Raymond Daniels: Point to prove

Written by Zach Broadhurst

To most fans accustomed to the brutality of full-contact kickboxing, the idea of sports karate is laughable — just pretend fighters in a pretend fight. But when it comes to fighting pedigree, there is nothing soft about Raymond Daniels. A legend of the sport karate circuit, Daniels proved his ‘soft’ fighting background actually helped him in a real fight, when he went 17–0 in the now defunct World Combat League. Now a Glory fighter with a 23–2 kickboxing record — five of those last six wins by knockout — Daniels continues to be an ambassador for his original martial arts, proving there is nothing soft about a karateka kicking you in the face.

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Daniels fires his trademark jumping back kick

A lot of people from the full-contact fraternity don’t respect the skills of point fighters because the rules are so far removed from a ‘real’ fight — was it important for you to prove yourself in full contact and were you confident of success when you made the move over?

It wasn’t necessarily anything as far as wanting to prove myself or anything like that, but it does feel good to represent my sport and the sport karate world. A lot of people in the full-contact world look at it as not real fighting, but if you look at all the fighting it all has rules. If you look at MMA they only allow 30 to 40 per cent of all martial arts moves, so it’s really just doing your sport and playing to the rule set that your sport allows you to do.     

What was the experience of fighting in Chuck Norris’ World Combat League like, and what did it do for you as a fighter and career-wise?

It was a great opportunity to work with Mr Chuck Norris. He’s a martial arts icon, so just to be in his league and his presence was an awesome opportunity. I got to meet with him a few times and he’s a great guy and he gave me the opportunity to really put my sport on the map. My team consisted of a lot of sport karate fighters, who I brought with me  to try and showcase to the world what martial arts has to offer. We ended up winning the championship and I ended up winning the MVP of the league, so it was just a great experience.    

We’ve seen you recently fight in Glory 19 and then you went over to compete in point fighting at the Irish Open. How hard is it to transition from full contact combat to point fight and back again?

To go from points to full, a lot of time it’s about whether my body has recuperated from one or the other. I do find the speeds a little bit different, but I do feel that they benefit each other and complement each other in many ways. I use my point fight skills in my full-contact fights to be able to close the distance, to be able to create distance and to be able to throw techniques from odd angles that people don’t expect. There’s also just a changing of my mindset when I go into my sport karate because my goal is not to hit anybody or hurt someone. It’s a controlled environment, it’s about speed, it’s about technique — it’s about being like a fencer, so to speak.

However, in full contact it’s an opportunity to finetune my technique and my timing, so I definitely enjoy it and it’s my goal to give back to my sport. I go out and do my full contact to represent my sport and let everybody know what sport karate is, but I also continue to do sport karate in order to give back to my sport and lead by example there also.  

Some fight fans say you’re cocky and don’t show respect for other fighters — how do you respond to that? Do you feel you respect your opponents?

At all times I always have respect for my opponents; it’s never any type of disrespect towards them or anything like that — for me it’s about confidence in myself and belief in my ability. If you don’t believe in you then who else will? That’s how I always look at it. Self-confidence is the key to success in any sport.

If you are a Kobe Bryant, or someone like that, you’re not going to shoot a shot and think, ‘I hope I’m going to make it’, or ‘I’m probably going to miss this shot’. You are going to think that every time you shoot that ball it’s going to go in the hole. So that’s the same when I fight. Every time I step into the ring I know I’m going to score, I know I’m going to win, so I go in with that confidence.
 
Sometimes I can look across the ring at my opponent and see that they aren’t that confident. That doesn’t make me think I’m better than them, it just means they haven’t trained as hard in order to build their confidence level, they haven’t applied themselves and that can be the edge, because fighting isn’t always about your physical attributes, it’s also about your state of mind.

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