The bigger the show, the better I fight: An Interview with Jamie Mullarkey

Jamie Mullarkey is 21 years old, but you wouldn’t know it. He speaks forthrightly, and passionately about his career, but understands that there is more to being successful in life than just having an unblemished professional mixed martial arts record. He is what we call the new breed, athletes who are not just well versed in one discipline, but all of them, a notion that is changing the MMA landscape at a rapid rate.

“I didn’t come from any single discipline, I came from playing rugby union and in the off-season I wanted to keep fit so I started mixed martial arts and never left it.”

“It (the new breed) has already changed the game in a huge way because when you have someone that has started in a single disciple they tend to go back to their roots in a fight whereas when you start with every discipline you tend to be comfortable wherever the fight goes. That is way the up and coming guys in Australian MMA and the UFC have started their careers; they are just good everywhere and it makes them so well-rounded. It’s not going to be striker versus grappler anymore it’s going to be complete fighter versus complete fighter.”

In 2015 alone, Mullarkey has fought three times, with the fourth coming this Saturday night when he headlines the Brace 37 Championship Tournament Grandfinal. Whilst it was a conscious decision to be as active as possible this year Mullarkey notes the importance of not rushing into fights that he may not be ready for.

“I’ve had a fair bit of experience in the cage, even as an amateur, so I think it’s important not just to be active but to also not rush into fights that you’re not ready for. I see a lot of guys that have perfect records that will take three fights within months and you see them deteriorate quickly because it’s too taxing on the body, it’s why mixed martial artists can’t fight every two weeks, it’s not that kind of sport. Your body needs to rest and mentally you need the time to recover between fights as well. Generally 3-4 fights a year is pretty standard for me because I don’t like to take fights back to back; it affects performance. It’s going to catch up to you eventually.”

Mullarkey has trained with the best Australian MMA has to offer and recently had the opportunity to train with John Kavanagh, Conor McGregor’s head coach at Straight Blast Gym in Ireland.

“I’m making it a regular thing to go down to Sydney and train with VT1 and Richy Walsh, he’s helping me all the time. I’ve also trained with Richie Vas, Brendan O’Reilly, guys who are pioneer of this sport in Australia. It’s only getting main stream in Australia now and these guys have paved the way for the next generation. Anytime I can I am going to learn from those guys. Training with John Kavanagh, as well, was an amazing experience and although Conor McGregor wasn’t around, it was still a great opportunity to learn and train from other people in the gym.”

Trash talking may not be his thing however Mullarkey certainly appreciates the entertainment value mixed martial artists like McGregor bring to the sport.

“Personally, trash talking is not for me, I’m not good at it. I like to just let my fighting do the talking but as for other guys doing it, I love it.  If you can trash talk, do it I say, it just interests people and brings something else to the table.”

Mullarkey’s next fight for Brace MMA will air this Saturday night, 21st November, live on UFC Fight Pass after a content deal was struck between the two promotions. No doubt there is an element of added pressure with so many eyes now on this fight, but Mullarkey sees it as a huge opportunity.

“I am definitely seeing it as a positive, there’s more pressure in a sense, but at the end of the day it’s not going to change the outcome or the way that I fight, I honestly believe I rise to the pressure, the bigger the show the better I fight. So the more people watching, I see it as an opportunity.”

Greg Criticos, his opponent, is 2-0 with submission victories in both fights and whilst Mullarkey is confident that he’ll take away yet another win, he knows never to underestimate an opponent.

“You’ve always got to have the balance of being confident and understanding that everyone you fight is dangerous. The second that you start thinking that someone you’re coming up against isn’t dangerous, that is when you’re going to get caught.”

PICTURED: Jamie Mullarkey // SOURCE: Jamie Mullarkey

A win on Saturday will see Mullarkey’s professional record improve to 9-0 and with an avid fan following already in Australia, it’s only a matter of time before the overseas promotion offers start rolling in.

“I don’t think I’m too far away from it at all, I think in the next few years you’ll see me, definitely, in big overseas promotions, UFC being the main goal.”

“I’ve got my eye on a couple of different shows right now, One, Bellator, World Series of Fighting, they are the other three big ones outside of the UFC. There are a couple more shows that I’ve been in talks with so I think next year is going to be a big year for me in regards to going overseas.”

The business side of things is an area of focus right now and Mullarkey is currently in talks with a management team that can help him get the fights he wants. Despite many saying the need for management in MMA is dwindling, Mullarkey takes the opposite view saying it is vital for moving his career forward.

“I am in talks with a management team at the moment. It’s something that a lot of fighters need to do, you need a good management team that can look after you and get you the fights that you want. They have all the contacts after all, I’ve got no contacts for the UFC, Bellator for any of them.  Getting in talks with good management is vital for a young guy in his career. Your job should be focusing on fighting and leaving the other stuff up to whoever is looking after you.”

Despite his career being on the up and up, Mallarkey does admit it gets hard sometimes to see his friends partying and having a good time without him.

“Sometimes it just hits you in little stages. In the heat of training, right when you’re three or four weeks out (from the fight) and the pressure is building and you’re dealing with a lot of mental battles, I think that is when you look at your mates, who have no pressure on them, going out and having a good time; you do look at them sometimes and I think I wish I could do that. When your hand gets raised, though, at the end of the day it is all worth it. You don’t miss out on anything.”

It is his mindset that Mullarkey believes differentiates him from other fighters out there, as well as his amazing support network and coaches who have ensured that he pursues success across all areas of his life, not just as an athlete.

“My family has been nothing but supportive ever since my amateur days. I’ve always had a big following and support crowd that goes all over the country for me. All my family are super supportive and want me to do the best that I can do.”

“I think you have to be successful in your whole life not just as an athlete. I think it’s not good enough if you are successful in one part of your life and not others. My coaches have always told me that being a successful person is more important than being a successful athlete and it is a matter of finding that balance. Just being good in all areas – athlete, father, brother or whatever you may be doing that is important to you in your every day life makes you a successful person.”

Jamie Mullarkey takes on Greg Criticos on Saturday 21st November for the Brace 37 Championship Grandfinal, being held at the AIS Arena in Canberra. The fights will also be streamed live via UFC Fight Pass.

Combat sports enthusiast.