Watching Will Fleury fight, it would be easy to assume the skills and poise on display are the product of far more than the four professional bouts on his résumé. The undefeated Irish middleweight is happy to explain why: He doesn’t really consider himself a 4-0 fighter.
“My record is 4-0, but I feel it could easily be 15-0,” Fleury told Sherdog.com. “I’ve had so many guys pull out of fights, going all the way back to my amateur days. If you go look at my [record], some of the pullouts are documented but a lot more of them aren’t. I’ve had three times as many [opponent] pullouts as I’ve had fights, and for almost all of them it was the week before, or days before, so I’d had a full camp. I’d been in the gym, I’d been preparing like a professional. So my record is 4-0, but I have a lot more experience than the average 4-0 guy.”
Fleury, who faces fellow undefeated prospect Alen Amedovski (5-0) at Bellator 203 in Rome on Saturday, is excited to be under contract with a major promotion. While his first four fights took place in four different organizations, with numerous bout cancellations between each, Fleury expects that his six-fight deal with Bellator MMA will spell the end of those days. He claims he cannot wait to show what he can do on a much larger stage.
“I’m excited for this opportunity to let all that work show, reap the rewards of the work I’ve done,” Fleury said. “The average fan might look and think ‘Oh, 4-0 record, he’s coming up in his career, he’s a young guy, he’s just getting started.’ But I’m not a f*cking young guy and I’m not just getting started. I’ve been around this game for a long time and I’m just now getting the opportunity.”
Fleury’s confidence in his experience and the eagerness to prove himself combine to give the impression of a man looking to make up for lost time. The 29 year-old looks forward to reliable bookings and a busy schedule with his new promoter, in part because he was a bit of a latecomer to mixed martial arts; Fleury’s first athletic pursuit was rugby. Fleury played throughout college, including when he was living in New York on a work visa. As it turns out, his transition to fighting was just around the corner.
“When I was living in New York, I would go to Randall’s Island [home of numerous rugby clubs] and play,” Fleury said. “One day we were playing on an Astroturf pitch and some big American guy fell on me and broke my foot really badly. During the recovery from that, I started doing some boxing footwork and from there, actual boxing. I was 20 at the time. The guys started getting me booked into fights. I was nervous for the first few, of course, but I loved it too. By the time I was 22, it was all I wanted to do. I was still in college, but also basically training full-time.”
Fleury’s opponent this weekend appears at first glance to come from a similar career track to his own. The 30 year-old Macedonian is a 5-0 in regional European promotions and also making his Bellator debut as a relatively old rookie. However, Fleury maintains that those similarities start and end on paper and that in the cage, the difference in skill and experience will be evident.
“I’ve seen two or three of his fights,” Fleury said. “He’s a pretty compact guy who likes to come in heavy with punches [then] shoot for the takedown. Seems like a grinding kind of style. He’s 5-0, but I think that record’s a little bit of a lie and I want to expose that. I think he knows it’s a bit of a lie, too. He’s a good soft-pitch challenge for [my] first fight, but I’d be very surprised if I didn’t get him out of there pretty quickly. I’m predicting a first round TKO or, if not, second round. It just how long his gas tank will last.”
On the topic of next steps within his new middleweight division, Fleury exudes a confidence worthy of SBG Ireland teammates such as Conor McGregor or fellow Bellator newcomer Dillon Danis. His specific prediction, however, is noticeably more measured and shorter on hyperbole than that of Danis, who infamously claimed to be the highest paid fighter on Bellator’s roster in the lead-up to his debut.
“My goal is to get in there and make people talk about Will Fleury,” he said. “I’ve signed a six-fight deal. My goal is to be well within title contention by the end of that deal, if not the champion. You don’t know where this whole thing goes; six fights is a long time and we have short careers. There’s no sense talking until you have a platform, so I’m going to get that platform [first] by letting my fights do the talking. My goal is to make an impression as quickly as possible by getting guys out of there. That’s the only way people will talk about me or listen to me; otherwise I’m just some 4-0 guy.”
And if there’s one thing Will Fleury wants you to know, it’s that he isn’t just some 4-0 guy.