UFC light heavyweight contender Paul Craig is targeting a legacy that extends beyond title glory inside the Octagon.
Craig is currently in the best form of his career on MMA’s biggest stage to date. Since a 2-5 run, which included defeats to Jimmy Crute and Alonzo Menifield, the Scotsman has gone 5-0-1, with the only non-green column in that period being a split-draw versus Maurício Rua, whom he later beat in a rematch.
Early into his most recent outing, a clash against then-top 10-ranked light heavyweight Nikita Krylov at March’s UFC London event, it looked like Craig’s charge up the ladder was set to be stalled. But despite being pummelled with ground-and-pound shots, “Bearjew” flipped the script in seconds with his trademark triangle choke.
Now, having extended his winning run and risen to #8 in the 205-pound rankings, Craig has bid farewell to his previous early-retirement plans, and set his sights on the throne. And given the rise of Magomed Ankalaev, whose sole loss in professional MMA came against Craig, the 34-year-old Airdrie native certainly has a clear route to the gold.
But while he certainly boasts that aspiration, there’s something that sits above a championship crowning when it comes to how Craig wants to be remembered.
Craig: I Want To Be Remembered For Moments
During his appearance at UFC London media day on Wednesday, Craig discussed his goals and ambitions, and the sort of legacy that he’s hoping to leave behind when he departs the sport down the line.
And more than just having a ‘former champion’ tag attached to him, “Bearjew” wants to create memorable moments that won’t be forgotten.
“Yes, I think (records and moments mean more). I mean, the title would be amazing because you are in actual history, but all these kind of things, like, nobody remembers who is the champion before,” Craig said. “I know the champion the last couple times because I’m actually watching and being like, ‘I need to know who these are.’ But champions come and go.
“I would like to be remembered for moments, rather than just having the title and then walking off into the sunset. For me, it’s about all these moments: the last-second (wins), getting beat up and then coming back — they’re worth more to me than the gold,” Craig added.
It’s safe to say that Craig has gone someway to accomplishing that goal already.
From his literal last-second victory over Ankalaev and his similar come-from-behind triumph against Krylov to the gruesome way he dislocated Jamahal Hill’s elbow to hand “Sweet Dreams” his first defeat last June, Craig is certainly far from forgettable.
He’ll look to add another moment to that list today when he returns to The O2 for his second London appearance of the year. In Craig’s way of another ascension up the light heavyweight ladder, and perhaps a third triangle-choke win in England’s capital, will be former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir.
Do you see Paul Craig as a future UFC light heavyweight champion?