When trying to emulate the formula for combative and commercial success, it’s easy for aspiring mixed martial artists to inadvertently encroach the fine line between confidence and arrogance.
For Jamie Ward, his self-conviction may be a tad premature for a still-developing amateur, but his manner is certainly more endearing than arrogant.
At BCMMA 20, interviews were conveniently situated next to the staging area where athletes entered the sold-out Charter Hall in Colchester.
As I sat there, waiting for Mantas Smailys to exit the medical room, one of Ward’s team glanced over, recognising me as a member of the press. I replied courteously, to which I saw Jamie Ward immediately perk up.
We exchanged a few words ahead of his Cage Warriors South East title challenge against replacement Dalius Sulga, but for the most part, it was just the occasional glance.
No brashness, no threats or callous calls, of course he spoke with vigour, but the 21-year-old’s insistent blaze gave an overwhelming feeling of confidence.
Armed with a quirky smile and an Irish flag draped over his shoulders, Ward was prompted through the final stage door, which for all fighters served as the penultimate moment of tranquility before entering to an erratic East London crowd.
It was a difficult start to the fight for Ward, with Sulga inhibiting an aggressive style to seemingly thwart him.
In the end, though, Ward overcame the early surge from Sulga, before submitting his foe at the 1:18 mark of round two, to claim the Cage Warriors South East Amateur welterweight title.
Jamie Ward re-emerges through the curtain, champion
As he burst through the stage door, the one which several minutes ago had seemed eternally daunting, his team followed, showering him with shouts and praise.
I waited for him to complete his medical. Before long, he emerged from the doctor’s care, quirky smile and flag intact, and immediately I ushered him over.
As I congratulated him on his win, he seemed relieved, but that just as easily could have been elation.
I asked him to walk me through the fight.
“Well the first round, my coach said to stuff his takedowns, see what he’s got, see if I could dishearten him a bit with his takedowns,” he brightly told me. “And then when he did take me down, I realised there was gaps there, there was a lot of space and then when he took me down in the second round, saw the armbar then and just cranked it straight on.”
He spoke with a distinct East London twang, but wore the Irish flag with pride.
Besides from the time he spent inside the cage, the Irish tricolour was attached to him and he paraded it with as much affection as he did his new golden belt.
“My family’s all Irish, so that’s a deep root for me, so I hold it close to me,” Jamie Ward explained fondly.
“It’s wicked, especially having the Cage Warriors Academy belt, it’s a big belt, I think this is the best show to be on amateur wise.”
Despite losing his previous contest to Henri Dimitri, a Frenchman with international championship experience, the Londoner hinted towards greener pastures after a steep learning curve.
“I learnt a lot from that fight, I learnt more than anything than if I won, I learnt more on a loss,” he said. “I had to get stronger, I’ve got a lot of good people around me, my sponsors, like Dethrone Royalty, they give me the tools to develop myself and then I pay it back winning the belts.”
Alas, the poise and self-conviction which I had witnessed moments before his walkout still stuck out in my mind.
Where did it come from?
He provided a friendly laugh after my intrigue got the better of me. “I’m very confident in myself, you have to be. So, if you see it, it will happen,” he said. “The only way I’ve seen this fight was me winning, you’ve just got to believe in yourself without sounding too cringy.”