On October 16th, French striker Cyrille Diabate hopes to follow up his debut UFC win over Luiz Cane with another impressive performance against Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 120. Darragh Creamer recently caught up with "The Snake" to discuss the upcoming bout.
Congratulations on your win in your UFC debut. Are you happy with the fight against Luiz Cane?
CD: Not totally happy, but I think that I learned a lot from this fight, most importantly how to approach the beginning of a fight. We're going to do that differently.
You were rocked early in the fight. Do you think you narrowly escaped defeat, or was it just a little bump in the road to victory?
CD: I think that you're always close to defeat or should I say always one mistake away from defeat. My opponent made more mistakes than I did. I was able to take advantage of his errors better than he was of mine. Therefore it was logical that I win.
You showed some good wrestling to recover from that. That must have pleased you and your partners at Team Quest.
CD: The techniques that I used to recover from the knockdown were not wrestling techniques, but rather jiu-jitsu. I owe my level on the ground to all of the people that I have trained with in France. That said, I know that my friends at Team Quest were all very happy with my win.
You told me the last time we talked that your fight prep was taking place in France only. The win proves that this was the right strategy. Will you continue to prepare your fights in France?
CD: That depends on a lot of things, but I'm determined to show that we have nothing to envy from other countries. You just have to train with the right people and have good quality training. In France, we're no less warriors than other fighters and definitely no less technical, especially in stand up. We just need a national structure to authorize and regulate all of this so that our young fighters can gain experience and evolve.
You hear a lot of talk about UFC Jitters. Was that a problem for you or did your experience in PRIDE and other major events allow you to deal with the nerves?
CD: As I've already said, I have been fighting for 20 years now. I was four-time world champion. I was a champion long before I fought in PRIDE. I already competed at the highest level in other forms of combat before I arrived in the UFC. A fight isn't more difficult because MMA is popular. A fight is a fight. Fighting against a Muay Thai champion under Muay Thai rules or against an MMA champion under MMA rules is the same thing. Once you're conscious of that you can handle the pressure much better. I'm also relatively calm, naturally.
When you talk to people in France who know a little about MMA, they admire you because you have fought and won in the UFC. Is this something that has an effect on you in everyday life, or in the number of people who want to train with you, for example?
CD: Again, I'm benefiting from the popularity of the UFC, and I'm very grateful for that. Obviously I'm happy, but at the same time a little bitter when I think that after 19 years of competition I'm only starting to get recognition. It's up to me to take advantage of that.
What do you know about your UFC 120 opponent, Alexander Gustafsson?
CD: I think he will give me more problems than Luiz Cane. But at the same time, I like challenges and I know that we'll put on an exciting fight for the fans. He's aggressive and he hits hard. The fight won't go the distance.
What have you changed in your preparation between the fight with Cane and the one with Gustafsson?
CD: Not a lot, other than a few technical details. I am expecting a lot more wrestling from him than from my previous opponent though.
You have a wrestler from Team Quest with you at the moment. Is he here to help you with your fight-prep or to teach classes at the Snake Team?
CD: A little bit of both. My friend has wanted to visit France and the Snake Team to train with us for a long time. He took the opportunity to come during my preparation and kill two birds with one stone.
Can you tell us a little about him?
CD: Isaias Alvarado is a fighter and assistant coach and has worked, fought and trained at Team Quest. I spent some time living with him in California and we became great friends. He's a good coach and a great person to have around when you're getting ready for a fight. Some people have it in them to bring the best out of fighters and he has that.
In your opinion, what is your biggest advantage against Gustafsson? And what is the biggest danger?
CD: My experience at the top level is my biggest advantage. My biggest danger is to start off too relaxed against an opponent who is aggressive right from the start of the fight.
What does it mean to you to fight in the UFC in England, knowing that there will be a lot of French people and even English fans who have followed your career for a time in the audience?
CD: Of course, I'm happy. I have family in England and I know that my friends and members of the Snake Team are going to arrive in droves. When you have your friends and family around you, you feel stronger.
How is it different to be able to fight at this level only a few hours from where you live, rather than to have to travel halfway across the world?
CD: I like to travel; it's actually one of my passions. But besides that, I know that I won't be suffering from jet lag. Fighting in Japan, the voyage alone was very testing.
Do you have a message for UFC fans and fans of The Snake?
CD: I'd like to say that I'm not an exceptional guy, just a normal guy who had dreams, determination and the will to make them real. Like all of the guys in the UFC. Contrary to what a lot of fans think, all of those guys are normal. That's something that people need to understand - everyone can follow their dreams, no matter how impossible it seems. You just have to believe, fight for it and have no regrets in the end. That's something that I try to teach at the same time as teaching MMA. Good luck everyone. Keep the faith. Peace.