When you hold multiple titles in one promotion, there’s no shortage of opponents looking for their chance at the gold.
This time around, Edmonton’s Teddy Ash (13-4) will jump back up to light heavyweight to defend his title against a short-notice replacement opponent in Lethbridge’s Neil Berry (8-8) at Unified MMA 37 Friday night in Enoch, Alta.
Ash, 29, was originally slated to defend his Unified MMA middleweight title against UFC-vet Marcio Alexandre, but he was forced out due to injury, opening the door for Berry to step in on two weeks notice.
Ash said it doesn’t matter who the opponent is or what belt he’s defending, and said all the work he’s been putting in will show Friday night.
“It doesn’t matter who it is because I’m confident in my training and my abilities,” said Ash.
“For me, this is my life. This is my livelihood. I have my whole heart and soul into this thing right now, and it doesn’t matter who’s in front of me. It’s going to be all me.”
Ash has been no stranger to tough fights as of late, having fought UFC-vets Dominique Steele and Seth Baczynski, and Bellator-vet Kobe Ortiz all in the past year.
And while Berry may not possess the same credentials of his most recent opponents, Ash said he isn’t expecting an easy fight this time around either.
“It’s not going to come easy at all. I’m going to have to work my ass off for it and do what I do best,” said Ash.
“Fighting is a crazy sport and a lot of crazy s**t happens, but I can definitely foresee myself holding that belt over my head again.”
While Ash has been active with seven fights in the past two years, Berry just recently ended a nine-year layoff in September at Rumble in the Cage 59.
But although he holds the significant edge over Berry in recent cage time, Ash said it’s not something he views as working to his advantage.
“He’s obviously hungry for something; there’s a reason he’s stepping into that cage to fight me,” said Ash.
“Who knows, he might be the best him he’s ever been. It doesn’t matter that he had almost 10 years off; he could be a whole new man.”
Berry’s return to cage action back in September was short-lived as he knocked out Jordan Murray in just 32 seconds.
But although he’s only had 32 seconds of cage time in over nine years, Berry, 35, said having that recent fight under his belt will help calm the nerves he was feeling as he neared his return.
“It was good to get that first one out of the way,” said Berry.
“Being as short as it was, it might not be super helpful, but just the preparation and getting past the anxiety of getting back in the cage after so long will help dealing with the nerves coming up to this fight.”
Berry will see one of the toughest challenges of his career in Ash, which is something he knew when he accepted the fight.
He said he’s going to need to fight a smart fight, and hopefully get Ash in a position he feels he’ll have the upper hand.
“I’d love for it to end up on the ground where I feel I’m going to have the advantage,” said Berry.
“I need to fight a smart fight with him and try not to make too many mistakes.”
When he first began his MMA journey, Berry said there were two things he wanted to accomplish before calling it a career.
He’s currently halfway there, having already obtained his black belt in jiu-jitsu. The second item on his list is to win a title, which he now has the chance to do Friday night.
“It’d be a bit of a dream come true,” said Berry.
“To win and beat Teddy would be pretty amazing at this point.”
“I’d like to thank all my coaches and teammates and all my sponsors: Paul Peddle Services Ltd., Birch Mountain Enterprises Ltd., BBN Consulting, Clearwater River Outfitting Ltd., Thickwood Barbershop, Saskana Staffing, Continental Premium Concentrates, Bite Me Meals, Death Defied, The Clinch Fight Shop, Sketch Ink, Fort McMurray Roofing, NC Transport and Equipment, Printing Unlimited, Talitha’s Hope 4 A Cure, Oil City Edibles, Hilltop Smoke Shop, and CIMC. Follow Ash on social media: FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM