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Mitch Clarke is set to make his octagon debut

Ed Kapp
Sports Writer

Saskatoon’s Mitch Clarke, a self-proclaimed “down-to-Earth guy,” is to make his octagon debut Dec. 3 at UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.

If all of the stars align, over 20,000 spectators in person and another few hundred thousand via pay-per-view will witness Clarke’s octagon debut.

The fact that half-a-million fight fans may witness Clarke get locked in a steel cage fight with John Cholish, a student of the legendary Renzo Gracie, doesn’t seem to bother the undefeated mixed martial artist too much.

Clarke is hoping that he will be the fan favourite in front of some of his fellow Canadians.

On the other hand, Clarke is quick to point out that New York, the stomping grounds of Cholish, is nearly 3,000 kilometres closer to Toronto than Edmonton – where Clarke currently rests his head.

“I’m hoping to get support from the crowd,” Clarke said. “But it’s hard to say. I’m hoping they’ll support me, but who knows, really?”

If Clarke’s nationality isn’t enough to garner support, he is willing – albeit half-heartedly – to take a different approach to his match.

“Either way, if I have to play the bad guy – which I highly doubt I will – I can,” Clarke said with a laugh. “I’m not very good at it, though, I’ve only been the bad guy once, really. I fought a local guy and everyone booed me.  It was more comical than anything — you’re being booed just for where you’re from (laughs). I got into it, though; I started to taunt some of the fans that were booing me.

“I think John Cholish is probably the better bad guy, though [laughs]. He’s a stock broker, he makes money, he’s got that Lex Luger feel to him, in my opinion. He makes a good bad guy. He went to Cornell, he’s elite, and I’m, kind of that down-to-Earth guy. People can relate to me, I’m a nerdy guy, I like watching cartoons, I like watching The Office and I’m just normal. He’s a classic bad guy I think.”

If, on the outside chance, Clarke’s bad-guy angle doesn’t help him win his match on Saturday, he can always depend on his credentials as a mixed martial artist.

A former walk-on wrestler at the University of Saskatchewan, Clarke decided to try his hand at mixed martial arts after seeing the first season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ on television a few years ago.

Since he began training, Clarke remains unbeaten in nine professional outings and is regarded as one of Canada’s – and certainly the prairie’s – brightest young mixed martial artists.

If all goes according to the young lightweight’s plans, he will walk away from UFC 140 with his tenth professional victory under his belt.

“I feel good. I think this is a winnable fight. I feel confident in my technical abilities,” Clarke said. “A win would make a nice early Christmas present, that’s for sure.”

Looking past the holiday season, Clarke aspires to one day own another belt – although he insists he is taking his run in the sport one step at a time.

“A UFC championship would mean everything to me,” Clarke said. “If you look at how many people have won that lightweight championship, it’s a very small list. To be in that echelon would be a tremendous honour. Some people say, ‘Well, it’s a feather in my cap,’ but it’s definitely more than that. That means you’re a part of history.

“I want to eventually fight for a championship. But I’ve got to take it one fight at a time. The first step is getting a win and the second step is working my way towards a title.”

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