TRAINING: No such day as a typical day. MMA is such a vast sport full of strategies and techniques. There’s an obvious split between striking and grappling, but intensities change in a moment, or on a day. And there's also a huge variation in the types of S&C I'll do - Run, swim, body weight, isometrics, etc.
Thoughts on opponent, Omari Akhmedov? Omari has had a good UFC run, with his only loss to BJJ wizard Gunnar Nelson. I didn't learn much from that fight, as Gunnar can do that to many welterweights (gain & hold mount indefinitely). It’s a tough fight, as they all are. I'm game for that.
When and why did you start training for fighting? My father asked me if I wanted to wrestle when I was 4-5 years old. I said no, but changed my mind a week later. I didn’t know I was training for fighting, but I was. It wasn't until the UFC came about that I even vaguely associated wrestling with martial arts. I got into the MMA type training through local karatekas, kickboxers, and kempo stylists. They began dabbling in grappling and the Gracie way of fighting on the ground. I was interested and took my wrestling skills to the playground. From there, it was just a matter of testing myself, so I took a bout when I was 19 and on summer holiday from University. Hooked from there, I've had an interesting decade in this sport.
What ranks and titles have you held? Current XMMA World WW Champion (Australian event). WW Cage Fighting Championship Champion (Australian event), Colorado State MW Champion, Ultimate Fighting Mexico Champion, Combate Libre (Mexico) Champion, Cage Rage (Indiana) 2x Heavyweight Champion, Pan Pacific No-gi Grappling Champion 79 kg and Open Weight (Blue belt - 2008). I hold no ranking in martial arts. I was given a Blue Belt a few years ago, by a BJJ/Judo BB from Brazil -- after winning a gi competition. He was the other head trainer of my gym, and it was more honorary than anything -- as I rarely train gi BJJ.
Do you have any heroes? Heroes are made in a moment. And in the next moment, that status can be lost. Sports stars are labeled as heroes, and usually tarnish their image at some stage... But history has a few. Ghandi comes to mind, though, as a hero. He championed the cause(s) of humanity, spoke openly and honestly, and did not seek to abuse power for personal gain. We'll go with Ghandi, final answer Regis.
What does it mean for you to fight in the UFC? This promotion, or Pride, was always the goal. Now they're one in the same, so..... I'm happy to be here, and hope that I can stay amongst the elite athletes for the entirety of my competitive career. I'll do my part, and hope the UFC recognizes me as a top competitor and entertainer.
Did you go to college and if so what degree did you earn? I went to Eastern Illinois University. I was a great student until I was no longer a wrestler. I lost motivation and got a bit depressed, honestly, as I ruined the last few years of my wrestling career.... I left for California to train at American Kickboxing Academy, needing 20 credits (1 years worth of classes) to graduate with a History degree.
What was your job before you started fighting? Student. Bartender. General Construction work.
Specific accomplishments in amateur competition? I wrestled over 500 matches, and qualified for the Illinois State Tournament numerous times through grade school and high school. I was ranked amongst the top 5 in my senior class, in Illinois... And earned a partial scholarship to EIU, for wrestling. Had I been half as good at football as wrestling, I'd have had a full scholarship, an illegal paycheck from the boosters of the program, and a nice apartment. But wrestling wasn’t a big money college sport.
Specific accomplishments in pro competition? I'm still alive and well, after a decade of fighting. That's something! I've fought champions in multiple disciplines (Cung Le in San Shou, losing a decision). I've fought heavyweights and UFC veterans before I really sank my teeth into training. I defeated former UFC WW champion Carlos Newton last year. I've had a great career. I wish you guys would have picked up on the story years ago!!!!
Belt ranks in any martial arts? Wrestling does not offer belts, and there's no sense that one is needed. We compete so much (40+ matches per year) that one’s record speaks for itself. And our tournament titles carry varying amounts of weight/credit. The belt system is foreign to me. I respect all arts, and I see why the belts were introduced. But I've not chased a belt in any style. I may do so in BJJ, after I finish MMA competition. But until I can immerse in the art, complete with gi training, I'll refrain from asking for or accepting a grading/belt.
Favorite grappling technique: Double Leg
Favorite Striking technique: Cartwheel Kick