LSD Magazine interviews James ‘Lightning’ Wilks

Issue Six – Stand and Deliver – January 11th 2011

The Ultimate Fighter  After starting his pro career with a 5-2 mark in local shows in California, Wilks was chosen to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: United States vs. United Kingdom. Representing Team UK under coach Michael Bisping. He defeated the highly regarded Che Mills by submission in an elimination match earning him a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada to compete on the show. Wilks had his second fight against Team United States fighter Frank Lester. Wilks won the fight by submission in the second round. In the semi-finals, Wilks faced Lester in a for a second straight time, after Lester returned to the tournament to defeat David Faulkner while substituting for Jason Pierce, who was removed from the competition by Dana White. In the rematch, Wilks defeated Lester by TKO via knees in the third round, earning a spot in the live finale.

Where in the UK are you from?

I was born in Leicester.

Were you always a tough lad or did it come with time?

I think some of it is in my blood. My granddad faked his birth certificate at 14 and joined the paratroopers in World War 2. He was a fighting man. My dad is also a tough guy and used to study kung fu. It did also take time to come out. In the early days training was so mentally tough that my coach Erik Paulson would beat me down until I cried. Each time I would say to myself I wasn’t coming back the next day but I did. I didn’t want to be a quitter.

What martial arts do you practise?

i study various elements of MMA. Kickboxing, Wrestling and Jiujitsu but MMA has almost become an art in itself now. The key is practising how the arts transition together.

You won the welterweight title on Gladiator Challenge and got selected for the Ultimate Fighter, what did it mean to you on a personal level when hearing of your selection?

I almost couldn’t believe it. For years I dreamed of being in the UFC but there was always part of me that doubted it would happen.

Have you always been so mild mannered or is is something that came with learning martial arts?

My parents say then when I was young I was wild. As young as three they said when their policeman friend came over I would spit on him and kick him in the shins. Martial arts certainly gave me some discipline.

Your American opponent on the Ultimate Fighter final showed a complete lack of respect for your skills during the TV show. We’re sure the whole of England was hoping you knocked him out  but how did it feel to completely embarrass him?

It was great to beat Demarques so convincingly. That fight is definitely the highlight of my career.

Demarques - WilksWhat drives your passion to continue fighting?

I love to test myself and see how far I can go. I may not be the best but I want to be the best that I can be. Sometimes its a real struggle to get out of bed when my body is sore and tired but I just push through it.

When training for a fight how much food do you eat over twenty four hours?

I eat around 2500 calories split over 6 meals. 3 real meals and 3 shakes. Each meal had 30 grams of protein so I total 180 grams of protein per day. I make sure I mainly eat low glycemic carbs and good fats as well.

Do you visualise winning before a match or do you just go out knowing your gonna win?

I visualise my hand being raised. It doesn’t always work out of course but you have to go into it with confidence that you will win

images-1What do you do to switch off from training or fighting?

I don’t have much time off between coaching and training so when I do I like to spend time with my wife, Alicia and 7 month old son, Matthew.

How often do you enter competitions and how many bouts do you expect to have over a twelve month period?

My contract with the UFC is for three fights per year but due to injuries I will only be fighting twice this year.

tuf9finale_09_wilks_vs_johnson_002How many matches you had since winning the crown from our cousins across the pond?

Since winning the Ultimate Fighter in June 2009 I have only had 2 fights. The next one is coming up October 16th 2010 in London.

Your a household name in the UFC game which means you probably get recognised quite a lot these days. Have any so-called hard-men tried to dig you out?

Since winning the show I have gotten into only one verbal confrontation. The lad wanted to fight but he didn’t know who I was. He friend recognised me and the situation was diffused. No one has been looking to fight me because of the show.

imagesWhats the fundamental difference between a punch from a mixed martial artist and a professional boxer of the same weight?

It would depend on the fighter. Of course boxers spend time training one aspect of fighting where as MMA fighters must train many aspects so boxers should have better hands. The real difference though is getting hit with an MMA glove which is small compared to the bigger, more padded boxing glove.

If you could change any UFC rule of conduct, which one would you change and why?

I think I would allow upkicks to a grounded opponent. I don’t think that it is more dangerous than other kicks and it makes it more real.

At what point did you decide to teach others your skills and how did your school in the states come about?

I have been teaching in some capacity for years, even before I came to the USA in 2000. I opened my school after filming the Ultimate FIghter as I saw it was a good opportunity to take advantage of the marketing from the show. I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others and helping them grow.

We realise that everyones bodies types react differently to martial art disciplines but do you have any words of advice for someone starting from scratch?

Stick with arts that work: Boxing, Wrestling, Judo, JiuJitsu, Muay Thai to name a few.

james-wilks-02Anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Anyone interested in coming out to California for a holiday and training at my school check out <>  Follow me on twitter@lightningwilks

James ‘Lightning’ Wilks Website

Issue Six – Stand and Deliver – January 11th 2011