Exclusive! Chris Millward interview
by Carl Fisher ADCC Europe
Chris Milward & Carl Fisher
Carl Fisher: You competed at Ultimate Fight Night last week and you defeated Gaz Roriston. Was that your first fight as a professional?
Chris Milward: Yes, that was my first professional fight. I have done one amateur Vale Tudo match before and I've done Light Pancrase earlier in the year which Fred Rado ran which I really enjoyed. The Fight Night was really good fun though.
"the best thing I saw at UFN was Chris Milwards throw on Gaz Roriston. That's years of Judo training to get that instinct. Beautiful" - Alexis, instructor at London Shootfighters
Carl Fisher: You were scheduled to fight with Leigh Remedios on that night but you didn't, were you disappointed?
Chris Milward: At the time, no I wasn't disappointed. I do the Vale tudo pretty much for fun really and I just fight against who ever I am put up against. As long as the match is in reason and they are my weight I don't mind, I'll fight anybody, but looking back Leigh is the main man at lightweight competitions, under 75kilos which he won his belt at, even though Louis Beale was I think a bit heavier than that, but yes, looking back I would like to fight him in the future.
Carl Fisher: Getting back to your Judo background, how did you get started?
Chris Milward: I actually started when I was six years old, I was getting bullied at school or so you think when you're that age. My mum took me down to the local Judo club and after one lesson I was no longer getting bullied because I ended up having a fight with my bully and showing him how much good Judo can do for you. It was only confidence really, you don't realise it at that age, you think its the Judo but really its only confidence.
Carl Fisher: What have you progressed on in Judo, competition and career wise?
Chris Milward: Career wise I started competing seriously when I was about 14, up until then I played at it and just enjoyed it, competing in my area which is the North West of England. I got medals in the National Championships which got me onto the Junior Team of Great Britain which took me abroad fighting in Holland, Belgium, France regularly, which eventually got me onto the Senior Team for Great Britain when I turned 20. I fought the American Open and the German Open for them and of course the British Open so it was all go. I haven't made the Team this year, which is unfortunate for me and really is a bit of a blow, but never mind.
Carl Fisher: What do you think about the Olympics this year with the rule changes and the overall standard?
Chris Milward: I thought to be honest the quality of Judo wasn't that good. What shone through really for me it wasn't the best Judo players in Team One, it wasn't they stylish Judo players, the natural Judo players, it was the ones who worked hard, got their head down, got stuck in and it was their sheer grit and determination that was winning the match's rather than flair and charisma. Which was quite a surprise really.
Carl Fisher: Now that you've had the taste for mixed martial arts and Vale tudo, have you got a preference or do you like just mixing and matching?
Chris Milward: I have a strong preference and it is towards Judo. If a no holds barred match came up 3 weeks before a Judo contest, I would not do it, but if it was the other way round I would do the Judo contest and then go onto the no holds barred. You know I do think that no holds barred is very risky, it's much more risky than Judo injury wise but I definitely enjoy it.
Carl Fisher: Have you done the MMA for personal reasons or just to see if you can make the crossover?
Chris Milward: To be honest, I went down to the Colleseum in Leigh to see if I could learn anything from my Judo. If there were any strangles, arm locks that I haven't seen before, that I could maybe sneak onto the Judo guys because nobody has seen everything and everything goes round to full circle and I was just wondering if they were at a different stage in the circle to where I was.
Carl Fisher: Have you found it has improved your Judo game?
Chris Milward: Yes it has. I'm looking for sneakier things now in the Judo, rather than going for the obvious set ups I'll see a sneaky arm lock and take it.
Carl Fisher: So you are a firm believer in cross training then?
Chris Milward: Half and half really, I mean cross training, grappling wise, yes, I'm doing my no holds barred and doing my Judo but I am still yet to be changed over to the kicking and punching side of things.
Carl Fisher: Who do you rate in Europe at the moment in Judo and mixed match?
Chris Milward: Well actually my training partner is a girl called Michelle Rogers, it might surprise you really, but she's around about 15kilos heavier than me, solid muscle, she's a brilliant girl on one of my heroes. I think she's amazing, she was unfortunate not to make the Olympic Team this year but hopefully next year she'll be at the World Championships and plugging away there. She's the one that I rate the most.
Carl Fisher: You do Judo at competition level but it is also part of your work can you outline for me what you actually do?
Chris Milward: My job is actually a Judo teacher. I go round schools, the Company I work for contacts schools, they set up Judo classes either before school, at dinner time or after school and some even have it as a PE lesson. I teach children from 6 to 16 how to do Judo, the basics of Judo, try to make it fun for them. I try and give the younger ones, especially, a bit of discipline and hopefully by the end of the course they have got a lot of respect for each other and the Judo way of life has touched them even if they don't take up Judo outside of the School at least they have been influenced by it. I definitely think it does influence them eventually.
Carl Fisher: Are you impressed by Brazilian jujitsu?
Chris Milward: Brazilian jujitsu thats a good question. I haven't really seen a lot of it but what little I have seen is guard, everyone works from their guard, so yes they are excellent from their guard, there's no way of taking that away from them, I've been on with a couple of people who have been stood up with them on the Judo mat, I have never been touched getting thrown by them. I think bringing them into the mixed martial arts scene against myself the guards can be used in different ways really, I think if there are punches to the head as there was in the Ultimate Fight Night I got stuck in Gaz's guard a lot but I was never really in any danger because I just stuck my head down and aimed for his face with my fists. However, if there wasn't any punching to the head, the person underneath is definitely got the hand for the submission, so there's 2 ways of looking at it really.
Carl Fisher: Do you have a favourite position on the ground?
Chris Milward: On top!! No seriously, I prefer just working through arm bars or strangles or whatever sticks out. I hate ankle locks, I'm no good at them I just can't do them.
Carl Fisher: Did you enjoy the Sambo Tournament this year?
Chris Milward: Oh I loved it.
Carl Fisher: Was it your first time?
Chris Milward: First time ever I've done Sambo, seen Sambo, tried Sambo but I loved it, I shouldn't really say this but I went out the night before, maybe to give myself an excuse but even so it was really good fun. There were some tough competitors there.
Carl Fisher: However, luckily you did not face me! Would you enter the competition again?
Chris Milward: Yes, I'd love to, I've really enjoyed the Sambo probably more than the no holds barred because its closer to Judo than no holds barred is.
Carl Fisher: Any plans for further International competition?
Chris Milward: Yes, hopefully this year coming up, 2001, I will be getting away with the Judo Team I don't know where to yet, maybe plan to go and do the German Open or the American Open later in the year. The North West Team has decided that they want to take myself and 4 or 5 others to Japan for 2 weeks at Easter. Young Matthew Clempner will be going and he's really looking forward to it, and we're just trying to raise some money, hopefully get in touch with some firms and get some corporate sponsorship. We're not after a lot of money per person its maybe £800 but if one person could get £800 between us it means that we could split it and that means its only £600 we're looking at.
Carl Fisher: You have just raised a good point of sponsorship, especially in Britain. What are your views on it from competing, because you see many people in the papers doing martial arts and other tournaments and everyone seems to be struggling for sponsorship?
Chris Milward: I went to the Olympic training centre in Colorado Springs last year, America's Olympic training centre and the facilities they have there are amazing, for every single sport and all around the complex you see McDonalds, Fuji Film, Cannon, every massive massive company you could imagine have got their banners up. They fund the place. Bringing that across to Great Britain, I know Barclay Card were putting a lot of money into the Great Britain Olympic Team before the Olympics also the National Lottery grants are pretty exclusive for the Judo players and only maybe the top 2 or 3 in each weight category get them but other than that you are really struggling.
Carl Fisher: So it's not trickling down as it should?
Chris Milward: Not at all, no. I think if there were grants, they should be more regional and if anybody knows anything about how to get a regional grant and where to get them from, I have even contacted local councils and they say that they don't grant individual players, they will grant clubs but not the individual which is a major sticking part because when you are doing an individual sport and you are the only one eligible for the grant in your club you just haven't got a chance.
Carl Fisher: Where do you currently do your Judo and general training?
Chris Milward: First of all general training, I don't do any supplementary training, I don't do weights or running, all my training is Judo. I go to the Colleseum in Leigh maybe once a fortnight if I'm very lucky to get my punching and kicking in, but my real Judo training I do at a club called SKK Judo Club which is in Newton-le-Willows near Liverpool/St Helens way and its a top quality club. They have 2 coaches there, Peter Blood and Carl Finney. Carl Finney went to the 1990 World Championships at 60 kilos, he's a top quality fighter. Pete's one of the best technical coaches for me in the country. My former training partner is a guy called Nigel Donahue who was European Champion and 6 times European silver medalist, 2 times bronze medalist and he really is my hero. He's now the Scottish team coach, so there has always been top quality people who you can emulate and people you can look up to.
Carl Fisher: Are we on the same level as the Americans in Judo?
Chris Milward: In Judo we are actually above the Americans. They prefer the wrestling both the freestyle and the Greco Roman really, but yes I'd say we are on a better level than they are on the whole, but even so they do still get the better facilities, if we had their facilities imagine how good we could be.
Carl Fisher: So what do you think could be a solution for the sponsorship because that does seem to be the heart of it doesn't it?
Chris Milward: Money doesn't solve your problem, what solves the problem is that if you have a place to train for free such as a local gym, may be a North West Centre, where anybody at a certain standard can go and use the free Olympic weights without paying a £30 monthly fee as you would at the local gym, it all adds up, they could give you free practice because the clubs have got to pay the gas and electricity bills so they can't let you on for free but if they paid your mat fees and your gym fees then you can start looking else where for your travel. Thats what I'm paying at the moment, but if I was paying gym fees that could quite easily cover my travel expenses for at least 2 trips. So I think that would be a good idea, the local councils could say "OK we'll give you the use of our sports centre facilities for free" I do know that St Helens council do that at the moment and I am currently applying to there, but my area which is Wigan, don't do that at the moment. I do think that is what needs to be done though.
Carl Fisher: Getting back to mixed martial arts, do you have any more plans or tournaments?
Chris Milward: I haven't got any plans, no. I would like to do some more because I think I could make a bit of an impact, I'm not after being a world beater or anything really, I just do it for fun like I said but I would like a contest with Remedios of course. That would be an interesting one because he's more my height, I spoke to him at the Ultimate Fight Night and he asked me my weight and I said 73 kilos and he replied well we wouldn't have been fighting anyway because he'd told the organiser that if I was over 70 kilos he wouldn't fight, but I mean, earlier this year I was weighing 75 kilos and beating at 66 kilos so I haven't got a problem with getting down to under 71 kilos if he wants (and it is up to him of course) and is happy to make a compromise, if weighs 68 kilos, I weigh 73 kilos if they call it under 71's that would be very interesting really because I think he will want to test himself to prove that he is the best no holds barred fighter. I'm not saying that I'm the best or anywhere near, I know I'm not but if he thinks his best way of winning at no holds barred is through his grappling skills I'm sure I will be able to push him every inch of the way.
Carl Fisher: Well, promoters take note there - Lets get that one on, sounds very good. Would you like to fight in Abu Dhabi?
Chris Milward: I'd love to. I have read in a few of the magazines, the Abu Duabi reports that it is very prestigious to get invited there, but yes it would be good.
Carl Fisher: Why don't you see so many of the Judo lads profiles in magazines?
Chris Milward: They keep themselves to themselves. They all think I'm mental doing the no holds barred but I think what has happened is, especially reading SFUK, I know Remedios has slagged Judo off something rotten. He says we all have attitude problems. The none-Judo players have got hold of it that is Jujitsu players have got hold of it and put a lot of pressure on the Judo players so its pretty much a closed shop. I think Wayne Lakin has got into it and maybe a boy called Ian but other than that, I've only seen us 2 and a couple of others, but no major hierarchy of the Judo players.
Carl Fisher: Have you studied any other martial arts.
Chris Milward: No, just Judo.
Carl Fisher: Who do you see as up and coming fighters for 2001.
Chris Milward: A lot of the lads from the Colleseum really. Obviously I have close links with them but Ryan Horton is a young lad, a skinny little whippet, but I think he could make a bit of an impact in the under 65 kilos if they decide to bring that weight category in. Paul Ramsdale, his third fight was against Jeremy Bailey and apparently he should have beaten him until he gassed out and Jeremy Bailey put his number on him which was fair enough. So those 2 mainly.
Carl Fisher: What has the year 2000 been like for you?
Chris Milward: Last week was the British Judo Championships and I've moved up to a new weight category of 73 kilos, I wasn't really expecting to get anywhere, they've changed the system so its like trials of groups of 4 like the Champions League is, where all the weights are through to the final 4. It started off with 27 then went down to 18, then 12 and then to 8 and lastly 4. I got to the final 8 and got beaten on a split decision in the last match against a lad who got bronze at the British Open. If I had won a match there it would have put me into the final 4 Great Britain Team, a lottery grant, but unfortunately. That was disappointing. I am pleased with the progression I have made technically, but a bit disappointed with the result at the end of it.
Carl Fisher: 2001 - back to the drawing board?
Chris Milward: Yes, back to the drawing board, I've got to change the way that I train the running boots will be pulled on, the weights will be coming out. Hopefully meaner and tougher!
Carl Fisher: My last question to you now. You are in the finals at Abu Dhabi, you have got through, you've done the business who would be your dream opponent and why?
Chris Milward: Who would be my nightmare opponent?! Nigel Donahue really. Many people haven't heard of him I imagine, he's a Judo player who I mentioned before and my former training partner. He only used to compete at 60 kilos. He was World Junior Wrestling Champion, Free Style Wrestling Champion and just an awesome Judo player and I think this strangles and arm locks are just phenomenal. He would be a bad opponent for me.
Carl Fisher: Chris, thanks for the interview.
Chris Milward: Thank you Carl, its a pleasure
Carl Fisher ADCC Europe, SFUK Correspondent 18 december 2000
Postscript: Since this interview was conducted Chris has been co-opted for the GB Judo team for the next 6 months. He'll be competing at the Belgium and German Opens. Both will be extremely tough as it is the World Championships this year and people will pushing for success. Good luck Chris.
If you would like SFUK to interview you, contact us here