Heading into enemy territory for the fourth consecutive time, promising Scottish welterweight Ross Houston is more confident than ever ahead of his breakthrough clash with Aaron Khalid at Cage Warriors 87.
Taking place this Saturday night, Cage Warriors 87 arrives in Newport, Wales and will see Houston (4-0) dealing with the familiar prospect of a hostile crowd when he takes on Welshman Khalid (6-2-1).
Although this would phase many fighters, Houston’s track record of spoiling the homecoming of his last three opponents has seen the SBG Inverness fighter become a dab hand at dealing with the pressure such an occasion can bring.
“Three fights in hostile territory and three scalps. Two of those were first-round finishes and I’m going to go in there and make it three, mark my words,” said Houston when talking to MMA Plus about his upcoming bout.
“It’s no problem to me at all, not in an overconfident cocky way in the slightest, just this is how I feel before fights. The closer the fight gets, the more confident I feel. I’m respectful of anyone I fight and know anything can happen but I know I’m not going to lose wherever it is. In his backyard makes no difference at all. It’s just two guys in a cage and one will be getting his hand raised.”
Something that is new to Houston, however, is the fact that this bout is part of the evening’s main card which will see the Scotsman receive exposure on both UFC Fight Pass and BT Sport for the first time. With many of MMA’s top names such as Conor McGregor and Joanna Jedrzejzcyk getting their break under the Cage Warriors banner, there is no doubting the size of the opportunity presented to Houston and the pressure that it must bring.
“I’m well aware of the importance of the fight, its the biggest fight of my career, but in terms of pressure, I think I thrive on that,” explained Houston.
“The bigger the show, the bigger the occasion, then the better I perform really. I’m only getting better and stronger with each fight if I’m honest so Aaron Khalid’s in big trouble come October 14.”
— caposa (@Grabaka_Hitman) April 1, 2017
Still undefeated in his professional career, the Highlander took just 31 seconds to secure a submission win via a standing guillotine over Dylan McLoughlin in his last outing at Cage Warriors 82.
Having spoken about the importance of his own mental strength, Houston revealed that he had doubts about his opponent’s nerve prior to the bout in McLoughlin’s hometown of Liverpool and feels he had the fight won before it even got underway.
“One thing I noticed was Dylan looked a bit shook. It was a big, big crowd and a hometown fight for him,” revealed Houston.
“I’m a big one for the mental battle before the fight so think I had him beaten there. If you watch the fight back even before we started fighting, I think you could tell I wanted it more than him and it’s going to be the same for every fight I have in my career.
“It’s not false confidence. I train hard and have confidence in my skill set and abilities and just let them know they are getting beat. People crumble under that usually.”
Houston reveals the secret of juggling a successful gym and his own pro fight career
Currently running and managing SBG Inverness alongside his fighting career, Houston explained the importance of having a high standard of coaches alongside him in the gym to pick up some of his classes and allow him the necessary time to prepare for his upcoming fights
“I’m lucky enough to have good, highly skilled coaches around me,” admits Houston when asked about how he manages to maintain such a heavy workload.
“At the moment, I can offload some of the classes I would be taking to these coaches and it allows me to prepare that bit more as I think it’s important as the fights get to a higher level. I can’t just “mickey mouse” it anymore but I’m still at the gym, at classes every night and I help the guys out.
“I’m still well involved with the coaching, and more so, out of the fight camp, I’ll get more involved and hopefully start taking more classes again.”
As well as his own base in Inverness, Houston regularly spends time at SBG Manchester during his fight camp in order to train with some of the top talents that the UK has to offer. This is made possible by both gyms affiliation with Ireland’s Straight Blast Gym and Houston is keen to stress the importance of such a partnership to both his career and his team.
“For years, there hasn’t really been much in the Highlands. A couple of clubs over the years, but none of them full-time, so with SBG Inverness, I’ve actually opened the first-ever full-time MMA club in the Highlands and in Inverness,” said Houston who noticeably discusses the gym with the same enthusiasm a new father does their child.
“In this day and age, you need that if you want to compete even on a decent amateur level, and of course, on a professional level. It needs to be seven days a week when before it was two or three days a week. Also, having access to this SBG affiliation, the knowledge they’ve got and the ridiculous number of high-level black belts helps.
“I’m quite frequently down at SBG Manchester training under Karl Tanswell and sparring with Matt Inman, we’ve got James Dockett there, Adam Proctor comes down as well and then we’ve got guys like Davy Grant, Saul Rogers and Alex Enland. It’s a gym of absolute killers and its class to get some sparring in with them, see where I’m at and it brings me to the next level.”
What does the future hold for Houston?
With his professional career flourishing and SBG Inverness continuing to grow, the future looks bright for the undefeated Scot. Although Khalid may first stand in his way in what should be a tough bout, Houston is confident that a win this weekend can move him one step closer to his goals of first becoming CW’s welterweight king and then ascending to the lofty heights of the UFC.
“I think if I beat Aaron Khalid, I wouldn’t mind getting a big name next, someone who’s been in the UFC or an experienced welterweight and then I can go for the Cage Warriors welterweight title,” said Houston when asked about his plans for the future.
“I’ll just keep winning fights, make my way up the rankings, get that belt. UFC is the dream really and I know I will get there at some point.”
Whether it be the expansion of his gym, a Cage Warriors title fight or a spell with the UFC, Houston’s abundance of self-confidence paired with his belief in his abilities is sure to guarantee success wherever his future endeavors may lie.