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Brad Pickett launches U.K. based promotion called Rise of Champions

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Though his return to the bantamweight division didn’t end as he might have liked, Brad Pickett still put on a great show against 24-year old Thomas Almeida at UFC 189. Against steep odds, Pickett looked to have been winning heading into the second round.

Then he got caught with a flying knee, and just like that an upset victory in the making became his third straight loss.

The 36-year-old "One Punch" Pickett, who appeared on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, that loss has stayed with him a bit.

"Yes, it was a tough pill to swallow," he told Ariel Helwani. "In my eyes, yeah I was winning the whole fight. It was competitive early on but I dropped him a couple of times. For me, I had a game plan going in — not that I always stick to a game plan, because obviously I didn’t — but my game plan, which I was training the whole training camp [for] was wrestling, take him down, and beat him in grappling. There’s where I think he’s weakest and where I have advantages. My wrestling’s good for the weight class, and also for being from England. I’m quite a good wrestler."

The British fighter Pickett (24-11) said he was doing well in the striking game, and felt at home standing in the pocket with the Brazilian phenom, Almeida. As he commonly does, he opted to stand and trade and make it more of a prototypical Pickett fight than playing it smart. 

"Maybe I should have made it a little bit more of a dog fight and taken him down and stuff like that," he said. "But with me being a bit flamboyant, I tried to do a flying knee. And then obviously I completely missed and he took into his head, I want to give you one of those as well. He’s a really tough kid and again, I go back to Demetrious Johnson. I think he’s going to learn a lot from that. Obviously he won but he was in deep waters.

"He will learn a lot from that."

Over Pickett’s nearly six-year tenure under the WEC and UFC promotions, he has stood in there with just about everybody who’s anybody in the bantamweight division. He was the last man to defeat Demetrious Johnson at WEC 48 in 2010, and he victories over Mike Easton and Damacio Page as well.

Yet since debuting successfully at flyweight in 2014 against Neil Seery, Pickett lost his subsequent bouts to Ian McCall, Chico Camus and now Almeida. Though he ended up on the wrong end of a flying knee knockout against the latter, UFC president Dana White could be seen giving Pickett kudos for leaving it all in the cage as he walked out.

And if Pickett has it his way, he’ll learn a few things from his boss in the UFC. Pickett has started his own fight promotion in England called Rise of Champions, which has an event on Oct. 27 in Romford, North London.

Asked about that, Pickett said he’s not trying to compete with the UFC, rather to prepare fighters for entrance into the UFC.

"Basically, I’m planting a lot of seeds," he said. "I’m coming to the end of my career, and I know that. I am looking to still fight, I’m not retiring by the way, but I need to plant certain seeds. I think also with my experience, I’ve been around for a long, long time, and I’ve been to a lot of shows.

"I’m not in this to make money, I’m in this…it my eyes, when I first started fighting, there was not really a legit career path for young athletes. If you were a young athlete you’d have to do football or basketball or do something else. There wasn’t a career path. But now, after years of me being in this sport, there is a legit career path where, if you want to go earn money, you can go and be an MMA fighter, get in the UFC and do that. My show’s basically trying to cater for younger talent, amateur, only a small portion of pro on my cards, mainly amateur fights. And try to get them the experience. It’s called Rise of Champions, because in a way it’s the birth of someone’s career."

Pickett said he wanted the fighters who compete in Rise of Champions to be battle-tested through real experience, not to cater towards promising amateurs by booking them against jobbers, just to bolster records.

"For me, I want them to grow on my show and then go on to the big shows," he said. "And that’s my job. I would like to be like a good feeder show, for them to have a good platform with an organization where it’s run well. I think there are some shows in England, especially England and not especially in America, but it’s run very prehistoric. It’s all about women whipping their boobs out, ring girls, guys having a beer, getting drunk and hammered, and it’s not about young professionals.

"Someone who’s 6-0 shouldn’t be fighting someone who’s 0-4. No one is going to achieve anything from that, especially as an amateur. When you’re an amateur, you want to have your tough fights, you want to be battle-tested before you go pro."

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