PETALING JAYA: It will be an Enter The Dragon experience for Mixed Martial Artist (MMA) Aaron Phillips as he gets an unexpected face-off against Jack Shore in the UFC Fight Night 172 at the exotic Abu Dhabi Fight Island tomorrow.
It will be a fight in the wee hours of the morning, with the two squaring off at 3am (7am, Malaysian time).
American-Malaysian Phillips will be stepping in on short notice for the UFC bantamweight bout as a replacement for Brazilian Anderson dos Santos, who withdrew after testing positive for Covid-19 last week.
The 30-year-old Phillips previously competed for the UFC in 2014, and lost both of his octagon appearances to Matt Hobar and Sam Sicilia.
Since then, Phillips has gone 5-1 with finishes in four of his past five fights.
He conceded that he was the underdog going against Shore who brings an unblemished 12-0 record to Fight Island but believes that he’s game enough to match Shore whether the fight stays on the feet or the mat.
“I have watched Bruce Lee’s ‘Enter the Dragon’. They are brought onto an island, quarantined, and they have to fight. It’s similar to what’s going on with me so I think it’s going to be ‘Aaron the Dragon’ this time,” said Phillips who hails from Lafayette, Louisiana.
“I think it’s an exciting match-up. I think we match up well, but I think I edge him out on the feet a little bit.
“I know he’s undefeated and he is very strong, but I don’t think he’s really been tested or had a lot of pressure put on him. So we’ll get him in that area and see how he responds to getting hit.
“I would say my left leg kick can end the fight at any point in time. I’ve learned a lot of taekwondo, I’ve trained in Muay Thai in Thailand, and boxing here in the US. So, my stand up style is a blend of all three.
“My ground level is good too. I’m a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu – the same as him – so if it goes there, we’ll battle there.”
Phillips, who shares a strong bond with his family in Malaysia, said he was working on getting a Malaysian crest along with the US crest on his fight jacket ready before the fight.
His mother is from Penang and met his father during her university days. Since she is a teacher, he and his mother would return to Malaysia for summer breaks.
“I remember riding the trishaw with my cousins. I remember walking on the stones for your feet in the parks, and playing badminton, we did that a lot at our old house,” said Phillips.
“I went every year from the ages of four to about 11.
“As I started to get more involved in sports competitions, I could go only once every three years. Then as I got older, every time I go to Thailand to train, I visit my family in Malaysia.
“After I was married, my wife and I did the tea ceremony there where I formally introduced her to my family.
“I have taken my kids, Hosea and Esther, to meet all of my family – they’ve been there several times.
“Actually, my wife and mum and kids are supposed to be in Malaysia right now!
“I’m really hoping I can fight in Malaysia so my family can watch me fight. If not in Malaysia, at least in a time zone that they can all see me... I am really proud to represent Malaysia.”
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