UFC: Though He's Found Success in the UFC, Not Much Has Changed for Ramsey Nijem
Ramsey Nijem breaks every fighter stereotype.
Other than fighting in the UFC against the toughest competitors in the world, Nijem's calling is stripping down on television, listening to catchy pop songs that no tough guy would ever admit to liking, and making people feel uncomfortable.
“Right now, my favorite song is the Carly Rae Jepsen song ‘Call Me Maybe,’” Nijem said. “I’ll put that song on in practice every day, and everybody on our team is like, ‘oh crap.’ I just run around and dance to it."
So when you envision Nijem getting ready for his upcoming bout against C.J. Keith at UFC on FX 4 on June 22, picture him hitting the mitts to some good ol' Carly Rae Jepsen with surrounding fighters rolling their eyes. But then again, that's Nijem for you.
Unfortunately for his teammates, the spotlight hasn't changed who Nijem is as a fighter. Instead, it's given him a larger spotlight to express himself. Since becoming a UFC fighter, Nijem said not much has changed.
Rather than being like 'Ah yeah, I'm a UFC fighter, I make it rain,' Nijem still lives in a basement (a nice basement, he added), hikes, camps and sometimes sleeps in the back of his truck in the woods. And, as previously stated, listens to pop classics that antagonize his teammates, especially UFC fighter Court McGee.
"Court is a little more serious, so he’s like ‘what’s this crap we’re listening to!’ I’m like, “it’s the best song around, Court," Nijem said.
Nijem first broke onto the UFC scene in the company's 13th season of its reality series, The Ultimate Fighter. During the season, Nijem grinded his way through the competition to reach the finals against Tony Ferguson, but what garnered the most attention were Nijem's stripping antics on television.
The cameras didn't discourage Nijem from making others around him feel uncomfortable, and what's the best way to do that in Nijem's mind? Get nude.
“I’ve never been hesitant to drop the trousers,” Nijem said. “One of the things I love doing is making people uncomfortable. I don’t know why, but it’s like a fun pastime for me.”
Don't mistake this as an act for television; Nijem said that he was simply being himself.
“A lot of people ask me if I do that on purpose, but not really, that’s just who I am,” Nijem said. “I just like to joke around and have fun, and it just happens to be in the spotlight now. Everyone that knows me, and has known me for a long time, they weren’t like ‘oh, that’s just Ramsey acting.’ No, my mom was like “well, he’s embarrassed me a million times, and that’s just the way he is.’”
Before being cast for TUF and entering the UFC, Nijem always competed in sports, with wrestling emerging as his bread and butter. However, Nijem never thought he'd become a professional athlete simply because of his "too tall/too skinny for his own good" build.
At 5'11" and fighting at 155 pounds, Nijem admitted that he doesn't exactly have the tough guy appearance. In fact, if Nijem were walking down the street, some might not even guess that he's a UFC fighter, or even a professional athlete.
“I was never told I was an athlete growing up,” Nijem said. “I was competitve, but I wasn’t naturally athletically gifted. I’m kind of blessed because I learned to work hard for it. And now that I’m getting older and becoming more athletic, it’s all working out pretty good.”
Never judge a book by its cover, though. Don't let Nijem's child-at-heart mentality and body shape fool you. This guy can fight. After making it to the finals on TUF, Nijem is 1-1 in the UFC at the age of 24.
He's recently coming off of a dominant decision victory against Daniel Downes at UFC 137 after getting knocked out in his UFC debut against Ferguson in The Ultimate Fighter 13 finale. But the loss taught Nijem a valuable lesson.
“When I fought Ferguson, I wasn’t myself,” Nijem said. “That’s not the way I normally fight. I still hit him with some nice shots, but I got caught up into a slugfest and paid for it. Against Danny, I came out knowing my game plan and strengths, and I stuck to them.”
At UFC on FX 4, he'll welcome UFC newcomer Keith inside the Octagon, and Nijem has been working extensively with John Hackleman on his striking, for not only this fight, but also future fights in the UFC.
Nijem's so dedicated to evolving his game that he's spent most of his training camp at Hackleman's house in an extra room Hackleman provided for him. Nijem's always trying to improve, so is at practice throughout the year working religiously on his striking.
“I’ve been really working on my striking, because, obviously, that’s one of the biggest holes in my game right now. And you know, the less holes the better,” Nijem said.
Improved striking will come into play in his bout against Keith, as the 8-0 prospect is coming off three straight knockouts in The Warriors Cage promotion. However, those knockouts don't seem to impress Nijem.
“He’s been fighting at a local show that I think benefits him,” Nijem said. “Three of his (eight) wins I don’t think count because the guys he beat don’t have a single win. We don’t really know how good C.J. Keith is really, because he hasn’t fought in the UFC.”
Nijem promises to test Keith's heart with his relenting pace and grinding style in their upcoming bout, but, unfortunately, the fans won't be greeted with a "Call Me Maybe" intro.
"Yeah, there's no way Hackleman would walk out with me and be in my corner with that playing."
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