The wait is finally over.
Craig Shintani (7-2) and Clay Dixon (5-1) will meet Friday night at Unified MMA 35 in Enoch, Alta. to determine who will be crowned the new featherweight champion.
After falling to Mike Malott in his first title fight of his career at XFFC 13, Shintani said he’s grown a lot since that loss and feels he’s now ready to become a champion.
“I don’t think I was quite prepared the first time around, but I’m not going to make excuses. But I feel like I’m ready to go now and I feel like I’m prepared to be champ, physically and mentally,” said Shintani in an interview.
“This would be the biggest accomplishment of my career for sure.”
So far in his career, Shintani, 27, has had a knack for finding the finish, with six of his seven victories coming before the final bell.
And whether it’s on the feet or on the ground, Shintani, fighting out of Sherwood Park, Alta., said he’s expecting his finishing trend to continue on Friday night.
“I don’t think he’s going to be able to hang with my speed, my power, and my strength. That’s something guys haven’t been able to understand until they’ve been in there with me,” said Shintani.
“I’m built differently and I will finish this fight. I don’t really care which way it goes, knockout or submission, but it won’t take me 25 minutes.”
Prior to this fight being booked, Shintani said he discovered Dixon had accused him of using steroids, which is something he strongly opposes.
Shintani said he’s never taken any form of performance-enhancing drugs, and said he offered to take a drug test to put the situation to rest.
” I’d love to do a drug test because I’m very against cheating and it’s obviously wrong and illegal in this sport. I think only weak people have to take steroids,” said Shintani.
“He may have a hard time admitting I’m just physically better than he is or just look more impressive than he does, but I think that’s just him having weak genetics.”
Dixon Right at Home
With the bout taking place at 145 pounds, Dixon, 30, will feel right at home, having fought the majority of his career at featherweight.
On the other hand, this will be Shintani’s first time making the cut down to 145 pounds, and Dixon said that spells trouble for him.
“I believe he’s missed weight twice at lightweight, so dropping down to 145 pounds can’t be very beneficial to him,” said Dixon in an interview.
“It’s going to take a lot out of his body to make 145, and a lot out of his chin. I’ve been half-structuring this camp around the idea that he’s not going to be as strong as he was at 155 and he’s not going to be as powerful as he was at 155.”
Unlike Shintani, Dixon has went the distance on multiple occasions throughout his career and has shown he can maintain constant pressure for the entire fight through his strong cardio.
He said the longer the fight goes on, the better it will be for him, and he doesn’t believe Shintani, or anyone else in the division, can match his cardio level.
“I always believe my cardio and my pressure will be an advantage, especially if I can bring him to deeper rounds,” said Dixon.
“He’s just another guy that couldn’t last 15 minutes with me, let alone 25 minutes.”
This will be Dixon’s first title shot in his young career, and in his hometown to make the opportunity even more flashy.
But despite the opportunity ahead of him to become champion, Dixon is viewing it as simply just another day at the office.
“The title itself is relatively exciting, but at the end of the day it’s just another fight,” said Dixon.
“It’s two extra rounds, so we’ve been game-planning around that, but overall it’s just another fight and another win.”
“I’d like to say a big thank you to all my teammates at Kingdom MMA that helped me for this fight, my friends and family that support me.”
“I’d just like to thank my team and everybody who helped me get ready for this fight.”