SUNDERLAND fighter Phil De Fries is celebrating becoming the best of British after triumphing in the toughest bout of his fledgling career.
The undefeated 25-year-old scrapped his way to a second round submission over Southend’s Stavros Economou at the weekend to become UK heavyweight champion in front of the Cypriot-born fighter’s home crowd.
It was a huge triumph for De Fries, who will now rise to number three in the British rankings after convincing victories in all eight of his mixed martial arts encounters.
More importantly, it hands De Fries a great chance of fulfilling his ambitions of securing a contract with the major promotions on the other side of the Atlantic.
Both of the UK’s top two-ranked heavyweights are already competing in America – number one Rob Broughton with the Ultimate Fighting Championship and number two Neil Grove in the Bellator Fighting Championship. By beating the previous number-three ranked heavyweight Economou, De Fries hopes he will now find his way onto a major MMA show where he can showcase his skills to American scouts.
De Fries said: “It was a massive one for me because it was such a tough fight, like nothing I have had ever before.
“Hopefully this win will get me a contract for a big show which will increase my chances of getting a contract in America.
“I know there were promoters there at the weekend and hopefully they can get me a fight with someone else in the top 10 or someone from abroad.”
De Fries, who trains out of Castletown’s Dungeon Gym, had won all of his previous seven outings by first-round knockout, but the sequence was broken against Economou.
The pair shared takedowns in the opening round – the first time De Fries had been sent to the mat – before De Fries gained the ascendancy in the second.
He inflicted some heavy punishment on Economou with a series of blows before securing victory with a rear naked choke submission.
“The first round was really back and forth although I think I edged it,” added De Fries.
“But in the second round I got on top of him and got him with a submission.
“He was super tough though. I hit him with about 20 unanswered shots but he still wouldn’t give up.
“I have a lot of respect for him because it was by far the toughest fight I have had so far.
“I took some punishment as well. I take my training seriously but now maybe I need to do even more.”