Australian fighter Kian "Karnage" Pham flies out tomorrow for his One Fighting Championships debut set to go down this Friday night in Indonesia. The Lion's Den Sydney trained fighter will take on Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist Almiro Barros on the under-card portion of the One Fighting Championships 10 event. Fight News Australia caught up with Pham for an interview before the fight.
Fight News Australia: Firstly how is your preparation going ahead of your One FC bout?
Kian Pham: Preparation is going fantastic. I know a lot of fighters say "this is the best prep I've had", but I've implemented a couple new things into camp such as a strength and conditioning trainer, weights training, and a complete diet overhaul on what I eat and the improvements have been significant. There's much more balance in other aspects of my life too so mentally I'm in a good place, so I honestly do feel like I'm in the best shape I've ever been in.
Fight News Australia: Can you detail the places you have been preparing for this fight and who will be travelling over with you to corner you?
Kian Pham: The majority of my training happens with Luke Pezzutti at Lion's Den and most of my training partners are from there. Got my own little gym and training space now too so I've had an Australian 55kg wrestler come out and work with me there from time to time to tighten up my wrestling. Strength and conditioning wise worked with a guy named Gokhan Azturk who trains alongside Robert Whittaker and my strength has improved dramatically. Also sometimes when I'm tight on time and can't travel far I do some work at Martial Arts Development (MAD) since it's quite close to me and they boys there always willing to help. Luke Pezzutti will be travelling and cornering me for this next fight.
Fight News Australia: How did the opportunity to compete in One FC come up?
Kian Pham: Years ago I fought on Martial Combat in Singapore and they were interested in me because of my Vietnamese roots. The CEO at the time (Victor Cui) ended up moving on to be the CEO of One FC. So based on my heritage and history with the promoters, it got my foot in the door.
Fight News Australia: You got a good taste of what One FC is like when you traveled to help Thanh Vu for his bout. How was that experience and what did you take from it?
Kian Pham: That was super fun. I basically traveled along as entourage and so was staying at the same hotel and being driven around everywhere too (with police escorts too!). I basically got to see first hand how everything works backstage and on the night so that will ease my nerves a bit for my fight as I'm familiar with how operations run and know what to expect.
(Kian Pham far left with One FC's Victor Cui centre)
Fight News Australia: MMA wise, you have stayed fairly inactive only fighting once in 2011 and once in 2012 before having a Combat8 bout earlier this year. Is there are particular reason?
Kian Pham: 2011 was a s**t year with a lot of injuries which kept me inactive not just from fighting but from training for long periods at a time. Inability to train was tough mentally and began to take a toll. 2012 was a very bad year in general with niggling injuries still hanging about, unable to get any consistency. Work wise I was worried about redundancy and throwing a spanner in my works and I was having a lot of issues in my personal life. After that loss in 2012 on the back of all that, I basically spiraled towards depression and wasn't sure if I wanted to fight again let alone in 2012.
Fight News Australia: Fans & supporters often see the positive and glamorous side of being a fighter but many may not understand the lows and downs that fighters often go through.
Kian Pham: Yeah, I'm not sure if this is the same for everyone, but I feel we all chase that rush of adrenalin and euphoria that you get from a win. We train for weeks and months and during that time, it's not fun. Training camp is not fun. It's tough and it not only wears on you physically but also mentally and emotionally. It can be a roller-coaster for those 8-10 weeks leading up to a fight. And when you win, the euphoria is amazing because of what you had to go through. However, when you lose, it can also be hard to take. The disappointment you feel is pretty heavy sometimes having given up a couple months of your life, sacrificed time away from things you love and feeling like you've let people down. So yeah, there's a lot of lows and downs in this sport. You really really have to love this sport to compete in it. Once you experience the euphoria of a good win it becomes addictive. We definitely don't do it for the money.
Fight News Australia: If someone was looking to become a MMA fighter for the glamour and money, what would you tell them?/span>
Kian Pham: I'd tell them they better have a fallback plan or be smart about how they position themselves in the sport. Understand the probability of hitting the upper echelon of fighters in the world is pretty low, so don't put all their eggs in one basket. I'm not saying they can't succeed, rather just to be realistic and smart about their future.
Fight News Australia: Your opponent is a BJJ world champion in Almiro Barros. Have you managed to see any footage of him and apart from his BJJ and do you see any other dangers that he will bring into the fight?
Kian Pham: There's nothing really available on my opponent other than BJJ videos, but even then, I haven't even watched those. Even if there are other dangers he poses, he's still going to turn it into a grappling match. He's a world champion in BJJ but once he gets punched in the head a couple times, he's gonna sink to what he knows best, which is BJJ. And my job is to bash him up in the process, and then it's a matter of who imposes their will more, will get their hand raised at the end.
Fight News Australia: There is a saying that you punch a black belt, he becomes a brown belt and so on. Is this the way you are looking into this fight? Punishing your opponent and putting pressure on to him from the go to minimise the effectiveness of his grappling?
Kian Pham: Pretty much. Hence I'm not going to go into this fight being intimidated of his BJJ. I will respect it, but I will not fear it. It's an MMA fight and there's a lot more tools at our disposal. I won't even rule out submitting him myself. I'm definitely going to punish him and if I see a window to finish the fight - by submission even - I'm gonna take it.
Fight News Australia: Throughout your career, you have fought in a higher weight division. How important is it for you to find match-ups at flyweight?
Kian Pham: It's important for me to fight at flyweight because it obviously levels out the playing field. In the past when I've fought bigger opponents, it was more about game plans and strategy because I was already at a disadvantage with height, reach and weight and had to think about how to bridge that. There was too much thinking and strategising going on. I just added more hurdles for myself in the fight. At flyweight, I don't have to strategise and think as much. I just go in and fight and that's probably why I haven't watched anything on my next opponent. If I just train hard and be well rounded everywhere I'll be able to handle anything thrown at me when we're both flyweights.
Fight News Australia: In saying that, do you believe that fighting those bouts at higher weight divisions have given you an advantage?
Kian Pham: Any experience you can get from a fight is an advantage. You learn things in fights that you could never learn in training. The fact they were bigger and heavier guys just gives me a bit more confidence when I fight guys close to my size.
Fight News Australia: Since you made your debut, the flyweight division in Australia is slowly growing. Is there anyone in particular you would like to fight or are your eyes solely set on One FC at this stage?
Kian Pham: No, there's no one in Aus I've eyed and specifically wanted to fight. My eyes are just on One FC at the moment. To date, I really only fought on CFC (Cage Fighting Championships) in the past as I wanted to fight on the biggest stage in Australia. With CFC going dark and this One FC opportunity at my feet, then this is the next big stage for me. I don't see myself competing for too much longer especially since I've started my own gym, so my goal for now is that One FC Flyweight Belt before that sun sets.
Fight News Australia: Thanks for your time Kian and good luck in your upcoming fight. No doubt you have people you would like to thank?
Kian Pham: Thanks. Firstly, Luke Pezzutti who is a great mentor, coach, trainer and dear friend and all the fellas from Lion’s Den Academy. My sponsors Advanced Fight Gear, Australian Fitness Supplies and Force USA. Also shout out to Gokhan Azturk who took things to the next level with my strength and conditioning and David and Glenn Taylor Smith for the additional help. And my girl Ali who keeps me happy with highs and helps me along on the lows. And also anyone who has ever thrown words of encouragement at me in all my years of fighting. Would be way too many names, but every little bit of support helps with these roller-coaster rides.