Richie Walsh Interview: Ups and downs of the fightlife and the end game

In Australia after a breakout performance at UFC Japan against Kiichi Kunimoto and on the end of a controversial split decision loss, ‘Filthy’ Rich Walsh sat down with Fight Sport Asia to discuss the good and bad of living the dream as a UFC fighter. The conversation ranged across a number of issues, dealing firstly with the loss to Kunimoto.

I thought I won, but I am not going to cry over spilt milk…I thought I went better than people expected me to go, I worked hard in between that Chris Indich fight and Japan, I was improving faster than I have ever improved technically and I am improving right now exponentially, there is some technical stuff I need to work on for sure. 

Richie (8-2) literally put a beating on his opponent for the entire first round. The second round involved a lot of cage work and was inconclusive, only for Kunimoto to control a large portion of the final round with a takedown and top control.

Mentally I pictured myself hitting Kiichi Kunimoto and putting him down in the first round, I pictured myself throwing that fake jab/head kick cause I know he shoots on my right hip. I try to do the visualistion every day, but managed once every two or three days on average during the whole 10 week fight camp…I feel I made a few mistakes where I feel I could have finished the fight, when I dropped Kunimoto with that kick and he grabbed my ankle, I should have went for a guillotine.

At just 26, the VT-1 product feels he has plenty of improvment to go in terms of refining his mental and physical approach to the sport of MMA and indeed he is already planning for a future as a coach, even though at present he finds it hard to make ends meet.

We’ll take it as a learning lesson, I am absorbing and losing the ego that holds you back from learning new techniques and being a critic of your own game and really improving on your weak areas. When you are young, your attidute and bravado, it can hold you back, it might have been your best friend and the drive that got you there in the first place, that charisma, but part of it actually holds you back from being the best you can be. Its about focus, I have worked hard on my hands for the last two years with Adam. In terms of sparring its a misconception about MMA that you need to be sparring hard all the time, I don’t have to win every round in the gym, if you are going 100% in the gym then you are not learning at 100%.

I made f#ck all money, having moved out of home, and losing my fight, my win bonus would have funded my next fight camp. I am living the dream of being in the UFC, with zero dollars. I love fighting for the organisation, whether I made 2 bucks or 2 million, I’d still do it. You really have to lay some groundwork to get noticed, make your money and make your mark when you get the opportunity, for me I want to come in make my name and run a gym, have my own students and I want to do it before I am older and broken. I have always wanted to have a gym, I want a collective group of people that share the same interests as me and who want to learn. If you have a particular knowledge in any area you should be sharing that with other people, because your not only helping others, you are helping yourself. People are pretty selfish and like to do things that make them feel good, I feel good when I am coaching and when people come up to me after and say I got something out that, its a symbiotic relationship. Coaching is enjoyable, but to be a good coach, I don’t want to be a fraud, you need to do your apprenticeship in the fighting industry, do some good fights in the UFC.

Richie’s priorities are to get more Octagon time and eventually to create a sustainable gym that develops enjoyment of the sport, rather than a fight team who will not necessarily return on investment.

Some people who make it to the top of these sports are terrible coaches, I have always felt like I was a good coach. There is something to be said for being in the ring, cause you have been there and experienced the top level of competition. MMA is a great sport, you only have to pop your head into a local gym to see the enjoyment that people are getting, when I have a gym its not necessary just about the fighters. At the end of the day look at the cohort who are fighters, they are the people who need the most energy and effort and probably give back the least, cause they are generally pretty selfish at that time and poor. I am in the UFC and I don’t have money, only the top guys in the UFC have money.

Fighters can be a hard one too, everyone thinks they are going to open up an MMA gym and have fighters, wrong, open up a gym and have people who want to be there and if they want to be fighters then cool. I am going to open a gym and I am going to have regular people and show them what martial arts is about, which plenty of people like my coach is doing, normal people who can train and enjoy the sport for what it is and a fight team is a bonus, but that takes time to develop.

Richie Walsh and Kiichi Kunimoto

What was the experience like in Japan?

Going to Japan was awesome, I have about 500 GB’s of Pride on my hard-drive and I have watched every single fight, just being in Japan was a dream come true and fighting in Saitama Super Arena. Seeing the UFC guys, I got to meet up with Enson Inoue and he sat down with me for hours actually before my fight and gave me a good pep talk and we just chilled. He told me stories about Pride, obviously I knew him well from all his fights and the day before weigh-ins to get pep talk from a guy who has been in there and doesn’t give a shit who he fights, he is a tough guy, and he passed it onto me he said ‘Don’t be scared, don’t be scared and leave it all in the ring’.”

Its like a Mecca for martial arts and I was cutting weight with Mark Hunt in the sauna’s, that was cool. I caught up with my opponent Kiichi after the fight and went and grabbed some sashimi and sushi in Osaka. So, I caught up with his crew, his coach is a former Pride fighter, we had an interpreter. Just a good experience, I am not a fan boy as such, but being in the places where you fight, once your in the UFC your time to sit down and enjoy the ride is limited, so that 4 weeks after the fight is the only time you have to enjoy it.

On the subject of dropping to lightweight Richie was noncommittal.

I don’t know if I can do it, go to lightweight, I am not actually big for my weight class, maybe I can put on a bit of size for my next fight. I don’t feel like I have ever been out-muscled, a week after the fight Kiichi was walking around at 90 (kgs) , I am usually 82 kgs, so I am giving away a bit of weight, but you go down a division, you have to be fast, you go up a division they are slower and hit harder. It is feasable for me to go down (to lightweight) but mentally is it good, would it be good for my chin, my lifestyle, my relationship, at this stage probably not.

Richie Walsh

Richie was helping teammates from TUF Nations Daniel Kelly and Jake Matthews to prepare for UFC Sydney just prior to the interview and here is how he saw there chances.

Yeah I was in Melbourne for a couple weeks and now they are here training at VT-1. I was pure wrestling with Dan (Kelly) and I am no chance of getting that guy down, he is a Judo four time Olympian. Jake Matthews is fighting a top grappler but you can have a good striking game and pretty much mitigate their take downs and submissions. On the other side of the coin you definately use your strikes to set up submissions, punches completely change the dynamics of jiu-jitsu and how it works. You see guys in MMA who aren’t necessarily great jiu-jitsu guys but they have a couple of great subs and if they get the chance they will finish it. In the odd case there is guys who are just such freaks at jiu-jitsu they can make it work.

Richie Walsh trains out of VT-1 Mixed Martial Arts Academy Sydney and is available for 1:1 coaching sessions by appiontment.


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Categories: Asian MMA, Australia, Featured, Japan, MMA, UFC

Author:Michael Job

Australasian MMA


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