Steve Dempsey, The Mauler, hits Ring of Truth 3
September 3 2000
SFUK : Hi Steve, if you don't mind me saying so, you're an MMA veteran! Give us a quick run down on your MA history.
Mauler : My career in martial started around 23 years ago, I was sixteen and just leaving school. Iād always been interested in the arts and boxing before that and like many other kids of that age had gone along to the local Kung Fu school and went to the local cinema to watch the martial arts flicks etc. However at 16 I decided to join the Metropolitan Police Cadets, I new they had great sports facilities at their Hendon base and I was very interested in sport at that time.
When I joined the cadets I was only 5ft 8 and weighed in at only 9 stone, I was the smallest cadet on parade. I decided to take up boxing in order to establish some respect and also trained hard in the Judo classes which I never missed (it had nothing to do with the female instructor, honest!). After my first two years of training I became a fairly good boxer and represented the Police in several events, usually against the army or navy. After time I had earned the respect of my fellow cadets and earned the nickname of "Jack" after Jack Dempsey the heavyweight boxer and "Mauler" because of my in fighting methods in the ring and out. In my 3rd phase of cadet training I moved from Hendon to Wanstead which was a cadet centre that specialised in boxing. We use to have boxing camps at an old prison of war camp in Epping forest, where top pro boxers were invited to teach us their skills. It was a very enjoyable time for me.
After the cadets I was in the police for two years and gained some good experience but decided that I was not destined to be a police officer (for a start I hated paperwork and going to court straight after a night shift etc). In the following years I stopped boxing and spent a lot of time being a bit of a journey man really around the local martial arts clubs, going from venue to venue but not really being happy with either the style or in some cases my instructors. I had been in the streets with the police and witnessed first hand the kind of violence that you can be confronted with and therefore was really looking for something that I felt was a realistic form of self defence that would work in the urban street, bars and clubs.
My last art form was Choi Kwang Do, developed by Grandmaster Jo Kwang Choi. I enjoyed this style and found the theory behind the techniques to be sound but was still not 100% happy and although I reached Chief Instructor status decided to leave. After a short while in the wilderness It was my wife's idea to develop my own system and eventually opened my own club. The system was called Han Soo Do and the first club was opened in Harrow and proved very successful, it was a system that used extremely basic moves taken from other styles but stripped down to a minimum amount of motion but with maximum effect.
SFUK : When did you get started in MMA as opposed to MA?
Mauler : I guess it was about three years ago or so, I canāt really remember as things have happened so fast with the MMA scene and I have an exceptionally bad memory! At Han Soo Do classes we introduced a lot of cross training which I had learnt from the various clubs I had been to in the past and my basic judo and some ju jitsu training in the police.
I can remember seeing some UFC tapes and thinking, Shit! This is for me, a way that we can test our methods against an opponent in a ring or cage in this case, legally and as near as damn it to a street fight or so I thought at the time. It was then Lee Hasdellās Totalfight organisation caught my eye and from that point on I was hooked. We changed the name of our club to HSD Combat and continued to cross train with MMA in mind. I lost some students due to the changes but also gained some new lads who are now training with me in Harrow. The club is small but dedicated, hopefully by the end of this year I will be introducing some of my fighters to the competition circuit.
SFUK : You're a long-term member of the TFF. What's your opinion of Hasdell? He's had a hard time and born the brunt of all the negative press on his shoulders.
Mauler : Itās simple! I have total respect and admiration for the man. Youāre right he has born the brunt of all the press etc and even criticism from some people within MMA. You have to remember that not only has he brought MMA to the shores of the UK by establishing the Total Fight Forum but he has continued to fight on the world circuit whilst doing so. The simple fact is that without Lee Hasdell many of todayās UK fighters would still be practising their arts in church halls and dojoās around the country instead of performing at MMA events around the UK and the world with a following of MMA fans behind them. What ever Lee decides to in the future you can bet will be to the benefit of the future of Martial Arts in the UK. As I said total respect!
SFUK : Agreed! How do you see the future for MMA in the UK?
Mauler : I think we have to be careful here. Things are moving very fast now, we have several promoters on the scene and an increasing amount of fighters. We also have various people talking about forming governing boards for the sport, all this is good news but my concern would be that the sport becomes to fragmented. With various different rules and even styles being introduced with in the scene we are in danger of diluting the impact of MMA. I think that this would be the one disagreement I would have with promoters such as Lee.
The introduction of a number of different rules at the big events can only lead to confusion for the general public that come to watch and to be honest we do not have a huge enough MMA fan base yet to make these events successful without attracting the general public. To be really basic about this, the fight fans want to see two skilled fighters having a good battle in the ring without the confusion of to many rules such as the Vale Tudo or UFC bouts abroad.
What I believe is very important is that with the growing number of fighters here in the UK, is that we go the way of Boxing and ensure that the fighters are represented by a "fighters union". Ensuring that their safety and treatment is the best that we can provide and that they have a voice. As with boxing the union should be run by fighters for fighters.
SFUK : What kind of syllabus do you teach in your club?
Mauler : Yes, as I mentioned earlier the club is called HSD Combat and is based in Harrow at the Harrow Martial Arts centre. Iām not really one for having formats and tend to have a fairly relaxed club. The set up is similar to a boxing gym really. We train from 8pm to 10.30pm on a Wednesday night and as my students would tell you it is a very hard workout. The first 45 minutes consist of a purely aerobic workout with exercises adjusted to fit in with the kind of fighting that we do.
I have had people leave the club purely because the 45 minute workout has exhausted them, I am a firm believer in maintaining a high fitness level if you want to compete. The middle part of the lesson is usually technique based either striking or grappling and the last part of the session is pure sparring consisting off all the elements of MMA training, which is what I consider to be the real training.
SFUK : I said you were a MMA veteran but in October you're fighting pro for the 1st Time at ROT3. Why now.
Mauler : Because I'm nut's! No really Its been along time since I climbed in the ring and I just feel that the time is right for me now with ROT 3 coming up. It's a great opportunity for me to perform at one of the biggest MMA events of the year. I have written a lot about MMA in martial arts publications over the years and I guess its time to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. I feel I have worked my apprenticeship as an amateur and at 39 I don't think I have to much time left, although you never know! Above all I really want to do it for my dad. He passed away four years ago from cancer and he always wanted me to be a success at what I do. He was the kindest man you could ever wish to meet and a inspiration to me. It's to him that I would dedicate this fight, I know he'll be watching.
SFUK : Sorry to hear that. I'm sure he'll be proud of you when you fight in October.
Your opponent wil be TMA's John Williamson. What do you know about him and how do you see the fight?
Mauler : Again I go back to my boxing days. I like to know as much as I can about my opponent, that was the problem with the amateurs really, you never know beforehand who your opponent would be so you could never train for that opponent. I know an awful lot about John. I have a lot of respect for him, he has been in the pro ring for some time now and therefore has gained a lot of experience since his early MMA days. I have met John before as an amateur and I have a few videos of his fights that I have studied and analysed. I know his background in the martial arts and have a good idea of his character. I believe in doing my homework! But I'm sure John is doing the same. I think my main problem will be the pre fight activities, Iām not sure how Iām going to react when I'm waiting in the dressing room or prior to entering the ring and the sound of the crowd. I have not experienced that for a long time and John has. Once in the ring, well wait and see! I know John will give his all, as I will.
SFUK :What's you're current training like?
Mauler : Itās funny how things happen. I had to cut some weight for this fight, I was around 80 kilos prior to going on holiday. So I thought I'd do plenty of running and swimming whilst away and train hard during September, which I did in the first week however the second week I ended up getting a spot of Spanish tummy, which I've only just got over. I'm now weighing in at 75 kilos my target weight. I have my own gym at home and the Harrow Martial Arts centre have offered me their facility to train in at any time. I'm presently doing a lot of hi energy fitness training to keep my weight down but also weights to help maintain my strength and power. I train much as I did when I was boxing all those years ago, nearer the time my training will consist of mostly sparring.
SFUK : You're a bit of a renaissance man, fighter, coach, writer and you've also been involved in charity work, tell us a bit more...
Mauler : From time to time I think is nice to help those a little less fortunate than our selves. Like I've already said my father died of cancer four years ago and I can remember walking through a children's ward at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow with my dad and he was so upset by some of the illnesses these children where suffering from, some from cancer. Yet they where still joking and laughing and enjoying what little time some of them still had.
In 1998 I heard about a little girl who was suffering from cerebral palsy and decided to hold a martial arts day of demonstrations and an auction to raise money so she could receive treatment at a top clinic. It was called "Heart of the Dragon", I wrote to a lot of martial arts people both here and in the US for their support. People like Linda Lee Cadwell (Bruce's wife), Marco Ruas, Royce Gracie and Cynthia Rothrock all sent items over for auction, and from the UK Geoff Thompson sent many signed books.
The event was attended by (and I make no excuse for naming them) Alan Charlton of the SPA, Richard Hopkins and his family from WUMA, Alwyn Dixon from Krav Maga and Leslie Crumplin-Hill among others. Since then I try to do as much as we can for charities even if its just advertising in their litrature. It all helps. Maybe we should have a MMA event with all proceeds going to a childrens chariety, what do you think?
SFUK : That would be a great idea, you should put it to the promoters. Steve, the interview's been a real pleasure, thanks for your time and good luck for the ROT .
Mauler : I'd just like to thank SFUK for the good work they do and apologise for babbling on, but I do get carried away.
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