Iowa’s T.J. “The Spider” O’Brien (16-4) will make his second UFC appearance on Sunday, Aug. 14, when he faces wily American Top Team lightweight Cole “Magrinho” Miller (17-5). Both men are known for their slick submission games but O’Brien has taken things to a whole other level with all 16 of his wins coming via submission.
The 24-year-old O’Brien lost in his UFC debut last November when he suffered a second round TKO loss to England’s Paul Kelly (12-4) at UFC 123. Now, some nine months later, O’Brien is ready to prove he was brought to the UFC for a reason, and it was not to lose.
ProMMAnow.com (www.prommanow.com) caught up with T.J. this week to talk about the upcoming fight and how he feels he matches up with Miller’s particular grappling style. He even had some advice for Miller on what he should or should not expect. We also discussed his fight with Kelly, what he learned from the loss and much more.
PRO MMA NOW: We haven’t spoke since your fight with Paul Kelly. What was that whole experience for you like of making your UFC debut?
T.J. O’BRIEN: The experience was great but looking back it was kind of a blur. I didn’t realize the magnitude of the whole situation until recently when I was looking back at the pictures.
PRO MMA NOW: Is there anything you took away from the Paul Kelly fight that you can learn from? .
T.J. O’BRIEN: Yes…I learned a lot from that fight, I learn I need to fight. It sounds simple but when I realized all my losses have came when I went into the fight to win. When I actually go into a fight with idea that I’m going to try to hurt someone and really scrap then I am at my best. I also learned that guys at the UFC level are human too and they hurt just like I do and make mistakes just like I do. I learned I belong here and now I have a second chance to prove it.
PRO MMA NOW: Well, you are facing Cole Miller on Sunday. Like yourself, he seems to prefer the submission game. Do you think that suits your style better, to go up against another guy who likes to keep it on the ground?
T.J. O’BRIEN: I think Cole’s jiu jitsu is a lot more technical but I use my athletic ability. It’s a lot different kind of jiu jitsu than people are used to seeing but I have really been working on my stand up and wrestling and look to take advantage of both on Sunday.
PRO MMA NOW: Standing up and on the ground, how do you see you two matching up, and do you see either of you having a distinct advantage anywhere?
T.J. O’BRIEN: I hope this fight takes place on the feet, that’s where I have felt most confident this fight but I’m ready to go where ever it takes me.
PRO MMA NOW: Last time we spoke you were doing your training at Des Moines Jiu Jitsu and Precision Combat. And you were doing strength and cardio at Aspen Athletic. Are those the gyms you are still working with, and who has been helping you get ready for Cole?
T.J. O’BRIEN: Yes I have been working at the same gyms, I have got a new striking coach and wrestling coach though.
PRO MMA NOW: What is one thing Cole Miller should know about you before he gets in the Octagon with you?
T.J. O’BRIEN: That I’m a completely different fighter than he has probably been preparing for. He might not think I belong here but I’m ready to prove I do.
PRO MMA NOW: Thank you T.J. for talking with us and best of luck on Sunday. Are there any sponsors or anyone you want to thank?
T.J. O’BRIEN: I would like to thank Hayabusa, The Chicken Coop in Waukee and all my coaches and teammates at Precision Combat. I would also like to thank my best friend and training partner Alex Harper who came out to Milwaukee with me and spent the week before helping me get ready. Also my girlfriend Chrissy has helped so much with having everything taken care of for me so I can train my hardest and be stress free.