CRAIG JOHNS BREAKS THE FIRST RULE Fries raring to go after battle with his demons
IN NOVEMBER 2011, Sunderland mixed martial artist Phil De Fries should have been on top of the world.
The popular heavyweight was undefeated and had just signed to the UFC – the pinnacle of mixed martial arts.
He won his first fight for the world’s biggest MMA promotion and, from there, the world should have been his oyster. Except it wasn’t. De Fries would win another two fights in the octagon, but would also lose two before leaving the company and returning to the North East.
It wasn’t within the cage where his biggest battles were though. It was inside his own head.
“I had really bad anxiety. Not just about fighting, about life in general.
“In truth I was not well. The anxiety wasn’t diagnosed but I knew I was not in a good place.
“I kept fighting, but in truth, I hated it. I hated fighting, I hated competing in the sport. I hated everything – training, sparring, the lot.”
It seems strange that Phil would hate the game that much. Despite his UFC disappointment, he kept on going.
It takes a lot of dedication to compete in any sport at the level that Phil has throughout his career, but to willingly step into an arena knowing it’s just you and another man, one-on-one, with the objective being to hurt one another, takes a lot of motivation.
Whatever kept Phil going, it’s a good job it did.
After one particular defeat post-UFC, the Sunderland veteran admits he took it badly. He felt as low as ever and “hit the bottle hard”, as he so matter-of-factly puts it.
“I knew something wasn’t right. In truth I’d always known, but I was so low then that I decided to see a doctor,” he said. “He diagnosed me with severe anx- Phil De Fries defeats Michal Andryszak to win the KSW heavyweight title iety and I’ve been getting treatment for it ever since.
“Through pills and therapy I’m slowly starting to turn my life around. I feel happy for the first time in a long time.
“In truth, I probably suffered from this anxiety for years, I just never realised that’s what it was. Once it was diagnosed I was finally able to get it sorted.”
Phil’s story is one that certainly outlines the importance of speaking out about what for too long has been seen as taboo – mental health.
And not only has speaking out and receiving treatment helped his personal life, his professional life has flourished too.
The wrestling specialist has been completely reinvigorated in the cage – inspired by the birth of his two daughters. He’s on a three-fight winning streak, with big victories ries in M1 and Bellator before picking cking up the KSW world heavyweight title in Poland in his last fight.
And next Saturday the 32-year-old makes the first t defence of his title against Karol Bedorf as the big Polish promotion makes its UK debut at the SSE Arena Wembley.
Bedorf was the inaugural KSW heavyweight champion, pion, but Phil is confident in his own ability. ility.
“In truth, the he UFC came far too early for me. As well ell as my demons outside the cage, I wasn’t developed enough inside it either. r.
“I’ve learned ed so much since then and I’m a much more rounded fighter now.
“Bedorf has s to be respected. He held this belt previously. iously. But I honestly don’t think he’s as good as the guy I won the belt from (Michal Andryszak). I believe I’m better than him in every aspect. It’s up to me to prove that.
“I’m not just fighting for me now. I’m fighting for my family. I’m fighting to provide the best life for my two daughters. It’s going to take something special to stop me with that motivation.”
Phil De Fries (15-6) vs Karol Bedorf (15-3) for the KSW heavyweight title headlines KSW 45 at SSE Arena Wembley on Saturday, October 6. Tickets are still available from the arena website. Alternatively, you can watch the fight online at w w w . kswtv.com for £9.
Phil De Fries celebrates his KSW heavyweight title win