This weekend sees arguably Manchester’s biggest domestic MMA card in years take place at the Manchester Arena as a flurry of local talents readies to do battle in some of their biggest bouts yet.
A standout member of that local talent is the undefeated Ashley ‘The Beast’ Reece (4-0). As far as amateur and professional ranks go, Reece is one who’s had it consistently tough. However, despite his perfect start in the professional ranks, Ashley believes it’s all down to the battles he endured in his amateur run.
“It’s not been that much different to my amateur run, really,” Reece stated. “From my second fight onwards at amateur I’ve always been in really high level, tough matchups, so it feels like I’ve been fighting professionally for ages.
“I’ve been training like a pro throughout almost the entire time I’ve been in this game and I probably train more than some professionals do, too. It’s always been this way for me. Nothing has changed and my direction has been the same.
“Being honest, so far I think I had a harder time at amateur. I feel like a lot of pros don’t take this that seriously, thinking they can just turn up and fight. Thinking about when I was an amateur, winning a title on a show like FCC meant so much to me. Comparing that to some of the guys at this level now, I feel like they just want to turn up, pocket a couple hundred pounds and not have to take this so seriously.”
The lightweight scrapper has been in his fair share of barn burners, however it was his second professional bout that taught him more than any previous fight. A contest that took place on FCC 14, seeing much controversy in its decision as many believed it could have gone either way.
“Tobias Reid has by far been my toughest opponent,” the undefeated 155-pounder confessed. “He had a very awkward style that forced me to change up my approach in each round which was fun and has only served me well.
“At the start of the third round, he looked across at me and put his thumb up and I remember thinking this is a guy I can actually have a proper fight with for once. You see some opponents, in the later rounds, you look at them and you see them breaking mentally and Tobias wasn’t one of them. I was quite happy to have met someone like that.
“I hate fights that go to a decision. Tobias pushed it, but I was pissed off to have let it go that far. I always want to finish fights.”
When ‘The Beast’’s name was added to the ACB 54 card, his opponent was one that gave him more motivation than any other contest had managed to as he was set to face the TUF veteran and UK veteran Mark Glover.
However, just over a week ago, Glover withdrawn from competition due to injury. The aforementioned motivation took a sting. The fight with an opponent the calibre of Glover meant a lot to the exposure of Reece. Fortunately, less than one hour later, a new opponent was offered in the form of James Lewis and Reece graciously accepted.
“I was over the moon to be given the opportunity to fight Mark Glover,” Reece beamed. “He’s been there, arguably as close to the UFC as you can get. I really trained my arse off for this fight – more than I have in any other camp without a doubt as I wanted to make a big statement against a fighter with Mark’s stature.
“Then last week I was going about my day when my agent texted to tell me the fight was off. When he pulled out, the fight did lose some sparkle for me. I was still up for fighting, but the magnitude of it had faded. Luckily, in the very same message, my replacement was named.
“The fight with James was done within the hour and I was back to training,” Ashley continued. “He’s a tricky guy nonetheless and just as dangerous to fight. He’s had nearly as many fights overall as I have and he’s coming into this fight with nothing to lose whatsoever. In fact he’s done himself some good as he’s getting on a card like ACB who are, if not will be the pretty much the biggest promotion outside the UFC very soon. Plus, he’s fighting somebody like me, so if he loses nobody will raise their eyebrows.
“It’s me that has everything to lose in this fight and that’s a big thing for me not to take this lightly at all. He’s a tricky opponent to work out, but I’m looking forward to it. I want to finish him. It’s my worst nightmare to win on points.”
Undoubtedly, for many on this card, this will be the biggest venue they’ve battled in. For some, that’s an accolade that adds to the pressure with many more eyeballs witnessing the action. Unsurprisingly, in the cold mantra that Reece possesses, the battle arena makes no difference to his attitude whatsoever.
“The cage could be anywhere and all it feels like is that I’m back in the gym sparring,” Ashley revealed. “At the end of the day, it’s just me and him in there regardless of how many people are watching. I don’t get nervous, I get anxious. I enjoy what I do, so I don’t feel the nerves. I just get anxious to get in there because I hate having to wait around. On this show, I’m a littler fish, so I’ll be happier to get on earlier.
“I’m not looking past James whatsoever. This is the fight that’s in front of me right now and it’s the one I need to focus on. The first thing I’m going to do is make weight. The second is finishing him. Only once I have completed those tasks will I look at what’s next. I’ve never looked at a fight more seriously than I am with this one.”