"This weight division is definitely gonna suit me. I was overpowering the heavyweights and I’m sure I’m gonna be overpowering the light heavyweights.”
A firm believer in the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ school of thought, 6-0, 222 pound Karlos Vemola didn’t see why he should drop from heavyweight to 205 pounds, as his coaches suggested, if he had already built an 8-0 record (with all wins coming in the first round) battling with the big men.
Then he met all 254 pounds of Jon Madsen at UFC 116 in July, and his outlook changed considerably.
“My coaches wanted me to cut to light heavyweight even before fighting Jon Madsen and I just didn’t want to cut the weight,” said Vemola, who lost a three round unanimous decision to the former Division II National wrestling champion. “I thought I was still gonna be strong enough for heavyweight. But I wasn’t. He was far too heavy for me and he kept me down all three rounds.”
It was a long three rounds for everyone involved, especially Vemola, whose attempts at offense were stuffed repeatedly by Madsen’s smothering attack.
“It was boring me so I can imagine how much it was boring my fans,” said Vemola. “He didn’t want to fight. He done it clever, he won all three rounds and he kept me down, but usually the way I train, if somebody takes me down and starts doing his ground and pound, that’s the time for me to start getting up and doing some work. But when he was doing no work, it was really hard because he was too heavy for me to get up. Sometimes, I believe the referee could have stood it up a bit earlier, but my gameplan didn’t work and I learned from it a lot and I’m really happy for the opponent I got for my next fight, because he’s not a boring fighter, he’s an exciting fighter, and that’s gonna make the fight exciting. I know for sure that he’s not gonna try to keep me down or just lie on me.”
That next opponent, Seth Petruzelli, is another former heavyweight now trying to make some noise in the UFC’s 205 pound weight class, and yes, when the two meet in Germany on November 13th’s UFC 122 card, there is little chance of it being Madsen-Vemola II. But first for the 25-year old Vemola is the cut down to the light heavyweight limit, which he says has not been an issue.
“It’s not the hardest jump for me in the world because I only fought at 222 last time, so I only had to lose 17 pounds and it could be done,” he said. “I changed my diet and I’ve lost it quite easy. It was a hard decision to make because I fought at heavyweight for a long time, but I wasn’t big enough. I am gonna be a big light heavyweight for sure. This weight division is definitely gonna suit me. I was overpowering the heavyweights and I’m sure I’m gonna be overpowering the light heavyweights.”
He’s already noticed the difference in his camp at the London Shoot Gym, where he’s gone from sparring with the big heavies like UFC vet Mostapha Al Turk and PRIDE vet James Thompson to working with visiting training partner and former world title challenger Jeremy Horn.
“It does suit me better,” said Vemola of the drop to 205. “My fitness has improved, I’m faster, I didn’t lose any of my strength, and this weight definitely suits me better.”
Now all that’s left is the fight, and Vemola – nicknamed ‘The Terminator’ for his ability to walk through opponents quickly and in dominant fashion – is excited to lock horns with Petruzelli.
“I know what sort of fighter he is,” said Vemola of Petruzelli. “He’s a standup fighter, comes from a karate background, and I’m a wrestler. So its two different styles and we’re gonna see which one is gonna work more. He’s a bit of a fancy style of fighter – he likes to throw flying kicks and spinning kicks, and all that, but I know what he’s all about, I’m training for it, and it’s gonna be a good fight.”
And one just a hop, skip, and a jump from his current base of operations in London, as well as from Czech Republic, where he was born and where he lived until making the jump to the UK over five years ago.
“It (the short trip) will definitely make it easier for me,” said Vemola, whose UFC debut marked his first fight outside of Europe. “Germany is right next to where I’m from in Czech Republic, so I’ve got my fans from there coming over, I’ve got all my support. The flight is only like one hour from England, where I’m based now, so it will be nice and easy, and it will be harder for him (Petruzelli) because he has to travel all the way. I’m not a very good flyer. I had bad jet lag when I got to Vegas, and this is going to be a lot easier.”
So it’s not only a pivotal fight for Vemola’s career, but a homecoming as well. He admits that he goes home to Czech Republic twice a year to visit his parents, but that as far as his job is concerned, living in England has become necessary is he wants to continue on his trip up the ladder.
“I do love my country, but MMA is still not that big as it is in England,” he said. “And even in England it’s not as big as it is in America. The experience from Vegas at the UFC was just awesome. But in England they do have very good gyms – London Shootfighters is one of the best gyms in Europe, with good coaches, good training partners, and that’s where I want to stay.”
And as far as leaving his home country goes, he says “It wasn’t difficult really, because fighting is what I want to do and I will do whatever it takes. The sport is getting slightly bigger there. It’s the fastest growing sport in the world, and it’s growing everywhere, so maybe it’s gonna grow that fast where there will be decent gyms and decent training partners in Czech Republic and I could be based there one day, so who knows.”
Yet as November 13th approaches, this Czech fighting pioneer has just one thing on his mind – recapturing the form that saw him finish eight foes in less than a round each.
“I hope the fans take away a really exciting fight from the beginning,” he said. “My first eight fights were all exciting, so I’m gonna do the same thing, and I’m going there to win for sure, so hopefully it’s gonna be a first round win as usual.”