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Reece McEwan - The Interview

Safer Group speak to rising MMA star Reece McEwan as he builds up to his homecoming bout at Cage Warriors 171 on April 20th! 

16 February 2024

Who or what inspired you to become an MMA fighter?

It would be very hard to find a single person who inspired me to be an MMA fighter. I think it was watching the UFC on TV. Maybe it was more so the weight classes, I could actually be myself; I was always the smallest at school and the lightest. So, the fact that I could be myself and potentially be good at something and not be outsized and out strengthened stood out.

The first combat sport athlete that made a difference to me was Muhammad Ali. There was a point in my life where I could literally transcribe every word for word on his Wikipedia or YouTube videos.

The thing that made Muhammad Ali such an inspiration at the start was the impact he had on the people, he stood up for what he believed in, and I always thought that’s how I’m going to carry myself.

Could you detail what your training routine might be and how you would prepare for a fight?

So, I compete in mixed martial arts, mixing all the fighting styles together. Everything I do in training has to be directed towards making me the best mixed martial arts fighter that I can be. 

That requires having boxing training and muay thai training which are the striking elements of MMA, also the grappling elements and jiu jitsu. So I have sessions where we blend the sports together in an MMA setting and you've also got strength and conditioning sessions which make you a better athlete as well.

Do you find it difficult to maintain your fitness between fights? 

For me, I have a fight camp for 365 days. You have your high intensity days; you have your medium days and your lighter days. When I’ve got a fight date everything I do from one fight to the next is about being the best possible fighter on that date. You've got to manage your rest days. You've got to manage your energy output. So, my next fight date is April 20th and it’s not optimal to hit the ‘red line’ just now, it's optimal for me to hold back intensity in training. 

I don't want to lose loads of weight and deplete my body, I want to fill my body with strength, and when the time comes to ‘red line’ and drop weight, that will be the last few weeks before I fight. For me, I think the mindset is you treat your career as a job and you're training as a job and a lifestyle.

"...the fight could be won or lost on desire and the best person doesn't always win."

How important do you feel that mental preparation for a fight is?

I think the mental preparation is hugely important especially in fighting sports, when you look at it and you break it down, the fight could be won or lost on desire and the best person doesn't always win. If your heart's not in it, then you're not in the correct sport because what you're asking yourself to do on that fight date is not a natural thing. 

You're asking to fight someone, and I think if you're confronted by someone in the streets, every human being gets nervous.

What you're actually asking yourself to do, as your job, is to perform in front of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions of people under those lights with your top off in shorts, a referee in the middle, and it's between you and that person to decide who's going to have a good day at work that day. That's not a natural job. Nobody applies for a job like that. 

My mentality is a huge strength for me and a quote I try and live by is “it's not about who's best but who’s left.” The best person isn't always one who gets the hand raised. The sport will consume your life, burn you out and break you. It's designed to break you. Mental preparation is so important. I think that's a real strength of mine.

You were beaten in your last fight. Would you say that your goals and aspirations within this sport remain the same moving forward?

It’s a weird one. I've lost twice now as a professional and the goals and aspirations of my career feel closer after each loss. It's almost like the adversity makes you stronger. 

“you need to face adversity head on”.

Another quote I live by is “you need to face adversity head on”. Whether you win or lose emotions are high. You've peaked towards that day and all of a sudden you ask yourself what's your purpose? You've got no date to focus on. You've come off this high that is escalated even more after a loss because you do have this loss of emotion - it almost feels like you’ve had a loss in life. That’s genuinely what it feels like when people speak to you, you feel numb. 

I do want to be in the UFC, I want to be in the world leading organizations in MMA. I'm in Europe’s leading organization, that's a huge achievement. 

I just fought for a world title after 9 professional fights, I made my professional debut four years ago, and I got robbed of two years due to the pandemic. That's really something to be proud of but I want to take that further. I will be able to walk away from this sport one day and know I gave it absolutely everything, so my goals remain the same… to take my career to the highest that I can and fulfill whatever potential I've been brought onto this earth to do.

You’ve been involved in Inverclyde Brazilian jiu-Jitsu and the Glasgow based Griphouse, how important do you think the sport of MMA is within the lives of the people within these communities?

Community is a huge word; I feel that I'm part of a community in both gyms. We talk about achievements in life, I've met some amazing people through those gyms, amazing friends, a real team of people that help each other. No matter what goes on in everyone’s lives, it’s an escape from the outside world. 

When you step on those mats, you don’t know what that person’s going through but suddenly they're escaping from the outside world. That could be simply as if you've had a great day at work, and then they go and celebrate with their friends. Let's say you are grappling with someone and they're trying to strangle you, you're trying to strangle them, you forget about the stress of the outside world and that's what makes it so spectacular.

"If you take away the gym, I would never have met Ryan." 

How did you become involved with Safer Group? 

I got involved with Safer Group because I train in Inverclyde Brazilian Jiu-jitsu with the owner, Ryan Clark. Yeah, we met for the first time ever there. Again, this is what I mean about the gym bringing amazing people together. If you take away the gym, I would never have met Ryan. 

I always joke and say that informally he's became an internal manager of me. I would never sign anything without him, that's fact. Since I’ve known Ryan, I’d never made a business decision without passing that by him in terms of my career. 

He sponsored me ahead of my second amateur title fight in September 2019. From there, the relationship between myself and Ryan and Safer Group, just got stronger and stronger. He's a very close friend and it’s amazing to see how fast the company is growing. 

How important is the support that Safer Group offer in allowing you to achieve the success you want to achieve in your career?

I just had a moment of reflection there... Safer Group came to sponsor me after I suffered my first loss at amateur, and that's why I say that my goals and aspirations become even more achievable after losses, because you're not defined by results. When you are facing adversity and loss, say in a competitive nature, you do see who cares about you as a human being. 

At the end of the day the ‘athlete’ is a part of me, I’m a human being that competes in the MMA. People who care about me as a human being are people that I need to keep it close to me. 

"I always remember Ryan saying to me “I’ll sponsor anything that Reece McEwan does”, and that’s somebody who cares about me." 

It’s not easy to identify the people who - when things aren't going that well - care about Reece McEwan the human being. I think that speaks volumes to the relationship I've got with Safer Group because this has never become clear to me before, but they started with me off a loss. So, they didn't care about success.  I always remember Ryan saying to me “I’ll sponsor anything that Reece McEwan does”, and that’s somebody who cares about me. 

It's quite touching that you have just identified from that moment, it wasn’t about the success at all. It’s about backing the person behind the athlete. 

And then when success comes you proudly represent the people and the businesses that have been behind you, I try to embody everything that Safer Group have in a business, it's motivating and inspiring and watching their growth and again stepping into the company. The culture stood out to me, and I remember saying to Ryan you've created an incredible culture and if I had a ‘proper job’ I'd love to work here. That speaks volumes to me. 

I think we’d be the happy to have you!

Reece's next bout takes place at the Braehead Arena on April 20th as he battles at the Cage Warriors 171 event. For more information and tickets visit here. To keep up with Reece's journey in MMA, visit his website or follow him on Twitter (X), Youtube and Instagram