With formidable talent and an unrivalled fighting spirit, James McSweeney has travelled around the globe doing what he does best, and later tonight, a lifetime’s worth of hard work comes to a head when he collides with Badr Hari at Glory 88.
Born in Slough, the sportsman has positive memories of growing up, fondly remembering the love he was shown by an Irish mother and father who gave their all to carve him into the man he is today.
Speaking exclusively to Sporf, he remembered: “Mum would work ten jobs if she could to support her kids. My dad would get up at 4:00 in the morning, and be on the construction site all day. Bad back, Arthritis, it didn’t matter. He would come home at 6:00 at night after a full day’s work. They just taught me a very strong work ethic.”
They didn’t know it then, but the lessons they taught him would guide him down a path that would make him one of the best kickboxers the UK has ever produced.
James McSweeney said goodbye to the UK in favour of taking over the kickboxing world in Holland
At just 18, he left his life behind to follow his dream of making it as a fighter. Ignoring the nerves, he hopped on a train to the Netherlands and hasn’t looked back since.
And while it was certainly daunting, his path ultimately led to him meeting one of his closest friends — Alistair Overeem.
He laughed: “It was scary as s**t. I went over on the train in Holland with a guy called Gary Turner from England, and he was a K1 champion. We were hopping around gyms, trying to find our way. We’d started at Kops’ gym with Bert Kops.
“We’d go to Andre Mannaart’s gym where Ivan Hippolyte was teaching in the back room, where the pros had a secret gym. You go through a little doorway and come to his back room, full of assassins.
“Then we went to Lucia Rijker’s gym for sparring on Thursdays. And I remember just walking into this gym and seeing Alistair Overeem and Tyrone Spong. It was a Murderer’s Row. It was one of the most intimidating rooms I have ever walked into.
“Me and Gary were the only two white guys there. And the whole gym just kind of turned around and looked at us. We stuck out like the reverse of a fly in milk. Both of us got our a***s kicked. We just got really beaten up, and I thought to myself, ‘I need to train with these guys’.”
James McSweeney has had an incredible journey to Glory 88
Having established himself as a star in the world of kickboxing, McSweeney decided to try out MMA. And as the old saying goes, ‘One thing led to another,’ and he ended up moving in with Rashad Evans.
He reminisced: “Yeh, it was unique, right? Because I had like one or two MMA fights, and I fought a guy called Roman Wehbe, who’s actually a really good fighter, and a friend of mine now, who lives out in Dubai, a cool guy. I just caught him fast off the bat, in like nine or ten seconds and knocked him out.”
He continued: “It went around the MMA scene really quickly like this K1 Guy just came to MMA and had this fast knockout, and then I don’t know what happened, but it was a month after, and I just got a phone call out of nowhere from Greg Jackson from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and he was inviting me to go out to Albuquerque to help train.”
James McSweeney and Rashad Evans have an unbreakable bond
McSweeney continued: “When I got there, I went to this BBQ restaurant, and Rashad Evans was there. I was with Greg and a few of the guys; I remember them eyeballing me up and down. Then it clicked.
“They asked if I could be a sparring partner for Rashad because he was fighting Forrest Griffin for the light heavyweight title. So I was like, ‘Yeah, of course’. So, I was a sparring partner for a week or two. Then we all kind of got close. I went in and cornered Rashad and helped him train for that fight. We won the belt. Me and Rashad grew a friendship. I was about to go home, and then I got a phone call from Joe Silva. Rashad and Greg put a good word in about me, and then I got the opportunity on the Ultimate Fighter.”
James McSweeney owns his own farm
In a matter of hours, the 42-year-old will clash with Badr Hari in an eagerly-anticipated bout in Paris, France. And he can’t wait to put the legend in his place. But away from the fighting world, McSweeney is a humble man who cares more about his family than anything else.
Thus, when he’s not in the heat of training camp, he’s feeding the pigs and the chickens on his very own farm.
“My wife and I bought a farm just over a year ago, and we have 20 acres. It was something that we were going to do in like a five-year time period. It was like, ‘Let’s get to Texas, let’s set the gym up, the business up, let’s get my daughter into a school. We were going to start moving forward and getting on with it. But when COVID happened, I was getting frustrated, going to the grocery store, I couldn’t buy certain food. There was no meat. There was no this, no that. And I was getting sick of it.
“I like to eat food. I don’t want the government to tell me what I can and can’t eat. So, we went out and started looking, and we found it. Now, we have a bunch of chickens. We have fresh eggs every day. We get like 40-50 eggs a day. I don’t even know how many goats we have. We’ve got cows, pigs, sheep, emus, ducks. You name it.”
James McSweeney raises cows and chickens and knocks people out on the side.
He added: “The farm just keeps growing. We’ve got protection dogs for the land, and I’ve got inside dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rabbits. My daughter is obsessed with animals. I’m from Slough; my wife is from Las Vegas. We lived in Thailand for five or six years. Then, we lived in Australia for a couple of years. We lived in England for about six months. But we’ve just really found that being on a farm, is peaceful. Having organic home food, vegetables, and fruits that go straight from the farm to the kitchen is just how we do it. So now we’re very blessed, and to get that downtime, just go out there and see my daughter playing with the animals, or seeing a new cow being born is just amazing.
“When we have a new baby on the farm, it’s really beautiful thing. It’s great for my daughter to grow up with. She wants to be a vet when she’s older. Providing her with this experience is really fulfilling for me.”
Featured Image Credit: Glory