Thanks for taking the time out of your busy
training schedule to sit down for this interview. Can you tell us a
little bit about your background and how you became interested in MMA?
You're welcome. I have a wrestling background. I kind
of, I don't know... I feel like the sport was created for me. I found
it in a roundabout way... you know I come from a middle income family
with good parents. I never had any problems fighting in school you
know, that wasn't a part of growing up but I was always drawn to
contact sports. I loved football, I'm from Indiana so of course you
play basketball but I fouled out of every game that I ever played in I
think (says laughing). I found myself in wrestling in fourth grade. I
just loved wrestling and continued to wrestle and decided to wrestle in
college. I was almost going to go the route of military, some kind of
special forces or something. Just because I wanted to do something very
challenging and push myself. But I don't think my mother was at all
excited about military so I was like alright I'll walk on and I'll
wrestle somewhere I think I can do that. That’s why I chose Purdue;
it's a Big 10 school. Nobody was knocking on my door for scholarships
so I decided to walk on there. It wasn't too far from home, and
financially it worked out the best. Luckily I had three really good
coaches. They all had their own special thing to bring to the table.
Head Coach Mr. (Jessie) Reyes is an outstanding technician; Tom
Erickson had great mat awareness and a great coaching presence. There's
nothing more confidence building than having a 300lb Olympic wrestler
in your corner while you’re in a college wrestling match. If a call or
match didn't go your way, you know the ref heard about it (laughing).
(Scott) Hinkle was extremely motivating and always down for
competition, always pushing it to the extreme. The guy's
thirty-something and still doing crazy workouts, I can't understand how
he can still do it. Tom was fighting at the time and that's how I got
into it. I started watching his workouts with Gary Goodridge and Mark
Coleman. They were coming into town and ... umm oh I can't remember his
name, Coleman's guy, the big tall guy that Big Mike (Kyle) fought.
Sims! Yeah, Wes Sims. He came into town once. I met him
then but I didn't get to work out with him then because a heavyweight
sat on his ankle and messed up his ankle or something. So just watching
those guys and working out with those guys. It was always just an idea.
I was like hey this is something I could do after college you know?
Especially with my style of wrestling, I was always the brawling type.
I was never the kind of guy who lost because I was tired or because I
was getting beat up you know? I only got handled like two
matches....(thinking).... maybe... yeah three matches my entire
wrestling career that I remember. The rest of them were all one, two,
or three point losses. Close matches. It was the things I did, stupid
technical things where I lost because I just didn't have the technical
background a lot of guys did coming out of high school. I had the
physical aspect you know, but I didn't pick up the technique as fast as
I needed to. Then working out with Tom and those guys after college I
was like hey let's try it. Tom pulled some strings and worked me into a
fight. My very first fight was out in Vegas and it was way above where
I probably should have started. I had never even sparred. I had never
even rolled and done ground and pound with the light gloves. All I had
done was wrestled and learned a couple of techniques and hit some heavy
bags. Gary Goodridge held pads for me a few times before that fight. I
probably had about a week of pad training before that fight. The fight
started and I was like what the hell do I do now? I kind of froze. I
tried a foot sweep and ended up putting myself on my back. I think I
was just naturally drawn to this sport, I think this was kind of what I
was meant to do. Once I made the decision to move out here (San Jose,
CA) everything started clicking. Everything started falling into place.
I've been much happier out here than I've been anywhere, doing anything
in my life. I loved wrestling in college but I still had to deal with
the daily grind of classes and all that crapp that goes along with it.
So is that who you trained with before you moved here (Erickson, Coleman, and Randleman)?
Umm... it was spotty because I got the chance to learn
a couple of techniques and roll with Coleman like twice. Randleman I
never met, but Goodridge... I got a lot of work with Goodridge when he
would come in. He came in several times getting ready with us for our
fights. He was there to help Tom with his standup and then Tom and us
were there to help him with his wrestling, his takedowns, and stuff. So
we did a lot of takedowns and takedown defense things with him. It was
a big confidence booster you know? Watching fights with Gary Goodridge
and then when we're wrestling and I was taking him down I was like yeah
maybe I can do this. I was a lot bigger then too and I was thinking I
was going to fight at 205. I was walking around at about 210 and I was
like man I can lift and beef up to about 220 and cut down. But I got
that out of my head pretty quick and moved out here and made the cut.
You said you walked on at Purdue; did you wrestle through high school?
Yeah. I started in 4th grade and wrestled every year. I
wrestled half a season in the fifth grade because my mom got mad at me
for grades (laughing). I walked on as a red shirt freshman my first
year and then I had four years of eligibility after that. So I had five
years wrestling at Purdue but I stayed on a sixth year as a grad
assistant. In total I had six years of the coaching and practicing and
I was kind of the attack dog. There's always a grad assistant who's
kind of the attack dog where Jessie's like "I want you to break him
today." He sticks you on a certain guy and it's your job to make him
You will be making your UFC debut on UFC's
Ultimate Fight Night which airs on Spike TV on October 3rd. Assuming
this fight is televised, what does this mean to you to be fighting for
the UFC on a nationally televised event?
I'm just happy to get my foot in the door. Whether it's
televised nationally or not I'm just glad to have this opportunity. I
really don't care if it gets aired or not this time, because I WILL
make an impact. I'm not just going to knock lightly on the door this
time. I'm going to kick it open. I'm tired of... you know.. we've been
pussy footing and knocking at the door of the UFC for a while and
haven't gotten the opportunity. They haven't paid much attention you
know? They're like "Oh yeah yeah he's ok we'll get him in here
sometime." I don't want that to happen. So as long as I do well and put
on a show and they bring me back, I'm happy. Because I'm going to get
the exposure the next time. The second fight, the third fight, I'm
going to be on a pay per view. I 'm going to be the main event
eventually. It's not going to take that long. My skills are getting up
there where they're not going to be able to ignore my abilities
You kind of answered this next question in a
roundabout way, but there is a good chance that your fight will be a
dark match (a match that is not televised) since both of you are making
your UFC debut. If your fight is not televised would that be a letdown
in any way?
Not at all, because once again it's still fighting in
the UFC. It might not air that night but it will probably air
eventually. The fight will be seen and will be talked about by people.
So... I mean, no matter what it's still a bigger fight than any other
fight that I've done. It will still be a bigger fight than the fight in
Canada which aired on FSN and was seen by millions of people. You know?
Because it's a bigger venue and it's a bigger stepping stone to better
Your opponent for that card will be Brock Larson. Can you tell us what you know about him?
I know that he's a strong wrestler out of Minnesota and
he's got some Jiu-Jitsu. Umm... I don't know much about who he's
trained with. I know he works out with (Sean) Sherk a little bit, but I
don't know a ton about him. He's undefeated. You know he's probably
going to be a typical mid-west tough wrestling guy with some
submissions. There are a lot of those guys out there. I don't think he
matches up as well against me. I think I'm a better wrestler and I
think I have a better ground game. I have no idea if he has any kind of
standup at all. I don't see him beating me at what he's good at, but I
know he's going to be tough. I know he's going to be in shape so it's
nothing that I can take lightly. It's not going to be an easy win. It's
going to have to be hard fought. I just don't see it going his way. I
don't think he matches up great against me.
Do you happen to know what belt level he is in Jiu-Jitsu?
I think I heard he was blue belt, but I'm not sure. But
I mean... that doesn't mean a ton because Josh Koscheck's a white belt
and we battle all the time. (Mike Swick's a white belt too! Mike says
from the office next door in AKA laughing, and that dude is bad!!!)
(Laughing) Mike Swick's a negative belt color. (Laughing) (I'm a clear
belt, Dave's giving me my white belt next week) (Laughing).
From what I've read on Brock it appears that
you two have a very similar fighting style in that you both have solid
wrestling and BJJ skills. I've seen where he's actually won a couple of
BJJ tournaments that he's entered. An interesting note here is that you
both have trained under BJJ coach Dave Camarillo. Do you think this
presents any advantages or disadvantages for either one of you?
Well... I mean as far as advantages go having an
in-house instructor or teacher like Dave who's here everyday, who's
here like 90% of the time I'm in here working out that's a huge
advantage to anybody. He's lucky to have time with Dave when he goes
out there and gets to work with him. He's very lucky for that and it's
probably a big reason why he's done so well on the ground and with his
Jiu-Jitsu. But I get a lot more exposure. I don't know anybody who
spends as much time in the gym as I do. I'm here all the time and I'm
using all of the resources I have available to me.
Your fight will be taking place in the
middleweight division (185lbs), whereas most of your previous MMA
fights have taken place in the welterweight division (170lbs). Do you
think this will be a factor in the fight?
Actually I've had one welterweight fight. I'm
technically a welterweight, but I've fought once at welterweight, and
once at 175lbs. Most of my fights are at 185lbs, 190lbs, or 205lbs.
It's actually been very difficult for us to find fights at 170lbs. A
lot of guys don't want to fight. The names that I need to fight don't
want to fight on a small show. It's no discredit to them, I understand
whole heartedly. There's no reason to fight a really tough guy for no
money on a show that nobody's going to see. It's just not smart
financially and it's not smart for your career. You know? If you win,
who cares? Nobody saw it... big deal. If you lose, then you got smashed
by this guy or you got beat by this guy and then everyone loses respect
for you. So I mean... I 100% understand why it's been so difficult. It
happens to a lot of fighters. It's hard for some people to understand
but being in this situation now I completely agree and see how things
work like that. He's not a super large 185 pounder so I'm not overly
concerned about that, but we have been trying to get my weight up. It
was a little low because I just fought at welterweight so I've been
eating extra and some protein drinks and stuff trying to get my weight
up a little bit. But he's not a Trevor Prangley, he's not walking
around at 200lbs or 205lbs. At best he's as big as Mike Swick at
185lbs, but he's more likely my size at 185lbs to 190lbs. There was
talk of him fighting at welterweight in the future.
Looking over your past wrestling experience at
Purdue University it appears that you wrestled in the 184lb division
for a short time. During that time did you have to cut weight or did
you actually have to bulk up?
My first year of eligibility I wrestled at 197lbs
because we didn't have a 197 pounder. So me an another freshman stepped
up and we were like hey we'll get more mat time in and get to eat
whatever we want to. So I'm used to competing against large guys. I
spent a year and a half at 174lbs. I blew my knee out half way through
my junior year so I was only half a season at that weight. Senior year
I bulked up a little bit and wrestled at 184lbs. It's a pretty natural
weight. I'm a little bit lighter than I used to be because I don't lift
like I used to. We used to lift like mad men back in school four days a
week. Just crazy weight. When I was at 174lbs I had a really strict
diet and I ran 10-15 miles a week not really for conditioning, but just
to burn fat. I got to the point where I was actually eating extra meals
because I was getting my workout to a point where I was burning so much
fat that I was lighter than I wanted to be. I was walking around at
180lbs and I wanted to be at 183lbs and cut down to 174lbs.
You train at the American Kickboxing Academy
(AKA) which seems to have all of the pieces for training great MMA
fighters. Whether it be striking, submissions, takedowns, etc. All of
the bases seem to be covered. Head trainers include former two time
ISKA Kickboxing Champion Javier "Thunder" Mendez, UFC veteran "Crazy"
Bob Cook, and Judo and BJJ Black belt Dave Camarillo...
(Interrupts) Lynn Schutz... Lynn Schutz is a huge part
of our daily training. It's a lesser known name to a lot of the MMA
public, but it should be known because he handles 90% of the workload.
He's the guy that's in here every single day; he's the guy that catches
everybody (pad training). He's the one who puts in all the time.
Now this is striking?
Striking and just.... you know he doesn't have the
technical background on the ground, but he's there to push us and put
us through drills and get us motivated. Gets us to take care of
business, get things done. He is ALWAYS here. He's the only other
person who's here more than I am.
So he's probably the biggest motivational factor here in the gym?
You KNOW he’s going to be here! You know? He's a 49
year old trainer and he can be here every single day. A lot of times
he's worked harder through workouts than most guys and he's just
catching. We do four rounds hitting mitts but then he takes someone
else and catches four more rounds for someone else. So he's up there
catching for like two hours straight. I call him the mad scientist of
MMA, that's my nickname for him. When you start getting something down
his gray hair just spikes up and gets fro'd out and he starts going
yeah (pumping fists in the air) and starts screaming. He's happier than
anyone I've ever seen just because you got a certain combination right.
In addition to the trainers and instructors,
AKA also has a wealth of wrestling experience to draw from in the form
of Mike Van Arsdale, Josh Koscheck, and yourself. How valuable has it
been to learn from such high quality instruction?
It's great! Where I'm getting with my ground right now
I can sit around with Dave (Camarillo) and other black belts and other
purple belts and other people who do different things with technique.
You get to share; I call it a jam session. Just like musicians would
get together and just start banging notes and songs and whatever out.
It's the same thing with jiu-jitsu and wrestling too when you get those
wrestlers together. It's like... I would say I defend a single (leg
takedown) like this, and Koscheck's like "Oh I do this a little
different" and I'm like ok and we make little alterations. Different
things help us do things better. Sometimes with takedowns you can't
just hit straight takedowns, you have to set it up with strikes so we
can help each other with what's working. Hey this works for me, I throw
this combination right into this or whatever. So we help each other a
lot with that. That's one of the reasons I'm very confident for this
fight... I don't think this guy's going to have anywhere near Josh
Koscheck's takedown ability. I mean, we're talking about a four time
All-American, a National Champ. He would've been a two timer I think
but he had neck surgery. I mean, that blows my mind about him. He had
neck surgery and then he comes in just to the conference tournament,
wins that, and then places third at the NCAA. That blows my mind.
That's unbelievable dude. It usually takes guys months of pre-season
wrestling just to get into that flow. That's pretty impressive.
Another aspect of training is of course
surrounding yourself with top quality sparring partners. Many fighters
in the sport today point to this as being one of the key components for
being successful in MMA. You are surrounded with fighters such as Paul
Buentello, Mike Kyle, Josh Koscheck, Mike Swick, Bobby Southworth, Josh
Thomson, Rich Crunkilton, Mike Van Arsdale, and Trevor Prangley. How
beneficial is it to be able to train with so many Pride and UFC
It's unbelievable! I mean the competition you get. For
my last fight... the last sparring session I had, I have it on video, I
sparred four rounds: I did a round with Mike Swick, with Josh Koscheck,
Josh Thomson, and Trevor Prangley. They each came in fresh on each
round. Who am I going to fight that's going to have that skill and put
that much pressure on me you know? You're not going to find that. It's
an amazingly beneficial... and everyone brings something different to
the table, different styles. You learn really quickly to protect
yourself from uppercuts when you spar with Paul Buentello (laughing)
and look at Paul's takedown defense right now and his ground... getting
up and getting away right now. You won't get that (anywhere else).
That's why a lot of guys get to the top level, get to the big show fast
and then they kind of plateau and fade away. It's because their
training doesn't change, they don't have the training partners to push
them to get to another level. They might be good enough on their own or
with the training partners or trainers they have to get there, but they
don't have the people surrounding them to stay there.
Not many people in the MMA world have had the
opportunity to see you fight. Some of your career highlights include a
TKO victory over long time veteran Shonie Carter in the Shooto USA
organization, two classic submission grappling matches with Shooto
standout Jake Shields where you went 1-1 against Shields, and most
recently you won the MMA Mexico 8 man tournament. A tournament in which
you beat highly regarded current WEC Middleweight Champion Alex
Serdyukov in the finals. What was the most important thing you learned
from those experiences and how do you feel this has helped you prepare
for your upcoming fight?
Probably just the training. The Shonie fight, that was
the first 8 week training period I had where I had a lot of guys
helping me out. I had guys rotating in and out... a lot of times you
split time because the most important fights get the most attention.
Everybody who has fights gets attention, but Paul's getting a ton of
attention because he's got a really big fight. He needs the guys
helping him out to get there. So that was a good feeling and a good
experience getting that kind of training. Feeling your body getting
broken down to that last week and you're just like man I don't know if
I can do this and then you get that recovery week and everything pops
right back and you're on point and everything feels great. The
grappling matches... the first time, I beat Jake Shields that was
great, but I out pointed him. I was trying to earn rent money. I took
him down, I got my rent check. The second time... he was able to get to
my back and submit me because I was trying to be offensive. I was
trying to pass his guard and I was looking for an armbar which was
really sloppy and really stupid. It taught me a very valuable lesson
that there are certain guys you can't make mistakes against, and he's
one of them! You make a mistake and he gets to your back and you're in
trouble. That's very valuable information for the future because he's
young and he's going to be around a long time and there's a good chance
we're going to fight again... which would be great. He's a good guy
too, I like Jake Shields. The MMA Mexico tournament, that taught me
never to fight a tournament again (laughing)! But that was a good
experience, because I had mono when I fought that and I just had no
energy going into any of the fights. I was trying to finish the fights
as quickly as possible without expending too much energy. I wanted to
put my guys away but I didn't want to get into a big flurry and
completely drain myself. I think it also toughened my shins up a lot
(laughing). If you watch the film on my web site (fitchfighter.com)
I have the whole tournament on my web site. I threw a lot of leg kicks
and checked a lot of kicks. I had lumps on my legs for I don't know how
long, like six months after the fight. I still have some there. They've
started going away, but I mean it was bad! I didn't even realize how
tough Alex ended up being; he went on to submit (Mark) Weir. He's a
Well, he's the current WEC middleweight champion right?
Middleweight, yeah. It would have been nicer to let a
lot more hands go in that tournament, but I was still getting used to
standing and throwing.
Is there anything else you would like to say in closing? (Sponsors, fans, family, etc.)
Well, I want people to check out fitchfighter.com
and I want everyone to know that I will take on anyone at 170lbs. I'm
not saying that I'm the best in the world at 170lbs yet, but I will be
competitive with anyone and give them one hell of a battle.
Is that where you want to stick around if the UFC extends your contract?
Yes. For a while. Once the skill level is at a high enough level then I want to move up in weight.
Ok, speaking of 170 pounders, there is a huge
fight coming up in Sean Sherk vs. Georges St. Pierre. I have to ask,
who do you think will take that fight?
Wow! That's a really tough fight to call. St. Pierre is
so well rounded. I didn't think he was really all that strong at first.
You know seeing his first few fights and all, but after the way he man
handled (Frank) Trigg! I also had the chance to stand right next to him
and you always size people up when you're standing next to them. He is
thick, just solid and he's a tough kid. And then you have Sherk. Sherk
probably is the most well conditioned athlete in the sport today. He's
also just so explosive. His body type is such that it's really hard to
submit him. He's short and stocky and that makes it tough to get
leverage on something or pull on a limb when it's so close to his body.
St. Pierre might have the edge standing, but Sherk is so explosive that
St. Pierre might risk getting taken down if he tries to stand. Pierre
might hit Sherk, but Sherk can close the distance so fast. He (Sherk)
has also got a chin. That fight is too close for me to call.