William Knight is about to step into the cage for the second time since securing a developmental deal with the UFC and, if it were up to him, he would fight every weekend until that full roster spot call comes his way.
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“Knightmare” will take on Tafon Nchukwi this Friday night in the heavyweight co-main event of CFFC 80. The event takes place at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton, Va. and will air on UFC Fight Pass.
The 31-year-old earned the attention of Dana White and the UFC matchmakers with an incredible third-round TKO finish of Herdem Alacabek on the Contender Series in August. Since then, Knight finished 14-fight veteran Jamelle Jones in the first round of CES 59 in October. Less than a month later, Knight will add another stamp to his developmental deal passport when he makes his CFFC debut against a fellow unbeaten fighter.
“If you think about it, this is exactly what I want,” Knight told The Body Lock. “I like to stay active, keep going and moving forward. Not many people are conditioned and built like I am. A lot of people look at me and they think I’m small, they say, ‘Oh, he’s muscular. He doesn’t have conditioning.’ They judge me too quickly until they get in that cage with me. I don’t judge my opponents. I really don’t care about them. I don’t care if it’s Jon Jones himself. You step here because you think you know yourself but, at the end of the day, I don’t go into these fights to fight; I go in there to kill people. There’s a difference.
“I’m the person who is ready to take it to the next level, just like Muhammad Ali, he was ready to die for the sport — something Mike Tyson wouldn’t do. I’m ready to kill people, take their lives in the cage if I have to. But the ref is there and sometimes you need to have that little bit of humanity. I want this. If I could, I would fight every weekend for 52 weeks. That’s a fact.”
Knight turned pro less than 18 months ago and has finishes all six of his fights in the process. The MMA journey began for the Connecticut native in 2016. Knight wanted to compete in grappling to stay in shape but once his coach saw the raw talent his pupil had, the push towards fighting began. With an 8-1 amateur run, which includes a unanimous decision win over fellow Contender Series contract winner Yorgan De Castro, Knight was ready to make the shift — albeit without the experience his record may have shown admittedly.
“My amateur career was fun, but can you really say that was experience,” Knight said. “If you add up the ring time, I don’t think it adds up to 30 minutes. I went the distance twice — one as a heavyweight, one as a light heavyweight — and after that it was just destroying people. I wouldn’t let it go to the judges anymore. But I probably wouldn’t have believed you because I really joined all of this to stay competing. I just don’t know how this happened or where this came from. My coach said I should fight and I said I just wanted to do grappling. We decided to fight, I started training Muay Thai and it has all lead to this moment.”
A record amount of UFC contracts were awarded on last summer’s season of the Contender Series, including many fighters with like records as Knight. When the Thornton MMA trained fighter got the developmental deal from Dana White, he didn’t look at it as a foot in the proverbial door. Knight wasn’t disappointed. In fact, he was elated with the contract so he could continue to evolve as a martial artist.
More importantly, Knight could stay as active as humanly possible while staying local, or taking on the nation’s best regional prospects should the opportunities arise.
“Ask my coach, after my CES fight we were being told we have to fight top-end people and I was like, ‘Yo, what the hell have we been doing,'” Knight explained. “If you check my amateur career, most of the people I fought were undefeated fighters, dudes that were ranked no. 1 in their area. That’s what I’ve been doing, I don’t want no easy fights. All of my fights have to be challenging so I can push myself. If they’re easy, I would never display what I have. I have endurance, I have speed, I have power, I’m chill, I’m composed, all of that. I’ve fought heavyweight, I was the smaller guy, but I can withstand a lot of abuse. If you remember, I was abused as a child so a grown man hitting me — unless you submit me or knock me out cold — I’m just gonna keep coming for you like a f****n tank. You’re not gonna stop me, the gas is always on full.
“That Contender Series developmental contract was the best f****n thing that I could get. I can fight locally, I’m not sitting on the shelf like some of these other guys who got contracts that I haven’t even seen fight yet. There are guys from season one and two that I still haven’t seen fight yet. At best, they’re fighting once or twice a year. I just fought a couple of weeks ago and I’m fighting again this week. This is a f****n beautiful deal for me.”
On Friday night, Knight will take on the state’s #1 heavyweight prospect in Nchukwi — an undefeated 25-year-old fighting out of Maryland. “Da Don” has finished all five of his amateur and pro bouts and will make his second appearance for the CFFC promotion.
Knight isn’t the type of guy who watches footage on, nor cares about his opponents. Outside of the hearsay he has learned from his coaches, Knight isn’t overly concerned about what Nchukwi will send his way this Friday night.
“I don’t know too much about him. I know his came up once for Lion Fight but it never happened,” Knight said. “I’m not too surprised. I don’t know what his element is, I don’t know his background or nothing. I’m not worried. I’m always brought in as the underdog and I always climb. Me coming in as the underdog, I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It’s like this dude is expected to win. He’s expected to win. I’m going to his hometown, he’s no. 1 in that region from what they tell me.
“I see he has striking. He’s finished everybody or whatever, but guess what? The dude [I fought] on Contender Series finished everybody so I’m not worried. I’m seriously not worried about nobody but myself. I don’t watch no tape on nobody, I don’t really care too much about him. But me? I care about me. If we’re keeping it standing, cool, we’ll be striking it out. If he gets tired and tries to take me down, we’ll go on the ground. Wherever the fight takes me is wherever the fight takes me.”
With the focus on staying as active as possible, Knight revealed to The Body Lock that he has already been added to the next CES MMA event in January, although he doesn’t have an opponent quite yet. In the terms of his developmental deal, the UFC is mostly responsible for scouting out and setting up opponents for Knight — which means he can expect a challenging test in New England come 2020.
First thing’s first, Knight has to take care of business on Friday and is confident he will make it a perfect seven for seven in pro finishes. When it comes to how it will all play out, Knight is leaving that part up to his opponent.
“Like every other fight — wherever it goes, it goes,” Knight said. “We can stand, we can go to the ground, we can play f****n double dutch, I don’t care. At the end of the day, my output is gonna stay the same from when we touch gloves until the f****n ref raises somebody’s hand. I see it going like any other fight — no longer than the first or second round, someone’s getting finished.”
It’s clear that Knight is loving the current deal that is in place with the UFC and, eventually, that structure is going to come to an end in lieu of his Octagon debut. Knight feels quite confident that he will fight for the UFC sometime in 2020, as they can put him on any card they see fit if his services are needed. Although he loves his current developmental deal, Knight is excited to be a UFC fighter, as well as a globetrotter.
“Hell yeah I’m excited,” Knight said. “I’ll get to travel the world and fight top-level guys. I love that f****n thought. I’ll get to fight high-level dudes in their hometowns or wherever the case may be. I just want to be able to use the s**t that I’ve learned on someone that will last longer than the first round. That’s what I’m excited about.”
If the UFC offered William Knight a fight with Jon Jones tomorrow, he would take it in a heartbeat. The opponent doesn’t matter for Knight as he just wants a cage door to lock behind him. However, when looking up and down the UFC roster, there is a specific matchup that piques his interest.
“I want to fight Ilir Latifi. I want to fight him,” Knight said before finding out he has since moved up to heavyweight and will fight Derrick Lewis Feb. 8. “That’s somebody I’d like to fight at light heavyweight, but f**k it, we can go to heavyweight, s**t. F**k it — 215, 225, wherever. I don’t care.”