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Exclusive: Cody McKenzie talks TUF 12, UFC debut win, willingness to go to 145, and more

UFC lightweight and The Ultimate Fighter 12 cast member Cody McKenzie (12-0) won’t claim to be the strongest or fastest guy around. But if he latches on any one of his many guillotine choke variations, he’ll have you tapping in no time.

He’s used the move to score first round submission wins in 11 of his 12 fights. And McKenzie doesn’t rely on luck, either.

Just like any other go-to technique, he fine-tunes it and works to improve his chokes and make them even better.

“Oh yeah, for sure; I’m always looking for new setups for it, for new angles,” McKenzie said.

Fellow TUF 12 competitor Aaron Wilkinson fell prey to a relatively new version. In their fight on Dec. 4, McKenzie didn’t have his arm underneath Wilkinson’s chin. Instead, he went for the finish with his wrist across the chin, applying so much pressure that Wilkinson had to tap from the pain.

“I use that one quite a bit now,” he said. “A lot of it is angles and making sure I have it and if I miss it, that I still have control of the head so I don’t end up in a bad position.”

The fact that Wilkinson couldn’t avoid a move that millions of people saw McKenzie use twice during the reality show competition highlights just how vicious he is with it.

During the TUF 12 round of 16, he defeated Josh Koscheck’s first pick — Marc Stevens — with a choke hold, even though Stevens prepared specifically to avoid McKenzie’s bread-and-butter move. The problem is, McKenzie wasn’t using a regular guillotine choke.

“Stevens did what you’re supposed to with guillotine, but I was doing something different.”

Stevens went for an early takedown and passed into side control on the opposite side of the choke, exactly the position you should use to avoid the guillotine. But McKenzie was using the Mckenzie-tine, modifying the hold to put plenty of pressure on the neck and leave Stevens out cold.

McKenzie submits Stevens on TUF 12 from a position where a standard guillotine choke won't work.

McKenzie bowed out of the competition in the next round, losing by TKO to Nam Phan. Phan hurt McKenzie with a liver shot and pounced to get the finish. It wasn’t an official loss on his record, but McKenzie would love another shot at him.

“I’m definitely looking for a rematch there,” McKenzie said. “That’s a fight I really want.”

Besides his impressive array of chokes, viewers likely remember McKenzie for his back-and-forth verbal exchanges with Koscheck. Going into the UFC 124 main event against welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre, Koscheck embraced the heel role to generate additional interest in the fight. It worked, but McKenzie didn’t appreciate Koscheck’s antics during the taping of TUF 12 definitely.

Things came to a head when McKenzie was eliminated from the competition. Koscheck was understandably happy for his team member, Phan. However, he also seemed extra pleased to see McKenzie lose and didn’t mind making it known.

Maybe it was fancy editing, but it looked disrespectful to a fighter that gave it his all and came up short, and McKenzie took notice.

“For sure, he’s an idiot,” McKenzie said when asked about his feelings on Koscheck. “He isn’t a respectful guy. He was just a punk all around.”

McKenzie added, “I’d love to fight him. I doubt the UFC would let me. But I’d move up to 170 if they pay me to let him try to punch me in the face,” he said with a laugh.

McKenzie couldn’t help but respond to Koscheck at times, even though his coach on the show, St. Pierre, encouraged his fighters to keep quiet.

“I’m pretty good at talking trash and running my month. GSP said not to talk crap, but that’s going away from one of my strengths,” he joked.

Still, McKenzie said he would definitely compete on the show if he had to do it all over again.

“It’s tough every morning wake up with camera in your face, but I would definitely do it again,” he said. “I like doing my own thing. I’ve never had coaches running everything, so that was kind of hard, having people telling you what to do every day. But the coaches were all world-class coaches and I learned a lot.”

Before McKenzie can hope to have a rematch with Phan, he’ll have to go up against Yves Edwards on Jan. 22 at UFC Fight Night 23 in Killeen, Texas, dubbed “Fight for the Troops 2.”

Six years ago, many viewed Edwards as the best lightweight in the UFC and one of the top 155-pounders in the world. The sport, though, hadn’t taken off in popularity at that point, and the UFC put its entire 155-pound division on hiatus for a few years.

After a rough of losing five out of six fights, Edwards has worked his way back to the UFC, and McKenzie has nothing but respect for his next opponent.

On paper, it might look like a matchup between a longtime veteran with a very well-rounded MMA game against an up-and-comer with only one move to rely on. But if you want to assume McKenzie is a one-trick pony, that’s fine with him.

“I let people think what they want,” he said. “I just go out there, do my thing and let’s the cards fall where they may.”

McKenzie accepted the Edwards bout on fairly short notice. Originally, Edwards was scheduled to face Melvin Guillard, but Guillard was moved to the main event against Evan Dunham to replace the injured Kenny Florian.

Though he’ll have fewer than two months between the two contests, McKenzie said he didn’t hesitate to accept the match. The more fights the UFC gives him, the better.

“The more fights I fight, the more money I’m making,” he said.

With that in mind, McKenzie is more than willing to fight at 155 or 145 if necessary, especially now that the UFC has officially added a featherweight division following the WEC merger.

“I’m way more willing now that it’s there,” McKenzie said about dropping in weight. “I can make 145 super easy, but I like fighting at 155 because I don’t really like cutting weight.”

He added, “I’m not a big 155er, but I don’t think that makes much of a difference if you’re good enough.”

If you want to find out more about Cody, you’re in luck. He’s been kind enough to put his own MTV-cribs style video on Youtube.

You can also follow him on Twitter @thecodymckenzie and check out his website http://themckenzietine.com/.

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