The prize may be identical for both fighters, but for Neil Berry the significance of the prize is a little higher.
Lethbridge’s Neil Berry (8-9) and Calgary’s Anton Tokarchuk (4-2-1) will look to claim their first career title when they meet in the main event of Rumble in the Cage 62 in Lethbridge, Alta. on Saturday night with the light heavyweight title on the line.
This will be Berry’s second straight title shot, having fought Teddy Ash at Unified MMA 37 for the light heavyweight title back in May.
For Berry, 35, having the opportunity to win a title in his hometown, and for the promotion he’s been a part of for his an entire career, is an experience that can’t be beat.
“It would be absolutely amazing. I’ve been with Rumble in the Cage for 15 years now, it’s my hometown and all my friends and family are going to be there, so this one would mean a ton,” said Berry in an interview.
“The Unified belt would’ve meant a lot too, but this one has a special place in my heart.”
While the title will mean the world to Berry to wrap around his waist, for Tokarchuk, 34, it’s just another three-round fight.
Tokarchuk said with the fight not being five rounds, he’s not at all focused on the belt, and more just zoned in on the fight itself.
“The belt is not the reason why I’m here. My coach wants the belt more than I do. For me, I just like the game,” said Tokarchuk in an interview.
“I’m not attached to all those things like the belt. I like the money and I like the game.”
Berry Calm and Composed
Although Berry’s last outing with Ash didn’t go his way, a first round TKO stoppage, he said there was one major takeaway he had from that night.
After finding success early in the first round, Berry said he needed to take his time and not rush in, which is something he’ll look to do Saturday night.
“I think I needed to be a little more patient, especially when striking with him, and just use my distance and be a little more conservative,” said Berry.
“I think the fight might’ve gone a little better in my direction if I had done that. I kind of rushed in and got a little over-anxious. I think that’s going to be huge for this fight, being a little more patient and smarter with the striking.”
In 17 career fights, Berry has faced his share of both strong grapplers and dangerous strikers.
With all four of Tokarchuk’s wins coming by way of his striking and his experience in professional boxing, Berry said he’s prepared for Tokarchuk to be dangerous on the feet.
“I’m expecting good, solid striking from him. I know he’s taken at least one pro boxing fight in the last little while and I know from his MMA experience he’s got good striking,” said Berry.
“I know he’s tough and durable, and it’s going to be a really tough fight.”
Tokarchuk Expecting Grappling Battle
Although he’d like to keep the fight standing as much as possible, Tokarchuk said he’s fully expecting Berry to try and take it to the mat.
And while his record may only show his excellence in the striking department, Tokarchuk said his biggest edge over Berry may actually be on the ground.
“With how small the cage size is in Lethbridge, I’m thinking there will be lots of grappling and wrestling,” said Tokarchuk.
“I’d be surprised if they wanted to keep the fight standing, but if they choose to do that I’m fine with that too. I’d rather do stand-up because it’s more exciting for the fans.”
Although it’s been over three years since Tokarchuk’s last MMA fight, a unanimous decision loss to Nick Campbell at Unified MMA 28, he’s still been competing in boxing and training full-time during his absence from the cage.
And because of continuous training and competing in other disciplines, Tokarchuk said neither cage rust nor cardio will be a problem come fight night.
“There should be no problems with cardio or anything. It just depends on what game Neil wants to play. If he wants to be more tactical, I would love to play that too. If he pushes the pace, I’ll be able to keep up,” said Tokarchuk.