‘Stormin’ Norman Parke spoke to us here at Pundit Arena ahead of his first welterweight outing in a decade, a KSW 47 main-card slot with an added layer of significance.
Parke managed to catch quite a few headlines in early January when he announced his rather abrupt retirement from the sport of mixed martial arts.
— STORMIN NORMAN PARKE (@norman_parke) January 8, 2019
Of course, those in the know (and those who caught his follow-up tweet) were somewhat sceptical of the former UFC veteran’s intentions here.
Speaking to us here at Pundit Arena MMA, Parke explained how the announcement was one that came more from a place of frustration at the time than anything else.
“It was just a heat of the moment type of thing. I was just pissed off and when you’re in a bad mood you’ll say some stuff. I’m still young in this game I have a few more years to go yet. That was never really a big deal, I was never going to retire.
“I’m out of the Bellator contract, they couldn’t get the VISA sorted. So that was the big issue. They really wanted me to get it but I had to go get a fight in the meantime and see what happens.”
Now, effectively unretired and back on the hunt for matchups, KSW stepped up and offered one of their most recognizable faces a matchup that held some significance for him.
Parke fought against the reigning KSW lightweight champion, the unbeaten Mateusz Gamrot on two occasions back in 2017 – a pair of contests that were marred heavily by some seriously ugly instances of controversy.
‘Stormin’ Norman was on the receiving end of a fight-ending eye-poke, groin shots, and one rather blatant bite on his fingers from the 15-0 Polishman and in the post-fight, his teammate – Parke’s KSW 47 opponent Mankowski was involved in a post-fight skirmish.
“I was contacted because KSW were looking for someone to fight Borys [Mankowski] and I just thought ‘this is perfect’. It’s a good chance for me to go in there and get a nice paycheque too.
“I had said that this fight could have potentially happened down the line so why not try and hype it up, you know the drama between me and his team.
“So this was a good opportunity to just jump straight in there. No weight-cut, so there’s less stress with cutting weight. I’ll go into that fight happy, you know.”
Tension aside, Parke is in no way taking his opponent lightly. As a former champion at welterweight, Mankowski comes into this one with every chance of getting his hand raised. A tough and physically strong fighter, Parke is under no illusions about the type of fight he is in for tonight.
“He’s a tough opponent. 100%. Most people I fight are tough. When you’re playing this game at the level I’m fighting at, you’re going to be fighting tough guys. I know they think moving up in weight is a big jump. He’s tough and durable and he has beaten a lot of good boys too.
“I’ve been in this game a long time and I’ve been fighting tough boys too all over, not just from one particular area like him, all over. So I have no problem going over there and fighting him in Poland.
“I know he has been saying a lot of stuff about this and that – they want to stand and fight? No problem! I’m ready to go. I’m just happy to be fighting again and getting what I’m worth.”
As for Borys’ teammate Gamrot – who has extended his unbeaten record by two more fights since fighting the Bushmill-born talent, Parke, while focussed on the challenge that is in front of him right now, made it clear that he would be more than capable of handing the champ his first career defeat if they met for a third time.
“I don’t really care, to be honest. I’ll fight him again. I know I can beat the chap in a fair and square fight, no problem. His previous two fights he has completely dominated his opponents. He has never really had any trouble in any of his fights.
“But if he can meet someone who can defend the wrestling and put a high pace with boxing, that guy will crumble. And that’s what I started to see, especially in the first fight and the second fight when he was clock-watching all of those times.
Parke has been long known to fans of European MMA and in recent years, has been part of some of the biggest events to have ever taken place on Irish soil.
His contract, according to him, is one that will allow him to compete openly in other organisations – something that he also hinted could leave him open for an outing within the blossoming world of bare-knuckle boxing.
As for a return and a fight on Irish soil, Parke stated that his status as a contender and not a champion could help him in this area.
“Whatever happens in this fight, I’m guaranteed three fights on this contract so I want to go back to lightweight after this fight.
“If KSW want to come back to Belfast or to Dublin I’ll fight without a doubt. But it’s an open contract so I can fight anywhere else – which is cool for me.
“If you’re the champion in KSW you can’t fight anywhere else, that’s just part of the contract. If you become a champion to them, you’re exclusive to them.”
Parke returns to the KSW cage tonight at KSW 47: The X-Warriors for a showdown against welterweight Borys Mankowski. The event can be viewed around the world on KSWTV.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena