Martial arts has its own way of creeping into lives, steering troublesome youths off the wrong side of the tracks, shaping people into stronger characters. For others, martial arts is one of the major components that has always been prominent in their livelihood.
Being Eugene ‘The Sniper’ Fadiora (13-2) has meant the latter, beginning in the traditional discipline of Karate.
“I’ve always done martial arts since the age of four or five,” Fadiora entailed. “I was never really into football, so I started in the Shotokan style before trying Toyakwai. Eventually, I moved to Wolverhampton and practiced Go-Kan-Ryu, which is basically a rip-off of Shotokan.
“I practiced karate for ten years and both my brother and myself were really good. We’d go to competitions and win medals every time. We got to blue belt in Go-Kan-Ryu and we got a new regional manager. For some reason he took a dislike to me and my brother. We went to a grading once and the way GKR has it, you don’t have to be a black belt to be a teacher. You reach yellow belt, go to a weekend course for six weeks where you get given the right to teach with a black belt that has a stripe on it, but still doesn’t mean you’re a black belt in any way.
“We go to the gradings in front of sixty people in a hall as well as the teachers and managers. The regional manager who disliked us, the only two people in the whole room he failed were me and my brother even though in the sparring we beat up all the black belts. We were fitter and better than so many of them, but the regional manager said to me afterwards that the only reason he failed me was because I didn’t show enough power in one of my moves. He should’ve passed me as he knew I had the power.”
As Eugene grew older, practicing an art with minimal contact became tiresome. He needed something much more enticing, leading him to find kickboxing at fourteen-years-old. He began training at Eclipse Kickboxing, Wolverhampton under the esteemed tutelage of brothers Fran and John Zuccala.
However, Fadiora’s curiosity continued to spiral. Constantly looking for the next craft to hone, ‘The Sniper’ discovered MMA.
“Fran held multiple world and British championships and was a really good teacher,” Eugene informed. “I trained for around two years and kept telling them ‘I want to compete, I’m a competitor.’ He told me I could when I got better. I was getting a little impatient and at this point I’d started doing a little bit of MMA – mostly grappling.
“At this point I was paying for two gyms, I wasn’t being entered for any competitions. I was contemplating sacking it off and looking at what was next. Eventually I was put in for a kickboxing match and still went ahead with it, even though I’d had enough of kickboxing at this point.
“When I’d officially had enough of karate, I started looking around. My friend Dan Korbely, who now owns Wolverhampton MMA, found an MMA gym near us. Being young lads, not driving, we were going to get the bus. We bought a Daysaver, but we didn’t know the Daysaver only worked on one bus company. We got into the town centre to jump on the next bus and weren’t allowed on.
“Dan had his mum drop him off the next day and continued to go to the gym whereas I stayed back with kickboxing,” continued Eugene. “After a year or so, I switched up and went with him to MMA every now and then and enjoyed it far more than karate or kickboxing. I think I picked it up rather quickly given my history. I’ve always been a quick learner that way.
“I’d go to one or two kickboxing lessons a week but then the rest of my time I’d give to MMA. I’d even skip college registration in the mornings to go and train. The morning sessions were always fighter classes, so they were harder than normal and then I’d go back again in the evening. In context I was seventeen-years-old, training twice a day and getting ready to have amateur fights.”
They said if I didn’t turn up, they’d get rid of me from their gym
Eugene’s MMA debut was scheduled at middleweight on Anger Management, Weston-Super-Mare. Having put the hard graft in, Fadiora made weight and concentrated on his bout throughout the day. As only luck would have it, a runner would then find Eugene and break the news in which his opponent had not turned up, despite the promotion being aware of this all day.
The anticlimactic pull-out naturally irked the Staffordshire man, taking him back to Eclipse in search of fast competition.
“I was fighting fit and ready to go, so I went back to kickboxing and they put me in a fight the week later,” Fadiora explained. “They said if I didn’t turn up, they’d get rid of me from their gym. The fight training for the kickboxing match was one hour a day, three days a week as that’s all my membership allowed. They wouldn’t let me train extra.
“I did my three sessions that week and fought on the weekend. After the fight they said ‘If we knew you’d fight that well we’d have put you on sooner.’ I never went back after that.”
Eugene went about his amateur bouts successfully each and every time, giving the young man much confidence leading into his professional debut. As fate would have it, his first listed amateur opponent would become his first professional opponent, packing some heated animosity in the process.
“There’s a few unlisted on Sherdog early on in amateur as I did compete on an interclub show ran by Marc Goddard in which I won three fights that day,” boasted Eugene. “Although, Neil Huntley was my first proper amateur opponent in a cage and he hated me. When I was winning fights at seventeen, being a bit cocky, I’d give it the old brush of the shoulder every time and Neil got one of them, too.
“I beat Neil in four minutes and fifty-nine seconds because as I had double underhooks, I crumpled him into the corner and his leg didn’t move so he torn his cruciate ligaments in his knee with one second left of the first round. Again, Neil got the brush of the shoulder.
“When I turned pro, I was meant to fight someone from his team, however they pulled out and Neil was at the show and asked to step in to fight me. I knew I wasn’t going to gain anything from it, but I thought I’d go ahead with it anyway.
“The fight went ahead and I destroyed him with elbows quickly,” Eugene continued. “I found out that he actually hadn’t yet had his follow-up appointments with the hospital for his knee from the first fight, so I sent him back to hospital that same day to get his face all stitched up as it was a mess from my elbows. He tried to fight me a third time, but I said no to that one.”
Out of all the bouts under the belt of the Kaobon middleweight, Fadiora feels his toughest came on Made4TheCage 7 with the 185lbs title up for grabs against fellow UK MMA veteran Andrew Punshon (13-8). On this, Eugene divulged:
“That one went back and forth. I think I overly respected him as I was very slow to get off the mark in which he took advantage of. If you watch the fight you can see how I acted as I went for a takedown and he quickly ended up on top of me trying to ground-and-pound me and that’s not something that really ever happened in my fights.
“I remember being underneath, taking shots. I think they really woke me up and got me going. You can see the change in me after I manage to escape. My attitude towards it changes and I upped the pressure.
“Also, if you watch the fight with Robert Devane it’s a similar scenario. I’d just come back after almost a year away, shaking off the ring rust and I’m so slow. He even knocks me out with a flash KO at one point. He threw some sort of axe kick and the next thing you know I’m on the floor getting beaten down. Then, something in my head just changes and I manage to get double underhooks, take mount and hit him so much he turned and gave me his neck.”
During Eugene’s stint as well as being such a young talent, he was touted as one of the brightest talents on UK shores which led to match-ups against names such as Gunnar Nelson, Matt Inman, Danny Mitchell and Brad Scott.
Leading into the Nelson fight, the striking artist was undefeated against all credible talent. Once back in action following the loss to the Icelandic grappler, proceedings were back in routine asEugene picked up a four-fight win streak; all coming by stoppage much like until his final bout on Bellator 118.
There was a little mile-long walking path that me and Paul Taylor would call ‘The Lover’s Walk’ because we’d walk it every day just to get out the hotel
Following the loss to Timothy Woods (7-5), Fadiora went back to the drawing board like many fighters do and questioned his next step. Life had taken massive adjustments and tough decisions were needing to be implemented.
“I think my family life changed,” Eugene expressed. “When I signed with Bellator, I was working shifts for the NHS so I was able to get away with changing my shifts to train more effectively. I was going up to Kaobon in Liverpool which was £20 in petrol every time I’d go plus the cost to train. Trying to maintain training at that level was costing me a bomb.
“Around that time I met my missus, got married and it was all good as I continued fighting, however things inside me began to change and I could sense that. Not long after, I had my daughter and I think you can see in my fight with Keith Berry on Bellator. The fight itself went really well, but I had to be away from my family for a week and I didn’t really like that, but it had to be done.
“I wasn’t massively into fighting abroad either as I was working to pay bills and didn’t have money to go off to the States with,” the 185-pounder confessed. “I was reliant on the $350 they gave me and my other person to share for five days. Food wasn’t provided, so we had to buy that ourselves. Literally, I spent five days in a hotel trying to buy food that I was still able to eat whilst making weight.
“I didn’t really enjoy the experience as I didn’t go out and do anything. The Berry fight was in New Mexico – the middle of nowhere. There was a little mile-long walking path that me and Paul Taylor would call ‘The Lover’s Walk’ because we’d walk it every day just to get out the hotel.
“The second fight versus Timothy Woods, everything went wrong. Before I even went out there I wasn’t one-hundred percent into it. I didn’t know within my subconscious if I wanted it anymore. In the lead-up, there was a short-notice change of opponent and the fight was brought forward a week onto an earlier Bellator card. That meant changing up my weight cut rapidly.
“I’m already unsure whether or not I want this and that last fight showed it. I was there to win, it was mine to take but I don’t think I was mentally there. I wasn’t striking the way I should or fighting in general the way I usually would and by this point I’d done ten to twelve years worth of striking and I barely throw a punch because I’m too busy trying to take him down which is so unlike me. All he did was kick me in the leg for fifteen minutes.
“It worked for him and he won, obviously, but I know I could’ve changed that had the switch came on. By that point, though, my mindset had gone.”
These days, Eugene finds himself teaching mixed martial arts to groups of all sizes as well as personal training. Being part of the sport in his own way is enough for Eugene now and has brought the fun back into MMA for him.
“I’ve taken up BJJ in the go now, too. I’m a purple belt. Being used to no-gi jiu jitsu and then getting stuck into it in the go has been a fun change for me. I’m not one of the old guys who gets out of shape now they don’t compete. I’ve always loved lifting weights and have been doing it in Crossfit too. You get a similar sense of camaraderie you do in MMA.”
…say I was to take three months to prep a return, there’s three months that would take my all of training, I’d have barely any money coming in from my PT business, everything would be on hold and I’d be spending more money than what’s coming in
Reflecting on his career, the fifteen-fight veteran has fond memories and deems it a success. Upon a return? He won’t rule it out if the stars happen to align, but many factors must come together in order for this to be given even an iota of thought. For now, Eugene is content in memories that, in his own words, have given him some of the best days of his life.
“I’ll never say never on a return,” Eugene asserted. “The longer I leave it the less likely it becomes, however as of now I don’t feel like I want to. I enjoy training to my own schedule. Plus, the financial gains now are even worse than when I was doing it. At least back then sponsors were willing to pay or the shows were more generous with purses, but now that there’s so many people who want to do it, it’s getting less and less.
“For an insight, say I was to take three months to prep a return, there’s three months that would take my all of training, I’d have barely any money coming in from my PT business, everything would be on hold and I’d be spending more money than what’s coming in. In return of that, you’re talking around £1,500. For the time and effort you’re putting in, the gains aren’t there. Maybe if there was a five-grand tournament, there’d be more interest, but you don’t see them happening these days.
“It really is a young man’s game. I remember training, then me and my friends would go to the shops, grab big bags of Skittles, doughnuts, cookies then go home stay up all night eating and playing XBOX as we had no responsibilities being so young.
“I really loved the brotherhood element of it. Being in a circle with people who feel just as passionate about something as you do. Even on weigh-in day, we’d make sure four or five of us would be down for it and hang around to go for food afterwards and relax before we had to go do the business. It was just so much fun.”