Born with an unrelenting will to win and ferocious power, Corey Fry is used to kicking some of the best fighters in Europe. But on this occasion, he was booting me — a journalist from Preston.
On Saturday evening, the featherweight contender will travel to Cologne, Germany, for an eagerly-anticipated collision with esteemed boxer, Deniz Ilbay, at Oktagon 49. And while I’m not up to Fry’s usual standard of training partners at the revered North West Fight Academy, I thought I’d head down and let him practise his devastating strikes.
Upon my arrival at his gym, Fry welcomed me in with open arms, telling me all about his love of tattoos and motorbikes. But behind his warm personality is an animal capable of rendering even the toughest of men unconscious with just a single shot.
From the moment he first embarked on his martial arts journey, the fearsome athlete quickly proved he had all the makings of a world-class operator. And now, under the tutelage of his coach, Steve Nightingale, Fry’s become a complete fighter, who I can tell you from first-hand experience, kicks like a horse.
Corey Fry boots journalist ahead of his fight with Denis Ilbay
Granted, a journalism degree doesn’t quite match up to Ilbay’s years of hardened conditioning, seasoned through stints in Germany’s toughest training facilities. But having felt exactly what Fry’s kicks feel like, I don’t think the former boxer will want to take too many of them.
Standing in the centre of the cage, with the UKFC logo printed on the wall, I waited, with a sense of dread, for first contact.
Fry tested the waters with his opening shot, before increasing the power significantly for the second, rendering me terrified for what was to come with his third and inevitably hardest kick of the lot.
In what looked like a tribute to Flo-Rida, Fry loaded up and span me ‘Right Round’ 360 degrees, with my arms waving in the air, like the Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubeman from Family Guy.
Luckily, I just about managed to stay on my feet, but the British prospect will be hoping Ilbay won’t be so fortunate when they meet in front of a packed house at the Lanxess Arena.
Corey Fry aims to dismantle Deniz Ilbay at Oktagon 49
When the 28-year-old sets foot inside the cage in Cologne, he knows he’ll have to deal with a German fanbase that would love nothing more than to see his rival’s hand raised. However, in a testament to his ferocious mindset, Fry intends to use the partisan crowd to his advantage.
In an exclusive interview with Sporf, he said: “I think he’s got everything to lose. Going over there, I’m going to be the underdog, he’s gonna be the favourite to win it and I think that will play to my advantage. There’s a lot more pressure on him. I know he’s dealt with that before, he’s had a long career in boxing, so he’s used to it, but MMA is different.
“He knows that I’m going to come in with all sorts of tools and I think there’s going to be massive pressure in front of his home crowd, especially when I put a clinic on him and he feels that first shot. I say it all the time when I fight these people; as soon as I hit them with that first shot, I can see it in their eyes that they didn’t expect it. I hit a lot harder than most featherweights and anyone who’s sparred or fought me can tell you the same. As soon as I get in there, he’s gonna feel the pressure. I’m gonna be in my zone and just pick him off. I think he’ll crumble.”
Corey Fry isn’t concerned with what Deniz Ilbay’s fans will bring to the table
He continued: “I don’t know what it’s going to be like yet, there could be 20,000 boos for all I know. I’ll just go out and soak it all up. I’ve fought in a big venue before at the M&S Bank Arena in Liverpool and I thrived in that environment.
“I don’t crumble under pressure. A lot of people say it doesn’t even look like I’m fighting, I’m that relaxed. I think I’ll just take it in my stride, and I’ll feed off the energy whether it’s boos or cheers and get the job done. If they boo me, they’re going to give me more fuel to knock him out. I’m going in there to create an upset.”
Corey Fry comes from a long lineage of power punchers
With the touch of death in his left hand, Fry has every reason to feel confident in his ability.
Speaking on his heavy hands, he explained: “When I was a kickboxer when I was younger, I was originally a southpaw, but they forced me to go into orthodox, which in the long run has actually benefited me because I’m left-handed and right-footed. So, everyone I’ve knocked out has either been via my left hook or right head kick. It’s something I’ve developed from a young age. All the males in my family hit incredibly hard and you would not expect it. My brother is a bantamweight but hits much heavier than you would think. All my cousins have a good whack on them too, so I think it’s just a genetic thing, to be honest.”
Corey Fry has travelled the road to MMA success with his brother — Zach Fry
Mixed martial arts is a lonely sport in which the competitors step out in front of thousands of people and fight for our entertainment. Therefore, when preparing for a bout, you need all the help you can get, and Fry has the greatest supporter on the planet, in the form of his beloved sibling, Zach, who’s become a formidable fighter in his own right.
Together, through thick and thin, the pair have stuck by one another, guiding each other along the road to becoming two of the best competitors on British soil. And when Corey takes on Ilbay in the most significant moment of his career to date, Zach will be right there with him, backing his corner just as hard as the 20,000 fans there for Ilbay.
Corey Fry loves training with his brother — Zach Fry
Speaking on his relationship with Zach, he beamed: “It’s been amazing. Zach started a little bit after me. But it’s been good to see him develop from literally a boy when he first started, and now he’s turned into a man, and become one of the best bantamweights in the country. It’s good to be part of his development and help him with his striking. But he helps me with my grappling as well.
“Just because I’m the big brother doesn’t mean it’s always me teaching him. Zach’s taught me a lot in my career as well. He’s called out knockouts in the past. We’ve drilled things, and he’s been like, ‘Have a look at this shot’. I remember when I fought Pav Sahota, Zach drilled the same shot with me in the backroom about three or four times, and then I went in the cage and knocked him clean out with it. So, we both learn and thrive off each other.”
Featured Image Credit: Corey Fry / James Sweetnam