I follow a very high fat high protein diet and only allow carbs post-workout. I pretty much live this lifestyle all year round, bar a few weeks after a fight when chocolate and beer are acceptable at 10 am.
Ian: Do you have any other passions in life outside of the sporting world?
James: I have no passions outside of my fighting career because my passions became my job and I’m very grateful. It’s just all included in my lifestyle.
Ian: Important question, what is your favourite food?
James: My favourite food would probably be Pizza looking back at my most commonly dialled numbers.
Ian: Most hated food?
James: I hate pasta, I just can’t eat it.
Ian: Favourite movie?
James: My favourite movie is Troy, I watched it 3 times in the cinema. My dad’s side of the family was Greek so I always believed I was a spartan. Hence the tattoos I have.
Ian: Favourite quote to live by?
James: Favourite quote to live by, hmm if you can’t win the argument make sure you get the first dig in haha. Erm no I tell myself first thing when I wake up, today will be an amazing day.
Ian: Who would your dream fight be?
James: My dream fight would be against Demian Maia, I would love to feel that pressure and I just want to see and feel how good he really is on the ground.
Ian: Any particular mentions or shout-outs to sponsors?
James: Thanks to
Irish Strength Institute
Zr Team Essex
Stevan Webb & Son Roofing
Putney & Son Construction
We are Mortgages
Graded & Advocate Finance
… and lastly to my fiancé Sid and my family and friends…
Well, I’m definitely never making that transition to MMA that’s for sure! I’ll leave James to keep putting his body on the line like that.
One thing is for sure, and that’s that MMA is a hell of a lot harder than most of us imagine it to be, and those of us who have never stepped into that cage before we’ll do little to understand the full complexity and physicality of being in there for 3 or more brutal rounds.
I think one of the great things we can take away from speaking to professionals like James, is that these athletes don’t accept defeat; if it doesn’t go their way, then its back to the drawing board rounding out and perfecting the finer details. Furthermore, what sets champion-level athletes apart from the rest isn’t just on the physical side alone, but it’s that mental tenacity… It’s the fighter who doesn’t stay down, the individual that risks ‘everything’ in achieving their ambitions.
To see more of James Webb’s fights and other interviews head over to YouTube or check out his instagram!