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I need to start from scratch once this is over – Camilleri

Maltese MMA fighter Matthew Camilleri insists coming back after the coronavirus standstill means most fighters and athletes in general will need to start from scratch to regain what was lost during these trying times. He believes it will be quite different when it all blows over.

“The main problem here is the length of time. We have to start from scratch, and I think those who have a gym at home will probably be more prepared than the rest,” Camilleri told the Sunday Times of Malta.

“Fighters definitely won’t want to fight before everything is back to normal – you need at least a month or two, a month if you’re lucky, to gain weight and prepare to get that feeling back.

“I also see some promotions going out of business and people quitting. This (pandemic) feels much like an injury and you’ve got to wait until after recovery.

“I personally want to hit the ground running after all this because our names are still in the books and I’m still in the running to fight in Cage Warriors if someone drops out.”

The Maltese professional fighter, based in Liverpool, has been feeling the effects of the lockdown imposed in the UK in March but said he is putting this time inside to good use.

“Our gyms closed down around a week and a half after they did in Malta and I’ve taken some equipment home. I train in any way I can here, because we have a big courtyard but that’s it.

“I was supposed to have a grappling competition on March 28 which I was preparing and even lost weight for until a week before, they told us it wasn’t going to happen.”

Trying to cope with all this, Camilleri said he often uses the only allowed time out to buy his groceries from the supermarket wearing weights to make it a training session.

For him, this time inside has been one of analysis of his previous fight against Englishman Jordan Barton in February which turned out to be his first professional loss.

“I’ve been watching old fights, especially my last one to see what I’ve done wrong. That’s the thing I’ve been doing the most,” Camilleri explained.

“The first thing which came to mind (after the fight) was ‘How did I lose this?’ and until this day I still can’t fully accept it because I’m sure I could have gone all the way with only 15 seconds remaining.

“I’ve had four weeks (before lockdown) to see my mistakes and I’m working on them.

“Now that everything has stopped, I think it’s beneficial for me that I’m not stressing out my body that much because I’m not making any contact. This way, my body’s recovering from the hits and resting while I’m training anyway.”

Camilleri recalls how risking and rushing might have cost him the fight against Barton.

“I took a risk and tried to finish him in the first round which backfired and what I had planned worked the other way around,” he admitted.

“I don’t usually rush but everyone was saying things because I was doing very well in training and I may have been a bit overconfident. But I’d rather it happened now than before going to the UFC. Now I know what to do.”

UFC competition

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has recently been in the spotlight after president Dana White announced he would hold an event on a private island during the pandemic.

The event was later called off after interventions from ESPN and Disney. Asked about the proposed event, Camilleri was sceptical about whether it would have worked out well had it taken place.

“Having a place (to hold the event) is one thing but would fighters be willing to go there, and how would they get there with airports being closed and lockdowns imposed?” he argued.

He also noted that other promoters like Cage Warriors had held an event, which he himself was invited to take part in but had to refuse due to the very little time after his last fight.

This was held behind closed doors which means the promotion made no more from the event.

While most sportspersons are trying to remain focused on their sport, many of them have taken to following other disciplines as well, sparking a community between athletes.

Similarly, Camilleri remarked that despite having been a Formula One follower for a while, time spent inside has increased his interest.

“To be honest, I’ve always followed F1 – I was always a fan. While before it was just a sporadic interest, now that I’ve not got much to do, I’ve ended up watching more and even playing the video game.

“I’ve been watching a lot of old races and even the new Formula E (Electric Cars),” Camilleri concluded.

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