Paul Craig is experiencing something he’s never felt before in his career as a professional fighter: defeat.
The Scottish light heavyweight suffered his first loss as a mixed martial artist earlier this month at UFC 209 when he was stopped by fellow prospect Tyson Pedro. Prior to the defeat, the 29-year-old Craig had nine straight professional victories, including an impressive armbar submission victory over Henrique da Silva in his UFC debut. The finish earned Craig a $50,000 Performance of the Night bonus, but Craig’s winning streak was longer than just nine victories, as he had gone 8-0 as an amateur before turning pro in 2013.
No longer undefeated, “Bearjew” is now dealing with new feelings from his loss to Pedro, and he doesn’t think they’ll fully go away until he gets back to his winning ways.
“I don’t think I’ll get over it until I rectify my loss,” Craig told MMA Fighting. “Leading up to the fight, you see all these scenarios in your head, how you are going to combat that night and what your opponent is going to do. And then after the fight, I’m doing the exact same thing, so I don’t know how long this is going to take. I keep repeating the same stuff: What if I didn’t do this? Was it that? Was this the reason?”
But Craig not only thinks about what transpired during the fight, but also about the reaction his fans had, as they too were also experiencing something new in seeing Craig fall short in the cage for the first time.
“When Conor McGregor lost there were loads and loads of negative stuff about him on social media. I know I would be disheartened. Even if you’re at the top of the game, it’d still get disheartening, so that stuck around and played in my head when I got the loss,” Craig said. “How do you deal with only negative criticisms? I was worried about that, but I haven’t had that. It’s been mostly people wanting to spur me on and get back there and get better, so it’s nice having the fans.”
Looking back, Craig feels frustrated that he didn’t do his best that night and believes he could’ve continued fighting, as he thinks his fight was called off early by the referee.
“It’s happened to me before where I’ve not started too quickly,” Craig said. “I came out and I’m not going to say what some people say after fights like, ‘oh, I had a really bad training camp,’ because brilliant training camp. I was in the best shape I’ve ever been, so I had nothing to do with that.
“Tyson Pedro just did the best and he knocked me down with a punch, and that was because I was off balance, not because he actually knocked me down. I was just caught off balance. And then I took a few big knees, but I believe I could’ve taken them all day. I was fine, and I don’t believe I was in any danger in my head. So yeah, I would’ve liked to see the bout go on a little longer, but I know as a referee it must be hard to see that stuff happen. People often criticize them if they let something go on too long, and if they stop something too early, then it’s the same. So it’s hard for a referee, but in my opinion, I think he should’ve waited. And if I got back to my corner, I believe I could’ve come out an put on a performance I should’ve put. And that’s what I’m more annoyed about.”
For now, Craig will take some time off to spend time with his family and let the loss to Pedro fully sink in. The Scottish fighter hopes to return in front of his home country and fight in the upcoming UFC event in Glasgow on July 16.
“I feel like I need to take some time off,” Craig said. “I’ve had back-to-back fight camps. I fought in Sacramento, I had a week off, and then I started my fight camp for UFC 209, so I think I need to take some time off to spend with my family because they’re the ones who suffer. So I think I’ll relax for a few weeks, let the loss sink in because I still don’t believe it has 100 percent sunk in, and then come back. I want to save myself for the UFC’s event in Glasgow. UFC Scotland is something I want, I want to be there so that’s what I’m setting my eyes on.”