UFC and ONE Championship veteran James McSweeney has joined the roster at GLORY kickboxing with his debut set on Oct. 23 but his new fighting home will also signal the end of his mixed martial arts career.
According to McSweeney, the chance to return to his roots in kickboxing was a dream come true but he also had to reassess his future in fighting after inking the deal with the promotion.
“I personally feel I have to be honest with myself,” McSweeney explained when speaking to MMA Fighting. “I think I’ve [done] everything in the MMA world I can. I haven’t achieved everything I wanted to achieve but I feel like some fighters don’t know when to say enough’s enough. I feel like my MMA career has come to an end.
“I feel like there’s always a sign in my career to take me from one path to another. Like my transition from K-1 to MMA and now MMA back to [kickboxing]. I think everything happens for a reason. I spent all this time in the last 15 to 16 months, working on myself as a kickboxer. I feel like to go back to MMA now, jump ship or go back and forth, when you do that, it’s a lot. It’s very difficult to keep transitioning. Because there’s so much more than people understand. The level changes are so different. The distance relationship is different. The striking combinations are different. So to keep adjusting, adjusting and you’re never really giving everything to one [sport].”
It’s actually been 20 months since McSweeney last fought and even longer since he competed in MMA, largely due to the ongoing global pandemic.
During the forced down time, McSweeney was able to concentrate on getting healthy and letting his body rest for the first time in many years while also growing his own gym based out of Texas.
When restrictions started to life and the combat sports world started to move again, McSweeney got the call he’s always wanted after GLORY invited him to join the roster alongside his friend and longtime training partner, Alistair Overeem.
“Alistair was talking about which shows he was interested in fighting for [after leaving the UFC],” McSweeney said. “Then GLORY’s name came into the picture and I said you should go back to GLORY, that would be fun. He said ‘well, why don’t you come with me?’. So we started the discussions again and we decided it was a good fit.”
McSweeney had actually already been in talks with GLORY after he knocked out Danyo Ilunga in late 2018 but by the time contract negotiations got more serious, the COVID-19 pandemic came through like a tidal wave and just shut everything down.
“They presented the fight for me to face Danyo and I said yeah, it’s a big jump up but why not let’s do it,” McSweeney explained. “I think Danyo got the green light out of GLORY to take the fight but they pretty much said ‘if you lose to James, you lose your contract.’ Of course, I knocked him out. It was the first time Danyo’s ever been knocked out in a fight.
“He got cut from GLORY so GLORY spoke to me a little bit and tried to make some arrangements but then COVID came and that just stopped all negotiations. That was a sad situation for everyone.”
Now that he’s officially on the GLORY roster, McSweeney wants to devote all of his attention towards kickboxing without the potential distraction that another MMA fight might be looming around the corner again.
“I have much more respect for K-1 and I have much more respect for GLORY. I’m not going to do that,” McSweeney said. “I’m going to dedicate the rest of my time to GLORY. I want to give the fans great fights. For me, I’m going to dedicate the rest of my time into GLORY and I’m going to go as far as I can and I think I’m going to the top.
“[Kickboxing] was my first love. I started doing Muay Thai and then K-1 was doing very well in the late 90s in Japan with all these guys I idolized like Jerome LeBanner, Peter Aerts, so I fell in love with K-1 instantly. That’s why I transferred into kickboxing but then maybe 2005 or 2006 when K-1 Japan was shutting down. Then MMA was an easy transition but I feel that K-1 was my first love and you never get past that. No matter how much jiu-jitsu I learned, I’m a black belt now, I was always called a striker.”
It’s not clear if GLORY will be his last stop but McSweeney says it was definitely a goal to join this particular promotion because it’s something he’s always wanted on his resume and now he’s finally arrived.
“For me personally, it was an achievement cause I think I’m the only person in the world who fought in Lumpinee Stadium [in Thailand] numerous times and then K-1 and then fight in the UFC, ONE FC, KSW and now GLORY,” McSweeney said. “So I’ve fought in the highest level organizations across multiple sports all across the world and won fights for all of them. It was the last one on my resume I really wanted to make happen. It was a personal resume I wanted to have and say I fought for all of those companies and win fights.
“To be honest, it’s a dream come true. It’s remarkable what GLORY’s done. They’ve come back and taken kickboxing by the horns. They’re leading the realm. They’re the highest organization in the world for striking. UFC is the elite of the elite in MMA and GLORY is the elite of the elite in kickboxing, that’s for sure. It’s amazing to be part of a card like this. History is going to be made and I’m proud to be a part of it.”