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Canadian welterweight Clements looks to put on a show as UFC visits Calgary

07/18/2012 11:32 EDT | Updated 09/17/2012 05:12 EDT
In a sport where top fighters have as many coaches as a CFL team, Canadian welterweight Chris (The Menace) Clements is a rarity.

"I am my coach," says the 36-year-old MMA welterweight from Chatham, Ont.

Clements (11-4) works with instructors and fighters, mainly at the Adrenaline Training Center in London, Ont., but plots his own strategy and workouts.

"I figure nobody can coach me better than I can coach myself," he explained. "Because nobody knows me better than myself."

Clements puts his fighting and coaching to the test Saturday night when he takes on 26-year-old American Matt Riddle (6-3) in the UFC's first visit to Calgary.

The main event of the injury-plagued UFC 149 card at the Scotiabank Saddledome features Urijah Faber and Brazil's Renan Barao in a battle for the interim bantamweight championship. Current 135-pound title-holder Dominick Cruz is sidelined with a knee injury.

The injury bug has left Clements as the only Canadian on the main card although Nick Ring, Ryan Jimmo, Roland Delorme, Mitch Gagnon, Antonio Carvalho and Mitch Clarke are all on the undercard.

Clements had been slated to meet Siyar Bahadurzada but the Afghan-Dutch 170-pounder was hurt in training.

Other fighters who have come and gone on the UFC 149 card due to injury include featherweight champion Jose Aldo and fellow 145-pounder George Roop, bantamweight Bibano Fernandes, welterweight Claude Patrick, middleweight Michael (The Count) Bisping, light-heavyweight Thiago Silva and heavyweight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira

Both Clements and Bahadurzada were injury replacements themselves, filling in for Thiago Alves and Yoshihiro Akiyama.

Hoping to fight in Canada, Clements volunteered to step in when he heard Alves was out. While Clements made the call to his manager, matchmaker Joe Silva reached out to the Clements camp at the same time.

Silva had already asked Clements to step in to face Rick (The Horror) Story on a June card in Atlantic City but the Canadian turned it down, believing he need more than two weeks notice to get ready for a wrestler like Story.

Clements had about six weeks to prepare for Bahadurzada, only to have to recalibrate for Riddle less than three weeks later.

Bahadurzada is a hard-nosed striker, so Clements reckoned he just needed to get into fight shape rather than go through a full camp to adapt to an opponent's particular style.

Riddle has no problems trading blows but comes from a wrestling background.

He doesn't mind taking a punch to throw one.

"Fighting Saturday can't wait it's gonna be a blood bath," he tweeted before his last fight, a split decision win over Henry Martinez at UFC 143 in February.

After losing to Nick Osipczak at UFC 105 in Manchester, England, in 2009, a bruised Riddle cheerfully held court with buddies in the hotel bar.

The five-foot-10 Clements seemed OK with the change in opponent, although he is going from a right-handed striker to a taller (six-foot-one) southpaw with a wrestling base.

"I think he's a good character," Clements said of Riddle. "He seems to enjoy fighting the way I do, likes to fight with a smile like I do.

"He likes to keep it on the feet (although) I don't know if I trust him to keep it on the feet with me once he feels my power."

Clements believes taking over his own coaching has been the biggest change in his career.

Former world champion kickboxer Leo Loucks helped Clements along the self-coaching path. He told Clements he would help him as best he could but added "you know what to do, you know how to fight."

Clements made the move in 2010 before fighting former UFC veteran Jonathan (The Road Warrior) Goulet.

Clements was about to walk out into the arena for the Goulet fight when Loucks told him: "Just go in there and be yourself."

"And no one had ever said anything like that to me before," Clements recalled. "It was 'Do this, do this, do this, do this.'"

Clements would almost go into panic mode, trying to remember it all.

This time, thanks to Loucks, he went into the fight with a relaxed attitude, as if he was back in the gym. He won the Goulet bout and the three since.

"That's when I started listening to what I wanted to do and doing things my way," he said. "Instead of second-guessing myself."

It's not that he had bad coaches. Clements worked with the late Shawn Tompkins, a renowned striking coach. But Clements, whose arsenal includes an array of unusual strikes, said the advice he got from coaches didn't always feel right.

"It may be technically correct but sometimes technically correct doesn't work for everybody," he said.

Clements also knows where he fits in the MMA scheme of things. He took the long road to the UFC, knows he has a limited time left and wants to make the most of it.

"Win or lose, I like to put on a show," he said. "I'd rather lose an exciting match than have a boring win. ... If you fight and put on a show, people want to see you. And that's all I want."

With a wife and baby girl back at home, Clements also has his priorities right.

"I have a family that loves me when I get home. Before I used to stress over winning and losing. You'd go in there and you'd hold back because you had to win. ... Now it's just about having fun. I think it's just making me better because now I just have fun with what I do and I think it shows in my fights."

Clements is coming off a split decision win over Keith Wisniewski at UFC 145 in April.

The UFC bout marked the first time Clements had gone the distance. Only three of his fights have gone into the third round and, in 2005, he knocked out Lautaro Tucas in just three seconds.

Wisniewski was a more durable opponent.

"He could take a beating, that's for sure," said Clements, who threw everything at his opponent including a string of spinning back kicks.

"Not too many people could stand up (to the kicks) with a pad on, let alone a bare body," he added. "I hit him with like four of them."

While he was surprised it wasn't a more definitive decision, Clements was happy with the fight.

"I think it was a fun fight for the fans," he said. "They got to see some spin moves, some jump knees. I think I did some entertaining stuff.

"I knew he wanted to lay down on me the whole time. It was the only way he could beat me, by holding me down. So I had to hold back a little bit because I knew he was really good at taking people down and just laying on them."

Clements, who made his pro MMA debut in 2005, was just happy to be finally in the UFC.

"I had a big smile on my face," he said. "I really enjoyed every moment of it."

The fight was originally slated for March 24 in Montreal, but the entire card was pushed back to April 21 in Atlanta.

That was just fine for Clements since the original date was too close for comfort to the birth of his daughter.

Averie Belle Clements was born March 9, but dad missed a lot of her early days due to his training camp. He made up for it after the fight.

"I basically stayed home for four or five weeks with my daughter and just spent time with my family. ... I couldn't get away from my daughter."

He's excited to fight in Canada and to be the crowd favourite, as opposed to taking on a local hero in Quebec or elsewhere. Plus he's never been to Calgary.

Clements is also proud that his UFC career, in just two fights, has gone from a prelim shown on Facebook to the main pay-per-view card.

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