We all know “that guy.” You know, the one that was the all-star football player, the one that could have been a world champion boxer or was one audition away from being the next Tom Cruise.

It’s a fact of life. So many people look at what could have been and so many reminisce on missed opportunities. It would often seem that a coping mechanism in dealing with disappointment is to tell everybody around just how well they could have done in their life.

Jai “The Tooth Fairy” Bradney is never going to be that guy. His success as a mixed martial artist and, more importantly, as a father is going to help prove that.

“I was a bit of a ratbag when I was a young fella,” he admitted in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I didn’t want to be one of those blokes that sits at the end of the bar talking about what I coulda been, so I thought I would have a go at something. When I started, I was training with guys like Hector [Lombard] and I felt like I was going alright, so I started giving it a go.”

Bradney (Facebook.com/JaitheToothfairyBradney)

Throughout his career, Bradney has squared off against a “Tarantula,” a “Goshu Hurricane,” a “Manimal” and now, a “Hunter.” In contrast, his fight name may appear to be a little less threatening—that is, of course, depending on how you look at it.

“I figured everyone else around had tough nicknames,” he laughed. “Since I’ve always been a bit of a smartass, I thought ‘The Tooth Fairy’ would be good. Nobody wants to get beaten up by a guy with a nickname like that, and I wanted to go in there and kick some ass. I thought that when I was going into a fight people would think I’m a bit of a pansy or whatever, but then I’d just kick their ass.”

Having been around the sport for so long, Bradney has witnessed a lot of things change over the years. With such a diverse range of fighters and with so many vying for their shot at superstardom, it would be easy to get disheartened as the years pass. With so many new, younger fighters making their break into the mainstream, Bradney still knows his place in the perceived rankings of Australian fighters.

“In my honest opinion, I reckon me and Adrian [Pang] are still at the top of the heap,” he said. “When you look at it, though, we are still a long way behind other countries with where the sport is. When you compare us to America and England with our wrestling, we aren’t there yet, but we will get there. That’s just the kind of country that we are. We will work it all out eventually.”

After competing in 24 professional mixed martial arts fights, pushing the age of 34 and having fought professionally for a little over six years, Bradney is realistic in where things are headed for him.

“I’m getting to the later stages of my career,” he admitted. “I just wanna fight the toughest dudes around. I want those fights that make me want to go to training to be a better fighter. I wanna be training and thinking for every second that this guy is gonna kick my ass if I don’t work harder. I want the fights that other people won’t take.”

One of those very fights is against Adrian “The Hunter” Pang, who makes his return to active competition after a long layoff due to an injury that he suffered outside of the cage. The two meet on June 29 in Brisbane, Australia, in the first event held by Adrenalin.

“Adrian is one of the toughest guys I know,” Bradney admitted. “There is no one out there that is any tougher. It’s an awesome fight and I am so excited for it. I have thought about the fight so many times and what I am going to do. I could have thought about going in there and hit the jab and then inside leg kick and then the jab and some more kicks, but fuck that, I am going in there to fight. It might be my undoing, but I won’t be doing that. I am going to make the fans say, ‘fuck, I am glad I came to this.’”

Whenever it comes to a fight where two fighters are friends outside the cage, question marks are always raised and it’s often a deal-breaker for whether a proposed match-up will actually take place. There aren’t that many fighters out there that can toe the line of friendship and business, but luckily for the fans in Brisbane, Pang and Bradney are two fighters that can do just that.

Bradney (Chris dela Cruz/Sherdog)

“I know that we are going to touch gloves and then I am going to punch him straight in the face,” he said. “And I know that Adrian is going to do the exact same thing. Outside of the cage, we are friends and he’s a great guy, but when I get in that cage I don’t give a fuck who you are, I am fighting to win the fight.”

It’s not so much about winning titles or UFC aspirations for Bradney anymore. Instead, the message is much simpler.

“I want to be an inspiration to my son,” he said. “I’m not a full-time fighter anymore. You’ve gotta really wanna be in that with your whole heart. I do this because I love fighting and I wanna show my son that if you wanna chase something and if you wanna be successful, you can do it. I don’t wanna be that guy that said he could have played football, that he could have been a fighter. I wanna be out in the backyard kickin’ the footy with me son and be able to say, ‘you know what, kid? Your dad did alright.’”

Although he may not be able to find his way to the big stages of the UFC, Bradney has still had a successful career of wins and title fights. It’s hard to picture Bradney, who has not picked up a drink for over three years, sitting on the end of a bar when his career eventually wraps up.

If he does, though, one thing will be certain: he won’t be one of those washed-up guys that reminisce on all those moments that could have defined them. Instead, he will have the chairs filled around him with the regulars, who will be listening intently as he remembers what was, not what could have been.

Jai would like to thank Punish and Syn-Tec Sports Nutrition. Follow him on Facebook.

Top Photo: Jai Bradney (L) battles for position (Chris dela Cruz/Sherdog)

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.