It’s the Scot’s second late submission win with the UFC having spectacularly finished another debutant, Magomed Ankalaev, in the last second of the Russian’s promotional debut at UFC London in 2018.
As Craig revealed on the latest episode of Eurobash, late submissions seem to becoming his calling card on the world’s biggest MMA stage.
“I was at a show down in Wales cornering my mate Jordan last week and a few guys came up to me and said, ‘You’re the last minute submission guy, beautiful!’” he recalled.
“That’s what it’s going to say on my tombstone, ‘Last minute submission guy’. If you go back to my early career I was finishing everyone in the first round with submissions, now I’m just saving it up until the last minute.
“I always look at the positive. Ideally, I’d like to finish these guys in the first round, but I’m just getting loads of ring time. The last three fights I’ve had in the UFC have gone to the third rounds. I’ve never been to the judges and I don’t plan on going there.”
Craig has gone into his last few outings as an underdog, but underlined how he feels that the status brings the best out of him.
“It probably is negative to think that you’re constantly on the back foot, but I kind of like it,” said Craig. “I think we work better under that kind of pressure. When everyone believed in me, that’s when I took my first career loss. Against Tyson Pedro, everyone believed in me, everyone was writing him off and that was my biggest downfall, just the self-belief.
“When you’ve got that bit of doubt you’ve got to work harder. You’re waking up in the morning and you’re asking yourself, ‘What’s Kennedy Nzechukwu doing?’ It makes you push yourself that wee bit harder.”
“I like to feel like I’m the underdog,” he added. “And I like when people win money off me as well by me being the underdog. [I like it when] I get messages from people saying, ‘I’ve put a bet on you and I’ve got good odds’, I like getting the people that support me a wee bit of money. I got a few messages off people saying that back a last round submission for my last fight and they won a bit of candy on it and I was happy to hear it.”
Craig made headlines after his last-second win over Ankalaev when he revealed that he would have retired if UFC had failed to offer him a new contract after the bout. Considering his comments from last year, Craig again underlined why he feels he would hang up his gloves if his time with the UFC came to an end.
“I do still think like that,” Craig said. “I don’t know if it’s a positive or a negative thing, but every fight that I do well in, I go in with the attitude that it’s my last fight. For my first fight in the UFC I thought I had to perform or I wasn’t getting that contract because the UFC are brutal, they want the best of the best. If I didn’t put on a performance, the UFC wouldn’t have kept me. When it came to the Ankalaev fight it was the same thing, if I didn’t win that I knew for a fact that I was out. It was the same again when I was coming off that loss to Crute. [Against Crute] it was the first fight on my new contract so I wasn’t that worried about it, but then I went into my next fight, the second fight on my contract, and it was another fight against a guy coming off the Contender Series, there was a good chance I could get cut [if I didn’t win]. I don’t see the point in taking massive amount of damage in other organizations for nothing but money.”
“For me, it is a sport,” he added. “I don’t see the point in taking damage for nothing for money. You can make money, you can lose money, sometimes you get dealt some hard cards. For me, a prime example of is Artem Lobov and his fight in BKB. For me, that was just two guys knocking lumps out of each other.”
Although he hasn’t got his next date set, Craig outlined his hopes for being matched with legendary light heavyweight Mauricio Rua.
“I see these legends like the Shogun Rua, I would love to fight him, I really would. Those sorts of guys that are coming to the end of their careers, I could probably piggy back off the back of them and give them a good fight. By the end of this year I want to be in top 10. I want another two fights to finish out this contract and then I hope to start 2020 in that top 10,” he said.
Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Paul Craig interview begins at 11:30.