|Christianson: 'I don't mind staying in there to bang; that's where I like to be'|
|Written by JAKE KRIER|
|Tuesday, 17 January 2017 19:19|
Finishing opponents in the first round is kind of Billy Christianson’s thing.
But what happens when the International Falls native is on the wrong side of a 12-second TKO?
Granted, there was plenty of controversy surrounding the early stoppage from his most recent fight at Legacy FC 60, but it also came with Christianson needing to go back to the drawing board.
“The Kidd” has grown up and has refocused on his fighting career, meaning that setback should be nothing more than a slight bump in the road. He’s ready to prove that when he steps back in the cage Friday night at Legacy Fighting Alliance 2.
LFA 2 is the first event the new promotion, which came about due to the powerhouse merger of regional talents in RFA and Legacy FC, is bringing to Minnesota. Tickets are still available on cagetix.com/lfa for Friday night’s show from Mystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, Minn.
Fans who seek the recipe for Fight of the Night need to look no further than Christianson’s matchup against No. 6-ranked Brandon Jenkins (9-4), which takes place on the main card (8 p.m. start on AXS-TV).
Christianson (12-6) currently sits ranked No. 7 in the Minnesota MMA News rankings. The Spartan Martial Arts product always seems to put on a show (see, his wicked spinning backfist KO from a year ago), and when put up against a banger in “Twitch” Jenkins, the likelihood of this bout being a fan-favorite is quite high.
Billy “The Kidd” was kind enough to do a quick Q&A with us during fight week to offer up his thoughts on training under Tom Schmitz, old weight-cutting issues, and of course, his big fight ahead.
Recently your coach Tom Schmitz was named the Minnesota MMA News Coach of the Year. What do you have to offer for insight as to really how good of a coach he is after training with him for a while now?
CHRISTIANSON: He really is just an amazing coach. He has the skill set and is incredible at jiu-jitsu. Not only that, but he’s been around and a
part of MMA for a long time. He just really cares. If I miss a day of practice, he calls me halfway through the practice to ask me where I’m at and what I’m doing. He makes sure that everyone’s there and that we’re all working hard in the gym. He’s a very caring coach, and I think that’s a big part of it.
What initially brought you to Spartan Martial Arts?
CHRISTIANSON: I actually fought a couple of Spartan guys when I still lived up north. Then, I moved down here, and a mutual friend was at the gym. He gave coach Schmitz my contact information, and coach got a hold of me and said that he really wanted me to go in there to train with them. Even though I was injured, every week or so Tom would continue to call me and say that he’s still excited for me to come down there. So, that really drove me to choose Spartan when I actually moved down here full-time.
Spartan Martial Arts had a very successful 2016 and is quickly becoming one of the top gyms in the state. Besides Coach Schmitz, what sets your gym apart from others and has contributed to the success?
CHRISTIANSON: I think we have a bunch of tough and really athletic guys that are willing to learn. It’s not like we all came from big martial arts backgrounds. Sure, a couple of us wrestled in high school, but we work hard. As a group, we make sure we are pushing each other at practices. We hang out outside the gym all the time, too, so that creates a good atmosphere inside the gym. I’ve been to a lot of different gyms where people seem to be against each other; whereas here, if someone gets you with something, then they’ll tell you why they got you with that submission or why that strike was effective to help you get better. That helps out a lot, instead of people trying to fight each other, and it has built a tight unit.
You’re known to have an amazing chin. In having confidence that you can take big shots from your opponent, how does that factor into your game plan for each fight?
CHRISTIANSON: Well, I really try not to get hit. But, basically it plays to my advantage because I’m a heavy-hitter myself, and I can get in there and stay in the pocket. Very rarely will there be somebody who can take my shots and then give shots that I can’t take. I don’t mind staying in there to bang; that’s where I like to be.
You’ve only gone the distance once in your pro career. Is that something you think about as you walk to the cage, having a 'finish or be finished' type of attitude?
CHRISTIANSON: I like to finish fights. I have 11 first-round finishes, and only one has gone to the second round as far as my wins go. Early on, I lost that decision, but I really thought I won. Basically from there, I really didn’t want to go to the judges’ cards anymore because it’s up in the air once you go there.
You’ve had some issues in the past with weight cuts and weight management, but you seem to have that under control now. What's changed?
CHRISTIANSON: I think I just grew up; I got older and a little bit wiser. I started eating cleaner, and I also made the move up to 155. Most of the time when I missed weight, it was at 145. That was just a really tough weight cut for me. I’d get down to the last five pounds, and I just wouldn’t sweat anymore. That also ruined my conditioning for the fights as well.
What do you know about your opponent, Brandon Jenkins, and what can fight fans expect to see when you two meet in the cage Friday night?
CHRISTIANSON: I know quite a bit about Jenkins as he’s fought or kickboxed multiple teammates of mine. I know that he gets awkward angles and likes to keep his hands down. I know he’s easy to hit. I think his style just isn’t a good matchup against mine. We’ve got some history. He’s gone around telling all kinds of people that he’s going to beat me up. So, I think we can expect some fireworks on Friday night.
How does it feel to be on the first LFA show to be brought to Minnesota?
CHRISTIANSON: It’s awesome. It’s a big honor. I fought for Legacy FC a couple of times, and they’re really good. It’s just amazing that I get to be on the main card here to fight for LFA in what is only their second show, and it’s in Minnesota. It’s a great honor when big shows come together like this.
This is your first fight since the controversial stoppage in your fight at Legacy 60. How have you regrouped since that night, and where are you at mentally with that now seemingly in your past?
CHRISTIANSON: It happened in October, which was right around hunting season, so I pretty much just detached myself from all social media for like a month and went up north to hang out in my shack. I got my head cleared and thought about what I wanted to do. Then I got back in the gym and just kept working. It was a controversial stoppage, you know, but at the same time, I was in the wrong place. I shouldn’t have been there and shouldn’t have let him get that big shot. I’ve been working on head movement, working angles, and getting my range. I’m playing more of a defensive offense where I still can land my shots without taking as many shots.
When you’re not training for a fight, how do you like to spend your downtime?
CHRISTIANSON: If I get enough time off, I like to head up north to International Falls and get away from the city. I do all the wilderness stuff — fishing, ice fishing, four-wheeling, all that stuff. I try to do some of that down here as well. I like to go hiking in all of the parks down here. I try to stay active most of the time.
Are there any particular fighters that motivate you or that you try to emulate when training or in a fight?
CHRISTIANSON: Not really. I’m basically my favorite fighter. I know some people like to stay on the local region, but my main goal is to fight the top guys in the UFC. That’s the goal, otherwise there’s no point in doing this. Coach Tom is a big inspiration for me. He still gets on the mat everyday and rolls with us. If anybody is going to be my little hero, it’s going to be Tom.
If victorious, do you hope to continue fighting under the LFA banner, or what will be next for you following this fight?
CHRISTIANSON: That’s all up in the air. But yes, I definitely would like to continue fighting for LFA until the UFC or a big promotion calls. I plan on fighting as long as LFA keeps having me around.
Is there anyone that you’d like to thank or mention leading up to your fight?
CHRISTIANSON: I gotta thank all my teammates at Spartan — Vanyu Xiong, Blake Bilder, Cameron Gilliam, Chase Waldon and Adam Hill. We’ve got a lot of great guys there, everybody, the jiu-jitsu guys that help out. Then of course, my sponsors, Stay True Tattoo, String Soccer, KG Barber and High Booster. They make it very easy in between fights to make sure I’m taken care of and have everything I need for training, so I really appreciate all of them guys for helping me out.