Sam Spencer reviews 2016; talks Tanko FC 2, replacements and more


Improvising and adapting is a rather large factor of the fight business. The challenges faced in front a crowd and behind closed doors are gigantic. In 2016, ‘Smooth’ Sam Spencer (4-0) has witnessed first hand the ups and downs on the professional fight circuit and this weekend on arguably one of the best regional cards of the year in Tanko FC 2, Sam looks to end the year on a high.

“Other than the 6 months I had to be inactive for whilst the jaw healed, it’s been great to finally get a little bit of momentum going as a professional,” began Spencer. “I really would like to be fighting five to six times a year, but I just seem to be so unlucky when it comes to injuries and finding opponents that this hasn’t really been possible.

“Hopefully, that is most of my major injuries out of the way now and with my experience level as a pro steadily increasing, I think finding opponents should also be no problem now. I don’t have any other commitments to balance like I have in the past with university and part-time work. I’m in the gym all day every day, so there really should be no reason I’m not getting a run out every couple of months!

“Fingers crossed I don’t have to spend much more time on the sidelines in the next couple of years. I know I can really get this professional career up and running and start reaching the higher levels of the sport.”

The step up from amateur to professional may only seem a slight difference with regards to round lengths and the legalisation of elbows, however the change is vastly different. Pace, experience and the utilisation of technique are all kicked up a notch. Saturday marks the fifth professional bout of Spencer’s young career and after a lengthy stint at amateur, the differences Sam has had to tend to have only gave him a firmer belief in his talents.

“My fighting style used to be very raw,” Spencer critiqued. “Whilst in my pro debut I seemed pretty fluid and competent, but on the inside I felt like I was just reacting instinctively. Over the course of my professional career so far, I feel like I am settling down a lot more into my style. I am much more in control of the style and pace of which I choose to fight at and feel like I can dictate where the fight is to take place with regards to standing, clinched or on the ground against the majority of potential opponents.

“Secondly, I feel like I am starting to get, just a little bit, of the (in)famous man strength that experienced fighters often discuss. I’m 23 now and feel like I will soon be beginning to reach my physical prime and this, along with my consistent focus on an ever-improving and innovative strength and conditioning programme, I think physicality is going to be one of my stronger attributes in the years to come.

“I feel like as I mature I’m becoming more and more mentally strong and I am now incredibly focused on set goals and aspirations,” continued Sam. “Both long and short-term. I don’t allow myself to ever become distracted from the task at hand like I have a couple of times when I was competing as an amateur. I take my career incredibly serious and I try to always be developing either physically, mentally or emotionally with the intention of becoming a more advanced athlete, fighter and role model to the kids and beginners in the gym.”

Despite getting back to frequent action, this is the second change of opponent in a row – both only a matter of weeks away from fight night. Sam was originally slated to do battle with gritty Welsh veteran Kris Edwards however, due to injury, finds himself with new opposition up one weight class at featherweight with Irishman James McErlean (5-3).

Keeping the same opponent throughout a training camp hasn’t happened often and as rattling as this can be for a battler, the Manchester Predators representative remained composed, listened to his circle and took it on the chin. He told,

“At first I was frustrated as it seems to be a recurring issue with me. However, as soon as the initial panic of having a different opponent wears off, it’s just back to business as usual. Every time my manager comes to me saying, ‘So and so has dropped out and this is who we’ve now got for you,’ it kills my mood and sends me a bit weird for a few hours. Then I go away, calm down, have a brew and realise that it’s only another opponent and my job remains the same.

“I try to tell myself that I can’t control pull-outs and I can’t control who is put in front of me, especially as my career and level of opposition progresses. I just have to have a word with myself, screw my head back on, get straight back in the gym and carry on where we left off.

“Ever since my early amateur fights I’ve had to deal with late-notice change of opponents, weight classes and adapt my fight preparations on the fly, so it’s nothing new to me now. A fight is a fight at the end of the day.”

In analysing the competition awaiting him, the undefeated 135-pounder finds varied styles between his initial opposition in Edwards and McErlean. Despite the calibre of their talents, there’s clear reasoning backing Spencer’s confidence.

“The first and most notable difference in the two fights is that I’m now competing at featherweight for this one and from doing a little research on McErlean, it seems as though we both walk around a couple of kilograms over the featherweight limit.

“This, for me, is how professional MMA fights should always take place. I can make the bantamweight limit, but it definitely isn’t fun and the last couple of weeks of fight camp are definitely affected. If everyone just agreed to fight a little bit closer to their natural, healthy, walking-around weight and we got rid of these eight to ten kilogram weight cuts, MMA in general would be a much better experience both for fighters and fans.

“McErlean and Edwards actually have quite similar attributes. I feel like they are both very dangerous opponents with skills in both standing and effective submissions, especially from bottom position. I’d say McErlean has slightly more advanced striking than Edwards and this is what really excites me about this fight.

“I think Edwards would have pressured me more with aggressive wrestling whereas I believe McErlean is going to be more obliged to strike. I could be wrong, but I’m more than prepared for wherever this fight goes and I’m sure I’m going to be the one getting my hand raised at the end.”

Undoubtedly, Edwards was set to be the biggest test of the ‘Smooth’ one’s career thus far and with plenty of hype around it, Sam feels the change-up with McErlean is far from a squash match. A look at McErlean’s record tells you he’s far from that. With a recent win over UK prospect Daryl Golding and having troubled Irish standouts Andy Young and Alan Philpott to decisions, Sam’s well aware how full his hands are on December 3rd.  

“From watching McErlean’s previous fights on YouTube, it’s clear he’s a really high level fighter as is Edwards,” Spencer divulged.” Both opponents are big steps-up in opposition for me and I’m looking forward to getting in there with somebody who can handle what I’m throwing at them and give me plenty back. it seems like James is definitely up to that standard. He’s much more experienced than I am and has fought some tough opponents. I’m really looking forward to the test. Styles make fights and I feel like mine and James’ make for an absolute tear up.

“I know I say it every fight, but this one really does have fight of the night written all over it. If you haven’t got tickets to this one, you are definitely going to miss out on something big!”

After a rocky year that set back the plans of the twenty-three-year-old, a win would mean so much to the record and momentum of Spencer heading into 2017. With all issues behind him and a stronger mindset intact, the undefeated prospect looks to capitalise on his opportunities and make up for lost time with one or two titles wrapped around his waist.  

“All in all, 2016 was a mixed bag,” Sam reviewed. “Whilst I’ve gotten a couple of wins and managed to ramp up a bit of interest in my career, I’ve also been out for a big chunk of the year with my jaw recovery. At the start of the year I had every intention of being 7 or 8 and 0 by Christmas. Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case but I have made up for it in other areas of improvement.

“My personal life throughout 2016 has been a bit of a rollercoaster too with both the injury and other matters, but I feel like I’ve really learnt how to deal with adversity this year. The key is definitely staying mentally strong and completely focused on your goals.

“I really want to thank first and foremost my parents for their complete love and support all throughout this year, it hasn’t been the easiest of years and without them I’m not sure how I would have coped.

“And secondly I want to thank my coach Gav Boardman for all of his expertise and guidance, as well as my brothers at Manchester Predators MMA, who are grinding with me day in and day out at the gym.

“2017 is my year to attack the bigger shows. I intend on being signed by Cage Warriors, BAMMA or one of the other major European MMA organisations and look to make my way into the top 10 rankings in the country. If everything goes to plan, I might even have a professional title or two by next Christmas.”

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