FCF caught up with Jess “The Joker” Liaudin at his gym, Pancrase London, just as he was about to head West to California to begin nine weeks of training in preparation for his next UFC appearance. Liaudin is scheduled to fight Sweden's David Bielkheden at UFC 89 in Birmingham, England, on October 18th. The French-born Joker was a well travelled veteran before making his UFC debut in April 2007, having trained and fought in Japan and the USA in addition to establishing himself as a mainstay of the British scene. He got off to a fast start when he joined the UFC, defeating his first two opponents inside the opening round – Dennis Siver tapped to an arm bar and Anthony Torres fell to a barrage of punches. Dividing his time between London and training with Team Quest Liaudin hit a major bump in the road when he was KO'd by Marcus Davis at UFC 80. He then started working with Joe “Daddy” Stevenson at Cobra Kai in California but lost a paper-thin split decision to Paul Taylor in his last match at UFC 85. The bout with Bielkheden will see Liaudin drop from welterweight to lightweight as he plans to get his career back on track.
FCF: The fight with Taylor was incredibly close.
What are your thoughts on how the fight played out?
Jess Liaudin: “It went to plan. I went to Victorville, we trained for six weeks to do what I did, which was being a lot lower on my base for my boxing, just using my boxing, not very much kicking, to catch him on the counter which I think I did successfully. He said himself he was quite impressed by my boxing skill. Then I working against the cage to get the takedown and that's what I did successfully for three rounds. He did surprise me that his scramble was a lot better, he did scramble but I still felt that I won the fight. The argument is that I didn't do nothing with the takedowns, which is totally true, but I felt that I was pushing the action for fifteen minutes. I was the one going forwards, I never went backwards at any time. He was throwing a lot more but I was catching him quite successfully with my counters, I was pushing him against the cage, working against the cage with elbows, getting takedowns, so I was putting pressure. I showed aggression, control and octagon control so I thought that I won. A lot of people have won fights the same way. If you look at the Rashad Evans – Mike Bisping fight, that's how Bisping lost that fight, he got taken down. Rashad didn't do anything with it but obviously he was pressing, he was getting the takedowns which should score a lot of points. It came to my attention later on a lot of the judges were actually English. The English judges don't necessarily score the fight with the same criteria as for example an American judge would do. Paul did some good things during the fight but I think out of fifteen minutes I controlled a good twelve, thirteen minutes. He had thirty seconds here, thirty seconds there, but I think I won the fight. It's nothing against Paul Taylor himself, he came to fight, I came to fight. We had a good brawl, we had a laugh, he's a gentleman.
FCF: Next up for you is David Bielkheden, from Sweden.
What do you know about him?
JL: “Not very much. We met in a grappling tournament, the ADCC European Qualifiers, quite a few years back. He beat me but that was grappling. I think he is a well rounded fighter. His stand-up is not very sharp but he throws a big overhand right to set up his takedowns. He's got decent wrestling, he's more of a ground and pounder. He'll take the submission if you give it to him and he's got a very good submission defence. I think he'll try to do what he always does – throw the big overhand right, get a double leg and try to pound me against the cage. My job will be to keep it up and if he gets the takedown to work my way back up, scramble. I'm going to be training with people who are better strikers than him, better wrestlers than him, and better grapplers than him. It's a totally different fight from my last one but I think I've got all the tools to beat him. If you look at his record it's pretty impressive. He beat some decent guys, but he beat a lot of guys with no fights on their records too, which I haven't had the opportunity to do. Nevertheless he's a decent fighter, he went to decisions with some decent Japanese fighters too. They thing is the Japanese fighters were pretty much grapplers so they were playing his game. He's got decent grappling himself so he didn't get submitted or pounded. I don't think he's faced a guy who's going out to split his head open, sprawl on him and give him a hard fight. That's what I'm going to train to do, to KO or TKO him.
FCF: Who are you going to train with for the fight this time?
JL: “Joe Stevenson again. The training [last time] was great, different from what I'd done before. When I trained at Team Quest it was very good, I'm still good friends with Dan and Sokoudjou. They were doing a lot of different conditioning drills, there's not much of that with Joe. It's a lot of practical training, a lot of sparring. Three times a week we do the Shark Tank which is very hard. Irvin [Bounds, Stevenson's trainer] is a very, very strict trainer and that's why not so many people want to train with him. He doesn't want to train so many people either because a lot of people are not quite ready to do what he asks. The last time I went I trained really hard, so he's happy to have me back. Three times a week we do the Shark Tank for sparring, which you don't see that often in many gyms. A lot of gyms do it once a week, maybe twice, but not every other day. Also he gets a lot of good training partners in there, some very high calibre Division I wrestlers to spar with us, he's got some professional boxers, last time we had guys on Olympic teams to box with, so there are some very good guys. They've got good guys in the gym too, they may not be big names but some are good wrestlers, some have good jujitsu, some are good strikers too. Joe is a very good training partner as well. He's got some unbelievable grappling skills, some things I've never seen before. I've trained in Japan and Brazil with some very big names and I never saw someone with such amazing grappling skill. And he can bang. Irvin is a very good boxing coach and he knows MMA left, right and centre so he's a fantastic coach for me. It was tremendously physically and mentally hard but I want to win this fight. They've helped with my weight cutting as well. I truly believe inside myself I'm going to be a force to be reckoned with at 155. Now I just have to prove it.
FCF: How many fights do you have left on your UFC contract?
JL: “Two more, but I'm well aware that if I lose this one, it's bye-bye which would probably mean the end of my career because you're not going to see me fighting in other, smaller organizations. I've been fighting for eighteen years now. When you've been fighting at this level, getting paid and being comfortable, you don't want to be fighting at a smaller show because you don't have the motivation or the money to train quite as hard. After that you become a stepping stone for other people so I don't see the point. My ego would want me to fight but it would be clever for me to get completely out of the scene and just do something else.