Archive for James Lee

Mulhern upsets Brennan’s comeback; Hervey, Guymon emerge victorious at “KOTC: Militia”

Posted in King of the Cage, Live Event Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 12, 2009 by jaytan716

“I’d rather lose an exciting fight, than win a boring one.”  Those words emblazon the official Chris Brennan website.

They’re also words to stand by, as the three-time King of the Cage middleweight champion’s return to KOTC action was iced by jiu-jitsu young gun Quinn Mulhern, with an exciting but brief first-round submission stoppage at last week’s King of the Cage: Militia event at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, CA.

Brennan, who held the middleweight title when the division was at 170 lbs., came out of a 21-month MMA hiatus and a seven-year departure from King of the Cage.

“I never really did [retire].  I needed to take some time off.  My body was beat up and I started training a bunch of kids . . . I was so busy doing all the other stuff that I was doing that I didn’t have time to train for myself.  I didn’t want to take a fight without being fully prepared. . . A year or two years before that, I fought almost, I think, nine times in a year.  So I was just kinda burned out and wanted a little break,” he explained.

The match itself was a rapid ground scrap which saw Mulhern keep pace with Brennan, trapping him in two uma platas before a rib injury forced Brennan to concede at the two minute mark of the first round.

“Knowing he was trying to set up a triangle, I ducked my head out of the triangle . . . because I knew I wasn’t going to get caught with that, and rolled out.  And then my plan was to do the same thing the second time, but when I was trying to roll was when [the rib injury] happened, and I was like ‘oh fuck!’ . . . The referee asked if I wanted out, and I said ‘no, but my ribs are out.’ And then I tried to yank my arm to twist a little bit and throw a punch, and I couldn’t even move.  I said ‘oh, well, I guess so.’  It wasn’t the uma plata that finished the fight.  I hurt myself.”

Brennan, dubbed “The Westside Strangler,” for his history of famous chokeout victories, owns several “Next Generation Jiu-Jitsu” schools in North America and Europe.  Mulhern, a young protégé of BJJ expert Alberto Crane (who also fought on the same card), has a Grappler’s Quest championship under his brown belt, and went into the Brennan match with an unblemished 7-0 record.

In other KOTC action, reigning welterweight champion Mike “Joker” Guymon beat Kasey “Ice Cold” Uscola with a second round TKO of a non-title defense that was set at a 175 lb. catchweight.  Guymon fought back from a challenging first round which saw Uscola take the welterweight king down twice, working ground-and-pound in each instance.

Tony Hervey had the shortest shift of the night, knocking out Alberto Crane in 12 seconds of the first round.  “It was weird.  But as soon as he jumped guard, he jumped to my wrists.   He didn’t even have my arm hooked.  So I’m still standing, planted, and the first – as soon as I made first hit, his eyes were [rolled back] like that. . . I don’t know how many landed, but I just know two for a fact – lights out,” Hervey explained after the match.

The following is a match-by-match report on the night’s fights:

Middleweight (185 lbs.) Estephan Jiminez (Team Execution) vs. Armondo “Chino” Montoya (Team Wildman)

Jiminez got the takedown early in the first round, pushing Montoya into the ground and throwing big bombs standing.  Montoya tried to minimize the damage with a high / butterfly guard.  Jiminez actually was able to step back and work for a kimura while nearly in Montoya’s butterfly guard.  In round two, Montoya came out as a house of fire, tagging Jiminez and getting top position on the ground.  He worked for a guillotine, to a rear naked choke, back to a guillotine from bottom position, before Jiminez tapped out at 1:23 of round two.

Welterweight (170 lbs.) George Sanchez (Empire Training Center) vs. Joe “Jo” Lewis (Unbreakable Gym)

Sanchez was originally scheduled to fight another opponent on the May KOTC: Storm show at Lake Elsinore, CA, but the match was pulled after his opponent failed to make weight.

Lewis got Sanchez to the ground in round one with a big, crowd-pleasing slam, but Sanchez retaliated by almost catching Lewis with an armbar.  After referee Larry Landless, making a comeback to cage regulation, ordered a stand-up, the combatants traded solid kicks.  Sanchez tagged Lewis with a low right kick that was hard enough that Lewis gave him a dap for it.  For his part, Lewis threw some nice kicks that kept Sanchez at bay.

Round two imitate the beginning of round one, in that Lewis got Sanchez to the ground and took top position while Sanchez threatened him with submissions.  Sanchez finally swept and got full mount.  When Lewis gave up his back and Sanchez went for the choke, the crowd erupted.  This was one of the most appreciative crowds at San Manuel since KOTC’s debut here last year.  They could sense when a submission was close and were rooting for it.  Sanchez made a second attempt to get the choke, but to no avail.

In round three, they traded some shots against the cage before Sanchez shot for a double-leg takedown.  Lewis wisely pulled back and continued to ground-and-pound, but inadvertently got caught in another armbar.  He broke free and fired lefts and rights from side mount while Sanchez was on all fours.  Lewis continued the ground and pound to the end of the bell.

Judges awarded Joe Lewis the victory by split decision on scores of 29-28.  Sanchez likely won the second round, while Lewis took the first and third.

Bantamweight (135 lbs.) Jose “Berto” Morales (Subfighter) vs. Jon ”The Clone” Sasson (HB Ultimate Training Center / Team Rampage)

Sasson scored a big slam takedown early in round one, but Morales quickly regained control with lefts on the ground before standing up.  Sasson tried to pull guard just before the bell rang, but Morales simply dropped punches from inside the guard.  Morales opened up round two with a high kick and takedown, but they were stood up, where Sasson engaged more than previously.  Sasson ended up standing over Morales and going for an ankle lock from above, much to the fans’ amazement.  Morales briefly got Sasson in an armbar before the bell rang.  In the third chapter of the match, both men traded hard lefts and rights before Morales scored another takedown and ground-and-pounded away.  Morales would get two more takedowns, successfully throwing elbows inside Sasson’s closed guard without getting caught in a triangle choke.

Judges awarded the victory to Jose “Berto” Morales by unanimous decision.  Morales likely won rounds one and two.

Lightweight (155 lbs.) Evan “Mr. Nice Guy” Thompson (Team Execution) vs. Corey “Savage” Grant (Team Quest)

Grant had the Team Quest All-Stars out in full force, including Dan Henderson, Cyrille Diabate, and Krzysztof Soszynski.  He’s also being cornered by Henderson’s TUF assistant coach, Heath Sims, and Richie Hightower of this season’s TUF U.S. team.

Grant immediately engaged Thompson, leading to both men jockeying for position in the clinch all over the cage, literally going from post to post trying to score a takedown.  After a rapid exchange of combinations, Grant shot for a double-leg and took Thompson to the ground.  Thompson was able to push him off once, but Grant jumped back into his guard and continued with right punches.

Grant continued the takedown campaign in the second round, scoring three with no problem.  Thompson tried for a high guard, but Grant kept driving into him too much.  After the second takedown, as Grant stepped back, Thompson inadvertently landed a kick to the groin for a brief break in action.  Immediately thereafter, Grant landed his third takedown.  Thompson was trying for an uma plata as the round ended.

Grant opened the third round with a flying knee, then took the fight to the ground again.  Thompson worked for a triangle, to no avail.  Thompson was bleeding from the ear, but the match continued.  Thompson escaped from another takedown and worked some dirty boxing, but couldn’t keep the clinch.  Grant scored another takedown and fired rights from side mount before the round ended.

Judges award the victory to Corey Grant by unanimous decision.

After the match, Grant commented on his fan following: “You talk about being nervous. . . I found out about an hour before they got here.  So that’s when the nerves set in.  You want to perform [when] guys like that are at your gym. . . . I’m not a mushy guy when I see stars and stuff, but it made me feel pretty good when they showed up for this event.  It was great.”

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.) Uber “Bulletproof” Gallegos (Training Zone / Joker’s Wild Fight Academy) vs. David Vessup (Brian Warren’s Unbreakable Gym)

Vessup’s last San Manuel appearance was a second round submission win at KOTC: Immortal in February.  Gallegos was looking to redeem himself from a February loss at KOTC: Hurricane in Florida.

Vessup threw knees and lefts before Gallegos forced the takedown in the corner and got side mount.  Vessup swept by walking the cage, throwing lefts and finally sitting back for a leglock.  But Gallegos stood up out of it and threw shots.  Vessup threw a flying knee and swung for the fences, but Gallegos muted the attack with a clinch against the cage, finally securing a single leg takedown.  Gallegos was in mount as the round ended.  Round two opened with Vessup charging in, but Gallegos again took him down in spectacular textbook fashion.  Vessup was busy from the bottom, working for a triangle while Gallegos punished him with lefts.  Gallegos eventually got full mount and threw punches without a problem, but little was getting through.  Going into round three, Vessup fired more combos, a high kick that popped the crowd, and another flying knee.  But Gallegos took him down again and threw knees from side mount.  Gallegos would score another takedown and ground-and-pound from the side mount to the bell.

Much to the fans’ chagrin, the judges awarded David Vessup the split decision, by scores of 29-28 for Vessup and one score of 30-27 for Gallegos.  The crowd was very disapprovingly vocal for this decision.

When asked his thoughts on the controversial decision, Gallegos felt he had the moral victory, which would be enough for him:  “I know who won.  Terry [Trebilcock] knows who won. . . Everybody was congratulating me.  Buying me drinks, because I won.  Saying I won.  I got paid like I won. . . It’s not his fault, so I’m not gonna blame him.  It’s the judging.  I just came out and did my best.”

Welterweight (170 lbs.) Mike “The Warrior” Robles (Millennium Jiu-Jitsu) vs. Rick “The I.E. Bad Boy” Legere (Team Wildman)

Legere, having turned around two losses in a row with a first round KO at KOTC: Storm one month prior, looked much more relaxed, while Robles looked like he was trying to make a lasting impression.  Robles was active with combinations.  At one point, Legere tagged him with a hard jab, but Robles blew it off.  To which Legere gave Robles a high-five.  Now that’s sportsmanship!  The two continued working for the opening, either circling around or clinching against the cage.  In round two, Robles continued to stick-and-move with combos, and Legere continued to high-five Robles’ attacks.  Legere has to be the most respectful MMA fighter this side of the Atlantic.  Legere finally took Robles down and threw lefts from side mount.  Robles scrambled to escape, but Legere ended the round with ground-and-pound from the back.  Round three saw Legere intercepting Robles as he circled around.  Finally, he knocked Robles down with a right straight, then lefts as Robles turned away.  The referee finally stopped the match at 2:12 of the third round, giving Rick Legere the win via TKO.

175 lbs. Catchweight Kasey “Ice Cold” Uscola (Team Alpha Male / Ultimate Fitness MMA Training Center) vs. Mike “Joker” Guymon (Joker’s Wild Fighting Academy)

Guymon is the KOTC welterweight champion, but after two title defense opponents fell through for this show, matchmaker Shingo Kashiwagi paired him with Uscola at a catchweight.  Uscola dropped 15 pounds in 30 hours for this match.  Joker, for his part, got sponsorship from Wienerschnitzel hot dogs.  No joke.

Uscola scored a hip toss takedown on Guymon early in round one, dropping elbows from side mount. After a referee stand-up, Guymon charged in with combinations, but Uscola kept him at bay with hard shots.  Uscola caught Guymon’s leg off a kick and pushed for another takedown, holding the champ on the ground to the end of the round.  Guymon came out swinging in round two.  Uscola landed a hard left, but to no effect.  Guymon nailed a wicked right body kick that likely broke Uscola’s rib, followed by elbows and hammerfists from side mount until the referee stopped the action at 1:12 of the second round due to TKO.  In trademark fashion, Guymon was emotionally overwhelmed, crying on his knees after the fight.

Junior Welterweight (160 lbs.) Alberto Crane (Legacy MMA / Santa Fe BJJ) vs. Tony “Lion Heart” Hervey (MASH Team)

Crane was originally scheduled to fight Thomas “Wildman” Denny at 170 lbs., but after that match fell through, matchmaker Kashiwagi paired Crane up with Hervey, who trains out of Detroit, MI with former KOTC Light Heavyweight champ James Lee.  Crane weighed in heavy, and decided to take the 20% pay penalty.

Crane charged Hervey and tried to pull guard, but Hervey kept his ground and KO’ed Crane from standing position until the ref stopped the round at the 0:12 mark.  Hervey, ever the crowd-pleaser, proceeded to war stance like “Street Fighter’s” E. Honda and hit about 5-6 breakdance windmill spins, his trademark move.

The post-fight proved to be as eventful as the match itself.  The crowd chanted “replay,” which never happened.  Crane was on the ground for about three minutes before being carried out on a stretcher.  In his post-fight interview, Tony Hervey called out Joe Boxer for his 160 lb. belt, as well as Angelo Sanchez for the 155 lb. belt.

“Angelo Sanchez is not a champ, and I’ll say it to his face.  I’ve already been sayin’ that . . . he thinks he is because he won by a fluke.  It took them 20 minutes before they could decide if it was a draw or a win. . . Since Valenzuela is the next in line, I don’t say no.  Anybody that wants to come, I will adhere to that,” declared Hervey after the show.

Promoter Terry Trebilcock announced that Tony Hervey will challenge Joe Boxer for the vacant KOTC lightweight (155 lb.) title at the next KOTC San Manuel event, “Superstars,” on August 13th.

In the Cheap Pop for the Night moment, Big Poppa Schnake announced that the Los Angeles Lakers had won Game three of the NBA Championship finals.  Of course, he got a good reaction for that.

Welterweight (170 lbs.) Chris “The Westside Strangler” Brennan (Next Generation / TRI Center MMA) vs. Quinn Mulhern (Santa Fe BJJ)

In this era of MMA, Brennan is one of the lesser-celebrated, but equally as deserving, “old school” fighters from the 90’s.  He’s a veteran of UFC, PRIDE, Shooto, and a former champion in Extreme Challenge and King of the Cage.  Mulhern is the KOTC #1 contender for the welterweight title, with an unblemished 7-0 record.

Brennan scored a takedown right from jump street.  But Mulhern had a significant size advantage and was able to sit up with Brennan holding his waist.  Mulhern pulled rubber guard.  Brennan at first was nonplussed, circling around and getting back into Mulhern’s guard, but Mulhern pulled rubber guard again, getting the veteran in a deep uma plata.  Brennan stayed with it and tried to spin around, but Mulhern blocked it and kept the uma until getting the tapout at 2:01 of the first round.

King of the Cage returns to San Manuel Casino on August 13th.

Dawna Gonzales contributed to this report.

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Verbal Sparring: “Bad News” Ben Lagman (King of the Cage)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , , on February 5, 2009 by jaytan716

“Youth is wasted on the young.” Although that saying applies to many, Ben Lagman is one of the exceptions. For the man they call ‘Bad News,’ “carpe diem” is more apropos. At 22 years of age, Lagman is wasting no time in learning the MMA ropes firsthand. Having recently made the jump from amateur to professional MMA fighter, Lagman has also established himself as a referee for amateur fights.

In this round of Verbal Sparring, “Bad News” spoke out about MMA in unregulated states, the lifestyle balance of partying and training, and his strategy to build a career he hopes to look back on.

JT: Tell us a bit about where you’re from and how you got into MMA.

BL: I’m from McCull, MI, and I didn’t wrestle in high school. I was just someone who loved watching fights. I liked watching boxing, or anything. Even professional wrestling. One day, a buddy of mine asked me if I wanted to learn how to do it. He took me to a gym called Martial Arts Unlimited, and I met Chris Malgari, who pretty much changed my life.

Before I saw it, I was a knucklehead, man. I was getting in trouble. I used to smoke cigarettes and drink all the time and things like that. I started doing MMA and my first day of grappling was my first day of striking. So I just started training with Chris for awhile and I started noticing that I was advancing much faster than anybody around. So my trainer Chris got me an amateur fight in Northern Michigan and I think it lasted about 28 seconds before I rear naked choked him.

I never started this gig thinking that I was going to be a professional fighter. I was working full-time when I started training. I did MMA as a hobby that I just kinda started getting a lot better at.

Towards the end of the amateur career, I was working in residential construction. I had a pretty good job, but when the housing market crumbled, they couldn’t keep me around anymore. So I just decided “fuck it, I’m going for it.” So I’ve just been trying to pay my bills through fighting, training people, and refereeing these amateur fights in Michigan. Basically, any way that I can get paid through martial arts.

JT: How did you get into refereeing?

BL: I fought in a couple different local amateur organizations, and just became networked through them. I basically just asked them if I could do it. And I did, and everybody seemed happy with the job I’ve been doing. And it just kinda flowed from one organization to the next. I pretty much referee for five or six of these local amateur organizations that they have around here.

JT: Have you ever faced conflict of interests or a scenario where you’ve had to referee one of your students?

BL: I haven’t refereed any students of mine, but I’m the type of guy that gets along with everybody. I train with some of these local fighters, so I’ve had to referee my buddies, you know? To be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve ever been booed by the crowd. I see a lot of referees get booed about their stoppages and things like that.

JT: It’s definitely one of the more thankless jobs.

BL: To me, when I’m in a fight, I’m not really concerned about the other man’s well-being. Because it’s my job to take ‘em out. Yet, if I’m a referee and somebody gets hurt, it’s on me. I’m there for the fighters’ best interest. To keep them safe. Especially in these amateur organizations where, to be honest with you, a lot of these fighters shouldn’t even be in there.

JT: Did you have to go through any licensing for Wisconsin or any of the states?

BL: Wisconsin is unregulated. I’m all about getting licensed, but really, there’s no way to do it in this state. I’d have to go down to Ohio to do their thing, and that’s actually something that we were talking about doing. I’d have to shadow the other referees one time. And then I’d have to go through a little bit of a process and get myself licensed. And I plan on doing that, definitely.

JT: Talk about your team and training partners.

BL: James Lee is my manager and one of my trainers. MASH, which is his gym, is my fight team. But I’m still with my first trainer, Chris Malguiri. Because I’m a loyal person and I’m not just going to leave somebody who helped me get on top as soon as I’m getting there. He corners me in all my fights and I train with him a couple of times a week. He and James get along real well.

As far as Michigan goes, MASH is the premiere fight team around. We have the majority of professional fighters in the metro Detroit area. The King of the Cage Middleweight Champion, Brandon Hunt, is my training partner. So I’m training every day with the champion of my division. And I do just fine against him.

JT: That’s access to some good insider information on the champ.

BL: I would never fight him. He’s a good friend of mine and I don’t want to steal any of his glory. That’s all for him, and I’m happy for him. The King of the Cage belt is definitely something I want to see down the road. If anybody beats him, I want first crack at whoever beats him.

JT: Who are some of the guys in your stable that we should be watching for?

BL: You’ve got Don Richard, who is basically James’ first guy who started MASH. He’s a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and a pro fighter who’s helped me out a lot. Tony Hervey, a 145’er, should be fighting for the belt real soon. Myles Jury, who is an absolute stud at 170. Undefeated pro, undefeated amateur. All-around sick athlete. Daron Cruickshank, who’s an amateur still, but the kid’s got unlimited potential with his wrestling pedigree and his striking abilities. John Tolth is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt under Saolo Riviero, who trains at MASH. He just won the Grapplers’ Quest a couple months ago. He’s not an MMA fighter, but he’s a great grappling partner for me.

JT: Do you have a certain approach or philosophy behind your training?

BL: Yeah, train hard, win easy. I think that’s shown so far in my professional career. That means being disciplined. It means not going out with the boys. I’m 22-years old. You can only imagine the distractions, from friends and things. When my friends are all smoking weed and going out all night . . . shit, I’d like to go out with them all too, man, but I just can’t. I’ve got bigger fish to fry in my life, and I feel like if I let this opportunity go, I’ll never forgive myself. And I’ll always be wondering “what if I didn’t party so hard.”

Don’t get me wrong, after my fights, I love to go out and have a good time, but then get right back to it.

And training hard means being disciplined and not just sparring hard. You have to train smart. You have to listen to your body. If you’re too sore to spar, do some cardio. Or roll. Do other things. And that goes with eating right, the right supplementation of vitamins, and just proper preparation fully. Physically and mentally.

Because this sport is hugely mental, which people can’t even contemplate. They think it’s just a big physical thing. But I think a positive mindset breeds positive outcomes. I don’t ever walk into a fight thinking I’m going to lose. There’s been times where I’m in a good fight and I’m thinking “holy shit, this guy might actually get me” but you should never walk into a fight thinking you’re going to lose. Why even show up?

JT: Being at the age you are, with all those distractions, what was it that triggered you to develop that kind of dedication?

BL: I would say Chris Malgari has had a lot to do with all that. He just showed me a better way to live. The priorities of my friends are not my priorities. I have two sets of friends – I have my friends from, I guess I could call it, my previous life, right? Of high school, and growing up. And then I have my friends through MMA. And the priorities of my friends in my other life, they’re just not conducive with being a professional athlete.

It takes somebody to show you that. He really made me believe that I have an opportunity to be really great in my life. And I didn’t really have anything going for me in the sense of being that I could be great. Schooling wasn’t for me. I was working these blue collar jobs ever since I graduated. Not really going anywhere. This is my opportunity to do something great with my life. And to be remembered as somebody who was a stand-up guy, a brave, honorable man. And I think all the bullshit is not worth taking that from me.

JT: Are your friends from your previous life supportive of you as a fighter?

BL: Aawww, hugely supportive. When I have fights in Michigan, I have a crowd. And they’re all hugely supportive and they all understand, when I tell them “yeah, fellas, you’re not gonna be hearing from me for about three weeks. I got a fight coming up.” They’re all “alright man, we’ll see you when it’s all over.” Then, after the fight, call ‘em up. We meet up, go out to the bar, have a good time, do all that. Then, next week, we’re back to business.

JT: It’s good to have that balance, to have those guys, even if they’re not walking down the same road as you, they all support and understand it.

BL: They’re all real proud of me, because I’m doing something positive with my life. I think at one point, some of them thought I wasn’t going to be doing anything positive with my life. There have been times where I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble. I’ve been arrested a couple of times. A couple of years ago, man, people probably wouldn’t expect to see me doing big things.

JT: What’s the toughest part about fighting for you?

BL: The hardest part about fighting, to me, is definitely the dedication involved with being excellent, and the repetition off doing these things day-in and day-out. It’s not a hobby. It’s a lifestyle you have to live. It’s an everyday thing. I have to go into the gym and get punched in my face every day. And get choked, or choke somebody, or hit something. It’s very demanding, physically and mentally.

But I have such a passion for this . . . it’s like my mom told me when I was younger. She said “if you find a job that you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” And that’s kinda where I’m at right now. It’s exciting. To me, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

JT: Even if you’re able to do it and make a living at this sport, MMA is still one of those things that’s very much a labor of love.

BL: If you’re getting into MMA for the money, you’re in for a rude awakening. And anybody who tells me “yeah, I wanna get in it to make the money” and that. . . I tell them “what money? What money are you talking about?” Unless you are the minority, which is the guys in the UFC, or the guys who are lucky enough to fight in Japan, you’re not getting paid dick-squat!

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

BL: To be honest with you, I don’t have a favorite fighter. There’s guys that I respect, and each part of their game, I try to model mine after. Guys like Randy Couture, for the fact of all his accomplishments and things he’s done. I think Georges St-Pierre is a great role model for up-and-coming fighters like myself. I try to knee like Anderson Silva, I try to do takedowns like Couture. Just try to model myself off a little piece of each one of them.

JT: What would you say are your best and worst memories in your MMA career?

BL: I would say my best memory would be going out to California, training at Team Quest for two weeks, and fighting and winning at San Manuel Casino. I’d never been to California before, and for me, to cross the whole country to go fight – it was my pro debut, so it was big for me.

My worst memory – I fought in an amateur show, down here in Michigan, in a tournament. I got to the finals of a tournament, and I fought this named Eddie Sanchez. Not the one from the UFC, but another one. Within 40 seconds, I dropped him with a head kick, and I started bouncing his head off the mat with right hands. One of the guys on the outside of the cage blew the horn, meaning the fight’s over. I pull off him, hop on top of the cage, and I’m the new middleweight champ for such-and-such organization. Well, I guess the referee is not the one who stopped the fight. He said he was the only one who could stop the fight. They restart the fight after I clearly booted this guy in the head.

I continued to kick this guy’s ass. I mean I beat his ass hard. For two solid rounds. The third round, I come out; man, I’m gassed. It wasn’t even a physical – I mean emotionally. The emotions that are involved in a fight are crazy. The highs, the lows, the nervousness, the excitement. So there were a lot of chemicals being released in my body. It was crazy. I’ve been exhausted physically through training. It was a feeling I’d never felt before. And I ended up getting choked unconscious.

I did a little bit of research on this guy the next day. Turns out he’s been a professional for like 10 years. He’s fought Dave Menne and all kinds of guys.

JT: And they allowed him onto an amateur show?

BL: This was this promoter’s first show. He didn’t do proper background checks on people. I don’t know why Eddie did that. . . I was supposed to fight him in the last King of the Cage, but he dropped out of the fight. And this was my fifth amateur fight. Fighting a guy who’d been a pro for like 10 years. And I still kicked his ass.

That was my worst experience, but at the same time, I learned so much from the whole thing. It was the worst physical feeling ever; waking up, puking, your face is in shambles. It was a bad feeling that night, but in life, I think it made me a lot better of a fighter; I learned so much from it.

JT: A lot of fighters take pride in embracing the bad experiences. They follow the credo of “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

BL: And I really believe that, too.

JT: What’s your downtime like? What do you do to take a mental break from training?

BL: I’ve got a girlfriend that I hang out with all the time. She’s very supportive of the whole thing. I spend a lot of time with her. It’s my life, so my downtime – even if I’m not training for a fight, I’m still at the gym and teaching my class . . .

JT: Let me rephrase it: what does your girlfriend make you do, when you’re away from the gym?

BL: She makes me work on having sex with her constantly. I don’t know if that’s downtime or if you want to call that “uptime”. . . .

JT: It’s a good time, for sure.

BL: For sure. But we go to the movies, hang out or whatever. When it’s nice out, I like to go out to the park and do a lot of outdoor activities. Or go out on the lake and go fishing, or go out on the boat. I like doing all of that.

JT: Talk a little bit about your sponsors. Who are some of the guys that support you, and why should the fans know about them?

BL: Booyaa is really my only sponsor. They hook me up with gear, and put me in all the programs, and they give me great exposure. All those guys – Romero, the Godfather . . . We all hang out and have a good time at all the fights.

The problem is that around here, professional MMA is unregulated. So what kind of exposure can I get these companies? So I see where they’re coming from too.

JT: With Michigan being unregulated, it’s bad all around. You’ve got promoters, fighters, and managers who get away with bending the rules. And subsequently, you can’t draw real sponsors because you don’t have real promotions working up there.

BL: Any kind of sponsorship or any kind of promise that’s . . . talk is cheap. I’ve heard a lot of shit from a lot of people, but nothing’s ever come through. People have made me a lot of promises, but haven’t come through.

JT: What are some of your goals, within fighting and outside of fighting?

BL: My goal in life is to live my life how I want to live it, and not be dictated from other people how to live it. To be able to make my own agenda. I wake up when I want to wake up. I set my own schedule. To be able to set my own schedule and have to clock in and answer to some dickhead supervisor. I would probably want to kick their ass after a year anyways. Just to live my life how I want to live it.

As far as fighting goes, if I can make a life out of being a professional athlete, and I’m not even just talking about the money – the perks of being a professional athlete – being in great shape throughout life, and setting my own schedule. That’s my biggest goal.

I want to fight in Japan. I’m gonna fight in the UFC one day. I truly believe in all those things, but my goal on top of all that is to be able to make a decent living and live my life how I want to live it.

Ben Lagman fights Uber Gallegos at King of the Cage: Hurricane, on February 21st, at the War Memorial Auditorium in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.