As MMA makes its return to Quebec it should come as no surprise that Montreal Fight League is leading the way.
Training in the midst of a pandemic has led to many challenges for the athletes who will take to the cage Saturday night.
Undefeated amateur and Adrenaline MMA prospect Cunningham has been lucky to have his brother, who is a personal trainer, by his side, but even for a top-tier athlete finding the motivation wasn’t always easy.
“To be completely honest, I train with my brother as much as I can, but not as much as I would like to,” Cunningham said in an interview with MMA Empire,
“And to be even more honest, with the whole quarantine thing, I found myself falling into a bit of a funk. I wasn’t living the best lifestyle for a little bit, so bouncing back and trying to get my strength and conditioning back to fight shape has been a little harder than I would like, but you gotta roll with the punches.”
Cunningham moving up
The work it took to get back into fighting shape, combined with the limited opportunities available for fighters right now, is why Cunningham, a natural middleweight, will be competing at 205 pounds for the second time in his career on Saturday.
“I’m not doing a water cut or anything. I’m just eating a couple salads here and there and away we go. I’m like two pounds away from being on weight right now, so it’s pretty easy,” Cunningham said.
“I definitely don’t like doing the whole water cut thing; it kind of sucks, but if I find myself with the light heavyweight belt wrapped around my waist, I’ll definitely be looking to claim the middleweight belt also.”
So far in his young amateur career, Cunningham has been noticed for his reach and excellent striking.
But Cunningham said not to be fooled, though, as he’s a well-rounded killer and will be looking to prove it on fight night.
“Everyone refers to me as a kickboxer, and lately it’s been starting to bug me a little bit because I can do it all,” Cunningham said.
“I might not be the best at everything, and my striking shines through for sure, but I was thinking how cool would it be to potentially get a submission on a good jiu-jitsu guy like Louis? If I can secure another submission win, then I don’t think anyone can tell me I’m just a kickboxer anymore.”
Being called a “good jiu-jitsu guy” is a solid compliment for any fighter, but for Cunningham’s opponent, Caron, however, it could be considered an understatement.
Caron said he was looking to spend most of the year competing in jiu-jitsu before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“Since my last MMA fight, I decided to focus on jiu-jitsu. I went to the world championship in Abu Dhabi last November, but I didn’t get the result I wanted,” Caron said in an interview with MMA Empire.
“I felt like something was missing, and I wanted to go back, so I started to focus on BJJ even more. My 2020 calendar was checked off with all the big jiu-jitsu tournaments that were going to happen, so I could get as many points as possible. Unfortunately, COVID has cancelled the relevant tournaments for 2020, so I was left with nothing. When I got the call for this fight, it was pretty much all I had to keep myself busy.”
Caron coming in well-rounded
Despite his strength in the jiu-jitsu department, don’t expect Caron to try and turn this fight into a grappling match, as he said he’s more than prepared to showcase his skills wherever the fight takes place.
Caron said he knows he can always rely on his cardio, strength, and ability to mix it up.
“I guess that’s the biggest difference right now; I see a lot of guys at my weight who aren’t as in shape as me. They have a bit more fat on their belly, while I carry the six or eight pack all year-round,” Caron said.
“A lot of fighters at my weight tend to focus on striking, and I’m a bit more well-rounded.”
Doing your homework on an opponent as an up-and-coming fighter can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, but can be made easier with a few of the right connections.
Caron said he’s fortunate enough to have one of those connections in his coach who doubles as an MFL judge.
“The nice thing is all my fights are against guys from Ontario or Quebec, so we have guys who have seen them fight, or I can see where they’re training and get an idea of the style of fighting they’re most likely applying,” Caron said.
“For this particular opponent, my coach saw him fight while judging the last MFL event. We could see he had a lot of experience in striking, and he’s quite tall. That’s all the info I really need to prepare.”
Of course, you always want to be prepared before stepping into the cage, but sometimes you can end up doing too much homework, something Cunningham said he is looking to avoid leading up to his title opportunity.
“Honestly, I’d rather not know as much about the guy. The way I see it, if you’re looking at people’s highlights and seeing their strengths, you almost anticipate what they’re going to do too much, and lose focus on what you want to do. I don’t want to be reacting to what he’s doing. I want to be the one that dictates the pace and puts the fight where I want it to go,” Cunningham said.
“I’ve had countless sparring sessions with great fighters and I’ve trained with the best guys in Canada. No disrespect to my opponent at all, but there’s really nothing he can show me in this fight that I haven’t seen in training yet.”