Photos ©Cage Rage
Itís just under two weeks before Ross Mason takes on Paul "Semtex" Daley for UKís prestigious Cage Rage welterweight belt. At the time of this interview, Ross is sitting at home in Redditch, a small town outside of Birmingham, England.
"Iím babysitting my daughter, then Iím going training," says the twenty-nine-year-old southpaw, who laughs when asked if that is what ultimate-fighter stars do in their spare time.
A veteran of 12 MMA events, Masonís initial inspiration for taking up a fighting system was Hollywoodís macho legend, Sly Stallone. "Because of the Rocky films, I went to a boxing club when I was very young, and loved it. Plus I came from quite a rough area and there was a lot of bullying going on there. I was always fascinated by boxing and I loved the competition."
Today, Mason is a well-polished mixed martial artist: with Thai boxing, freestyle wrestling, and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu added to his trick bag. However, Ross does lean towards the stand-up game. "I prefer striking because itís more entertaining, although ground can be entertainingÖ Iím alright at grappling, but I do prefer the stand-up fight because I feel thereís more action."
Ross was first carded to fight Eddie Ruiz at Cage Rage 17, but due to Paul Daleyís original opponent, Paul Jenkins, having to withdraw due to injury, Mason will now face Daley for the British welterweight title.
"Itís a late change. Really, I would prefer to have a bit longer to prepare for Paul because heís a top fighter, and we deserve to have a little longer to train for each other. But a fightís a fight, and Iíve been training for a fight, soÖ It doesnít matter. At the end of the day, thatís what Iíll be doing when I get in there.
"Iíve had to change my training slightly, because I was doing moreÖ Eddie Ruiz is an Abu Dhabi Champion, a very good wrestler, and a black belt in BJJ, so I was concentrating more on wrestling and takedown defences. But now Iím fighting Paul Daley. Heís more of a striker Ė a banger with stand-up skills as well as on the ground."
But Mason admits he openly welcomes the opportunity to compete for the British welterweight title.
"Last time I fought in Cage Rage, I wanted to fight for the British title, but they gave me the world title because it was vacant, and I fought Chris Lytle from America for the welterweight title (Cage Rage 15). But I lost by rear naked choke, three seconds before the end of the second round. It was a good, hard fight."
Ross, do you expect Paul Daley will want to keep it standing?
"Iím not sure. I think Paul might have been training for somebody else, as well (Paul Jenkins). At the moment Paul Daley is on fire: He just beat Dave Strasser from America, and he trains with American Top Team. There are no holes in his game, heís a pretty solid guy, and he bangs as well. Weíll just have to wait until I get in there and see what happens on the night, and just blow with it, ícause he is well rounded."
Would you be happy to stand and bang with him?
"Iím not really fussed. Iíll just fight him however it goes. I actually really like Paul, because heís a sound geezer, and I get on with him when I see him. Iíve got nothing bad to say about him, but itís a professional game, and he probably says the same about me. Iím expecting it to be a good stand-up war."
Youíve come down a division.
"Yeah, I fought in the 185 category, but I used to find I was little for a middleweight ícause I used to fight at what I came in at for the weigh-in; 182. However, now you get the shows like in America where they put on 20 pounds overnight. Weight cutting is quite popular now on the day before the weigh-in.
"So Iím very light for a middleweight, and thatís why Iím now fighting as a welterweight. This will be my fourth fight as a welterweight. Iím 5í11", and for me to go back up to middleweight, Iíd probably have to train at around 200 pounds. I think my cardio is better and I move better at welterweight."
Howís your preparation for Cage Rage 17 going?
"Iím doing the usual stuff Ė training with Fís Freestyle, Gracie Barra, a bit of wrestlingÖ Iíd like to go over to America. Iím trying to get another sponsor so I can spread my wings a bit. I went to Thailand at the beginning of the year for a couple of weeksí training. It was good, but I didnít have anyone to talk to. There werenít too many people speaking English over there, so I was on my own."
Ross, is there anything youíd like to add?
"Thanks to my family and friends for all their support. Iím looking forward to my title fight, and hopefully I can take the belt because Iíve wanted it for a long time, and I believe I deserve a shot. I think Paul Daley and I will put on an awesome fight, and a lot of people are looking forward to it. I know I am, and Iím silently confident.
"I thank Paul Jenkins for giving up the title. Heís actually the champion, but he injured his hand, and he gave the title up for us to fight for. Later, he will fight the winner."
"Hydro Power, Fitness Unlimited, WPT Gym, and Fís Fitness."
Ross "The Boss" Masonís stats
MMA record: 8-4-0
Dob: 8 Feb, 1977
For more on Cage Rage 17: www.cagerage.tv.