Archive for November, 2008

Verbal Sparring: Mike “Joker” Guymon (King of the Cage)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2008 by jaytan716

If you grew up in Southern California, you had the privilege of growing up in one of the three hotbeds of MMA (Brazil and Japan being the other two).  Such is the case with Mike “Joker” Guymon, whose life in MMA offered him the unique chance to watch and observe the sport from several different perspectives as it grew.  Of course, some may write him off as the proverbial “fifth Beatle” of the TapouT crew, but Joker’s involvement with MMA started long before that chapter of his life.  And in the subsequent pages, Joker has reinvented himself – as a fighter, a trainer, and as a businessman.

In this interview, Joker paints the picture of a self-aware man at peace with his choices and happier because of them.  He’s optimistic about his future, self-effacing about his fight career, and very comfortable about having control of his own life.

JT:  Where did you first see MMA?

MG:  I was born in Newport Beach and raised in Irvine, CA.  Went to school all through there.  Woodridge High School is where I graduated from. Then went to Orange Coast.

I saw my first UFC on a PPV when I was in high school, and it was something that struck my fancy.  I was this all-star athlete, supposed to go play baseball and make all my money there.  I was like “man, these are the baddest people on the planet.”  Seeing is believing for me.  I knew that even the guy who lost, just to have the guts and courage to step in front of all those people and do that. . . When it first started out, all the qualifications that they were listing off . . . Taekwondo, “this guy’s a third degree black belt.”  It brought my curiosity up, and I always was competitive.  I finally got enough nuts myself to go in there and train.

And I was a stand-up guy.  My friends brought me into a studio in Southern California.  They said “hey, you’re good on your feet, but let’s see you roll with one of these Jiu-Jitsu guys.”  And I rolled around with one and holy crap, I mean literally, a kid, fifteen, sixteen years old, just rolled me up into a pretzel.  And I was hooked.

JT:  Had you done martial arts previously?  You talked about having a really athletic upbringing.

MG:  I did Taekwondo, and dabbled in a bit of kickboxing.  I was alright.  I wasn’t the best in the world or anything.  You can be as good as you want in Taekwondo, but that’s like getting gold in the Special Olympics.  You’re still retarded.

JT:  Did you start out as a fighter and then get hooked up with TapouT, or what were the early days of your MMA career?

MG:  Shoot, I was just training, loved training, loved doing the Jiu-Jitsu, loved doing the striking and putting it together and trying to improve.  One day, I was over at some fights in Long Beach.  No gloves, no rules kind of fights – how it was when it first started out.  Thugs.  We were just out there street fighting, basically, in a cage with a referee.  One guy dropped out, and they were like “hey man, you’re freaking killing everybody in class. Why don’t you try it?”  I just had something to prove to myself so I went in there and did it.  And I did pretty well, so I stuck with it.

I always said every fight would be my last, and I still say that to this day.  I’m like “oh yeah, one more fight and I’m done.”  And it’s going like that for ten years.  I guess I’ve turned it into something.

JT:  Every time you try to get out, they pull you back in.

MG:  Exactly.  And I keep getting thrown back in the mix.  The money sucked in the early years.  The money’s still not great unless you’re in the top three of an organization.  But, for the guy coming up, it’s definitely going up.  My fight purses are going up, my sponsorship money is going up, so it’s like “how can I step away?  In another year, I’ll be getting paid this much.”  It’s not about the money, but it sure does help.

JT:  And that’s not a bad thing either.  If you can make your living off of it.

MG:  As long as you’re going out there and trying to compete and win, and put on a good show, I think it’s totally okay.  But the guys who go out there just to get a paycheck, and don’t give it their all . . . “Oh, I’m just gonna give up or give up my arm or a choke.”  I don’t accept that.

JT:  Are there a lot of guys out there that still do that?

MG:  There are some guys that I don’t think should be fighting.  I don’t think they’re giving 100% or training 100%.  They’re not giving the fans what they deserve.  I’m not saying all the fighters are like that.  There’s a handful.

I think all the fighters coming up right now are just hungry and want to get in that light and prove themselves.   And I hate those guys.  Those little young bastards – I cannot get them to stop.  I’m like the slow guy in there.  These guys are going 100 miles an hour.  With all reckless abandon.  I’m in there freaking out.

Age doesn’t play a factor there.  It’s just what they’re giving the fans.  It could be a young guy in there, but [if he’s] not giving it his all and just getting a paycheck.  Or just to say “hey, I’m a fighter.”  I don’t like that.

JT:  What do you see as the bigger differences in the MMA world, from when you were a young guy coming up to where it is now?  The good and the bad.

MG:  I think there’s a lot more good now than there is bad.  There’s always going to be good and bad in anything you do.  The good in the early years is the raw aspect of the sport.  I mean, it was limited rules, no gloves.  That was cool, but at the same time, all it attracted was the thuggish side of it, and we got labeled one way, and in not a good way.  That’s the bad part I saw.

Nowadays, I just think it’s really positive.  The rules have made it better for the fans.  It’s increased the level of competition and made it mainstream.  UFC had a huge role in bringing it mainstream.  Some of the bad is that you get a Kimbo Slice situation.  Some of the fighters just fight to say “hey, I fight, and I’m cool because I fight.”

But I absolutely love the sport.  I love the fans. I love fighters.  I love training.  I just hate fighting [laughs] . . . it’s not fighting as a whole, but me fighting?  I’m a pussy.  I hate it.

JT:  That speaks to a question that I normally ask later in the interview, but we’ll just cut to it now:  What’s the toughest part of fighting for you?  It sounds like it’s the part about stepping in the cage.

MG:  I’m scared of my own shadow.  I do not like fighting.  Even now, supposed to be training for so long.  I’m still scared to fight.   But I think it’s more the mental . . . the pressures, the psychological stuff, the anticipation, the training.  A lot of the fighters out there, we all pretty much know what’s out there, as far as the wrestling, the Jiu-Jitsu, the striking.  It’s just a matter of who’s gonna apply it.

Just to give you an example, today, I’m riding before I start my Jiu-Jitsu, strikes, and wrestling workout.  I did a 40-mile bike ride, which took just over two hours, and the whole time I’m riding, the only thing I could think of is the guy I’m about to fight, what’s on the line, what’s gonna happen.  I don’t think about any of the stop lights, the cars, how tired and miserable I am.  I’m just thinking about what’s gonna happen.

JT:  Well, you’d better be thinking about stop lights and cars, because thinking about the match too much when you’re biking could cause a problem for you!

MG:  I hit a bus full of nuns, almost.

JT:  You opened up Joker’s Wild about a year ago.

MG:  About two years ago, my business partner Andre Julian and I opened it up.  I’d been teaching for about three years prior.  I started out at a place called Cardiofit, and then I moved to a place called Bodies in Motion.  The whole time I’m teaching there, a buddy of mine, whom I’ve known since forever, he’s like “man, we gotta open up our own spot.  This is the time to do it.”  So I said “alright, let’s do it.”

He’s a very good businessman and training partner.  We just jumped in and did it.  And I absolutely love it.  I’ve got a great gym to come into.  We teach everything there.  It’s a total pleasure.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d own my own business and be this business guy on the other end of the stick, and here it is.

JT:  Who are your training partners?  Who should be we watching for in the future?

MG:  My training partners are Mark Munoz and Mitch Mellotti.  Those two are perfect for me.  Mitch is a 170-pound southpaw who can strike, can wrestle, got good Jiu-Jitsu.  Mark is a 205’er, who’s just got wrestling out of this world.  Those guys push me to my limits.

James Wilkes actually teaches at another gym, but he’s been fighting with us for awhile now.  He’s been doing well.  He just won the Gladiator Challenge belt.

I’ve got some very good fighters in there that come in and train hard.  I’ve got Babalu and Eric Apple to work with.  Babalu – I wouldn’t fight him with a machete and a flamethrower.

My under guys are like Raja Shippen, who’s one of the instructors there.  That kid, if he would listen a little bit, he’s going to turn heads.  He’s a freak.

JT:  Tell us about your sponsors?  Who should the fans know about and why?

MG:  Randy [Couture], I think, said something about how it’s him in the ring, but there’s this huge network and team behind him, and that’s what’s able to get me in that ring or cage.

My sponsors are Sprawl, Fairtex, Toyo Tires, Lexani RBP, Boneheads – it’s a restaurant out where I live in Southern California.  I have a new clothing company named Labeled Insane, so they’re going to be my main sponsor now.  Legacy Farms, Mike’s Tickets.

All these people have made it possible for me to get in there.  Some of them don’t even give me money.  Some of them, like Boneheads, just take care of my meals and get me ready for my fight.  And that means all the stuff in the world to me.  And when I’m not getting ready for a fight, they take care of my family and different things like that.  I could not do it without those people.

JT:  It seems like in MMA, with sponsors and the sport, a lot of these guys grew up knowing each other as friends and now everybody helps each other mutually as they can.  But yet it’s also grown into this larger industry where the deals are based on business relationships, as opposed to longtime friendships.

MG:  It’s hard to explain, but it’s just a big machine driving everything.  The organizations bring a lot of attention.  Look at how much exposure you get in the UFC.  The fighters, they have their little areas where they live, and people who want to see them do well.  My area, I’ve got all these people just trying to push and help me get my dream.  But at the same time, I’m trying to help them out, get them more marketing and exposure.  It’s just one symbiotic relationship, I guess is the best way I can put it.

I can’t believe I came up with that word.  Where the hell did that come from [laughs]?

JT:  Has maintaining relationships become more difficult, as the sport has grown?

MG:  Some aspects, yeah.  With the TapouT situation, anything that deals with them, I just steer clear of it.  I don’t like being around the guys.  My fighters, if they got sponsored by them, hey, just do it.  I want my fighters, my friends, to make money, take care of their bills, and succeed in life.  If they get sponsored by them, hey, great, man.  At least you made some money from them.

JT:  Was it bad from the get-go?  There must have been warning signs at some point that it wasn’t the right road for you.

MG:  No, I actually love and miss the guys in some respects.  When we were together and in a group, we owned rooms.  We were all good at our particular spot and aspect, and it was just fun.  When we were traveling on the road and talking about stuff and goofing around and all the different antics that would happen and situations that arose – I wouldn’t trade that in for the world, when I think about it.

But the business end of it, putting so much work into someone’s company and not getting anything in return just sucks.  It was right before the TV show was coming out, we were actually filming for it, and I just one day said “I’ve had enough of it. You guys can take this show and have fun with it. I’m going to go my merry little way.”  They’re all “you sure?  The contracts are on my desk.”  I said “I don’t care. I’m gonna go do my thing.”  And that was pretty much the end of it.

JT:  Have you had second thoughts on your decision?

MG:  I had every thought in my head.  I was scared, nervous.  I had anger.  I had all these different feelings in my head.  I’ve definitely come to grips with the whole thing, more so than ever of late.

It’s funny, Steve Moreno from Sprawl called me up out of the blue one day.  He said “I gotta ask you something – do you realize that you could be a millionaire right now?”  I said “Steve, I would be lying through my teeth if I said I couldn’t use that money, or that wouldn’t be the neatest thing in the world.  But I sleep great at night knowing that I did the right thing.  I don’t like being taken advantage of, or putting time into something and not getting rewarded for it.  There were also some other issues at the time in my life when I left.  I said “Steve, I did the right thing, and I sleep well at night knowing that.”

JT:  At that point, I’m sure you were going to have to go through a bit of reinvention.  What was that like?

MG:  Interesting.  I had my haircut before the TapouT thing, and I eventually started to scrap the haircut, because I didn’t want people associating me.  I still get it every now and then if I’m hanging out somewhere.  I’m just Joker, the fighter from Joker’s Wild.  I’m quite happy.  I’ve got the gym.  The clothing line – Labeled Insane – coming out.  I’ve got our fighters in training.

It’s been a cool trip, and I would do it all over exactly the same.  I would still do the TapouT thing; I would go through that crap again, because it’s all led me to where I am now.  And I’m happy at the end of the day.  I’ve got a great wife, I’ve got a good house, good cars, and most importantly, good friends.  And that’s what it all comes down to.

JT:  What is your downtime like?  What do you do for fun / away from training?

MG:  Watch TV; watch movies, music, and people-watch.  I’ll go to the beach, I’ll go to the mall, or I’ll sit on a bench at a restaurant there and watch people. I’m a quiet, have-fun, hang-loose kind of guy.  Even when I’m in at an event, if I’m on the radio station, I’m a pretty big yahoo, so I gotta balance it out.  I gotta hit that off-switch.

JT:  From a fan’s perspective, who are some of your favorite fighters?

MG:  Geez.  I have so many, but a big one for me are Jeremy Horn.  That guy’s my idol. You look at him and you wouldn’t think he’s anything special, but he can roll, he can strike – just a nice guy.  So many of my friends, they’re awesome to watch.  Randy Couture – I saw him last week before he fought, and when he lost to Brock, my heart broke.  He’s such a great guy.  And everybody else sees it too.

Everybody in this sport is somebody I look up to.  It could be the kid that’s just starting out, like he’s 0-0 or 0-1, or 1-3. . . I respect everybody and there’s always something fun to watch.  Like Urijah [Faber], his loss to Mike Brown – it was crazy.  After he loses, he was like “ho-hum, what can I do?  I’m just gonna be me.”  I love fighters like that.  Humble, respectful.

JT:  What is your best / worst memory in your MMA career?

MG:  How about this answer:  TapouT and TapouT.  Like I said, when we were all together, it was so freaking fun.  It was a blast.  Part of the reason why I stuck around without getting paid a dime, literally, was that.  Just the camaraderie and how fun it was to go walking down the street as a group, or go into a room and go talk to a fighter and see Chuck Liddell, Vitor, or Randy, just before he goes into a fight.  And to get in the back door and sit there, easy access into everything, all the fighters, all the camps.  That’s a huge experience.

But the worst is doing all that and still getting screwed.  So it all balances out, I guess.

JT:  What are your goals, within and away from fighting?

MG:  The first goal I had was to actually step in the cage and have a professional fight.  I’ve done that.  The next one – I really never thought I’d go for a world title anywhere or be the best in the world at anything.  And that would be what’s in front of me now.  Just to win the world title in something.  I don’t care if it’s a backyard fight.  I want to win a world title.  That’s something which not a lot of people in the world can say at all.

Outside of fighting, it would be just to be successful in teaching and business and helping fighters out.  Make some money and make a living at it.  Even if I don’t have that, I just want to have the students and train and teach and roll with them.  Help them out, and get them into good shape.  Grow the school and hey, maybe God willing, maybe open up another one and have some guys under me, in a gym, that are employed. I’d be providing work and help out this crappy economy.

Mike “Joker” Guymon challenges Anthony “The Recipe” Lapsley for the King of the Cage Welterweight championship on December 11th at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in San Bernadino, CA.

Verbal Sparring: Abel Cullum (King of the Cage Flyweight Champion)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , on November 24, 2008 by jaytan716

You might say that the family that trains together stays together. That’s absolutely the case in the Cullum household.

Several years ago, Abel Cullum and his dad decided to build him into a fighter. They took Abel’s skills, his brother’s cooperation, his Dad’s experience, and his Grandmother’s fanfare. And soon, they had a champion. At 12-2 in just a three-year period, Abel Cullum stands solid as the King of the Cage Flyweight champion. He’s also the reigning champion in two other regional MMA promotions based near his home of Tucumcari, NM.

But in a sport that loves to brag about million-dollar profits, famous Hollywood attendees, exclusive parties, and pseudo-celebrity glamour, Team Cullum prefers to focus on the name of the game: train, fight, and win.

In this round of Verbal Sparring, I talked with Abel about his humble fight beginnings, the new family business, and the alternative to running in the MMA Fast Lane.

JT: How’s training going?

AC: It’s going pretty good. We’re working on getting in shape and putting on a good show. I hear Ryan’s been training pretty hard for this fight. I know he’s gonna be ready, so I gotta bring it. I haven’t lost at 135, and I don’t plan on starting now.

JT: Let’s talk a little bit about your background and how you got into MMA.

AC: Well, actually I started out as a fan, watching the early fights back in the 90’s. My dad and I would watch it and I’d talk about wanting to do it and he was like “no way you could do it,” because there were no weight classes then. And one night we ordered a King of the Cage PPV and we got to see Charlie Valencia fight for the KOTC title right there at 135. And I was like “oh man, this is something I can do. I don’t have to fight some 250-pounder. I can fight someone in my own weight class and match skill for skill.” I decided that I wanted the King of the Cage title. That was seven years ago, I think.

My dad knew some stuff from when he was younger and did these back-of-the-bar type fights. He did really well. He was 6’4” and 250 lbs. with some submissions in his arsenal. When I expressed an interest, that kinda reignited his own want to learn. He bought me a punching bag, and I got after that. We started working on different things that we thought would work and developed our own style. And so far it’s proven effective.

When we first started, we had to sacrifice a lot of things to try to make it work, and now it’s paying off and coming together quite well. I’m real happy about it. It’s opened a lot of doors.

JT: What kind of things did you have to sacrifice?

AC: Well, we have several family businesses and we kinda put a lot of things on the back burner and focused more on my fighting as the time was coming for my first fight, back in September of ’05. We had a motel – we still own the motel but it’s not functioning anymore, because we couldn’t do that much. Our family is together a lot but we’re always working on our fighting and constantly trying to improve. Y’know, just time and energy, but it’s definitely becoming worth it now.

JT: Did you do martial arts or anything when you were growing up?

AC: Actually, no I didn’t. I did a little bit of wrestling in high school, but all my training is in mixed martial arts. I don’t have a background – I’m not a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt or anything, but I’ve submitted one.

JT: It’s kinda like walking the Joe Calzaghe story – the family just decides to start training the kid for fighting. It sounds like, once you decided to take your life in this direction, your family got behind you.

AC: Oh yeah, my family is really supportive of me. My brother is one of my few training partners, and it’s been great having him on board. My grandmother’s like my biggest fan. At first she was a little skeptical, but when she watched the first one, he’s been hooked ever since. Fighting has brought our family that much closer, I think. It’s good.

JT: From pictures I’ve seen, it looks like you’ve got more than a few belts. What are your other titles?

AC: I’m the five-time Desert Extreme champion at 135. I’m the two-time Southwest Fury champion at 145. And King of the Cage Flyweight (135) champion.

JT: When you look back and consider where your career is now, how do you feel?

AC: It’s kinda crazy. My brother asked me that same question, and especially right before the Wilson Reis fight, I was all over the internet. I was up on a website – it said “Abel Cullum” right below names like Mirko Cro Cop and Quinton Jackson. It’s an indescribable feeling. I know it’s taken a lot of work, and a lot of dedication and a lot of support. It’s nice, because I know it was earned.

JT: Tell us about your new gym and your training.

AC: We also just opened our gym here in Tucumcari. It’s Cullum Ground Fighting. It’s just starting up and it’s been fun. We’ve got some new members and we’re having a good time with it. We teach mixed martial arts. All of our Jiu-Jitsu and kickboxing is MMA-based. I’ve always done a lot with a little. We just got into a new building, which is awesome. It’s 100 ft. by 25 ft, so it’s huge for me, because we’re coming from what we call “The Dungeon,” and a lot of places before that which were. . .

JT: Garage training, right?

AC: Actually, a garage would have been really nice [laughs]. When I was training to fight John Chester in Tulsa, OK, a lot of my training was done outside, with the bag hanging of a tree, and we had one yellow pull-out mat that I was working on. And I just wanted it – that’s what kept me going out there. I just did what I could with what I had.

The Dungeon was great because if you were there, it was because you wanted to be a fighter. Because if you were there, you were getting worked. In the summertime, it gets up to 110-115 degrees. Sometimes we’d get some fans going, but usually not. And in the wintertime, you’re lucky if it’s not snowing because if it’s snowing, that roof is leaking on you right in the middle of practice. If you wanted to fight, you were there. It was rough at some points, but it really builds character.

JT: It separated the men from the boys.


JT: Are there any guys in your camp / stable / team that fans should be on the watch for?

AC: Some of our fighters, like Robert, Abel, and Joe Vargas – they really helped me out along the way. They’re three brothers and they have that competitive fighter in them too.

After high school, they didn’t get to go out and do all the other things, like wrestling and football. They wanted something else past that. They were real excited when they heard I was doing it and that they could train with me. They’re all well-rounded, but they all have their better points. Between t he three of them, they’ve really helped build me. I owe a lot of the credit to them for where I’m at today. Robert and Joe have fought for us. Abel is going to be fighting for us soon.

I got some younger guys starting out now at the gym who are getting ready to get in there. It’s kinda awesome to see where they start out and where they end up. We got one kid who started out at 200 pounds and he’s now down to 168 pounds, and he’s confident. The turnaround on this kid is just amazing. And I think that’s a lot of what inspires me to keep doing what I’m doing. It’s great to see.

JT: It puts you in the unique position of being the coach and the mentor while being a student.

AC: Definitely. Being a student of the game is gonna be what keeps you improving. As soon as you think you know it all, that’s when you get caught.

JT: Do you study tape a lot or focus on who’s the competition out there?

AC: I have done that before, but I usually just like to train and try to improve in every aspect, for myself. Work on my wrestling, kickboxing, Jiu-Jitsu. Sometimes I look at my opponent and know what he’s done, but really not. Because a lot of time I’d be training for one person, then at the last minute something happens and [I end up fighting] someone else. I think that can affect you.

JT: What’s the toughest part about fighting? The training? The mental? Rules differences?

AC: Probably the weight. Fighting at 135, you gotta diet a little bit. I love getting in the cage. I’ve never been nervous really. I’ve always risen to the occasion. I’ve always said the more people there are in the seats, the more people there are for me to entertain.

JT: As a fan, who are some of your favorite fighters and / or matches?

AC: My all-time favorite fighter is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. That guy has more heart than he knows what to do with. He’s an animal. Somebody that big and that good at Jiu-Jitsu, is amazing. I’m really looking forward to his fight coming up [against Frank Mir]. There’s another fight, with Don Frye and [Yoshihiro Takayama], it’s like a hockey fight. It’s not real technical, but it’s really entertaining.

Another one of my favorite fights is Luiz Azeredo vs. Buscape [Luiz Firmino]. I think it was one of the first Bushidos, or it was Azeredo’s debut in PRIDE. The Jiu-jitsu in that fight was unbelievable. In Japan, they’ve always had that appreciation for the ground game, the chess battles and stuff. And that’s where it’s starting to go a lot more in the United States.

JT: Tell us about your sponsors.

AC: My biggest sponsor is Hamilton Auto Group. They’re great. They put me on a two-year deal. I got a 2007 Super Crew Cab. They pay my insurance, my payments, they registered it and everything . . . They even took it to Sign Design, out of Lubbock, and put a huge wrap on it, so I got pictures of me all over the truck and different cage designs and stuff, and it says “King of the Cage Champion” on it and everything. I got pictures of it up on my MySpace page. It’s pretty cool.

Also, Family Vision Care Clinic. The doctors that own it, they’re real supportive. They’ve helped me out a lot, because they’ve given me the time off to do whatever I needed, if it was training time or seminars or whatever. They’re great with my schedule. That’s here in Tucumcari as well.

JT: What is your best / worst memory in your MMA career?

AC: Best memory would be winning the King of the Cage title. Worst memory at this point . . . it’s hard to pinpoint, because a lot of people would say maybe one of their losses. But my first loss, to Rick Montano, that was a learning experience and that definitely helped me out in my career, so its kinda hard to say that. . . geez. . .

JT: What is your downtime like? What do you do for fun / away from training?

AC: Family time is always fun. We always make time to be together. After training, we get out of here about 8:30 or so. We like to go to my Grandma’s house, just relax, and watch TV. Another hobby we share is that we all like to work on vehicles. And I personally love to fish. That’s one of my favorite pastimes. If I can make time for that, that’s definitely something I enjoy doing. I want to get a boat here pretty soon, but I’m still waiting on that one.

JT: What are your goals, within and away from fighting?

AC: I’d like to continue fighting as long as I can. I love to train people. Like I said earlier about the guy that lost 30 pounds. That’s a really something . It’s great to watch, and then to see him compete. He took gold in a grappling tournament in Rio Rancho the day after my fight with Wilson. And then two more of my students competed at that show. One of them took gold, one of them took silver. That was a huge show. A lot of big names in grappling were there and it was a great feeling.

JT: I noticed on your MySpace page that you’re a fan of Nicholas Sparks novels. Which was the best novel to be adapted to film?

AC: Yeah, that catches a lot of people by surprise. A lot of people that I grew up with in school, they thought I was too nice to be a fighter. Different values and morals and stuff.

“A Walk to Remember” is my favorite. It’s just a great story and it was the first novel of his that I read. From there, I’ve been hooked. He’s a really good writer and I suppose that one sticks in my mind the most because, like I said, it was my first time reading one of his novels.

JT: Does it help with dating to be into Nicholas Sparks books?

AC: Nah actually I think that’s another reason why I’m a decent fighter. I’m single. With all the training I do, a lot of my time is taken up. I don’t need an extra distraction. A lot of the guys training, they have that distraction, and it’s like “ah man, why do you put up with that?” It’s easier for me to just stay in line.

JT: Who would you like to fight in the future? What would be the pinnacle fight for your career?

AC: There’s actually two of them. The first would be Charlie Valencia, because that’s who I saw holding the King of the Cage title back when I first started watching this and really wanted to pursue a career in it. That would be amazing. Of course, the all-time top would be Miguel Torres. At this point, anyway.

JT: Last question: what else should people know about Abel Cullum?

AC: A lot of people portray the fighter as fight hard and party hard type mentality, and that’s definitely not me. I’m trying to sway that perception there, and try to be a better role model. Because a lot of these fighters want to make a career out of it and I think if you’re gonna be training and working with people. . . Kids are really into this sport and they look up to a lot of these fighters and if they’re doing shady stuff outside of the cage, even inside the cage, it’s not really good for the sport.

I think a lot of people think sex sells, and I just like to shy away from that. I try to represent a cleaner fighter. I don’t have any tattoos; I don’t smoke, don’t drink, and don’t do drugs. I abstain from sex. I’m just trying to do it the best that I know I can do it.

Abel Cullum defends his King of the Cage Flyweight championship against Ryan Diaz on December 6th at Isleta Casino & Resort in Albuquerque, NM.

Oliveira keeps the light heavyweight title at PFC 11

Posted in Legends MMA with tags , , , , , on November 21, 2008 by jaytan716

Jorge Oliveira wins by third-round submission.

Jorge Oliveira wins by third-round submission.

On Thursday, November 20th, Legends MMA’s Jorge “Van Damme” Oliveira successfully defended his Palace Fighting Championships Light Heavyweight title against Isaiah “Striking Viking” Larson at PFC 11 “All In” at the Tachi Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, CA. This event was streamed for free on

“It’s been a crazy, upside-down year for me, with the Glover Teixeira match, then winning the title from Jeremy Freitag. Then the first match with Larson, where we fell out of the ring . . . So it feels real good to end the year like this,” Jorge said after his win.

The match nearly ended in the first round, after the champ caught a brutal knee to the groin. It started to seem like the pairing of Oliveira and Larson was not to be, as this title fight was a rematch from their previous encounter in July, which ended in a no-contest when both combatants fell out of the ring in the third round. But Legends’ resident Brazilian beast summoned the strength to continue through another two rounds of fighting to pull off a submission victory, once again bringing his title back home to Los Angeles.

“After the knee, I lost about 40% of my game plan. But then I saw my corner get mad and I had to suck it up.”

The knee came midway in the first round, as Larson held Oliveira in a clinch against the ropes. Cameras clearly caught the dubious strike, which doubled Oliveira over in anguish. Action was halted for almost the entire five-minute recuperation period, nearly forcing referee Josh Rosenthal to call off the match. The champ had to pull himself up by the ropes several times before being able to stand on his own. Larson’s corner was visibly frustrated, fearing that their second chance at the title would be, yet again, compromised.

Teammate Conor Heun commented “Larson’s side should have been real worried that Jorge was going to get back up and give Larson the beating that he did. That kid was concussed and damaged after the fight. “

Oliveira, for his part, showed tremendous bravery and fortitude in continuing to fight. With such an immobilizing injury in the middle of the first round, the defending champion’s long match ahead became even longer. Moreover, that same five minute period in which Oliveira needed just to be able to stand again was time in which Larson was able to rest up.

Besides the dubious low blow, the bulk of the match was a strategic stalemate from the clinch, as Larson, an NCAA Greco-Roman champion, repeatedly charged Oliveira against the ropes, at which point both jockeyed for position, throwing knees when possible. The two briefly went to the ground once in each round, with Jorge working elbows from bottom position and almost securing a gogoplata in the first, but Larson’s apparent strategy of working from the clinch didn’t do much for the crowd nor Oliveira, who was visibly frustrated with his challenger.

“That’s what he did in the last match too, so I knew to expect that,” Oliveira said.

Oliveira ground-and-pounds on Larson

Oliveira ground-and-pounds on Larson

In the third round, Oliveira transitioned from bottom to top position, working to free his right leg from half-guard. Finally getting full-mount, Oliveira took the match home, raining down elbows and a double-hammerfist that would have made Kazushi Sakuraba proud. He finally grabbed Larson’s arm and spun around with a textbook armbar that secured the tapout at 2:18 of the third round.

Oliveira scored the tapout at 2:18 of the third round.

Oliveira scored the tapout at 2:18 of the third round.

Oliveira was proud in reflection, commenting “after the sweep, I was pounding away. That was my set-up. You know, I’m a Jiu-Jitsu guy, and when you get later in the match, you get tired. He started to punch up and I just took the arm, spun around, and sat back for the armbar. That was fun.”

The victory was also a very personal triumph for Jorge, who was visibly moved by his supporters. Backstage, he took several minutes to say a prayer of thanks to his family back in Brazil, especially his Grandmother, who was a pivotal inspiration in the early part of his career.

“This match meant a lot to me, you know? Of course I miss my Grandmother, and she got me started in martial arts. She passed away last year, and I haven’t been back to Brazil in six years. I couldn’t go back when she died, so I wanted her to know I was okay, that I still got the belt. I want her to be proud of me.”

“The best fighters fight from the heart. Sometimes you leave your heart open like that and it all comes out,” explained Heun.

Oliveira celebrates with his Legends MMA fight team

Oliveira celebrates with his Legends MMA fight team

“Van Damme’s” victory looks to be the final chapter in Legends MMA’s 2008 fight season, as the team’s next scheduled outing looks to be in early January, at the Tuff-N-Uff Amateur Fighting Championships in Las Vegas.

Verbal Sparring: Anthony Lapsley (King of the Cage Welterweight Champion)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , on November 19, 2008 by jaytan716

The presence of strong male role models is a big ingredient in what makes Anthony “The Recipe” Lapsley.

Lapsley is an Indiana state wrestling champion. He’s a dutiful son that takes joy in sharing his victories with his father, while also being a proud poppa to “a gang of kids” with whom he bonds over sessions of Xbox 360. He recently started coaching the wrestling team at Trine University. He’s also the current King of the Cage Welterweight champion, a title that he takes very seriously.

In this round of Verbal Sparring, I talked with Lapsley about fate, family, and his “recipe for success.”

JT: You’ve had the title now for about three months. How does it feel to be the king?

AL: It feels good, you know. I’m enjoying it. I’m just itching to get back in there to defend it. I want to prove why I’m the champ. Its one thing getting it, but it’s another thing trying to keep it.

JT: What does winning the King of the Cage belt mean to you? Was it the feeling of accomplishment that you wanted it to be?

AL: It means a lot to me. It’s kinda quickened my career. I guess a lot of guys have been training to fight for 10-11 years, but I’ve been training and fighting all at once for three years. It’s where I want to be, but I can always get better and improve and learn more. I want to get championship belts wherever I fight, and wherever I step in the cage. This one’s put smiles on my kids’ faces; that’s what it’s all about.

JT: Let’s talk about the first and second fights with Aaron Wetherspoon. Did you approach things differently for the second match?

AL: The first fight, I was kinda nervous, because I was fighting for a major world title. But when we touched gloves, it all went away. As far as the fight went, it didn’t go my way; that was kinda crazy how the double knockout thing went down. But I felt comfortable with him. I’m never really worried [during a fight], because if I’m worried, he has the advantage. That’s how I look at it.

But going into the second fight, I knew what I had to do, and that was to finish it. Get in there and not play around. We stood up in the first fight, but this time I planned on taking him down and submitting him. Be clean and get it over with. Stay kinda pretty. I didn’t want to get hit too much. Gotta look real good for the ladies.

JT: You had told me that your dad had a dream about you winning the title last time.

AL: You know, he dreamed that I won the title in like 1:30. It ended up being 1:19. He called me right after I’d won. He was like “I dreamed you won the title in a minute thirty.” I said “well, I won in a minute twenty.”

JT: Did the first match prepare you for what to expect in the second?

AL: In a way, but I really didn’t like to look over that fight as far as preparing for the next one. Because I don’t like to pick over a fight and work around mistakes. Because hey, you go out there and perform and make it happen. I just knew what I had to do. And that first fight . . . it happened. I let it be in the past, and I just worked on different things to win that title. And it worked out for me

JT: Did you switch up your strategy so he couldn’t predict you in the second match?

AL: My strategy going in . . . I never like to work around how they fight. I just want to go out and show that my fighting style is the best that day. I’m hard to predict as a fighter anyway. You never know what I’m gonna do. I’m pretty well versed on the ground, standing up, and my submissions also . . . I put a lot in the pot. Whatever meal I come with, I’m gonna serve it. It’s probably gonna be a can of ass-whippin’.

JT: Tell us a little bit about your background – how you got into MMA, your upbringing, and how it influenced you to get into the sport?

AL: I started wrestling in my freshman year of high school and ended up winning States [championship] in my senior year here in Indiana. After that, I basically sat around for a few years, until like 26 years old. I was wheeling in and out of jobs. Getting into a little trouble every now and then. Nothing major, but not focusing on making a positive life for me and my kids.

I met Andrew “Cobra” Rhodes at a bar, and we got to talking. He’s a 16-time world champion arm wrestler, and a good friend of Gary Goodridge. Andrew and I exchanged numbers, but nobody called each other.

Two weeks later, I’m thinking “I’m tired off where my life is. Lemme find a career, do something. I know I have the ability to do it.” I picked up the phone to call him, and as I was dialing the number, he was calling me. At the same time. So I just looked at it like “that’s gotta be my calling.” It was such a coincidence, and that’s exactly how it went down. He said “hey you wanna fight this weekend?” I said “sure.”

JT: I’m sure you’ve seen a night-and-day change in your training since you first started out. What’s your approach and philosophy behind training?

AL: I try to work hard on my cardio. Because I let my fighting ability and natural talent take its toll . . . I’ve been traveling a bit to train. I used to train at Chris Lytle’s gym in Indianapolis to prepare myself for a couple of fights. Or I go with Team Wolf-Pack and Chas Bowling. That’s a good wrestling and ground and pound gym. I’ve also been known to go down to Albuquerque and train at Team FIT, with Carlos Condit and Thomas Schulte. They’ve got higher altitude training there.

JT: Do you prefer to train on your own or is there a team you’re looking to build and join?

AL: As far as different skills and different bodies, I’ll travel for that and do the freelance thing, but my team is The Garage and Team Wolf-Pack. I’m a loyal person; I’m not gonna jump camps. Where I started is where I’m gonna finish.

JT: Tell us about your team / trainers / partners? Are there any guys in your camp / stable / team that fans should be on the watch for?

AL: It has the name Ft. Wayne Jiu-Jitsu, but we just call it “The Garage” on a personal level. We have a little two-car garage that we work out of. It’s me, Brandon Lee, his brothers Chris and Mike Lee, who are twins. They’re all jiu-jitsu experts. They all wrestle in NAGA tournaments. I would love to get [Brandon] back into fighting. He took off to focus on training people from the gym. We got a real strong guy named Logan. His jiu-jitsu is real sick. We got a guy called The Uncle. . . . We got Bobby Petras, who’s an ’85-pounder. He’s an ex-football player. And we’ve got a good named Jason Whitson. He’s a state wrestling champ from Indiana. He’s fought a couple of times and we gave him the name “Lil’ Kimbo.” He’s just a beast like that.

JT: How are you approaching your first title defense?

AL: I got the belt on my shoulder, and I’m trying to keep it, so I’m going to give it all I got, which I always do. But I’m working real hard to make sure I keep it. Like, say, if I get caught in something there’s no way I’m gonna tap, but I’ll make sure I give it the extra oomph to get out of it or survive. But I don’t see myself getting caught. I see myself controlling the fight, dominating, and walking out of the cage with that same belt on my shoulders.

JT: What are your thoughts about Joker as an opponent? Do you know much about him?

AL: No, I don’t know too much about him. I know he’s strong, and he’s a pretty good wrestler. I’ve seen a couple of his fights, but I’m not the one to study fights. He cuts a lot of weight because he’s bigger in size. He’s a good dude. We spoke at the last fight, he’s a nice guy. But we’re putting that all to the side when we’re in the cage. I’m sure we’ll hang out and chill afterward. You know how fighters are. We’re not mad at each other.

JT: Whatever happens in the ring happens, huh?

AL: That’s how it’s going to go down. It’s already written, so I just gotta make sure I got my bookmark where it’s supposed to be.

JT: For you, what’s the toughest part about fighting?

AL: The last couple pounds you gotta cut. Those last few pounds are the toughest part. I’m a pussy when it comes to being in the sauna. I hate being hot. I love all the training, I love to spar. I don’t cut that much weight, but you know. You got a day before the fight and you’re 4-5 pounds over. I hate that.

JT: What is your downtime like? What do you do for fun / away from training?

AL: I’m a video game fanatic. And that’s issuing a challenge to anyone that wants to play Madden or NBA Live. I love video games and spending time with my kids. I do the father thing. I got a gang of kids, so I gotta take care of ‘em. We’re deep. we got 2 girls and 4 boys.

JT: What are you playing now?

AL: Call of Duty: World at War just came out, so I’m playing that. I like Madden of course, and NBA live. I like Guitar Hero too. Kinda different for a brother, but I fuck with it.

JT: You’re coaching at Trine University. What’s it like going from being the student to being the master?

It’s my first year ever coaching, but it’s been good. We’re 3-1. We lost one match, but we beat our team rivals. We won two more big matches, and we’ve got one big one coming up.

I’m one of those hands-on coaches. A lot of coaches – they coach from the sidelines. I get down and dirty with ‘em. I keep my gear on every day. I give blood sweat and tears with them.

I think it helps them learn more. That’s how I was. You show me something, I would pick it up like a sponge. I think there’s no better way than to show them how to put it on me so they know how to do it and also how to defend it.

How’s you get hooked up with that?

Coach Ester, my high school wrestling coach who took me to my state championship – we’ve been in touch ever since high school. He asked if I wanted to help out with his kids. We’re division three, but he and Coach Callaham are really good coaches, and we’ve got a bunch of good wrestlers.

It’s probably a little early to be talking about recruiting guys to cross over into MMA, huh?

No, not really. We’ve got one guy who’s actually fought a couple of times. His name is Nick Kraus.

Obviously, they know you’re a champion.

Yep, they love to talk shit and beat me down to help me get ready for my next fight. I work with them all, but [for training], I focus on the 200-pounds and up guys.

JT: What is your best / worst memory in your MMA career?

AL: Best memory is winning that title. That’s the biggest step I’ve taken thus far in MMA. My worst memory was probably how I looked after winning the title. I hate to see myself on TV. I don’t know why. I’ve always been a shy person. Mild-mannered, kinda bashful in a way, but I guess I’ll get over it.

JT: As a fan, who are your favorite fighters?

AL: I like Genki Sudo. I like his performance, when he comes out to the cage and performs. He sells himself. He fights that way too. He’s a funny dude. I like Rampage, of course . . . Kimbo, until he got beat up [Laughs]. Nah, I like Kimbo; I think it was a lucky punch [that knocked him out]. But a fight’s a fight. Like Cobra Rhodes always tells me – it takes one drop of water on the mat; you can slip and fall and he can jump on top of you and he can finish it.

JT: Do you think Kimbo is gonna come back stronger when he gets in the cage or ring again

AL: Yep. As far as his mentality, after the fight, he didn’t make any excuses, he gave props to Seth, and he said he’ll be back. And I’m sure he’ll come back and not put on a terrible showing again. Once you lose, it gives you something to prove. Especially to have so much hype behind him and he went out there and lost. I feel bad for the next person that‘s going to fight him.

JT: Tell us about your sponsors and how they come through for you.

AL: I got sponsored by TapouT for my last fight, for ShoXC. Locally, I have Sports Massage One. They’re an orthopedic place in town. Dr. Berghoff – he’s one of the top orthopedic surgeons in America. They’ve advanced me some sponsorship money which helped me out a lot. And Roland Trudell out of Lexani RBP, they do rims. They put me down in Vegas at the SEMA car show. Dr. Burns made my mouthpieces in Ft. Wayne IN. Foss Development – they helped me out on my last fight too. All with the money they give, it helps me with my bills and it helps me get where I need to fly to do some high-end training. Biomet, they manufacture prosthetic knees and hips that Dr. Berghoff invented and patented– they’re like a worldwide, multi-million dollar company.

I appreciate all of them, and anybody that wants to come and step on board, I got plenty of room on my shorts, t-shirt, and banner.

JT: Tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind the mask. Where did you come up with that idea?

AL: I got the mask from my homeboy. He’s a local rapper named Vigilante. When he showed it to me, I thought “I’ll go to the cage with that.” It’s kinda branching off of Genki Sudo. I use it for all my professional fights and it’s just something that stuck with me. I like seeing myself walk out with the mask on, on TV. I transform into that killer instinct. If you see a guy pop out your bushes, you know what time it is. So when I’m coming out to the cage, you know what time it is.

And I’d like to say rest in peace to my boy “Killa” Mike C. He’s a fighter who passed. He was on my team and we were like best friends. He died in April and I just gotta give some props out to him and his family. I should add that to my name: ”The Killer Recipe.” Yeah.

JT: What should fans know about “The Recipe?”

AL: No matter what you heard, just believe what you see. I’m a good dude. I train hard, I work hard. Everything that I’ve got, I think I deserve because I’ve worked for it. I’m not one of those asshole fighters that think they’re above everybody. I like to have fun. I sit around and play video games and chill. Don’t ever be afraid to approach me. I like to smile and put smiles on people’s faces.

Also, I’m dedicating this fight to my dad. It’s my dad’s birthday on December 11th. He didn’t have a chance to come out for my last fight, but I’m definitely gonna make sure he’s out there for this one. I’m gonna give him the biggest birthday present, and that’s defending m y title for the first time.

Anthony “The Recipe” Lapsley defends his King of the Cage Welterweight championship against Mike “Joker” Guymon on December 11th at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, CA.

Verbal Sparring: Brad Burrick (King of the Cage)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , on November 17, 2008 by jaytan716

When Brad Burrick steps into the cage on November 26th and fights for the King of the Cage Middleweight title, he’ll realize a dream that has been a long time coming.  Burrick is a decorated San Da / San Shou kickboxer who competed in MMA long before America learned the names Silva, Lawler, or Franklin.  In fact, this is his second MMA tour-of-duty.  After walking away from the sport in 2002, Burrick returned to caged competition last year at “King of the Cage: Explosion,” proudly fighting in his home state of Michigan.

In this interview, we sat down and discussed the roots of Burrick’s fighting and military career, garage training, leading a fight career worth living, and who the better James Bond is.

JT:  What is your background?  How did you get involved in Mixed Martial Arts?

BB:  I started martial arts when I was nine, taking traditional Karate.  I remember seeing the first UFC in Black Belt Magazine when I was in high school, and I got kinda excited about it.  After I got out of the army, I started competing [in MMA].  After four years, I actually left the sport and went to San Da / San Shou kickboxing, where I won several titles and world championships.  But [San Da] has a really small community, and I didn’t want to keep fighting the same guys, so I decided to go back into MMA.  When I first got back, I thought only one match would settle my competitive spirit.  It’s been two years now and I’m fighting for the King of the Cage title.

JT:  Did you continue karate throughout high school?  Did you do other sports?

BB:  The only time I would say that I stopped doing any martial arts training was when I was in the army.  Then, as soon as I got out, I started training again.  I was a Ranger, and they keep you so busy, you really don’t have the freedom to [train martial arts] in that kind of unit.  You’re usually in the field for 40 days or a month.  I was the radio operator for my team.  My rucksack weighed 120 pounds, so after you walk around with that for a day, you’re pretty worn out.

JT:  It looks like you left MMA around 2003.

BB:   MMA wasn’t as organized then as it is now, and I was frustrated.  A lot of that was because I didn’t have the proper training for it at the time.  So I walked away and did San Da.  I was a really good stand up striker and I had a judo background for throwing.  But after four years, I didn’t have anything left to do, so I went back to MMA and I think I’m more into it now than I was.

My thing is I take on a fight, I train for it, and after I’m done competing, then I’ll decide if I want to fight again.  I just really enjoy the training.  Training is one of the most enjoyable things for me.

JT:  That’s interesting.  I think most people think that’s the hardest and the worst part of the job.

BB:  I think it’s hard, but I have a real small group of guys that I train with, and we help each other out.  I used to run a bigger program out of a local gym here.  About a year and a half ago, I closed that down and I went into my garage and fixed it up.  I got nice mats and insulated it and everything.  And I got about five other guys, and there are a couple other people that come.  We’re a small, tight group.  We’re like a little family.

JT:  Do you have a name to your team?  Tell us about your training partners.

BB:  Yeah, we’re the Ronin Fight Team.  Most of the guys I train with now are my students.  I have a guy, Steve Colegio, whom I’ve been training with since forever.  He was a former kickboxer that got into MMA.  I also have Keith Frattarelli, who’s a 205-pounder.  I used to train with Jason Ireland.  He’s kinda the one that gave me the kick in the ass to get back in [to MMA].  A couple of his guys, like Dennis Vogt, come up to help me sometimes..  One of my students, Dennis Brohl, just started competing last year, so it’s been cool, because we can help each other out.  And he’s about my size.

JT:  Do you find yourself utilizing a lot of your San Da in MMA, like Cung Le does?

BB:  Yeah, but I’m a bit of a different fighter than Cung Le.   The thing that helped me the most from San Da is how to transition fast from stand up in the clinch and the throw.  I think I’ve benefitted from that a lot.   And I’ve fought some very good  stand up guys, so I’m not so worried about when I’m standing up with someone because I have the confidence that I’ve already done it with someone else, where that’s all they did .  That helps a lot.

JT:  Is your approach to this match, because it’s a title fight, different than the other ones?

BB:  Yeah. I was given about two month’s notice, so it helped a lot.  In some of my last fights, I would know I’m fighting, but I wouldn’t know the opponent until the week of [the match].  So this time, I’m able to mentally focus on one specific game plan and one specific person.  We’ve been able to look at footage to create a strategy for fighting him and orientate the training based off that strategy.  So that would be the big difference.

JT:  What is it like to anticipate winning the King of the Cage middleweight title belt?

BB:  It’s something I’ve wanted for awhile, so I take a lot of value in it.  That’s my main goal, right now – to win that belt.  I got my other [San Da] belts, but I’d consider this just as high or higher.

JT:  Tell us a bit more about your San Da championships and titles that you’ve had.

BB:  The Arnold Classic holds an annual San Da tournament and I won that from 2000 to 2005.  In 2004, the USKBA (United States Kickboxing Association) held the World Championships out in New Jersey, where I fought guy from the Russian Draka team who was two- or three-time world champion at that point.  Everybody is telling me “oh, the Russian Draka team is really good.  They’re one of the most prestigious teams.”  It would be like coming from Xtreme Couture in MMA.  Now going into the fight, I didn’t know his credentials.  I went in there and fought, and I was able to win, which earned me the world / gold medal.  Later, I found out his credentials, and I’m kinda glad they didn’t tell me until after.

In 2005, I fought the Brazilian national champion who was silver to the Russian that I fought in 2004.  And I was able to TKO him in the third round.  So at that point, I started to look at going back to MMA

JT:  Have you ever fought internationally?

BB:  Nope, I’ve only fought in the US.  In San Da, I had to pay my own way.  I work 40-some hour work weeks and pay bills and taxes just like everyone else out there.  It gets hard, but I’d rather not look back later on my life and regret.  No matter what happens with this next fight, I want to know that I at least trained my butt off and went out there and did it.  To me, it would be more hurtful if, ten year s from now, I looked back and said “well, I could have,” but didn’t.  If you have the dream to be an artist, why not try for it.  My dream is to be a fighter, and whether I’ll be the best or mediocre or whatever, at least I tried.

JT:  What is your downtime like?  What do you do for fun / away from training?

BB:  I’m a big movie freak.  I watch a lot of movies.  We just saw “Quantum of Solace” last night

JT:  Who’s the best Bond?

BB:  Sean Connery.  I like Daniel Craig a lot, and I liked the direction of the movie, but Sean Connery’s the man.

JT:  As a fan, what are some of your favorite fights?  Who are some of your favorite fighters?

BB:  The first match between Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell.  I probably watched that fight ten times.  I’m a Randy Couture fan in general, but just seeing the underdog winning . . . especially as a guy who, at the time, we thought was over the hill.  I like Anderson Silva and Chuck Liddell, but right off the top of my head, that would have to be my favorite fight.

JT:  Tell us about your sponsors?  Who should the fans know about and why?

BB:  I just recently got my first sponsor,  After my last fight, one of my guys, Dennis Brohl, said “I want to get you a sponsor.”  A week or two later he called me and said “hey, we got these guys.  Check out this website.”  Basically I just made a list of stuff that I’d need for the fight.  They sent me that plus some stuff, so that really helped.  It’s nice, because they don’t even really know me, and they’re willing to help.

JT:  What is your best / worst memory in your MMA career?

BB:  The best memory was recently after my last fight, when I beat Kyle Gibbons, and they told me I would be able to fight for the [King of the Cage middleweight] belt.  Because I’d been trying to get [a title shot].

The worst memory was probably when I fought Luke Zachrich and he caught me in an armbar.  I had just come back to MMA and that really sucked because I just wasn’t quite on par yet with my grappling.  I had all these people come out, and that was the first time I fought in Michigan.  It’s hard to go out and face those people, especially after they’ve spent their hard-earned money to come see you and everything.  They look up to you, they’re proud of you and everything, but to face them still is a hard thing.  You want to be the person that wins all the time, but unfortunately, that’s not life.

JT:  It looks like you had a bit of a feud going with Eddie Sanchez.  What’s the legacy behind that?

BB:  There really wasn’t a feud or anything like that. I just talked to Eddie not too long ago, actually.  The Fight Zone [who got shut down in Michigan], who did a couple of shows in Indiana and Ohio, was run by Dave Gomez.  Well, Dave Gomez is Eddie Sanchez’ instructor.  I went into the thing and I beat him the first time.  After that, I don’t know if they just wanted their student to win or if they liked the match up and thought we were entertaining, but they rematched us and he won.  Then they wanted us to fight again.

JT:  It looks like Eddie took some time off from the sport as well and also came back.  So maybe there’s a fourth go-round in the books for you guys.

BB:  It’s possible. I believe he’s at 170 now.  But I could actually probably make 170 [laughs].

JT:  What else should the fans know about Brad Burrick?

BB:  I think I’m an exciting fighter.  Of course, probably every fighter says that, but I try to stay up.  I have a kickboxing background, so I think people find that exciting.  I’m also not the kind of person that takes the easy road for a win.  Unfortunately, it’s kind of cost me some matches, but I usually keep trying to fight through and do different things.

M-1 Challenge: Team Russia Red Devil vs. Team USA

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 14, 2008 by jaytan716

For the first time this season, HD-Net resident correspondent Ron Kruck (who should be given all of Kenny Rice’s MMA broadcast assignments) opens up the show with a recap of the past two rounds of action – which HD-Net hasn’t aired.

This is the second time that the series has jumped sequence.  In the previous instance, one explanation given was that technical compatibility problems between the recorded footage and HD-Net’s broadcast standards prevented certain episodes from airing.  Because M-1 Challenge takes place in different countries, different production teams are used, and subsequently, some teams’ equipment does not record with the same quality as that which HD-Net broadcasts.

Strangely enough, Kruck narrates over highlight footage of the two recent missing meets, Team Korea vs. Team USA and Team Japan vs. Team Germany / World Team, which would indicate that compatibility problems weren’t the issue here.  These meets took place on August 29th of this year in Seoul, Korea.

Regardless, tonight’s M-1 Challenge looks to be an homage to the great icons of the Cold War:  Reagan, Gorbachev, Balboa, Drago, Duggan, Rhodes, Magnum T.A., and the Koloffs, as Team USA faces Team Russia Red Devil.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on September 27th of this year at the Harvey Hadden Sports Centre in Nottingham, England.

Lightweight Division:   Mikhail Malutin (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. Beau King (Team USA)

Beau King and Mikhail Malutin are even across the board, at 27 years old and both weighing in at 153 lbs.  The only small discrepancy is with King’s 2-3 record, built up on local shows in Southern California, while Malutin comes in at 27-8.  Wait, what did I just write?

Round One:  Despite this disgusting experience difference, King is undeterred, as he sets the pace with a jab-spinning backfist-kick combination.  Malutin takes King down and works from the guard.  King is calm, keeping Malutin tied up with underhooks and working intently for a gogoplata.  Malutin counters with body shots, scrambles around to sink his hooks in, and works a body triangle from the side.  King gets on top and eventually passes to side control.  They scramble to their feet, only to end up in north-south position after Malutin rocks King with a combination.  Malutin spins to King’s back and takes control, hooks and everything.  King struggles to escape, but Malutin sinks in the rear naked choke, flattens King to his stomach, and gets the tapout just as the bell signals the end of the round.

Malutin is awarded the victory and Team Russia Red Devil opens up with a 1-0 lead.

Cameo of the night goes to Ian “The Machine” Freeman, reigning Cage Rage British Light Heavyweight champion, who is doing the ring announcing for the night.  And guest star of the night is Affliction, which is all over the mat and the referee with sponsorship signage.

Welterweight Division:   Erik Oganov (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. Brandon Magana (Team USA)

Magana is a former U.S. Marine who, after fighting sporadically since 2005, has gone into overdrive in 2008.  This is his fourth match of the year, with the third match being just one week before, at the “Strikeforce: Playboy Mansion II” event.  The last time we saw Oganov, who, like his teammate, also claims well over 20 matches, he ended Janne Tulirinta’s (Team Finland) three-match win streak.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Color commentator Jimmy Smith sets the stage by scoring round one as 10-9 for Oganov.  Magana and Oganov trade strikes cautiously.  Oganov hits a hard liver kick and scores a single-leg takedown.  Magana keeps Oganov clinched tight on the ground, using rubber guard to get in position for a triangle.  Oganov is nonplussed.  The two end up standing in the corner before the referee restarts them in the middle of the ring.  Magana charges Oganov into the corner, where the rest of the match takes place.  Magana works for the double-leg, while Oganov mutes him with a guillotine choke.  The second round ends with the bell and Erik Oganov takes the match by unspectacular majority (split) decision.

Team Russia Red Devil pulls ahead in the meet, 2-0.

Middleweight Division:   Dmitry Samoilov (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. Bryan Harper (Team USA)

Bryan Harper is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt who was previously knocked out by Min-soo Na of Team Korea in the first round.  Samoilov, a sambo expert, previously won a majority decision against Nikolas Weinberg of Team Finland.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Harper pushes Samoilov back with a double jab and clinch, but Samoilov uses the corner to his benefit, working a kimura lock.  Samoilov tries a trip to the ground which Harper almost counters by balancing on Samoilov’s back, but they scramble to escape bottom position and end up on their feet.  A few more exchanges.  Harper pushes Samoilov back into the corner again and throws a high knee.  Samoilov counters with punches, taking control of the pace of the match.  Harper is now evading engagement, fading back and keeping distance with combinations. The match was Harper’s to lose, and as it transforms into a boxing match, Harper does so.

Dmitry Samoilov takes the match by majority decision as Team Russia Red Devil claims the MMA Cold War with a 3-0 split.

Light Heavyweight Division:  Mikhail Zayats (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. John Cornett (Team USA)

John Cornett is a Jiu-Jitsu expert from the Midwest.  He’s cornered by Team Quest coach Heath Sims and former King of the Cage light heavyweight champion James Lee.  Zayats goes into this match with a 5-1 record, whose last win was a controversial decision against Lucio Linhares (Team Finland).

Round One:  Cornett loves to bang and wastes no time in throwing some big right bombs.  Zayats takes Cornett down with a single leg.  There’s not a lot of action, which results in a restart in the center.  Zayats is trying to ground-and-pound on Cornett, who minimizes the damage with a tight guard.  These two keep working themselves into the corner and under the ropes, as Zayats G & P’s Cornett, who shrimp-crawls his way to the ropes.  Cornett would not do well in Ring of Honor with the rope breaks.  Finally, the ref restarts them standing.  Zayats moves to shoot in, but stops short just as Cornett counters with an overhand right that misses.  Zayats pushes Cornett into the corner with some wild haymakers, then himself gets spun into the ropes.  Zayats gets a verbal warning, perhaps for knees in the groinal neighborhood.  By now, he’s really intent on getting the overhand right one-punch KO.  Cornett, the reputed striker of this match, is now cautious about engaging.  Zayats may have gotten in Cornett’s head with that last flurry.

Round Two:  Right from jump street, these two are swinging for the fences.  Zayats drops Cornett and tries to finish with hammerfists, but the American escapes to his feet.  Only to be taken down again with a double-leg.  They almost fly out of the ring under the blue corner.  Getting back up, Cornett looks to the referee and verbally submits 44 seconds into the second round.  Announcer Sean Wheelock reports that Cornett broke his right hand and has to concede the match.

Team Russia Red Devil adds insult to injury with a fourth victory of the night.

Heavyweight Division:   Kiril Sidelnikov (Team Russia Red Devil) vs. James Jack (Team USA)

James Jack, a former collegiate All-American in wrestling and football, is wasting no time building up his MMA record.  All six of his career matches (3-2-1) have occurred this year.  In his last outing, he lost by submission to Malick N’diaye by submission.

Conversely, Sidelnikov’s nickname is “Baby Fedor.”  Nuff said.

Round One:  Jack comes in with a 30-pound weight advantage over Sidelnikov.  Jack is also wearing wrestling shoes, which automatically prohibits him from throwing head kicks, even standing.  Talk about giving your opponent the handicap.  Sidelnikov has an interesting side stance that reminds me of Lyoto Machida.  Jack shoots for the takedown and gets it in the corner.  Jack tries to keep Sidelnikov down with his weight but Sidelnikov walks his back up the corner padding and is able to outpower the larger American.  He lands a solid right hand which rocks Jack, but not to the point of going to his knees.  Perhaps this is just a delayed reaction, because Jack immediately shoots for a single-leg.  He hangs on to buy time, but Sidelnikov pounds away until the referee jumps in and stops the fight at 4:20 of the first round.

In one night, Team Russia Red Devil singlehandedly erases all the patriotic work that Sylvester Stallone did against the evil Russians in Rocky IV, Rambo II, and Rambo III.  Somewhere in Colorado, the Eckhert brothers are rolling over in their graves, while Danny and Erica carve out Team USA’s names on Partisan Rock.

Best Match**: John Cornett vs. Mikhail Zayats.  There were some wicked slugfest exchanges in this second round, and with the action spilling out of the ring several times, these two delivered great fireworks.  Unfortunately, Cornett’s hand injury was an anticlimactic finish, but until that point, it was the best action of the night.

Worst Match**: Erik Oganov vs. .Brandon Magana.  Very lackluster finish here, as Oganov just rode the last minute to the end of the round with guillotine choke in the corner.

** (based on footage aired)

With their individual fight sweep, Team Russia Red Devil takes the lead with a 2-1 team challenge record and a definitive 11-4 record over Team Finland, which has a 9-6 record from the same number of meets.  Team USA is condemned to fourth place, with a 1-3 team challenge record and a 6-14 individual fight record that is going to be difficult to turn around.

Next week, Team Russia Legion looks to redeem themselves against Team Germany / World Team.

M-1 Challenge: Team Russia Legion vs. World Team

Posted in M-1 Challenge, TV Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 11, 2008 by jaytan716

Last week, Team Russia Red Devil dominated Team USA.  Now, the Red Devils’ regional rival, Team Russia Legion, steps into the spotlight, as they face the World Team in Group B action.

As the standings currently look, Russia Legion is tied for second place with Team Spain.  The World Team sits at the bottom, just slightly behind Team Japan, with a 1-1 team challenge record and 4-6 in individual fights.  For the World Team, a victory could launch them from the basement into second place, while, for Russia Legion, even a clean sweep victory will only nudge them from a tie for second place into a tie for first place with Team Holland.  That said, a clean sweep of victories tonight would establish Russia Legion as having the second best overall team challenge (2-1) and individual fight record (10-5) of the entire M-1 Challenge.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on September 27th of this year at the Harvey Hadden Sports Centre in Nottingham, England.

Lightweight Division:  Musa Khamanaev (Team Russia Legion) vs. Wim Deputter (World Team)

This is Khamanaev’s debut in this year’s M-1 Challenge.  Deputter’s previous outing was a decision loss to Daisuke Nakamura of Team Japan in a meet that was not televised.

Round Two (joined in progress):  According to Jimmy Smith, Khamanaev took round one with a 10-9 score.  Deputter shoots in right from the bell.  They clinch in the corner, ending up on the ground with Khamanaev in Deputter’s closed guard.  Khamanaev ground-and-pounds away, while Deputter works unsuccessfully to get better position.  When Khamanaev stands up, Deputter immediately shoots for the leg again . . . and ends up in the same bottom position.  Deputter is working to do something with the Russian’s left arm, but keeps getting distracted with short punches.  This pattern apparently mirrors the first round.  Gegard Mousasi is in Deputter’s corner, but that doesn’t seem to help.  Deputter comes close to securing a gogoplata, but loses it.  To their credit, both guys are working hard, but it’s just a stalemate of getting the upper hand.

Judges give the match to Musa Khamanaev by majority (split) decision.  Team Russia Legion takes the opening bout, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Sergey Verdesh (Team Russia Legion) vs. Jason Ponet (World Team)

Ponet is 19 years old and was born in French Guiana.  He currently lives and trains in France.  World Team originally was supposed to be a German contingent, but a dearth of qualified German fighters forced M-1 to piece together a pan-European “World Team,” and as such, Ponet finds himself on this team.  Verdesh’s previous M-1 match was over a year ago, submitting to Brian Lo-A-Njoe via second round tapout.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Based on the sweat and heavy breathing of these two, the first round must have been a doozey.  Yes, a doozey.  Verdesh sets things off with combinations.  Ponet is fighting southpaw.  Jimmy Smith explains that the traditional counterstrategy is to attack with overhand rights, which Verdesh does.  Ponet charges in with a Superman punch and gets a takedown, ending up in Verdesh’s guard.  Ponet ground-and-pounds with short punches, while Verdesh fights to hold him down.  Ponet stuns Verdesh with a few headshots, but otherwise, there’s not a lot of action.  This goes all the way to the bell.

Judges give the match to Jason Ponet via unanimous decision.  World Team ties it up, 1-1.

Middleweight Division:  Sergey Kornev (Team Russia Legion) vs.  Rosen Dimitrov (Team World)

Dimitrov is from Bulgaria.  He fought earlier this year and submitted an opponent who also was named Dimitrov.  The only other place you see something like that is in Korea, when Kim fights Kim.  Team Russia Legion appear to be using their B-team for this meet, as neither Kornev, Verdesh, nor Khamanaev have fought in this year’s M-1 Challenge until now.

Round Two (joined in progress):  Dimitrov charges in with furious striking combos to the face.  Kornev didn’t expect those flurries.  He clinches and throws Dimitrov, but both end up falling out of the ring.  Kornev lands some shots on Dimitrov’s face and gets top position after Dimitrov tries for a single leg.  Dimitrov rolls and gives Kornev his back.  They work to their feet, but back to the bottom.  Dimitrov gives up the back again, but Kornev isn’t able to capitalize on it.  Kornev gets a high full mount and rains down some rights, trapping Dimitrov’s left arm.  Dimitrov is so close to losing, but stalls TKO finish when he gives up his back.  Kornev continues the assault, and even falls on top of Dimitrov from his own fatigue, at which point the referee finally steps in and halts the match at 2:59 of the second round.

Team Russia Legion moves ahead with the lead, 2-1.

Light Heavyweight Division: Gadzimurad Omarov (Team Russia Legion) vs.  Niels Van Noord (World Team)

Omarov steps in for Besike Gerinava, who represented Russia Legion against Team Spain.  The Dutchman Van Noord had one other fight, last year, which he won with a leglock.

Round Three (joined in progress):  You read that right, we’re going into a round three overtime, for the first time in the 2008 M-1 Challenge season.  Sean Wheelock explains that this is a crucial round for Omarov and Van Noord, as rounds one and two were split.  Van Noord has a big height advantage over Omarov.  The two are trading punches when Van Noord reaches for a single-leg, but Omarov is able to shift his balance and take him down.  Omarov is in half guard, and tries to get full mount.  Unsuccessful, he resides to work the body with ground-and-pound shots.  Van Noord is barely even trying to escape.  With no action, the referee stands them up.  Same half-hearted single takedown attempt by Van Noord, same off-balance counter by Omarov.  Another stand-up at 1:30 left in the round.  Van Noord shoots for another single leg, but Omarov stuffs and flips Van Noord on bottom.  Van Noord scrambles to get up, and briefly is in whizzer position, but Omarov keeps him down.  Referee stands them up again.  Omarov shoots for the first time in this round and takes Van Noord down before the end of the round.

Judges give the match to Gadzimurad Omarov, securing the night’s team challenge, 3-1.

Heavyweight Division:  Akmed Sultanov (Team Russia Legion) vs.  Sylvester Olesky (World Team)

This is Olesky’s pro debut.  Sultanov comes in looking to vindicate himself from his previous outing, a decision loss to Team Spain’s Rogent Lloret.

Round One (joined in progress):  Olesky has quite the height advantage to Sultanov.  Both are tentative in their shots.  Sultanov throws leg kicks, but also goes high.  Olesky looks like he doesn’t have much striking experience.  Clinch in the corner.  Olseky tries to set up a hip toss, but Sultanov stuffs him and gets a full mount.  Sultanov works for an armbar, but Olesky pulls himself out the back door just as the round ends.

Round Two:  Both men try to mask their fatigue, but the lack of striking betrays their near-empty energy levels.  Sultanov throws overhand rights that whiff past Olesky’s face.  Olesky is trying to have a good first showing, but he’s suffering Sultanov’s leg kicks, is breathing out of his mouth blatantly, and just generally looks out of his element.  Sultanov throws a few more.  Sean Wheelock spots a hematoma over Olesky’s left leg and predicts the big Pole to come crashing down at any moment.  Sultanov is happy to choose his shots, using a lot of head movement and leg kicks to pick Olesky apart.  Fans are starting to get restless and jeer the two combatants.  Sultanov barely keeps the pressure on.
Judges give the match to Akmed Sultanov.  Team Russia Legion walks away with the final individual match, 4-1.

Best Match**: Sergey Kornev vs.  Rosen Dimitrov.  There wasn’t a lot of compelling action here, but it was the only one with an actual finish.

Worst Match**: Musa Khamanaev vs. Wim Deputter.  The second round was the only one to air, but as announcers Sean Wheelock and Jimmy Smith mention, this was also a clone of the first round.  The two scrapped on the ground for most of the match, but nobody was close to a submission attempt or a finish.

** (based on footage aired)

Team Russia Legion’s team challenge victory is somewhat anti-climactic, as their individual fight record only clarifies their second place status – not enough individual fight wins to tie for first, but just enough to get out of push Team Spain to third place. Conversely, World Team’s sole win of the night simply anchors Team Japan down to share last place.

Next week, Team Korea and Team France meet in America’s heartland of Kansas City, MO, at the first M-1 Challenge event in the U.S.

Legends Fighters are Tuff-N-Uff for Vegas

Posted in Legends MMA, Tuff-N-Uff with tags , , , , , , , on November 8, 2008 by jaytan716

On Saturday, November 8th, the word of the night was “heart,” as four fighters (and a caravan of supporters and gym members) from Legends MMA traveled to the Orleans Hotel & Casino in Sin City to represent at Tuff-N-Uff’s fifth installment of their MMA amateur fighting championships.

Making their amateur MMA debuts were King Gabriel, Eddie Jackson, and Takashi Munoz, all of whom had trained intensely over the past several weeks in anticipation. Meanwhile, Bantamweight fighter Chris Brady (3-2) donned the gladiator gloves for his sixth amateur MMA fight.

The only other teams represented as deeply were local squads Throwdown (four fighters) and Xtreme Couture (three fighters).

235 lbs. Glen Amador (Throwdown) vs. King Gabriel (Legends)

In the first match, Legends MMA’s King Gabriel squared off against Glen Amador (Throwdown) in a heavyweight war. Sparks flew quickly from the get-go, as Amador came out throwing heavy bombs. Gabriel, however, remained calm and composed, fading back to catch Amador’s rhythm and pick his shots. Attacking with a flurry of kicks, Gabriel landed commanding blows to Amador’s chest and knees. Using his power to bull through, Amador shot in twice for takedowns, but in both instances, the King escaped almost as quickly. As the round ended, Amador landed several shots to the head, although none of them seemed to faze His Highness.

Unfortunately, round two picked up where round one left off, with Amador throwing continuous unblocked shots before the referee jumped in and stopped the match. Glen Amador walks away with a TKO victory in the second round.

170 lbs.Danny Davis (FASI/Team Mica) vs. Takashi Munoz (Legends)

There was a significant height and reach difference between Takashi Munoz and Danny Davis, which Davis would use to his advantage. But that didn’t stop the size of the fight in the dog, as Munoz stood his ground and traded stiff combinations. Munoz caught two solid knees, one landing south of the border. He was able to recover with the five-minute rest period, but the damage was already done, as Davis took Munoz down and worked a ground-and-pound assault from side mount. Munoz fought hard to buck Davis off, but it wasn’t enough before the referee put a halt to the match in the waning seconds of round one. Danny Davis takes the match via TKO.

135 lbs.RJ Terrano (Freestyle) vs. Chris Brady (Legends)

The tide turned the other way with Legends’ third fight of the night, as Chris Brady wasted no time in throwing lightning fast flurries of strikes, landing several high kicks to Terrano’s face and following up with knees in the clinch. With Terrano stunned and confused, Brady smelled the blood in the water and tripped him to the ground, using ground-and-pound onslaught until the referee stepped in to end the match. Chris Brady wins via first round TKO / ref stoppage.

185 lbs. Chance Torres (Xtreme Couture) vs. Eddie Jackson (Legends)

Eddie Jackson was actually supposed to fight at 170 lbs., but when his original opponent no-showed the weigh-ins, Jackson was offered Torres at the higher weight class. Jackson started out the match taking Torres to the ground, but Torres was able to use the momentum to his advantage and get top position. Jackson worked to buck Torres off, but Torres again used the momentum to direct them to his own corner, where he finished the match with ground-and-pound fists for the TKO win.

Although the team didn’t walk away with as many wins as they wanted, Legends MMA was honored with some impressive moral victories, as King Gabriel won “Best Fight of the Night” honors. Chris Brady was awarded “Best Knockout of the Night” and has been invited to participate in a four-man tournament to crown a new Tuff-N-Uff Bantamweight Champion.

Legends MMA anticipates returning to Tuff-N-Uff Amateur Fighting Championships in early January. Stay tuned for further details as they develop.

M-1 Challenge: Team Holland vs. Team Japan

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2008 by jaytan716

Tonight marks Round Ten of M-1 Challenge, a year-long round-robin MMA tournament which is best be described as the international (and far better presented) answer to the IFL.  In this meet, Team Holland takes on the hometown boys, Team Japan, for dominance in the Group B standings.

For the uninitiated, the format of this tournament splits ten “national” teams into two groups of five – Group A and Group B.  The teams in each group square off in best-of-five dual meets, similar to high school wrestling, in the traditional MMA weight classes of lightweight, welterweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight.  The winner of that series earns a credit for a team challenge victory.

Group standings are based on a combination of team challenge victories and a cumulative score of individual match victories.  In the case of tied team records, such as Team Holland’s three-way tie for first place with Team Spain and Team Russia Legion, the individual match record prioritizes ranks.

In Group B, Team Holland is tied for first place with Team Russia Legion and Team Spain with team challenge records of 1-1.  However, Holland’s 7-3 individual fight record is enough to edge out the other two, whose individual match records are 5-5.  A win for Team Holland would solidify their top ranking with a 2-1 team challenge record.

Although currently ranked in fourth place, Team Japan (1-0), has the most to gain in victory tonight.  A team win would give them a 2-0 team challenge record, with (at worst) a 6-4 individual fight record.  An unblemished team challenge record should vault them over Holland, who would then be 1-2 in team challenges.

The rules are an abbreviated mix of PRIDE and Unified Rules values:  three judges preside over matches which are two five-minute rounds (with a possible third round in the case of a draw at the end of round two).  Leg strikes (knees and kicks) to the head to the head of a grounded opponent are prohibited, as are elbows above the neck.

As always, announcers Sean Wheelock and Fight Quest’s Jimmy Smith are on-hand to call the matches.  This meet originally took place on July 17th of this year at Korekuen Hall in from Tokyo, Japan.

Lightweight Division:  Bogdan Christea (Team Holland) vs. Daisuke Nakamura (Team Japan)

This is a highly anticipated bout between two fighters who are undefeated in M-1 Challenge action.  Bogdan Christea comes into this match with one submission win and one knockout win.  Nakmura has a decision victory over Yuri Ivlev in what proved to be a fantastic battle.

Round Two (joined in progress):

Unlike his last M-1 match, Nakamura has opted to not wear wrestling boots.  This proves to be a good call, because right after missing a flying armbar attempt, Christea goes for a heel hook that would have put Nakamura in serious danger.  Nakamura counters with a tight kneebar, and for the first minute of the match, the two jockey for leglock submissions.  Both of them seem to be on the verge of scoring a tapout.  Nakamura eventually gets half mount and rolls into an armbar, but Christea escapes without much trouble.  These two are back-and-forth for ground control and top position.  Christea persists on going for Nakamura’s back, and continues to get it before Nakamura counters with an armbar, then a kimura.

At one point, the ref clearly calls “stop, stop, stop, stop. . .” for a break in the action.  Nakamura apparently interprets this as a stand-up, as he gets up, turns, and walks away.  Christea, however, either doesn’t understand English or he’s paying more attention to his cornermen, who are screaming “hit him, hit him, hit him!”  Consider this MMA’s case for the global re-introduction of Esperanto.  Chistea chases after Nakamura and pounds on him with punches.  To his credit, a fighter’s job is to continue fighting until the referee stops the action or pulls him off, which should be happening here, but the ref here is just too slow to get control of the match.  Nakamura quickly counters with a flying armbar, triangle choke, and armbar, making the false-stop a moot point.  Nakamura is tenacious for the tapout, but Christea reaches deep down and counters with ground-and-pound.  The two keep the scrap fast and furious until the bell rings to finish the match.

Tremendous match.  Judges score the match for Nakamura (who did keep the submission pressure on his opponent).  Japan has the first individual fight, 1-0.

Welterweight Division:  Romano de los Reyes (Team Holland) vs. Ken Hamamura (Team Japan)

De los Reyes, a native gun of the Philippines who now trains in Holland, is 1-1 in M-1 action thus far.  He’s fought steadily since 2005, notwithstanding a brief hiatus in 2007.  Hamamura is a veteran in his own right, fighting an average of 4-5 times per year since 2005.

Round Two (joined in progress):

The two trade stiff leg kicks, with De los Reyes coming up short.  Hamamura pushes the pressure and scores a takedown, but De los Reyes escapes easily.  It’s a stand-up battle, as they alternate between working for hand control (as seems to be Hamaura’s style) in between striking combinations.  Either that or these guys are just “high-five happy.”  De los Reyes works a counterattack strategy, as Hamamura has to chase him around the ring from the center.  Hamamura just doesn’t have a takedown with De los Reyes’ name on it.  Match ends with the bell.

Judges score the match by split decision (one judge scored a tie) for Romano de los Reyes.  Team Holland keeps it interesting with a 1-1 split.

Middleweight Division:  Jason Jones (Team Holland) vs. Yuta Watanabe (Team Japan)

Jason Jones is an explosive, no-nonsense fighter who has gone 4-2 since last year.  Watanabe is out to cause a ruckus tonight, flipping a stiff-arm to his opponent during his intro and refusing to touch gloves in the middle.  When a fighter decides to heel his opponent like this, I never expect good things for him.

Round One:  Jones charges in with a combination to kick off the action.  Watanabe is extremely stiff and jittery in his movement, in contrast to Jones’ calm demeanor.  Jones gets Watanabe on the ground with an explosive judo hip toss that that throws them both in the air.  Jones ends up in Watanabe’s guard.  With not enough action, referee Yuji Shimada orders a stand-up.  Jones blocks a takedown attempt and follows up with jabs that find their mark.  Watanabe swings when an opening presents itself, but Jones strikes are more effective.  Jones slips to his knees and Watanabe pounces on him, sinking in his hooks and working for a rear naked choke.  Jones even gets flattened out, but he’s blocking the actual choke by posting his chin under Watanabe’s arm, riding out the position to the end of the round.

Round Two: Jones bursts out of the corner again with combinations.  Watanabe shoots twice, scoring the takedown on the second shot.  He keeps top position and takes the back, working for a choke.  Shades of round one here.  Jones is in trouble, but defiantly escapes and spins around for top position, reigning down hammerfists from a full mount until referee Yuji Shimada comes in and stops the match at 2:03 of the second round.

Team Holland takes the lead, 2-1.

Light Heavyweight Division: Kamil Uygun (Team Holland) vs. Yuji Sakuragi (Team Japan)

Uygun & Sakuragi are approximately the same in match experience, although Yugun is still two years the junior.

Round One:  Uygun comes out swinging haymakers.  Not to be outdone, Sakuragi throws some as well, going so far to implement spin kicks and some “Shonie Carter Specials.”  Uygun grabs his waist off a back fist attempt and tries for the takedown, but Sakuragi blocks it with a standing kimura armbar.  Lots of solid low kicks and body kicks here.  Uygun should have an easier time taking Sakuragi down.  Sakuragi whiffs with a huge looping overhand right, which gives Uygun the opening to take the back and drive Sakuragi to the ground.  Sakuragi transitions to top position, but with little action, referee Daisuke Noguchi orders a stand-up.  Sakuragi continues to go to the well with overhand rights and spin kicks.  Finally Uygun lands three knees and an upper cut which knocks Sakuragi out of the ring and ends the match at 4:51 of the first round.

Team Holland clinches it, 3-1.

Heavyweight Division:  Jessie Gibbs (Team Holland) vs. Katsuhisa Fujii (Team Japan)

Jesse Gibbs is on a 3-0 tear.  He also has a 30-pound weight advantage and a six-year youth advantage over Fujii, who we last saw lose by armbar submission to Akhmet Sultanov of Team Russia Legion.

Round One:  Gibbs towers over Fujii, and he makes the most of his reach advantage with some powerful side kicks.  Interestingly, he switches up stances between orthodox and southpaw, perhaps in an attempt to throw Fujii off-guard.  Gibbs kicks Fujii into the corner and clinches up against the ropes.  After the referee orders a restart, Gibbs knees Fujii into the corner, finishing him off with punches to the head and a few more knees for good measure.  Fujii took this flurry squatting and curled up, but never left his feet.  Ironically, if Fujii had gone to his knees, it would have prevented Gibbs’ knee strikes, which could have possibly prevented the TKO finish.

After losing the night’s first fight, Team Holland takes the meet 4-1, which gives them a solid 11-4 individual fight record and a 2-1 team record.

Best Match**: Daisuke Nakamura vs. Bogdan Christea

Worst Match**: Romano de los Reyes vs. Ken Hamamura

**(based on footage aired)

Especially in the past two weeks, there has been some great back-and-forth action and exciting finishes in M-1 Challenge.  Nobody particularly stands out as a breakout star of the promotion, but fighters like Jason Jones (Holland), Bogdan Christea (Holland), Daisuke Nakamura (Japan), Jarno Nurminen (Finland), Yuri Ivlev (Russia Legion), and “Juanma” Suarez (Spain) may be names we hear about again in the future.

Next week, Team USA vs. Team Korea