For the first time ever, Lion Fight will crown a cruiserweight champion.
Paul Banasiak feels that destiny has brought him to this place and that the throne atop the division is his to claim. Standing in his way is one of the most-lauded rising talents Chip Moraza-Pollard.
“The Reaper” and “The Surgeon” will duel for the title at Lion Fight 37 coming up on Friday, July 28 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut, and their championship showdown is the co-main event of the card airing live on AXS TV Fights in the United States as well as on Fight Network throughout Canada, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Banasiak, who earned the title shot after darting past Brett Hlavacek at Lion Fight 36 back in April, offered takes on his status in Muay Thai, how he can beat Moraza-Pollard, and the potential of becoming the next American star in the sport as he sat down for a Q & A session.
Q: Does it feel pretty good to know where you’re at with Lion Fight and in Muay Thai considering how you’ve burst onto the scene with a 5-0 record and you’re now in a Lion Fight title on TV?
A: I do feel blessed for every opportunity that presents itself. There are very talented fighters all over the world who are repressed by the lack of opportunity or limitations set by the government. It is just that much more of a reason to seize the moment and take advantage of the opportunity that many let pass, whether it be because of external limitations or internal fear.
It is also a math equation. I have only five professional fights and although all five are victories, the streak has been set for years at 17 straight wins in Muay Thai now. I have always fought more experienced opponents, those who were supposed to beat me, and even professionals who found their way in. The equation is simple – sacrifice more than anyone around you, change your game with every opponent by always evolving, and beat guys way above your ‘rank.’ Bursting onto the scene becomes straightforward, but difficult to actually execute.
Q: What do you think will be your competitive edge and the attributes you have that will get you past Moraza-Pollard and to the title?
A: Chip is a technical and precise fighter. I believe the main advantage I have is my experience winning against high-level fighters, having been in those fights that truly test you, and doing that back to back, to back to back, to come out on top. Although it is no fault of his own, his competition thus far has not had the heart, technique, endless conditioning, momentum, confidence and relentlessness that I possess in combination of one another. He may be ready for all of it which I expect and I am ready for, but it will be his truest test to date.
Q: Not that you have to change your game plan, but does Chip present any different challenges? Both he and Hlavacek are patient guys but Chip seems more aggressive or at least dangerous.
A: Although they are both very patient fighters, they are completely different fighters. My fight against Brett was a challenge to myself. My goal wasn’t to win. It was to beat him at his game, to see how far my technique and clinch game has progressed since Thailand. Now that I am past that goal, I am ready to present my style.
As I tend to always say, I am here as an adaptive fighter. I am not going to say that I will change or do X, Y, and Z. The fight game is much more dynamic than that. I am looking forward to a more aggressive fight if that is what is presented. If we play the technical game and take our time, I will show up patiently looking for the opening.
The one change I have made is working more with sharp boxers. Chip is not a traditional stylist and the timing is different. I am bringing an intellectual approach, but, at the end of the day, it is a fight.
Q: There are some good names out there, but do you think the winner of this bout becomes the next big star in American Muay Thai and, if so, does that mean a lot to you because you are so intently involved in the sport and its lifestyle?
A: It is something that means a lot to me in combination with everything that I am doing. I don’t publicly talk about the majority of the e-Mails, messages, and stories that I receive and projects that I am working on, but my success continually creates new avenues and opportunities to move the sport forward. Reaching a larger audience in combination with Lion Fight and my following whilst gathering another credentials such as a world title would be a large step forward. I believe we have the x-factor in making it something big.
The Banasiak/Moraza-Pollard clash tops the Lion Fight 37 marquee alongside the super welterweight title bout pitting champion “Smokin” Jo Nattawut against legendary 400-fight Thai combatant Petchtanong Banchamek.
Tickets for Lion Fight 37 are available at https://www.foxwoods.com/Lion-Fight/.
Lion Fight 37 airs live on AXS TV Fights and Fight Network beginning at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT.