Graham Park

Photo credit to @unifiedmma on Twitter

Graham Park on Neil Berry title defense at Unified MMA 40

Graham Park defends his light heavyweight belt against Neil Berry at Unified MMA 40. This bout transpires on UFC Fight Pass on August 14th from Edmonton, Alberta.

This collision for light heavyweight hardware broadcasts on UFC Fight Pass. I spoke with the reigning and defending light heavyweight champion and excerpts from my chat with Park can be found below.

Graham Park

Getting in work at Shaved Bears MMA

“The guys at Little Sweatshop here. Shaved Bears, we got a bunch of guys always coming and going. Training when they can get in the gym. So usual suspects like KB Bhullar when he’s coming through. Tanner (Boser), when he’s not in quarantine from his fight. Guy’s coming and going at all times. Firing on all cylinders. We get time in when we can.”

The great camaraderie among the warriors out of Sherwood Park

“I do feel like what we have here is unique. I’ve trained at a few different gyms in the time I’ve been in the sport. There’s a real team atmosphere here, you’re correct. If people don’t gel they find out pretty quickly that their timing here is not going to pan out kind of thing. So you surround yourself with great people and you can do great things. So yeah, they say surround yourself with nine millionaires, you’ll be the tenth. I’m kind of trying to do the same thing here. Good people, good fighters, guys willing to put in the work. We all just bring each other up.”

Park’s MMA training in the mid-2010’s Edmonton scene with guys like Sheldon Westcott

“A lot of established guys. I still keep in contact with a lot of those dudes too. Built a great group of friends here in this MMA community out here. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever had happen in my life for sure. Getting involved in MMA.”

Shaved Bears and CMC

Thoughts on the last bout vs Sheldon Doll where he secured the Unified MMA light heavyweight title

“Yeah, I think it was a great matchup. I think stylistically, him and I match up pretty well. It was a good fight, I thought people were excited to see it. I was definitely put to the test more than I’ve ever been in any other fights. So yeah, definitely testing my mettle. Seeing what I really am capable of doing and what I want to do. So that was a good fight and hats off to him. Hopefully, he keeps at it too. I haven’t see him get any fights signed since then. But I hope he keeps at it because the guy’s got a bright future for sure.”

The respect minded competitive dynamics in Shaved Bears MMA and CMC matchups

“That’s exactly it…I was in the same corner as Lee (Mein; CMC coach) not that long ago. A veteran in the sport, easy to talk to. We even discussed fighting Neil (Berry) at that point, and there was no bad blood. Those guys I think they’re just similar to us. They’re martial artists. They want to just get out, fight, push themselves. It’s not like tension between the two gyms.”

Graham Park continued, “We’re both just pushing each other to get better and those guys are awesome. Like you can guarantee they’re gonna show up to fight. There’s maybe other gyms in the country that may or may not show. You guarantee those CMC guys showing up in their fight every single time, which is awesome. You can rely on them to show up and pull the best performance out.”

Unified MMA 40

Getting in work at the legendary Toshido MMA gym with a high level 205 lb Bellator signee

“Steve MacDonald was getting prepared to make his Bellator debut. Him and his team asked me to come out, get some work in with them. Yeah, so I got to spend a week out there learning from David (Lea). Working with Steve and their guys. Tyler Vankill, just made his pro debut in Vancouver recently. The dude’s a little jiu-jitsu wizard. So he was fun to get some rounds in with too…Matt Dwyer. Yeah, getting rounds in with guys.”

Graham Park continued, “You see these names regionally and you’re like oh they’re fighting there. We all kind of keep track of what’s going on with the Canadian MMA scene. So to finally get to get in some training, have some conversations, meet up with guys. It was a great experience. I’ve never even been to Kelowna before that too. So Kelowna was beautiful. Their gym is awesome.”

Capturing the Unified MMA belt at 205 lbs and being part of the championship lineage that teammate Teddy Ash is part of

“Yeah, it was cool. I don’t think Teddy… He just had different goals from there. So he decided to relinquish that light heavyweight title. It was pretty awesome to have him being the light heavyweight and middleweight champ which is nutty. And then guys from our gym just filling in that spot right in behind him.”

“So me and KB (Bhullar; Unified MMA middleweight belt) and then Christian (Larsen) taking over that heavyweight belt that Tanner (Boser) relinquished when he got signed. So it was cool. There’s a picture floating out somewhere, all of us just laying on the mat there. After the fights with all the belts and stuff. That’s a pretty cool picture. Pretty cool moment for all of us.”

Unified MMA

Being with Unified MMA since their sixth event and now defending gold at Unified MMA 40

“Yeah, I think I may have even gone to Unified II or something like that. I’ve been going to shows pretty much since the beginning. I hadn’t even trained at that point I was like, this is awesome. I want to do this, I want to be the middleweight champ. Because I think like Anderson Silva or somebody was the man back then. I’m like I’ll be the middleweight champion of this. I didn’t make middleweight but I moved up a bit coming up from those original shows.”

Neil Berry bout and MFC’s swan song

Thoughts on Neil Berry as an opponent and being on the radar since their March 2020 cancellation

“Well I know he’s got his black belt in Jiu-Jitsu, he’s down there. He’s one of the main Jiu-Jitsu guys down at CMC. So that’s definitely something I’m keeping my eye on. Really focused on (that) as a big part of it. He showed a lot of different skill sets in the last few fights that I’ve seen of him. So he brings a well-rounded game.”

Graham Park continued, “He has 18 fights, I believe, and he’s been fighting a long time. Been doing Jiu-Jitsu for a long time. He fought a lot of tough dudes. I don’t think there’s gonna be a lot I’m gonna throw at him that he’s never seen before. Like you said, he’s got a lot of experience. But I plan on throwing things at him that he just can’t handle.”

Being on that last MFC card and that promotion’s massive impact on Canadian MMA

“Yeah, fuck that was a while ago eh? That was good to be able to catch the last MFC show. Because like you said, a huge fixture in Canadian MMA. A lot of high-level guys come out of MFC. Mark Pavelich put on a big show. It was the big venue, the big MFC walkout inflatable thing. Fighting in a ring was really cool. You don’t see that almost anywhere anymore, fighting in a ring.”

“So I’m glad to say I got to fight in a big ring. Where a lot of great fighters came out of MFC. I got a good performance out of that one. I got a win. Unfortunate that they haven’t put on any shows since. No plans to do anything else. But Sunny (Sareen; Unified MMA promoter) has definitely filled in the gap for sure since then.”

Parting thoughts for Graham Park

“I’m just excited to get back in the cage after this long layoff. Man, time has not been my friend in my MMA career. I’ve had to take big long layoffs at times. This is another one that I just felt was a really inconvenient time for this to all happen. I had big plans for 2020. To get fights in. To try to move on to the next level kind of thing. That got put on the back burner with the pandemic.”

“So I’m excited again. The fire’s still there to get back in the cage. Put on another big performance and see what happens after that. Just want to thank all my teammates at Shaved Bears. Flex Chiropractic, Jordan and Jesse over there. For helping to keep me moving and keeping all of those aches and pains at bay. Hoping to see everyone that can make it up to Unified 40, Aug 14th.”

author avatar
Dylan Bowker
I've been enamored with combat sports for as long as I can remember. I've hosted MMA talk shows Lights Out and Pure Fight Radio with featured guests like Jens Pulver, Roy Nelson, Miesha Tate, Mark Coleman, and more. I've been an MMA broadcaster for XFFC as well as BTC and have done play by play commentary on live pay per view on GFL as well as FITE TV. I've provided written, audio, and video content covering some of the biggest MMA promotions like Rumble in the Cage, Unified MMA, and King of the Cage. I've worked as a sports entertainment personality for over five years and given play-by-play or featured promotions of KSW, ONE Championship, TKO, and Invicta FC. My work can be found in the USA Today Sports affiliate MMA Torch, Cageside Press, MMA Sucka, and Liberty Multimedia.