"I get the chance to fight an MMA legend, which is awesome. I'm not turning down an opportunity like that." - Dave Herman
It is said one learns more about themselves with each and every fight - win or lose. Some go as far as saying one learns even more from a loss than a win. While both are generalities and blanket statements, they are correct in response to by far the majority of the slugfests featured in the Octagon a hundred times over every year. But there is always that rare exception, and UFC heavyweight Dave Herman experienced that in the form of a 51 second knockout loss to Roy Nelson in May.
“I just got caught,” admits Herman. “It happens. In that fight, that was pretty much all I could take away from it. In the fight against [Stefan Struve], I learned a lot. Not enough happened in this fight to really learn anything.”
At UFC 146, less than a minute into a battle of two heavies who like to stand and trade, Nelson tattooed Herman with a “Big Country” fist missile and the fight was over. While he may have not learned anything noteworthy from his cameo cage appearance, the UFC and its fans can take away that Herman comes to fight whoever, whenever, and wherever as he took the Nelson fight on three weeks’ notice, replacing an injured Gabriel Gonzaga. Taking fights on short notice usually doesn’t fare well for that particular fighter, but it does speak volumes about their mindset of capitalizing on opportunities offered and willingness to prove themselves, whether at a disadvantage or not.
In essence, a fighter fights.
This Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a slew of the UFC’s proudest banded together to take to the Octagon with little to no preparation because they want to do what they love: fight. It came down to five men standing up when their name was called to put on a show when others couldn’t. The fearsome fivesome are UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, Stephan Bonnar, Fabio Maldonado, former UFC interim heavyweight champion Minotauro Nogueira, and Herman. When injuries ravaged the original card like a plague, these fighters saved it, and UFC 153 will be an event to remember.
As the co-main event, the 28-year-old knockout artist will lock horns with the near-mythical, Brazilian minotaur Nogueira. The former PRIDE heavyweight champion hasn’t fought since the rollercoaster rematch loss against Frank Mir in December 2011. Prior to the bout ending submission, Nogueira had clearly rocked Mir with several punches and looked on his way to back-to-back first round knockout victories. At 36 years old with a professional record of 33-7-1, 1 NC dating back to 1999, there is possibly no MMA fighter more seasoned and respected than “Big Nog” and Herman is thankful for the chance of tangling with him.
“I'm really excited about it,” affirms Herman. “First thing, I get the chance to fight an MMA legend, which is awesome. I'm not turning down an opportunity like that. He's a great opponent to have. You want to fight the biggest names out there and he's definitely one of them. I'm just excited to fight the guy, period. Standing or on the ground - whatever. I'm down for anything. Second thing, it's in Brazil. It's a beautiful place, I've never been, and I'm excited to go.”
Besides Herman’s opponent being beloved the world over, Nogueira is a national icon in Brazil and the crowd will be cheering for him, but that isn’t an issue to the well-traveled Indiana native. “When I'm fighting, I can't even hear the crowd,” tells Herman, who has competed several times overseas in Japan, Hawaii, and Abu Dhabi. “You can move the cage anywhere it doesn't really make a difference. It doesn't bother me. And they'll probably be speaking Portuguese, so I won't know what they're saying anyway.”
With an overall pro record of 21-4 with only three UFC bouts under his belt, obviously, the lion’s share of Herman’s career has been outside the Octagon, where one isn’t accustomed to long training camps for concrete future fights. “It's been pretty nice actually knowing you have a fight ahead of time and who it is with in the UFC,” says Herman, who when called to fight was rehabbing his elbow from surgery earlier in the year as well as enjoying off-season hobbies like leisurely drinking. “People are like, 'four weeks? That's short notice.' That is 'short notice' for the UFC, but for me four weeks’ notice is one of the longest notices I ever got prior to the UFC. So, I'm like this isn't that bad - this is normal.”
In preparation for Nogueira, the UFC 131 Fight of the Night winner has been training with Team Quest in Temecula, California. Just before his Octagon debut in June 2011, Herman enjoyed a month and a half long road trip/vision quest to find the right MMA gym to join, which ended at the doors of Team Quest. Previously, Herman’s career was more or less built on the natural athleticism and fight finishing instincts of the 6-4, 233 pounder. It’s been noted many times over Herman’s disdain for grappling and its “trickery”, so it was Team Quest’s striking coach Daniel Woirin and his accomplished Muay Thai background that truly sold Herman on the gym.
“I was looking to improve upon my striking - that was one thing,” explains Herman. “The people, everyone is really friendly. They're nice and I felt welcome. It was a good atmosphere. The striking is really technical, which is good. Technique has always been my weakest area. It's what I need to work on and it's been really helpful. I think I've gotten a lot better since I've come out here. I get along with everyone at the gym and I think this has been one of my best camps so far.”
This Saturday in the HSBC Arena in Rio, Brazil, with only a month of training in them each, Nogueira and Herman will collide to give the fans the show they deserve. One can say it’s a classic “striker vs. grappler” and/or “young vs. old” matchup, but, for sure, it’s two big heavyweights set to rumble because this is what they love to do and are paid to do. The Octagon is not continually about self-discovery and strategic gameplans; sometimes one steps in there because a former champion needs a dance partner to entertain 15,000 Brazilians and possibly millions watching on pay-per-view, and that’s a fight Herman is always ready for.