With a style and work ethic that befits his namesake, Brendan “the Badger” O’Reilly has emerged as one of Australia’s shining MMA stars. Beginning his MMA career in 2009, O’Reilly put together some impressive performances on the regional circuit before being selected to participate in The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Australia vs Canada. Despite being eliminated early on in the series, he has re-emerged with a new focus in the welterweight division of the UFC. Matt Hull-Styles caught up with the Badger for ‘Ten Questions with Fight News Australia’ as he prepared for his third bout with the company at UFC Fight Night 85.
FNA: Thanks for taking time out for Ten Questions with Fight News Australia. Tell us a bit about your background and how you started off in martial arts?
Brendan O’Reilly: I began martial arts training at age 15, when I began going to a boxing gym after school. I was really interested in the realities of fighting at that age, and was on a bit of a personal quest to discover which martial arts really worked best. At the same time (15-19 years old) I was playing rugby league at a fairly high level, and saddle-bronc riding in rodeos, but always maintained some training in boxing and Muay Thai during that time.
When I was about 19 or 20, a friend of mine showed me a highlight reel of a young Georges St Pierre, and this sparked my interest in MMA. Soon after that, I stumbled across the Rickson Gracie documentary ‘Choke’, and immediately fell in love with Jiu Jitsu. From there I would train wherever I could, with specialists in any martial art I could find. From wrestling to BJJ, Muay Thai and Judo, I was lucky enough to formally and informally learn from some great minds!
FNA: Was your path into MMA planned from the outset or more of a natural evolution?
Brendan O’Reilly: It was definitely a natural evolution. My intention has always been to improve daily as a martial artist, and gain as much knowledge as I can. This, coupled with my strong work ethic and ability to handle pressure has led me to the UFC, but it certainly wasn’t planned. I still don’t necessarily plan out my path. I aim to get 1% better as a martial artist each day, whether it’s physically, mentally or spiritually, and if I’m constantly improving as a martial artist, then I’m happy.
FNA: Were there any particular fighters who influenced you early on?
Brendan O’Reilly: I have always idolized Rickson Gracie for his ‘Samurai’ like approach to fighting. He doesn’t look at it as a sport, but more as a complete way of life. This really resonated with me since I began MMA and Jiu Jitsu; it’s more than a sport or a hobby for me, it’s my lifestyle, and has shaped my opinions and ideologies of most aspects of my life.
FNA: As a competitor and athlete, what motivates you?
Brendan O’Reilly: I’ve always been a fairly competitive person, not necessarily against others, but just challenging myself. I thrive when I’m put in pressure situations, and love the feeling of needing to always bring my ‘A-Game’. So I’m really motivated to constantly improve my skills and my ability to handle what would be, to most people, a really daunting situation. I’m definitely not motivated by comparing myself to others, but rather comparing myself to who I was, and what I was capable of yesterday.
FNA: You were a participant on The Ultimate Fighter Nations: Australia vs Canada. What do you think you gained from this experience?
Brendan O’Reilly: I loved the experience on TUF Nations. I forged friendships with people who still remain some of my closest and most loyal friends, and I learnt a lot about myself. Despite a disappointing performance early on in the series, I maintained a really positive outlook, and was determined to squeeze the most out of every day that I possibly could. There is always a silver lining, and I learned so much, and had the time of my life. I could have felt sorry for myself and wallowed around in self-pity, but I stayed focused on improving as a partial artist 1% each day, and kept on truckin’. Lo and behold, I’m now coming off a win in the UFC; it shows where a positive attitude, self-belief and work ethic can get you.
If one door closes, climb through the window, Badgerstyle!
FNA: What advice would you give to other Australian fighters trying out for the show in the future?
Brendan O’Reilly: For those trying out, it’s obviously important to have a good record, and in my opinion that comes back to constantly striving to improve daily as a martial artist. Be ready to stay focused if you’re successful in getting in the house, and be ready for some hard work with great coaches and skilled training partners. Basically, if you go in with a positive attitude and are ready to get to work, it will be one of the best things for you as a martial artist!
There will definitely be hard days in there, but you have to remember you’re only in the TUF house for a limited time, so make sure you squeeze as much out of every single day that you can. Wake up, put a smile on you dial and get to work!
I would go back to the TUF house in a heartbeat! A comfy bed, awesome food, hard training, camaraderie. Basically, I didn’t want to ever leave (except when Daniel Kelly was on patrol in the kitchen).
FNA: You’re fighting on March 20th, at UFC Fight Night 85 and this will be your third fight in the world’s biggest MMA organisation. How has your preparation been?
Brendan O’Reilly: Preparation has been amazing. I am doing the bulk of my camp with coach Ryan Dunstan on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and continue to sharpen my grappling with Bruno Lemos at Alliance Jiu Jitsu Australia. Of course, I still fit in days at my gym in Brisbane, Gamebred Academy, and try to coach a session or two where I can. But the camp at Ignite SC Caloundra has really allowed me to focus mentally, and I am seeing great results.
Ryan has been a part of my martial arts journey since I first began, he has taught me a huge amount throughout the years, about both the physical and spiritual/mental aspects of fighting. He understands my style and my mentality, and I understand his. It’s a really good coach/fighter dynamic.
FNA: Stylistically, what are you expecting from your opponent Alan Jouban?
Brendan O’Reilly: Alan is a skilled guy in all aspects. He’s a highly touted prospect in the UFC, and I expect him to come with a well-rounded skill set. I know I am coming in very sharp for this fight, and I expect no less from him. It will be a great clash of skills, and I’m looking forward to it
FNA: What are your goals and aspirations for 2016 and beyond?
Brendan O’Reilly: My main goal is to perform well in my upcoming fight, that’s basically as far forward as I’m thinking. Beyond that, I hope to continue to improve as a martial artist, be a good bloke, help other people, and possibly buy a VW Combi Van and get it airbrushed like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles van.
FNA: Is there anyone you’d like to thank and give a shout out to?
Brendan O’Reilly There’s so many people to thank, I’m sorry if I forget anyone. First and foremost, my parents; they have always encouraged me to chase my dreams, and not worry about following the crowd or fitting in. It’s because of them that I’m essentially Ryu from ‘Streetfighter’, and will have some amazing stories to tell while I sit on a rocking chair on my veranda when I’m 90. Not many parents would allow their son to be as much of a free spirit as I am, and I’ve lived more in 28 years than most people will in a lifetime. They will never know how grateful I am for the life they have given my sister and I.
I have to thank my coaches and training partners. I won’t even begin naming them all, because I don’t want to leave anyone out. They know who they are, and I owe all of my success to them. Thank you to everyone at the three gyms where my training is based; Gamebred Academy and Alliance Jiu Jitsu in Brisbane, and Ignite SC in Caloundra.
And to my sponsors who continue to get behind me and support me on my journey; Northstar Isuzu, SMAI, OverExertion, SJR Painting Services, Bollino Civil & Mining Solutions, Grapplseeds, and Sport and Spinal Physiotherapy Kawana. I couldn’t perform at this level without your ongoing support, and I thank you so much!