Mixed Martial Arts is growing in the UK. There are many athletes who have been part of this sport for some time to help keep us the fans entertained. One of these entertainers is Muay Thai/MMA fighter Kerry ‘Rocksteady’ Hughes who, funnily enough, is a favourite of mine. I took the opportunity to ask Kerry some questions, and what you read will make you want to follow the rise of this BKK trained fighter.
What made you decide to be part of the Mixed Martial Arts scene?
I took up Muay Thai as a teenager, after watching Kickboxer, and was immediately in love – I trained for years. Then when I was 18, I got injured in a car accident and during the ensuing layoff I discovered how much fun it was to drink and smoke and eat bad food – something I pursued wholeheartedly until Christmas 2010. At this point I suddenly looked at myself in the mirror and realised that I was flat out obese and needed to fix it before I developed type 2 diabetes.
I began trying to eat better and going to the gym regularly, and 6 months later – once I had lost the first few dress sizes – I plucked up the courage to try Muay Thai again. I found a local gym, BKK Fighters, which was still relatively new then, and signed up on the spot. By the end of that year I took my first C class Muay Thai fight, before transitioning to MMA under the guidance of two legends – Jack Mason and Stephen Byerley.
Your nickname is ‘Rocksteady’. Who came up with it?
‘Rocksteady’ is the fault of Mama Bear (Stephen Byerley). My first MMA fight I was training with another BKK female, Paula Donnelly, and after a session he remarked on our striking resemblance to Rocksteady and Beebop from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. When I fought for my amateur K1 title Steve fed ‘Rocksteady’ to the ring announcer and, as these things are wont to do, it stuck from thereon in. I’m actually rather attached to it now, and generally people assume it’s due to me being solid and extremely hard to fluster rather than having a cartoon rhinoceros as a doppelganger!
What’s the best advice you ever received and who was it from?
The best advice I’ve ever received came from Steve. It’s been supported by various other people and circumstances over the years, but it is very simply:
“You can’t fail if you don’t quit”.
My friend Alex later introduced me to the wisdom of the American General, George Patton, who said:
“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”
Both of these essentially mean the same thing, which is that provided you apply discipline, courage and effort to the situation and you don’t ever stop trying your hardest – you never really fail. Your body may not hold out and you may come up short, but you don’t walk away from it diminished by giving up.
Mixed Martial Arts has exploded over the past few years. Do you think it’s currently at its peak, or do you feel it’ll still continue to grow?
I feel that the exponential growth the sport has enjoyed in recent years is unlikely to continue at the same pace, however I do believe the sport will continue to grow in this country. The sport was originally viewed as some form of human blood sport, in fact I believe that may even be a quote from a tabloid headline. These days there is a far greater understanding of the subtleties and skill levels involved in MMA.
The fact that the mainstream media are covering MMA in a much more favourable light has hugely helped, as has the sport receiving more time on television channels such as BT Sport, rather than being relegated to obscure internet streams.
As the conduct of those competing becomes more professional and the sport itself continues to grow and evolve, I believe that the popularity growth will continue. That said, I believe that the sport is hugely disadvantaged by a lack of a governing body. Unlike judo, boxing, football and other such sports, MMA is without the guidance and oversight of a professional body who are able to regulate aspects of the sport to ensure safety and compliance. Recent weight cutting deaths and questions over the competence of referees who are perceived to have allowed fights to continue for too long have highlighted this issue. I feel that for MMA to become more credible and attract the mainstream backing and support that would take it to the next level, it needs to look at a regulatory body that all major promotions would agree to comply with.
Training in your sport must be brutal, can you explain what one of your training days involves?
Oh yeah, it definitely keeps you busy. I’m a little atypical as I have a full time job that involves shift work – meaning my training schedule can be a little chaotic. Generally I try to fit in at least three conditioning and strength sessions per week. In the immediate lead up to a fight I will hit cardio every day to assist with weight management, but otherwise I don’t do vast amounts of it. MMA is a complex sport, meaning that we train many different elements – Muay Thai, boxing, BJJ, Judo, and wrestling predominantly, but as well as that we will train ‘MMA’ as a disparate art. This is because all of those elements need to be combined together and need to be used in a way that allows them to be functional. None of those arts in their pure form will be especially effective in MMA, but combined they are lethal.
Essentially, between pad works, gym based fitness and techniques/sparring I am aiming for 2-3 hours per day of training whilst in fight camp. One of the best parts about the time I spend training in America, is that without having to commute for 3 hours and work for 8-10 per day, I can fit in a lot more than the 2-3 hours of training I aim for in the UK and still get some sleep!
Which MMA fight do you believe is the best fight of all time?
Oh there’s a few that I love:
Rory MacDonald v Robbie Lawlor was amazing.
Cub Swanson v DooHoi Choi is the stuff that wet dreams are made of.
Jon Jones v Alexander Gustafson was, I think, one of those that nobody really expected to be such a brilliantly matched contest – it was wonderful to watch.
Diego Sanchez v Clay Guida was just some of the craziest violence I have ever enjoyed.
I’m sure if I thought about it I could come up with hundreds though. In terms of fighters, my all-time favourite is Cub Swanson, he is legitimately everything I aspire to as an MMA fighter, and such a nice dude. He’s violent, inventive, athletic, and confident and has awesome presence, such a joy to watch. His back story is also absolutely inspirational.
You recently travelled to train at Jackson/Wink camp in Albuquerque. Can you tell us what that experience was like?
Training at Jackson Wink feels like coming home for me. I have been over there twice now and will continue to get over there whenever I am able to make the time and get the leave from work. The place is full of amazing talent, with a genuinely fantastic work ethic. The coaches there are amazing and the facilities are of a great standard.
It’s not just the training facilities, it’s the support services that are in place:
Dr Anita Delprete is absolutely wonderful on the nutrition front, looking after all the fighters and bringing them in on weight.
Michea, the gym manager, goes above and beyond to keep everything running smoothly and support all the fighters. Not just with the day to day stuff but things like visa applications, finding specialist medical treatments etc.
The guys at Elite Ortho are a wonderful medical team who work non-stop to support the fighters and iron out everything from small niggles to big injuries.
Dr Scott Delprete is an amazing chiropractor who works to fix up the athletes when injured.
They have an on-site shop, a chef preparing healthy meals etc.
It’s really another world from the set-ups in the UK. The other thing I found so wonderful is the positivity and inclusive attitude from all of the team there. There’s no egos and everyone is welcome to train with everyone. I met and trained with some of my heroes and loved every second.
Whilst over there this time, I got injured. The way that Greg Jackson, Frank Lester, Harry St Leger and the other amazing coaches there rallied around to assist me back to fitness and keep me from going stir crazy was amazing and I can’t thank them enough.
If I had to nail my colours to the mast and pick one amateur as a top UK prospect, it would be Leigh Mitchell – he’s an amateur flyweight out of BKK Fighters and he’s on fire. He’s taken wins over some really high class opponents and continues to train hard and improve exponentially with every fight.
On the pro level, and speaking of people who are on fire, it would have to be Jack Shore. He’s a top Welsh prospect, stable mates with Jack Marshman, currently 6-0 and takes no prisoners. Always out for an exciting fight and extremely well rounded.
Now, let’s get on to music. Which track or album do you put on, on the way to the gym?
Gosh, depends entirely on my mood – sometimes I need to be hyped up and sometimes I need to be chilled out. The one artist who always gets me on the perfect level for training is Example. Perfect vibe.
What was the first gig you ever went to, the most recent one and a band you’d love to see but haven’t been able to catch live?
First gig I ever went to was a live performance by S Club 7 prior to the premiere of their film – I’m so cool.
Most recent gig, was Bugzy Malone, at the Islington Academy – which was sick.
I’ve always wanted to see Pink Floyd live, it makes me sad that I probably never shall. I have also always wanted to catch the Outlawz live, but I was working last time they were in the UK – worst.
How do you choose your walk out track, when heading to the cage?
Again, it very much depends on my mood (and whether I’m trying to pass a message). In the past I have predominantly used either “Hail Mary” by Tupac and the Outlawz, or “Remember the Name” by Fort Minor. That said, I was geared up to use Stormzy for my last scheduled fight.
Being an MMA athlete, would you ever consider heading into a mosh pit and using your skills?
Oh goodness no. Unfortunately I’m a huge introvert and I find large gatherings of people in close proximity terrifying – it causes me huge amounts of social anxiety. I can’t think of anything worse than that volume of people in my personal space.
In your opinion, what’s the best album ever released and why?
There are so many that I could name:
Solid Air by John Martyn – has the ability to instantly strip stress away from me.
Dark Side of The Moon by Pink Floyd – on some level it just resonates in my soul, I feel it rather than hear it. It literally has the ability to stop me in my tracks if I hear any number of Floyd tracks unexpectedly whilst out and about.
Never Mind the B****cks by the Sex Pistols – for what it represented. Here was a band who would legit say anything, backed it up with their behaviour and played the ‘no fucks given’ anti-establishment card to perfection.
The Man Who by Travis – reminds me of my youth and many happy times with good people.
I would probably settle, however, for Definitely Maybe by Oasis. There’s a couple of reasons behind this – firstly, it was completely new. Nobody had ever done Britpop like this before, the vocals were glorious, the music was perfect and they actually had something to say. No other album has ever stirred the nation so comprehensively (in my lifetime). Secondly, it was a debut, but there was no fumbling or faltering – it was perfect. Thirdly, was what it inspired, the indie/Britpop era was undoubtedly shaped by Oasis, to the point where it would have been unrecognisable without them.
God, they were stunning.
Tell me a fascinating fact about you that your fans may not know?
I’m not a particularly fascinating person to be honest, usually I use the fact that I’m a professional face puncher to answer this question, but you’ve probably guessed that by now… OK, I’m allergic to pineapple, like full blown. It didn’t hit me until I was 25, when I suddenly ended up in an ambulance, in the throws of anaphylaxis, after eating one, with not a clue how or why. I still miss Pina Colada’s to this day.
Do you own a record that you wouldn’t like to admit you have?
The first record I ever owned was Cliff Richard’s “Mistletoe and Wine”. I think the less said about that, the better for all concerned.
What plans can we expect from you in 2018?
All being well, I will continue to punch women in the face for small sums of money, and continue hoping for the call up to the big show.
Header image (c) Dolly Clew for Cage Warriors