Brad "Exile" Conway Talks Open Guard and MMA Officiating.There has been a lot of controversy and confusion this week due to the open guard ruling in the Andrei Arlovski versus Tim Sylvia fight that went down on Asia's largest MMA promotion One FC. To add to the confusion One FC have now announced that they will be switching to the Pride FC rules that allowed soccer kicks as well. So we at AddictedMMA thought we would take this opportunity to approach one of the UK`s finest referees and get the lowdown on just what the hell has been going on and maybe we would get his opinion on what he feels would be the best decision for One FC. The man I am talking about is Bradford's Brad "Exile" Conway. With a no-nonsense approach to officiating inside of the cage we also wanted to pick his brains about his career.
Addicted: Hey Brad, how are you? Tell us how you got into the industry and how you came to be involved with mixed martial arts
Brad: It was 2003 and I was at my local gym trying to get massive when I noticed a few lads striking and rolling around on the floor in the matted area. Didn't they realise this was my gym and that I'm the local alpha male? Idiots! So I decided it was only good and proper that I gave them all a real thrashing (I had a decent amateur boxing record and loved bench pressing heavy things which made me hard.) It turned out a few of the lads were Mark 'Spenna' Spencer, head coach of Team Fulinkazan and Tom Harris, now Gracie Barra Leeds Brown belt head coach. Things didn't go to plan and whilst I feel they got some lucky shots in I went home with my ass handed too me. From there I started training at Team Fulinkazan and although I have recently fallen out with the Head Coach any success I have had in MMA is down to him, and if you live in Bradford it's the only place to train. I have trained at Fulinkazan on and off for 9 years and it's a fantastic place to learn the basics and with killers like Qas Shafiq, Dave Hollywood Hirst, James Big Sexy Doyle and Kevin Future Mullen regularly frequenting classes you quickly learn your place in the scheme of things.
Addicted: So how was your first experience reffing?
Brad: It was at the newly opened Caged Steel when they had an interclub. I've never lacked self-confidence and Neil Hall, a respected referee and now my main local competition, was kind enough to let me referee some of the bouts. I was told I did a good job and from there refereed Leeds Cage Testing Ground, which again I received good reviews from. I continued to build experience on smaller shows until eventually bigger shows started calling and my reputation earned me more and more work.
Addicted: Who do you feel is the top ref out there right now?
Brad: Marc Goddard is the man. He's the best in the world alongside Herb Dean. I recently refereed with Marc at UCC Manchester and the little things he knows that I don't is what separates a good ref from a great ref. There are lots of good refs on the scene at the moment; Leon, Ian Butlin, Sledge and Craig Lawrence are all very good, but I honestly believe I am as good a referee as there is in this country. I can count on one hand the number of questionable decisions I have made and feel if my day job was not so restrictive I would be officiating all over the world by now. I don't make mistakes and it's been a long time since anyone complained about a call I have made. I am hopeful I can spend more time around Marc and attend his Northern Seminars when he puts them on. In fact I will ensure all my officials from www.combatofficials .com (cheap plug) attend as it's good to learn from the best. But if you can't afford Marc and his UFC prices(he's worth it), come holla at your boy because I do this for fun, not to pay the mortgage.
Addicted: Now there has been a great deal of confusion because of the finish to the Arlovski vs Sylvia fight last week with the open guard ruling. Could you explain this rule for our readers and your feelings as a ref on it?
Brad: Sure, it's a rule that was primarily used in Cage Rage and contradicted the Unified Rules. Basically if a downed fighter was at least a meter away from the cage fence, on his back and able to avoid or defend against attacks, the referee would raise his arm and call "open guard". Once Open Guard was called the attacking fighter was able to use several attacks that would usually amount to a foul. These attacks include stomps, kicks or knees to the head or flying attacks. If Open Guard was not called and the attacker initiated said attacks, a foul would be called.
As a ref and fighter I was never a fan. I remember fighting at Cage Rage and thinking, I've never practiced being stomped on in the head! How do you train for that or soccer kicks? I'm not a big fan of techniques being used in a cage that you realistically can't practice in the gym. I also don't think they are overly skilful techniques used in Open Guard and would hate to see a quality fight ended by a simple Randy Orton punt to the head. I also don't like the fact you have to wait for the referee to make the call of Open Guard, fighters will instinctively strike and may stomp before the rule is called, or a weaker ref may forget to make the call. They don't have tape measures with them, so when is a meter not a meter.
Addicted: So now One FC have changed their minds and switched from the open guard ruling to full Pride soccer kicks. Do you feel this leaves already injured competitors vulnerable to head kicks? Or are them some positives that could come from this ruling?
Brad: If you want to watch two men try to hurt each other, potentially seriously, then the Pride rules are for you. If you want to see two trained athletes battle it out in a much safer, yet more skilful environment then the Unified Rules are where it's at. The positives are that blood thirsty fans will tune in and that One FC are trying to make a niche for themselves. It may bite them in the ass if a top fighter gets his head volley off.
Addicted: On a personal level what rules would you like to see added or removed to the sport?
Brad: Amateur should be for interclub`s. Semi -pro has had its time. Unified amateur (8oz gloves, nothing twisting) and then full Unified Rules are just about perfect. The 12 o'clock elbow is bullshit and should be allowed in pro fights. I also don't think a fight should ever end a draw. Extra rounds, no 10-10's....I don't know. I just don't think it's ever possible two men are totally perfectly matched.
Addicted: Referees can be put under a great deal of pressure by corner teams; do you have a particular way that you deal with this?
Brad: As I said, I don't lack confidence and I believe in the calls I make. Lots of big teams know me now and know I'm a fair and decent ref and generally are supportive of my decisions. I remember at one small show one of Team Kaobons Brazilian lads was fighting and I felt he wasn't doing enough to pass guard so I warned him to pick up the pace. Terry Etim, who was cornering him said 'have you ever refereed a match before, I've never f#**ing seen you!' I responded 'It's not a BJJ match, now get off.' For the rest of the fight all I could think about was Terry Etim is going to pull my head off after this fight is over. Luckily his guy won and there was no issue. But the Brazilian was passing too slow. Fact.
But its things like this that hold me back. I'm too vocal on the forum boards and in person. If I want to be a professional referee I need to take the human aspect out of it. I'm always offering to step in for fighters when one doesn't show up when I'm there to referee, I need to remember that although I'm there for fun I must be 100% professional at all times. I'm a fighter's referee, when I need to be a promoter's referee more.
Addicted: Who has been your inspirations within the sport and why?
Brad: Mark 'Spenna' Spencer, for putting time into a loud mouth dickhead and seeing me through many fights, James 'Big Sexy' Doyle for helping me find myself when I get lost and making me put the hours in, and James 'Scraps' Saville and Kevin 'Future' Mullen (you will know the name soon I guarantee it) for being 10 years my junior and humbling me whenever they want too.
Addicted: You have also spent some time competing in the cage. Your last bout was an incredibly brave decision to step up and fight the much heavier Darren Towler. Looking back on that fight what are your thoughts of it?
Brad: Blah, I'll fight any man any time. Nothing brave about it. I took the fight as I needed the cash for my wedding. I went into it with no preparation, just the plan to not take any facial damage and jeopardise my career (I'm a teacher.) Well that didn't go to plan and when I realised I couldn't out strike Darren I shot in (I NEVER SHOOT) and just tried to minimise the damage I took. It basically went against everything I believe in as I'm a product of too many Best of the Best movies and Spiderman Comics. If I wasn't worried about my job I'd have stood with Darren and most likely gotten KO'd. But I could have lived with that better than the half assed effort I felt I had to put in due to work. To be fair, I could have taken the easy option when Darren fouled me with an illegal shot to the back of the head and won the fight by DQ/No contest. But that's a fools trick and I wouldnt disrespect Darren like that so I got back up and took my beats. But no excuses, Darren's a killer, but it does hurt me I couldn't have a stand up war like I wanted, cos no man knocks me on my ass (they just KO me on my feet)
Addicted: You have also had a go at being an M.C, how was this experience for you?
Brad: I've done it a few times, at UCMMA Contenders and for my good friend Ian Freeman. I enjoy doing it; it's a good change of pace. I especially enjoyed calling out a 'fighter' who ran off after the weigh ins and telling him what I thought of him and offering to fight him. Once again though, I'm a fighters official, not a promoters official and it may not have been the wisest of things to do for my credibility. Anyway, if you need an MC go see Aaron 'Red Mist' Chatfield. Best in the business, bar none. If you're stuck then give me a call, but the fact you haven't already booked me to referee means I'll probably be thinking you're a fool anyway and over charge you.
Addicted: Are there any shout outs you would like to put out there Brad?
Brad: To my team at www.combatofficials.com, Ian, Andy and Simone Butlin, Big Dan Mellor, Future, Big Sexy, Vybz, Nam, Aaron, Ian Freeman and all the other officials who represent my business so well.
Addicted: And of course our signature question. Outside of martial arts, what is Brad Conway addicted to?
Brad: My little boy Austin, Raiden (Mortal Kombat God of Thunder) Anything Marvel related and the History Channel (Storage wars, Ice road truckers, American pickers, gold rush, pawn stars..............it's all quality)
Addicted: AddictedMMA would like to take the chance to thank you for your time Brad and for the help clearing up the ruling aspects of the sport. We hope we can chat again in the near future.
Published by Boogeyman - Thu, 6 Sep 2012 18:05