Australian striking legend John Wayne Parr will return to the ring when he meets Danilo Zanolini at RIZIN 18 on August 8.
Parr is still under contract with Bellator and has competed under their banner of Bellator Kickboxing three times. Yet, he hasn’t fought since April of 2018. Parr says this is due to the promotion mainly focusing on mixed martial arts and Bellator Kickboxing not drawing the ratings it deserves. He understands the choices Bellator is making, even if it “sucks” for the kickboxers.
“It’s really about business. And if the business isn’t successful, they have to keep moving on and keep entertaining the fans with what they want to see. So in Australia and overseas, kickboxing is huge, but I guess the American fans prefer the MMA,” Parr told The Body Lock’s John Hyon Ko.
With the promotion’s focus being on MMA and fellow kickboxer Raymond Daniels turning his talents to the Bellator cage, Parr sees no reason for him to do the same at this stage in his career.
“I’m 43-years-old. I just want to finish my career. I only have maybe five more fights left in me and I just want to continue doing what I enjoy doing. I know with one MMA fight, if I lose to a choke or an armbar or something that I’m not used to, then my whole reputation is regarded in that one MMA fight. ‘Oh, I told you he was never that good.’ I’d rather lose doing something that I’m good at and then something that I’m not good at.”
Parr kept emailing Bellator CEO Scott Coker to get a fight. Eventually, Coker told him there was an opportunity in Japan as part of the promotion’s recent dealing with RIZIN. Parr jumped at the chance.
“I love Japan. Japan is amazing. The fans are awesome, the crowds are awesome, and the shows are amazing. So I’m very excited to come back and hopefully, I can entertain once again.”
Should Parr earn the victory next month, it would garner the Australian his 100th victory. If he fights five more times as he plans, the Aussie would retire with 150 bouts between Muay Thai and boxing. Chasing that milestone is part of why he’s been so eager to get back to competing. Parr believes he should’ve reached the exclusive 100 victory club after his bout last year in Budapest, but the judges saw it for his opponent. Parr doesn’t make excuses. He knows that to leave it in the hands of the judges is to play Russian Roulette with your career. The loss fuels him to not make such a mistake again and to finish Danilo Zanolini at RIZIN 18.
Having fought all over the world, Parr echoes what many others have said over the years about fighting in the Land of the Rising Sun. He explains how quiet the crowds are during the walkout. How in an arena full of 40,000 people you could hear a pin drop.
“The hardest part is when you’re trading you with your opponent and you’re both slugging it out and going toe-to-toe and all you want to hear is a little bit of feedback from the crowd and maybe you hear a slight little applause and the guys go back to trying to be quiet again. So it’s a weird environment, but it’s the best environment.”
But don’t take the silence for lack of appreciation for the fighters. Parr has seen fans camp overnight for a chance to get a picture or an autograph from the combatants. The fans care about the fighters—win or lose—as long as they put it all on the line.
Thor and UFC 243
In 2011 John Wayne Parr: Blessed with Venom, a documentary about Parr, was released. When asked who he thought would play him if there were ever a biopic made about his intriguing life, Parr was quick with the answer.
“Chris Hemsworth. He’s got the cute Aussie accent. We’ve almost got the same body type,” Parr smiles. “I talk to Chris a fair bit on private message. He’s such a cool guy and a big fight fan. He’s trained in martial arts and we’ve got to keep it Australian as well.”
There’s a good chance Thor and The Gunslinger could cross paths in October. Hemsworth has been spotted cageside before and the promotion will be heading to Australia for the biggest fight in Oceania’s history at UFC 243. The main event features a unification bout between undisputed middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and interim champ, Israel Adesanya.
“It’s going to be such a hysterical moment. I’m friends with both Whittaker and Israel. So it’s a tough one. I’m definitely on the fence. Both guys are amazing and both guys are just really cool as well. It’s going to be a very intriguing competition. Whittaker is no-nonsense. He gets the business done; he’s very aggressive, whereas ‘Stylebender’ is just a different class; he’s crazy. You never know what to expect. He’s so good and so unpredictable and so unorthodox. That’s what makes him so exciting. I really can’t wait for that one.”
Brandon is a long-time fan of combat sports who has covered them for various outlets since 2017.