This Saturday, Francis Healy (6-4 Pro MMA) will take on Dave Roberts (3-1 Pro MMA) in the main event for Xtreme Caged Combat 29 at Philadelphia’s National Guard Armory. Healy, who spent his career competing in the Pittsburgh Area, makes his first trip to the East Coast in hopes of rebounding after a hard fought decision setback in May. Healy trains at the Mat Factory in Pittsburgh under head coaches Isaac Greeley and Bedo Jones while also working full time as an engineer for Rolls-Royce. Fighting Stance spoke with “Mad Dog” about his preparations for this fight, his career so far, and how his work as an engineer influences him as a fighter.
What did you learn in your last fight? How do you think that will impact this fight?
My last fight was a close grinder and I learned a lot from it. I had the striking advantage, but I underestimated his wrestling ability. Since last bout, I’ve gotten back to getting in real vicious wrestling practices. I’ve been training with National Champions and International wrestlers at the Factory, and I will be prepared for the grinders this time!
You went pro in 2013 and this is your 11th pro fight. What has your professional MMA journey been like so far?
My professional fighting career has been a long one. I took my first fight as an ammy back in 2009, and I have been training and fighting almost every day since. I’ve had some real ups and downs. I was fighting ammy during college, I fought full time for years early in my pro career, and now I’m competing while balancing a full-time career. Through all the good times and the bad, I’m still here, and I love this game every bit as much as I did the first day my feet touched a mat. This sport is a true measure of character and my passion for it will never fade.
What do you feel is the most important skill for someone to have if they are considering getting into MMA competitively?
Honestly, there are so many different successful styles out there…It’s hard to say one is more important than the other. I think that being well-rounded is the best way, and that is the way I have trained throughout my career. I grew up wrestling, and that is a great base for any amateur getting started in MMA. If you want to be able to react to any situation and be a true fighter, you’ve got to dedicate years to your craft. Train in all aspects of the game from the beginning, and you will be prepared for everyone and everything. The most important skill for an early amateur or pro is the ability to set fear and pride aside and to learn every step of the way.
What do you consider to be your greatest strength as a fighter?
I am very well-rounded. I train with the best in every sport and can compete equally in all of them; this has always been my strength. There is no time in that cage where I don’t feel at home. I can win from any situation, at any time—and I never stop gunning for the finish.
In your career, you have always won your next fight following a loss. To what do you attribute this?
I don’t put much thought into it. I think that there is definitely a motivating factor, coming off a loss, to prove to yourself what you’re worth. But I can say that I’ve had fights that I lost where I performed better than fights I have won. Styles make fights, and it’s hard to compare one fight to another. As my coach Bedo Jones always says, we are “In Shape, Game, and Prepared to Stay till It’s Over.” Now all that’s left to do is to go out there, see what happens, and react accordingly.
How important do you think it is to have a fight game plan?
I think it’s very important to have our own personal blueprint for success. I’ve always loved this quote by Dwight Eisenhower: “Plans are nothing; planning is everything.” You’ve got to put the work in, to prepare and plan your route to victory. But anything can happen in a fight—hell, you might find yourself with a completely different opponent than you had prepared for! Make your plans, follow your blueprint, but always be ready to change direction on a dime if need be.
What is it like for you, being both a design engineer for Rolls-Royce and a professional fighter? Is there any correlation between the two?
I’m currently the only nuclear engineer/professional fighter in the world. They are very different worlds, but once again I pride myself on being well-rounded. It isn’t easy balancing both lifestyles, they are both so rewarding in their own way. I definitely feel that both careers feed off of each other. Fighting has taught me to lay pride and ego aside, which is essential for learning in both atmospheres. Also, a hard work ethic is the best attribute you can have in any world—MMA and engineering included.
Do you approach fighting from an engineering mindset, or is it completely different?
This might sound odd, but often it tends to be the opposite: I approach engineering with a fighter’s mindset. I like to attack problems head on and apply relentless attention to detail. The things that make you a successful man in life are the same in any career and lifestyle. If you keep your nose to the grindstone, work hard every day, have patience, and believe in yourself, you can do anything in the world…And I truly believe that.