Former Victoria Rebel and current member of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers, Justin Shaw (0-0), recently took time to speak with Josh Oliveira of B.C. MMA Fan about his upcoming fight at Armageddon Fighting Championships II and how he plans to balance Football and MMA.
J.O.: When and how did you first get interested in training MMA?
Justin Shaw: I've been interested in MMA since watching the first ones with Gracie and Shamrock and I used to wrestle around with my buddies. But, when did I actually start seriously training? That's a different question. Only about three months ago, if that. Two-and-a-half or three months, yeah, and I just jumped right in and started going five days a week. It's been quite the learning curve, but I like it. Everyday I'm learning something new and the stuff I first learned is becoming habit now. I don't have to think about escapes and submissions, it just comes natural now. I'm just doing it.
J.O.: Wow, that sounds like quite a lot of progress for just three months.
Justin Shaw: Yeah, people have been impressed that I've come along so quickly, but athletics has been my thing for my whole life. I have always played every sport possible and played football since I was seven. It's just kind of a natural progression, I guess, into the martial arts and the fighting stuff. I mean, you can take what you've learned in all the other sports like the explosiveness and the footwork and apply it to a new sport.
J.O.: Yeah, athleticism counts for a lot. I agree. Do you think it will be possible for you to have two simultaneous sports careers, or will MMA have to take a backseat to football for now?
Justin Shaw: Well, with the way the season works for football, even though you only play once a week, you're pretty banged up and it takes a lot out of you. As far as the off-season goes, it's a great way for me to stay in shape to be training for something. I know that ultimately I'm supposed to be training for football, but, when you're training for a fight coming up, you're going to be training a lot harder because it's more of a short-term goal. Instead of just knowing that six months down the road you're going to be playing football again. So, are they going to conflict? Well, they kinda do because I can't compete [in MMA] while I'm playing football, but the off-season is completely reversed. So I think I can make a good career out of both until I have to make a decision on which way I want to go. Right now, I haven't really been forced to.
J.O.: On that note, CFL training camps will be starting in just a couple of months. Do you think you'll try to fit another fight in before then?
Justin Shaw: That I don't know. I haven't really had full season of being healthy and playing from the beginning of the year in the CFL. So, I want to focus on that. I think this is my year because my injuries have gone away and my hamstring injury has kinda subsided. I feel like I have gotten past it now, so I really want to get a good year of football in and risking getting injured in a fight right before training amp is not something I want to do this year.
J.O.: Yeah, that's understandable.
Justin Shaw: I wanted to do this one event because Darren [Owen], my good friend is putting it on and it was an opportunity for me to try it out. Plus, I trust them to match me up with somebody of equal caliber in experience. Anyway, we'll just go from there. In the future I would like to fight two or three times in the off season, but, this year I'll probably just stick with the one.
J.O.: Sounds good. Not much is known about your opponent, Nathan Williamsen. What is known, though, is that he is physically huge. Do you have any specific gameplan in place for dealing with his size?
Justin Shaw: I'm going to go in there and just worry about me. When you don't know about your opponent, all you can really focus on is what you do well. So I'm not really gameplanning for him. Yeah, I've sparred with some guys who are taller than me to get my range down and things like that, but I have played against guys as big as him. They don't move as well from carrying all that weight, as opposed to guys my size, you know, around 240lbs. I think that might be my advantage. So, I'll go in and just try to feel it out. Eventually, I think my strength, if I have one, is to be on the ground on top finishing the fight with ground-and-pound.
J.O.: So you would say then that takedowns and ground-and-pound are your greatest strengths?
Justin Shaw: Yeah, for sure. It comes from football where you need explosiveness and the tackling where you're driving through guys. That's what I'm the most comfortable with. Then again, if I find that I'm faster, and he's looking a bit sloppy with the stand-up stuff, I might just keep it standing and pick him apart. I am not going to get caught playing his game, that's for sure.
J.O.: You've said in recent interviews that you have been losing a bit of weight in this training camp. Has that trend continued?
Justin Shaw: I have lost a bit of muscle mass up top, anyway. You need to be big up top for football. You need the big traps and chest and arms, but it's not the best for flexibility. So I've really laid off the weights for the last three-and-a-half months. I've just been strictly doing the five-minute rounds and the wrestling and conditioning. My legs have gotten a bit stronger from all the stairs I'm doing. I've been doing stadiums two times a week and an hour-and-a-half each time. So my conditioning has gotten a lot better and I've lost some muscle up top, which I feel is better because I've had less neck pain and I'm way more flexible.
J.O.: Yeah? So you feel a bit healthier at this weight then?
Justin Shaw: Yeah, and quicker. You can get the jab off quicker when you don't have as much to hold up.
J.O.: What message do you have for the fans who may be considering coming out on Saturday and what can they expect from Justin Shaw as an MMA fighter?
Justin Shaw: I suggest they check it out for sure. I mean, knowing the guys I train with, they're exciting in the gym and I'm not even speaking about myself. Derek Medler, he's an animal in the gym, and there are a couple of first-time fighters that are going to be very interesting as well. Not to mention you've got Kalib Starnes, an ex-UFC guy, so in Victoria this is a card like no one has ever seen. As far as I'm concerned, they're going to see what I can do for the first time. I'm going to put on a good show, I can guarantee you that. It won't go the distance and I'm going to come out on top.
J.O.: Sounds great. Is there anyone you want to thank or anything you want to plug at this time?
Justin Shaw: Really just Darren [Owen] and Jason [Heit] for for pushing me to do it. I talked about it for a while and I hate being one of those guys who talks about something and doesn't go through and do it. So, Darren kinda pushed me and trained with me for the first month. Then he got me going out there with Jay. So thanks to both those two guys and all my training partners for getting me in shape and teaching me what I know today.
J.O.: Alright, sounds good. Well, we'll see you on Saturday and best of luck.
Justin Shaw: Okay, man. I'll talk to you soon.
Tickets for AFC II are still available at Juan de Fuca Rec Centre, Island MMA, Sports Traders, Platinum Lounge in Mayfair Mall, Full Metal Jacket Racing in Duncan, online at www.armageddonfc.com, or by calling (250) 478-8384.