Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Combat King Helps Falcons Toughen Up; UFC's Ross Pearson Backs Strugglers

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Combat King Helps Falcons Toughen Up; UFC's Ross Pearson Backs Strugglers

Article excerpt

NEWCASTLE Falcons have a serious fight on their hands - so what better time for UFC star Ross Pearson to drop in on their Premiership survival scrap, writes MARK SMITH.

The Sunderland-born battler is a global icon on the Ultimate Fighting Championship scene, with a worldwide audience of over 60 million people tuning into live coverage of his most recent bout.

Now based in Chester-le-Street, the lightweight contender was on hand at Kingston Park as the Falcons squad continued preparations for Friday's home date with Northampton Saints.

One point adrift at the bottom of the table and fighting for their top-flight lives with four games to go, yesterday's visit from 'the Real Deal' looked to have had a galvanising effect, with seasoned sportsmen queuing up like school kids to have their photo taken with the combat king.

"It is massively important for the North East that our local teams do well at national level in all sports, and that definitely includes Premiership rugby," said Pearson, whose recent fight in Australia saw over 20,000 tickets sold in less than half an hour.

Having been given a tour of the Falcons' training facilities by head coach Alan Tait, he said: "A lot of the work they do is similar to my own, especially on the strength and conditioning side, and they are really dedicated athletes. To me, mixed martial arts isn't just a job - it's my life. UFC is all I have ever wanted to do, and it demands total dedication. It's the same for the rugby lads, and from spending some time with them, they are definitely up for the battle in terms of keeping their Premiership status this season."

Front of the line to compare notes with Pearson was Falcons scrum-half Chris Pilgrim, who has first-hand experience of mixed martial arts training.

"I've built up my MMA experience in the off-season over the past three years, and it helps with the rugby because it keeps me in shape," said the 25-year-old, who has travelled to California for a stint at the world-renowned 'Pit' training camp. …

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