No matter the sport, championships build legacies.
Edmonton’s Graham Park (7-2) will look to defend his Unified MMA light heavyweight title for the first time when he takes on Lethbridge’s Neil Berry (9-9) in the co-main event of Unified MMA 40 on Saturday night in Edmonton, Alta.
For Park, 31, he said to be able to successfully defend his belt will be just another chapter added to his career story, and another memory in the bank.
“We’re all going to have to stop competing someday, and we’re going to be left with some stories, some pictures, and some videos,” said Park in an interview with MMA Empire.
“Winning and defending a title, and collecting a win over a guy who’s a black belt are going to be memories and stories for me. It’s more important for me to build a legacy or a storybook I can tell down the line if I ever have kids or to my students when I start teaching and stop fighting.”
Berry, 35, is looking to add a second title to his collection in as many fights, having just claimed the Rumble in the Cage light heavyweight title back at Rumble in the Cage 62.
Berry said to be able to hold two titles simultaneously for two different promotions would be a reward for years of hard work and sacrifices.
“For me, it would be a culmination of all the training, years, and time I’ve put into martial arts,” said Berry in an interview with MMA Empire.
“When I was younger, my career didn’t always go the way I wanted. But now being back fighting again and having these opportunities, I feel like things are really starting to come together for me skill-wise, and mentally too.”
Park Riding Hot
Park enters Saturday night on a hot streak, having won four straight and seven of his last eight fights, with all of those wins coming in the first round.
And while a lengthy win streak combined with all first round finishes would likely draw the attention of bigger promotions, Park said it’s difficult to know where he stands when it comes to punching his ticket to the big show.
“It’s so hard to tell; who knows the formula. It took forever for Tanner (Boser) to get his call and he was the king of Canada for so long, but then you’ll see other guys that are 4-0 or 5-0 get the call,” said Park.
“I don’t know what the formula is or where I stand in the picture. Maybe I get another first round finish and they call me for the UFC Saskatoon card. That would be a dream come true, but I’m just focused on what’s in front of me.”
Training out of Shaved Bears MMA, Park has no shortage of UFC-level talent to work with on a daily basis.
He said being able to train with the likes of Tanner Boser, Teddy Ash, and KB Bhullar puts him to the test each time he steps in the gym.
“Iron sharpens iron, so the more one guy gets better it just raises the bar for everyone else,” said Park.
“Having world class coaches like Keijiro Noda and Jeff Montemurro, and world class training partners like Tanner, Christian Larsen, Teddy, KB, Spencer Jebb, Sterling Michetti and Cole Campbell, everyone is just making each other better in every area. Everyone brings something to the table they can help someone else out with.”
Berry Looks to Stay Composed
Coming off a quick first round submission win in his last outing in the cage, momentum is also in the corner of Berry.
He said one area that helped him significantly in his last fight was how calm he was able to remain in the cage, which is something he’s looking to carry forward into Saturday night.
“My composure in the fight with Anton was a big takeaway. I came in a lot more composed than I did against Teddy,” said Berry.
“If I can keep that same kind of mental clarity coming forward into this fight and future fights, I think that’ll be a huge asset for me.”
Before winning his first career title at Rumble in the Cage, Berry had the chance to accomplish that same feat at Unified MMA 37 when he fell to former Unified MMA light heavyweight champion Ash.
And although winning a title for his hometown promotion was a great feeling, Berry said the Unified MMA belt has a little more significance for him.
“It would be a bit of a dream come true. It’s been one of my goals for a long time to have a title. It’s one thing to win one for your home promotion, but it’s another thing to win one out of town when you’re in enemy territory,” said Berry.
“This is a big one for me. Obviously, the one at home was nice, but this is the one I want.”
“I’d like to thank my sponsors (Flex Chiropractic, Pinnacle Therapy and Sports Performance, Transitional Solutions, PM Signs), and everyone at Little Sweatshop and Shaved Bears MMA.” FACEBOOK, TWITTER, INSTAGRAM
“I’d like to thank my team (Canadian Martial Arts Centre) for putting the time in and getting me ready for this fight and TMH Business Coaching for sponsoring me for this fight.” FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM