Archive for MASH Fight Team

Legere claims KOTC gold; Joker, Kryptonite retain at “Distorted”

Posted in King of the Cage, Live Event Reports with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 2, 2009 by jaytan716

With three high-profile, incredibly competitive title matches and several exciting finishes in the undercard matches, “KOTC: Distorted” proved to be very much on point.

The event, which took place at the San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, also featured an all-star “Bully Beatdown” cast of fighters from the first and second season, such as Rick Legere, Ben Lagman, Quinn Mulhern, Nick Gaston, and KOTC double champion Tony “Kryptonite” Lopez, whose episode, ironically enough, premiered that very same night.

“The title fights – the main event, were exactly what we wanted.  Exactly what we expected.  Both rematches, for the title fight – one got to redeem himself. . . Rick Legere came out victorious.  It was a great night of fights,” beamed matchmaker Shingo Kashiwagi.

“Especially here at San Manuel Casino, we like to make it a big show, so we do real big main events.  Big names. . . And then we try to stick with the younger, up-and-coming guys.  It’s good exposure for the hungry guys who have wanted to fight for us,” he explained.

Equally as noteworthy was the return of Mike “The Joker” Guymon, in his first title defense since his highly-publicized suicide attempt almost two months back.  Joker, who defended against fast-rising Jiu-Jitsu star Quinn Mulhern, was hospitalized for observation in August after an incident in which the reigning champion tried to coax police officers into shooting him.

“I’m really proud of that fight, moreso than any of the other ones that I’ve done.  Just because of all the adversities that I went through.  Seven weeks prior to that. . . I wanted to end everything.  The world was too hard for me, and I was too stressed out.  And it made [me] mentally tougher.  All the therapy and all the stuff I’ve gone through . . .” Joker reflected.

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

Heavyweight (265 lbs.) – Mike “Rhino” Bourke (Mollenkramer Fight Academy / C-Quence Jiu-Jitsu) vs. Liron “The Icon” Wilson (Millennia)

Despite towering height difference in Wilson’s favor, Bourke outweighed his opponent by 36 pounds.  This was Bourke’s first KOTC appearance since May 2008, a Super Heavyweight title fight against Chance “King of the Streets” Williams, which itself ended in a no contest after Bourke could not continue after taking strikes to the back of the head.

Wilson threw jabs and an array of kicks, while Bourke, feeling his opponent out, did not engage for the first 30 seconds.  Bourke finally tied up, but fell to the ground, pulling Wilson into half guard.  Wilson threw some body shots and worked a keylock.  Bourke was initially composed, but finally tapped out at 2:12 of the first round.

Middleweight (185 lbs.) – Uber “Bulletproof” Gallegos (Training Zone) vs. Ben “Bad News” Lagman (MASH Fight Team / Martial Arts Unlimited)

Both men actively engaged from the get-go.  Gallegos shot for a single, but left his head hanging.  Lagman was quick to sink in a guillotine choke, bringing it to the ground.  Seconds later, Gallegos tapped out, giving Lagman the win at 0:28 of the first round.

Even Lagman was surprised at his brief work shift, noting “I was in condition to go the whole time.  I thought it was gonna go a lot longer.  [Uber’s] fights usually go for awhile. . . He gave me the neck, so I took it.”

The night featured several Detroit imports representing Team MASH, including teammate Brandon Hunt.  On being the outsider, Lagman commented “we get excited to come out here and get these opportunities.  There’s no show in Michigan like this.  Terry’s cool enough to fly us out across the damn country to come . . . we come out here, we come to fight.”

Middleweight (185 lbs.) – Brandon Hunt (MASH Fight Team) vs. Joe Crilly (United Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu)

Crilly brought Lake Elsinore out with him, as he received one of the bigger crowd pops of the night.  Flying in from Detroit, MI, Hunt was the outsider, and as a former KOTC middleweight champion, he was working on climbing back up the ladder to a title shot.  The winner of this match would become the new #1 contender for Brad Burrick’s KOTC middleweight championship.

Crilly & Hunt clearly came to drop bombs, as both men fired hard jabs early.  Crilly attacked with a flurry which Hunt muted by clinching him against the cage and changing levels for a double-leg takedown that Crilly shoved off with confidence.  At one point, Crilly had Hunt on all fours and was looking for the KO shot, but couldn’t draw a bead on it before Hunt rolled away and escaped.  Once on his feet, Hunt dropped Crilly with a stiff headshot, but Crilly was able to recover.  Hunt circled the cage, as Crilly patiently followed, throwing combos to Hunt’s head.  Crilly looked in control and landed more, but Hunt likely scored with that knockdown.

Crilly continued to stalk Hunt in round two, coming in straight with combos to the head.  It went to the ground, where Crilly proceeded to pound on Hunt’s head, but failed to capitalize on being in control.  Hunt pushed in with a flurry, but to no avail.  As Crilly pushed straight in with headshots, Hunt clichéd up and tried to drop levels for a takedown, but Crilly caught him.  As they broke apart, Hunt tagged Crilly with a sharp combo to the head.  Hunt threw a high kick as the round ended.  Crilly had Hunt on the ground briefly, but Hunt looked better in the ensuing aftermath.

Early in the third round, Crilly walked into a jab and went down.  To his credit, he rallied to stay in the game, escaping to his feet and bouncing off the cage, but Hunt caught him again with a jab and right straight, the latter of which dropped Crilly for good.  Hunt kept going until referee Herb Dean pulled him away.  Hunt was awarded the KO victory at 0:24 of the third round.

Crilly’s reputation as a balls-to-the-wall juggernaut brawler, did not escape Hunt, who said “I was aware of it. . . I let him get off first a little bit, but I knew that if I just stayed there like that all night, he was gonna win.  Just had to use my speed and my power and my angles and just defeat him.  But I did know about the reputation.”

After the event, matchmaker Kashiwagi noted how strong both men fought, saying “he looked like the best ever.  Joe came in there, he showed some tremendous heart.  He was never gonna back down until he gets knocked out.  That’s his fighting style, and I respect the heck out of him.”

Hunt will next challenge fellow statesman Brad Burrick for his KOTC middleweight title.

Heavyweight (265 lbs.) – Nick “Afrozilla” Gaston (8 + 8 Striking Systems) vs. Boban Simic (Flo MMA.com)

Gaston vs. Simic was a battle of young out-of-towners, as Gaston comes from Columbus, OH, while Simic is a former heavyweight champion in the Chicago-based XFO.  It’s also the scrap of the scalps, as Gaston (aka “Gorillas in the Mist”) sports an afro that would make Angela Davis jealous.  Simic is tied up in cornrows that would make Allan Iverson jealous.

Like the Bourke-Wilson fight, the extreme size and shape difference was the story to this match.  Gaston, who is 6’4”, towered over the 5’10” Simic.  That said, Simic kept the pressure on Gaston throughout the match.  Gaston opened with a left kick before they clinched up and jockeyed against the cage for position.  Gaston fired a few Muay Thai knees, which, given the size difference between them, risked landing in the groin, which would have caused a foul against him.  They traded leather furiously, and Gaston kept using the knees, but Simic no-sold any damage they might have done.  As the round ended, Gaston attempted a hip toss, but Simic kept his balance and let Gaston hit the ground first before falling into top position.

Simic set round two off by charging from afar twice; the second time, Gaston dropped him with a front kick, and followed up with a flying knee.  Gaston trapped Simic with a modified overhook whizzer clinch and was able to fire off some lefts before Simic muted the shots with a clinch.  Gaston slipped in an elbow, which may have cut Simic open.

Simic was swinging more wildly in the third round, Gaston caught him and spun him into the cage the first time, but upon second attack, Gaston tagged him with the flying knee.  None of this stopped Simic from continuing the assault.  Gaston’s bread and butter was the whizzer, but he didn’t pound much with the free hand.  Gaston landed another vocal front kick and low kick before the match ended.

Judges awarded Gaston the win by unanimous decision with scores of 30-27

In his post-fight interview, Gaston commended Simic, who he knew was going to be no easy test: “He took the fight on two weeks’ notice.  He’s a bad motherfucker, man.  He got my eye swollen up a little bit. . . If you watch the fight, the first round, I almost had him gone. . . I was like ‘ooo, I’ma knock him out.’  He’s so fuckin’ tough, I couldn’t take him out.  Every round, I was hittin’ him, hittin’ him.  Elbows, knees.  And he wouldn’t drop,” said the self-proclaimed “Big Floppy Donkey Dick.”

KOTC Junior Welterweight (160 lbs.) Championship – Waachiim “The Native Warrior” Spiritwolf (Spiritwolf MMA) vs. Rick “The I.E. Bad Boy” Legere (Team Wildman)

This was a rematch from their December 2008 meeting, when Spiritwolf KO’ed Legere early in the second round, ending the I.E. Bad Boy’s unblemished six–fight win streak.  With Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela recently deciding to drop down to 145 lbs., Legere and Spiritwolf were the perfect match to fill the championship slot.   Spiritwolf is a WFC and Cage of Fire welterweight champion.

Legere took the center of the ring while Spiritwolf circled the perimeter, landing a hard low kick.  Legere looked like he might have been playing mind games, as he unconventionally threw no more than three or four jabs in the air in the first 30 seconds, when the fans started to get rowdy.  Spiritwolf charged in with a jab, but Legere deftly tripped him up, sending Spiritwolf sliding to the ground across the cage.  Back to circling again, fans were really starting to get restless here.  Finally, Spiritwolf charged Legere, who fell to the ground, but trapped a leg and worked to set up a heel hook.  Eventually, he took Spiritwolf’s back standing, but couldn’t capitalize before breaking apart.  Both men looked to be loading up, but neither pulled the trigger on their strikes.  Spiritwolf tried shooting in again from afar, but Legere sidestepped him with matador-like grace, and then clinched Spiritwolf up against the cage for a few body shots before the round ended.

Round two saw a bit more engaging.  Legere took Spiritwolf to the ground and pounded on him, blocking his escape attempts with a full-nelson, of all things.  He worked for a rear naked choke from the back, but it was continued ground-and-pound that caused referee Herb Dean to stop the match at 2:25 of the second round.

Rick Legere wins by TKO at 2:25 of R2, making him the new KOTC Junior Welterweight champion.

KOTC Welterweight (170 lbs.) Championship – Quinn Mulhern (Santa Fe BJJ) vs. Mike “The Joker” Guymon (Joker’s Wild Fighting Academy)

This was Guymon’s second title defense after capturing the belt from Anthony “The Recipe” Lapsley in December of 2008.  Mulhern was coming off a first round submission upset over MMA pioneer and Jiu-Jitsu black belt Chris “The Westside Strangler” Brennan.

The story of this match was Joker’s superior wrestling as the advantage in keeping top position, while Mulhern used everything in his jiu-jitsu arsenal to escape, transition, or catch the champ in a compromising position.  However, Joker kept the pressure on Mulhern with body shots, hooks, and elbows from above.  Within seconds of the round one bell, Mulhern shot in for a single-leg, clinching Joker against the cage. But Joker switched positions and tripped Mulhern to the ground, where most of the match took place.  Mulhern did get to his feet, but Joker swept the leg and took it to the ground again just as the round ended.  Mulhern tried to keep it standing in the second, circling on the outside and throwing combos to the face, but Joker pushed in, clinched, and returned the fight to the ground.  Round three’s intro saw the two trade headshots before Mulhern threw several kicks to set up for a double-leg takedown attempt.  Joker stuffed the shot and spun around to get back control, but Mulhern rolled through to end up with joker in his guard.  Mulhern went for an armbar, but to no avail, and then was on his feet again before Joker took him down again.  Early in the fourth round, Joker caught Mulhern’s leg off a high kick and threw him to the ground with authority.  Another takedown later, Joker had Mulhern on the ground and continued with hard rights to the body.  Finally, Joker got full mount, then, receiving Mulhern’s back, pounded away until Mulhern tapped out at 4:32 due to strikes.

“I’ve been really open about everything, because my whole life, I’ve been an open book. . . And I just thank everybody that supported me. . . Fighters, friends, family.  Even people that were in my weight class, that are contending, were like ‘hey, man, talk to me.  Here’s my number.’  I’ve been talking to Rick Legere, Spiritwolf.  Just all those guys.  I can’t say enough about everybody in general. . . Jim Amormino and my wife were there.  Those two, if it wasn’t for her and Jim, I wouldn’t be here, man. . . Zach Smith.  He’s a personal friend of mine, and just he hated seeing me go through such a bad thing, and he just wanted to be there for me. . . He’s passionate about his beliefs and his friends and I love him to death.”

“The match itself – I went in and I played my game plan like I wanted to. . . First of all, I didn’t think he was gonna shoot in on me right off the bat.  I thought he was gonna try and stand. . . I was intending to dirty box him up against the fence, and he actually played into my game, where I felt his shot, I got him in clinch, and then I just started wearing him out up against the fence. . .”

Of Joker and Mulhern’s performances, Kashiwagi reflected “Quinn did phenomenal.   Joker was on top throughout the whole fight, but that’s how jiu-jitsu guys are. . . First two rounds, even though Joker was on top the whole time, from my point of view, it was a chess match.  Because a simple mistake. . A little bit of space that Joker gives, Quinn was getting ready.”

“Everything’s all clicking now, and I just can’t believe that I went from seven weeks ago, wanting to not be here anymore, to just absolutely wanting to hug life.  It’s been an interesting ride,” said Joker.  “I just thank everybody that supported me. . . Fighters, friends, family.  Even people that were in my weight class, that are contending, were like ‘hey, man, talk to me.  Here’s my number.’  I’ve been talking to Rick Legere, Spiritwolf. . . Jim Amormino and my wife were there.  Those two, if it wasn’t for her and Jim, I wouldn’t be here, man. . . Zach Smith.  He’s a personal friend of mine, and just he hated seeing me go through such a bad thing. . . He’s passionate about his beliefs and his friends and I love him to death.”

KOTC Heavyweight (265 lbs.) Championship – Joey “The Mexicutioner” Beltran (Alliance MMA) vs. Tony “Kryptonite” Lopez (Team Oyama)

This was the second of two rematches from 2008.  In their previous outing, Lopez successfully defended his heavyweight crown against Beltran with a highlight reel kimura armlock that many thought would end Beltran’s career.  However, the Mexicutioner was back in the cage less than five months later, and rode a five-match win streak into this match, including a regional heavyweight title win in Oklahoma.

Beltran engaged from the onset, and Lopez was quick to mute the attack with overhooks.  They jockeyed for position, with Beltran throwing headshots on occasion.  Lopez remained composed, forcing his own switch and putting Beltran against the cage.  The crowd was surprisingly quiet for this start, aside from the occasional call for action and “fuck him up.”  Beltran dropped Lopez and tried to follow up, but Lopez escaped to his feet.  Beltran caught a leg from one of Lopez’ high kicks, but couldn’t trip him down.  It was here where Lopez started to employ his signature kicks and Muay Thai clinch and knees, which apparently woke the fans up.  Beltran replied with wilder shots to the body and head, and even went forward with a Muay Thai clinch of his own.  Lopez had a bad habit of turning away when breaking apart, which gave Beltran a blinded moment to chase and push him against the fence.  Beltran found his second wind just before the round ended.

Beltran continued with the wild style striking in round two.  They traded clinch positions against the cage, then kicks for headshots, respectively, for several minutes.  Every time Lopez came close to a Muay Thai clinch, Beltran woke up and retaliated with wild headshots.  Lopez was busted open from either the mouth or nose.  Beltran got Lopez to the ground briefly in the third round, but Lopez immediately got up almost as fast.  The battle for position and dirty boxing went on for the rest of the third and fourth round, as both men slipped knees and punches to the legs and body until referee Herb Dean finally broke them apart.  Beltran turned up the pressure with furious lefts and rights on Lopez, who grabbed his left leg and scooped Beltran to the floor.  Lopez got Beltran’s back and sat back for a rear naked choke, but Beltran fought to side control.  After another stand-up, Beltran was noticeably opened over the left eye or side of his cheek.  This round likely went to Lopez for ground punishment.  The final round saw Lopez switch up and try to take Beltran down several times, but the challenger stayed on his feet and circled away from the cage.  Both men were pounding on each other from the collar-and-arm tie-up.  Lopez’ long limbs allowed him to whizzer Beltran, but Beltran got the better of the situation, tagging Lopez in the face several times.  Lopez tried for another takedown, to no avail.  Whenever there was a break in the action, Beltran dug deep and came up with a barrage of shots to the head, to which Lopez would turn away and defend with side and back kicks.

Lopez was awarded the win by unanimous decision (scores unannounced), which the crowd vociferously booed.  It appeared like they saw Beltran as the underdog who gave it his all, and Lopez, as champion, doing enough to win the fight.  Each round was very close, which made the final verdict contestable among fans.

King of the Cage returns to the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino on December 17th, 2009, for its final show of the year.

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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.