Nick ‘The Headhunter’ Chapman
Being relatively new to the MMA scene, I have met or spoken to a limited amount of people in the industry. Most of my experience comes from watching UFC on the television in the early hours of the morning. Of late, I have been fortunate enough to speak to a few fighters and post some interesting interviews. I have respect for anyone who fights and I have my favourites who I like because of their fighting ability. However, I have recently spoken to and researched someone who has literally blown me away and in such a short space of time earned my total respect and admiration for both the fighter he is and the person behind the fight persona. This is part interview and part article so I hope you enjoy it as much as I have researching and writing.
Nick Chapman is not an aged veteran in the field of MMA, he literally came onto the scene in 2010 but since then has gathered a huge fan following and is undertaking pioneering research into the safety of MMA with the backing of Harley Street. Initially, I was going to write purely about Nick and his research work but after my own research, I felt he deserved a much fuller article.
Nick grew up and still lives in Guildford in Surrey. As a young child, he wasn’t one to sit back and watch anything that he thought he could do. At the age of two and a half Nick was taken swimming by his parents and despite their best efforts to put arm bands on him, as is the norm for a swimmer of that age, Nick was determined to get in the pool and swim without them. After a few tantrums and tears, Nick was finally allowed in the pool and on his first attempt, he swam a whole length of the pool; remember he was two and a half. The same can be said of riding a bike without stabilisers, Nick was having none of it and was off and riding without them on his first attempt.
As a teenager Nick is the first to say that he was troubled. He hated school and had learning difficulties despite being a very intelligent kid. As is the way in most schools, teachers have to teach the way they are taught to teach and although times change, even nowadays they do not realise that everyone has a different approach to learning that suits them. Nick found that the way he was being taught was not productive to him and he wanted to do it his way. He had the intelligence to understand the work but his process of learning was different and this was frustrating and caused him to become angry and resentful of being at school.
It is evident he comes from a stable background but as a youth he was an angry young man who was aggressive and anti any type of authority. He said he would never go looking for trouble but if it was there or just around the corner, he would be sure to find it and become involved. Although he wasn’t completely bad, he self-confesses to being a nuisance and annoyance around the streets of Guildford.
Meeting his wife Karen was the turning point in his life. He found someone that loved and respected him and he says he literally felt his old angry self being ripped away and a new person emerging from the old. Both his wife and his Mum are very proud of the man he is today and although his Mum wouldn’t choose this profession for him she certainly supports him 100%. The thing with Nick is, you may look at him and think he is big and scary but he is still family orientated and visits his Mum numerous times a week for a catch up and a cup of tea. He also makes sure he spends quality time with his wife who has said he can be grumpy in the lead up to a fight due to him not being able to eat what he wants!
Nick seems to have a perfect balance of family time and training and he is also very fan orientated. He personally believes that without the support of fans and the messages he receives he wouldn’t be where he is today. He cannot believe the amount of followers he has and is humbly still trying to work out why. He thinks it may be because, although he always goes out to win fights, he also tries to make them as entertaining as possible. He is also a very down to earth guy and hasn’t got caught up in the hype that some celebrities do. He takes the time to reply to everyone who messages him and before his fights; he always takes the time to greet his fans. When I speak to people on the phone, I am conscious of their time and try not to take up too much of it but with Nick, he was very forthcoming and happy to answer my questions fully and speaking to other people about him on Twitter and from my brief conversation, I can say with conviction that Nick really is a genuinely nice guy.
Fight fans will know that as a fighter, Nick is the ‘Headhunter’, a name that he has kept since the beginning. He looks at the Headhunter as an alter ego, almost another part of him. He has to keep them separate as they are two different people.
Nick is the family man and so much more we have not yet covered but Headhunter is the fighter and the one that can do anything.
As a fighter Nick is aggressive and powerful and most importantly undefeated in his MMA career. How did he actually get into the MMA world? Well, he was, like others, inspired by the legend that is Bruce Lee and also Rocky Balboa and is a fan of Royce Gracie and David ‘Tank’ Abbott. But it was the first time that he ever watched UFC that he knew there and then that being a fighter was for him.
He trains with some of the best in the business and before a fight; Nick watches previous fights of his opponent to form a game plan. Andy Roberts trains him in BJJ, Matt Whyton trains him in Pugilism, The Raja brothers help him with stand-up technique and along with his psychologist who helps him keep his mind focused and encourages his self-belief and his physiotherapist who he sees two or three times a week prior to a fight, he has a whole team of people dedicated to helping him be the best that he can be. If we top off his strong man sessions and sparring with Alex Reid, plus his usual daily routines, it really is no wonder that Nick is the champion he is.
As well as his family support, people in the industry only have good things to say about Nick. He is described as the full package, who not only looks the part but also acts the part too.
Nick went straight into fighting as a professional, no amateur fights, just straight in and started off on the bottom of the card but with all the hype surrounding him ended up the co-main event of the evening. He beat his first opponent Ben Schneider in 32 seconds of the first round.
He loves the cage and always has a wander around it before a fight to get a feel for it. He says of his first fight that he could almost picture what would happen and refused then and still refuses to touch gloves before a fight as in his opinion this is a sign of weakness. He loves fighting and of course winning, having finished all of his fights rather than going for the decision. Nick wants to win all the belts he can and to one day make it in the UFC and I for one, believe this is a dead cert to happen.
But Nick isn’t just a fighter, he is so much more. He runs his own gym called Fight Science where he has clients ranging from youngsters with behavioural problems to other athletes to the normal person who wants to get fit. He also runs sessions for up and coming MMA fighters where he teaches techniques.
He loves working with children and he feels his troubled youth isn’t something he should be ashamed of because being how he was, helps him relate to youngsters who are going through the same thing now. He gets a huge satisfaction out of working with children who suffer with aggression perhaps due to an Attention Disorder problem, because he can teach them how to control the anger and channel it in the right direction. He also works with children who are bullied and seeing their self-esteem grow and their confidence soar makes his job all the more satisfying.
You would think that with all the training Nick personally undertakes and all the work he does with children both at his gym and at youth projects and schools that there is no time in his life for anything else. But Nick has another project he is working on and this is the initial reason I contacted him.
As we have established, Nick isn’t one to do anything half-heartedly and with his research, he has gone straight to the top, working with top scientists at Harley Street, including Professor Greg White. The medical professionals at Harley Street are interested in Nick’s Fight Science business and they are in talks to directly link with him to conduct high level research into MMA. The aim is to prove that MMA as a sport is a professional and safe sport.
As fans, we will all scoff at the critics who say MMA is a dangerous sport but there are many who will never understand the science, athleticism and skill that is required to be a fighter. It isn’t only about getting in the cage and battering your opponent any which way you can, it is so much more.
What Nick and Harley Street are working on is appointing, approved assessors into the MMA Organisation who can demonstrate that fighting is a high intensity sport that requires high levels of skill. They want to transform the way MMA is viewed and prove to the doubters that it is safe.
Professor Greg White is also interested in the psychology of fighters; what it is that makes them up. He carries out tests to check oxygen use and aerobic capacities and wants to work on ways of slowing up how quickly fighters reach the aerobic levels so that they can delay it in round one of a fight and use it in the later rounds. Professor White feels that the negative perception of MMA is usually garnered from watching it on television and wants people to understand that fighters are strong, athletic people who need mental and physical skills to succeed in the sport. He wants to demonstrate the safety of the sport and prove that the chances of serious injury are relatively low compared to other sports.
When I spoke to Nick he told me that he is currently carrying out studies to prove that the chances of concussion in MMA fighting compared to a sport such as Horse Riding is low. In MMA fighting there is so many different disciplines used in the cage that it is not guaranteed a fighter will be hit on the head. Nick checks the fighters before a fight and also after to assess any damage.
His ultimate goal is establishing a new Governing Body for Safety within MMA but although he is very close to achieving that, the name of this Body is yet to be decided. With all the hype surrounding MMA and how it is becoming a major player in the sporting world, the research that Nick carries out both medically and on products used within the industry is definitely the way forward in leaving the doubters behind and making MMA the most talked about sport of today and the future.
As I said at the beginning, I have been totally blown away learning about the’ scary Headhunter’ and the gentleman Nick Chapman. He is not only a fighter but a husband, son, business man and ambassador for the sport. He is an awesome fighter but also a very educated, intelligent person who helps others with all the good things he is involved in. I for one can’t wait to see him soar higher and higher in the MMA World not just as a fighter but as a pioneer for the sport.
He may already have an army of fans but I’ve squeezed myself in right at the top.