Photo courtesy of Esther Lin
When a fighter says they’ll leave it all in the cage, it’s so cliché that it barely merits attention. But when Conor Heun says it, he is stating a fact. Less than 2 minutes into his fight with Marlon Matias, Heun suffered a broken jaw via a knee to face. In his most recent bout, the 10th Planet jujitsu brown belt, had his elbow completely dislocated. Conor not only fought through the pain, he triumphed in spite of it, winning both bouts by unanimous decision. With less than a week before he gets back into the cage to face Ryan Couture, “Hurricane” checked in with TapOut Radio to render his thoughts going into this fight.
Strengths and weaknesses
“Ryan and I both come from a wrestling background. I wrestled in college, I don’t think he did. From what I’ve seen in his game, he likes to clinch, he tries to take the back, he likes to slip under punches with the duck under and get to the back standing and take the fight to the ground. As for striking, he seems to be real smart, staying on the outside and using his foot work, his jab. He doesn’t seem to usually get dragged into slugfests. He’s definitely a tough kid. He’s well rounded and of obviously, he’s been working hard. I’d imagine with his last name, he’s got trainers lining up to work with him. I’m sure he makes huge improvements from fight to fight. It should be an interesting time next Saturday night.”
The importance of this fight
“I don’t think that really matters to him. It’s not like he’s coming off two losses in a row like I was my last fight. Coming off of two losses in a row, you better win. Maybe not if your last name is Couture, but if your last name is Heun, I think they send you home and give you your walking papers if you pick up three in a row.”
Fighting is not a sport
“I get really upset and emotional about fighting. When I started out fighting, it wasn’t in front of fans, and it wasn’t for money. I was fighting because some kid was trying to punk me, trying to marginalize me, trying to make fun of me. I’ve been blessed with the physical attributes and mental toughness to compete in this game, or I should say in this sport, at the highest level, because that’s really what it is. A fight’s not over till I say it’s over. A fight doesn’t have judges. A fight has a winner and a loser, and the winner is the one who walks away with his pride intact. The loser is the guy lying broken on the concrete when the cops show up. I know that Ryan likes to play the game and likes to compete, but I know the sport doesn’t mean to him what it means to me. I’m going to try to drag him into a fight, and the fact that there’s people watching it and judges scoring it, that’s great. It’s awesome that I get a check instead of a ticket or a jail sentence afterwards. I’m going to go out there and try to kill him, try to put him to sleep and try to smash him. When he steps in front of me he’s disrespecting me. I’ve been training to break other men’s souls, spirits and bodies since I was five years old, and I’m not about to stop yet.”
Commercialism of MMA
“Fighting, to me, is an art. Whenever art becomes popular, people try to profit from it. There’s a business, and the business is all fun and games, and I’m grateful to be a part of it. But when I fight, I’m not thinking about judges, I’m not thinking about anything. I’m just trying to flow, and show where I’m at in my evolution. The money behind it all, the judges, to me, take away from it. I’d be happy to fight Ryan in an alley with nobody watching, no time limit, no refs, nobody to pull me off of him when he’s unconscious.”
“I think women’s MMA needs a push. This is a great fight. Both of those girls are extremely talented. There’s a U.S. Olympic medalist fighting. I think that’s phenomenal and they deserve all the press they can get.”
“I don’t really cut weight anymore. I eliminated all artificial flavors, preservatives and colors from my diet just before the KJ Noons fight. Since then, the weight has just fallen off. I walk around at about 4% body fat and 162 lbs. I wake up on the morning of the fight and put on my plastics and do an hour of yoga and I’ll be on weight.”
Worries About Health
“I don’t worry about that, perhaps I should. I’ve got a mom, a girlfriend, dad and a sh*tload of loved ones that worry about that enough for everybody. I worry about winning, putting food on the table, inflicting more damage on my opponent than he inflicts on me. Ryan Couture has never knocked anybody out and he’s not going to knock me out. A tough chin isn’t a muscle you can develop; your chin is your will. You refuse to go down.”
With a ‘go for broke’ attitude, and the talent to back it up, it’s no wonder that Conor is such a huge crowd favorite. Heun faces off against Ryan Couture this Saturday, March 3, in what is certain to be a fight for the ages. You can catch his fight on Showtime Extreme.
Follow Conor via his Twitter @ConorHeun
Listen to the audio from this interview at TapouT Radio
Conor Heun is the closest thing MMA has to a Shaman, a master of the elements, finely in tune with the earth and the energies of the world around him. I've come to grips with that, and I hope you can too, because you're going to have to by the time you finish this interview. Rather than stand atop a mountain in Colorado guiding wary souls gently back onto their lost paths, Conor Heun is channeling his energies into fighting for now, and the next opponent he plans on sharing the cage experience with is Ryan Couture, which will be going down at Tate Vs. Rousey.
We discussed his upcoming opponent, Conor's training regimen and his methods for righting one's internal path via the use of hallucinogens in this interview conducted by Elena Lopez.
One of the best experiences I’ve had was on psilocybin following my loss to Jorge Gurgel. I had blown out my knee a week before the fight and had really gotten beat up in the fight trying to stand with him because I couldn’t shoot off my right leg. I was really down on myself and was questioning if the sport was something I wanted to continue to be involved with. I was out in the middle of the desert and I was meditating and the clouds just sort of convened above me and I looked up to the sky and just sort of felt a sense of being embraced by the universe and wrapped up in this blanket of unconditional love. I saw myself fighting Jorge on TV and then the perspective shifted and pulled back and I saw that what I was doing in the fight was so small and tiny in the overall universal perspective. I saw that what I was doing was tiny and insignificant but I also saw that it was just one tiny moment but that it was part of a much greater cosmic battle of positive vs. negative forces in the world. I saw that by fighting with all my heart I enable people to do whatever it is that they do with all of their hearts. I saw that the outcome of the fight was insignificant, what was important was that I gave everything I had to my purpose and that I did it with love and integrity. I saw how if everyone approached everything in this manner that the positivity in the world would overcome the darkness. I cried and cried because I felt so thankful for being able to be apart of the battle in the big picture, a battle for love and compassion for our fellow man.
A long-time staple at Legends MMA and 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu in Los Angeles, the 32-year old recently packed up shop and headed to New Mexico where he now resides as part of Greg Jackson’s camp in Albuquerque. Location is only one of the changes for Heun has undergone since nearly outpointing Noons last June, and, as he shared with Five Ounces of Pain, a big part in why people who watch his fight should expect to see an upgraded “Hurricane” hit the ring on Saturday night.
“They’re not gonna recognize me,” Heun said of MMA fans. “I’ve got a whole new set of skills, a whole new gameplan, (and) new coaches. Everything should be different, right?”
“I’ve definitely made a lot of changes,” he elaborated on the subject of his new surroundings and skills. “I left Legends MMA in California and 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu and moved out to the TapouT Ranch in Edgewood, New Mexico where Leonard Garcia and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone train. I train with those guys at Jackson’s. I wake up. I go running, I come back and do my yoga, then drive down to Jackson’s in Albuquerque and spar with the guys. Drive back in the afternoon, usually get a grappling workout or pad workout in come evening. And that’s really all that there is. There’s no going out, there’s no bars, there’s no girls. There’s nothing but fighters trying to be the best they can be.”
Working alongside the likes of UFC veterans close to his weight like Cerrone and Garcia was a core component of Heun’s decision to move East, explaining, “I just didn’t have the quality of sparring partners like I needed (in L.A.) – there was only one other pro in the gym at the time and that was Matt Horwich. Legends MMA has great guys but they’re all amateurs. In fact a lot of them are looking to make their pro debut in July for Shark Fights.”
Other bonuses to his new home include the ability to increase his fitness based on altitude, an aspect of his arsenal also assisted by the inclusion of his brother Aaron Heun who also happens to be a professional cyclist.
“He always thought my cardio was my strong suit but after seeing my fight with Noons he sorta asked me what happened where I gassed. He’d never seen that before,” Heun said of his younger sibling. “He’s really a genius when it comes to the science of cardio and physical performance. He’s just a real bright kid.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in better shape than I am right now,” he continued. “I’ve never sparred with the caliber of guys I’m working with every day. I’m getting the baddest men on the planet every single day in the gym.”
The only downside to training at Jackson’s MMA? “It takes a little bit of toll on my confidence so I’m not as quite as confident as I normally am going in to the fight,” Heun joked of his improved training partners.
The fight Heun is of course referencing is tomorrow evening’s preliminary pairing against Magno Almeida, a 9-1-1 BJJ blackbelt who has won his last five fights. Heun spoke candidly about his mindset in reference to Almeida saying he didn’t expect to tap out no matter the situation and had no real concerns about the Brazilian’s striking.
“I know he likes Kimuras and Keylocks and Armbars, but I’ve been wrestling since I was five years old…I’ve been doing Jiu-Jitsu with Eddie Bravo since 2006. I feel pretty comfortable (on the ground) but he’s got eight submissions in nine victories so he’s a submission machine.”
“He’s certainly not going to finish me with an Armbar,” said Heun. “I mean he can take it off and mail it to me COD if he wants. I’m not tapping to an Armbar, that’s for damn sure!”
“If he wants to finish the fight with me he better knock me out and a lot of the best guys in the world have tried. Noons is considered to be one of the top strikers in MMA, definitely at lightweight, and he couldn’t knock me out. According to Compustrike numbers I hit him more times than he hit me. My chin’s been tested. People say it’s granite but its titanium. I got a titanium plate in it when I fought Marlon Matias. He broke my jaw with a knee a minute and a half into the first round. If I’m not going to drop when you break my jaw I’m certainly not getting knocked out by a kid with no knockouts.”
Heun’s focus on victory is as clear as the desire to compete after only fighting twice in the past two years due to injury and contractual issues, both matters since taken care of.
“I’m willing to take this fight wherever it goes but I want to beat this kid up, I want to hurt him,” Heun passionately stated. “I want a knockout standing. I only have one TKO and I’ve been working on my striking. I flew back to LA and worked with my boxing coach, Frankie Liles. I’ve been working with all the great coaches out here in New Mexico. I mean I’ve got a lot of pent up aggression fighting once a year. That doesn’t sit well with me. I’m ready to let it all hang out.”
“I got my contact re-signed by Zuffa after the purchase and obviously it wasn’t for winning fights – it’s for the way that I fight,” Heun continued. “I go out and I try to finish. I march forward throwing bombs. And that’s what everybody’s gonna see this time except I’m not going to get tired so I’ll be throwing just any many bombs, just as hard, in the third round as I’m throwing in the first round if he makes it that long. If he wants to take it to the ground and manages to get me there, good luck…I’m pretty deep down there too. I just want to put on a show, show my heart – my improved cardio and my improved striking – and I’m force in this weight-class. I’m 32 years old, I’m getting up there…but I want the belt.”
“I’m here to let people know I’m the real deal. I’m no pushover. Anyone who fights me wakes up the next day and knows they’ve been in a fight, but that’s not enough…I need to get my hand raised. No one else is doing it for me so I’m looking for a knockout, a TKO, a submission. I’m marching forward and there’s no way I’m getting tired. I’d be really impressed to see me anybody match me cardio-vascularly and match my heart. I don’t think I can be knocked out. I know that sounds cocky but I’ve taken some shots and I don’t go down. I sure as hell am not tapping to an Armbar. Edson Berto had my arm and popped it but in a fight you gotta do something better than that. You’ve got to turn off the switch and stop the flow of blood to my brain. If you can put me to sleep, more power to you.”
Stopping Heun is something no fighter has done yet, a fact not lost on the fiery Californian with three Split Decisions in four total losses. “I would like to leave a fight feeling like, ‘Okay, that guy was better.’ I’ve never felt that, like I’ve lost a fight. I’ve only been a little behind on the cards when the time ran out.”
A number of other notable lightweights like Noons, Justin Wilcox, Jorge Masvidal, and J.Z. Cavalcante will also see action this weekend. All of those match-ups intrigue Heun including Noons who he feels he defeated regardless of the judges’ rendering in their 2010 throwdown.
“Noons is fighting Masvidal for the #1 contender’s spot and I feel like I beat him. He cut me up and I understand damage plays a huge part but I had a near submission in the first round,” Heun explained. “ If I’d been a little more in tune with what was going on I might have capitalized on that. There were no elbows on the ground and I think I may have finished them if there were. I’ve never lost a fight where elbows were allowed. I’m coming in here in the best shape I’ve ever been in to do damage.”
However, Heun stopped short of calling the hard-hitting Hawaiian out.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for Noons. I talked to him in Vegas at the Zuffa Fighter Summit, and if he gets through Masvidal and beats Gilbert Melendez – a pretty steep hill to climb – and he’s holding the belt then I’ve got my eye on him. But I really just have my eyes on whoever is in front of me.”
In closing Heun mentioned fans can check him out on Twitter and also made sure to stay true to his roots by showing love to a few sponsors who won’t be able to advertise on his gear at “Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum” due to policy regarding certain types of support.
“I’d like to thank the sponsors that have been with me forever – Melee Fight Gear, On the Mat, and Bite Defense. Those guys started out with me and I don’t think they’re able to do anything for this fight due to the Zuffa sponsorship thing. Basically a week ago we found out a week ago all nutrition or apparel sponsors have to pay $10,000 per fighter or $100,000 per year. It really sucks I’m not able to help those people who helped me to get where I am. So Steve from Melee, Scott from On the Mat, and Mike from Bite Defense…those guys have been behind me, helped me out, and I really appreciate that. (Fighters) start out and those guys were sponsoring me when they weren’t getting anything for it. They’re giving me $500 to watch me fight in front of 500 people and get no return on it. It’s a shame that now I’m fighting on TV that I can’t return the favor and show them some love.”
Heun’s in-ring affair with Almeida can be seen live on HDNet along with the rest of the Strikeforce prelims starting at 8:00 PM EST. Other bouts include Mike Bronzoulis vs. Todd Moore and Wilcox vs. Cavalcante.
After suffering back-to-back losses for the first time in his career, Strikeforce lightweight Conor Heun has taken steps to ensure his return to the promotion this Saturday will go differently.
“I’m not one to keep doing the same thing and expect different results,” Heun told MMAWeekly.com. “I packed up everything and left Hollywood, drove out to New Mexico, and am living on (Donald) ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone’s ranch up in Edgewood and began training at (Greg) Jackson’s with the best fighters in the world.
“I’ve sacrificed just about everything to make this happen. I’m single-minded in pursuit of the goal of being the best. I think when I step in the cage this Saturday night; people are going to see an entirely different fighter.”
Heun also employed the help of his brother Aaron, a professional cyclist, to develop a workout that’s going to allow him to push the pace for a full 15 minutes if need be without gassing out.
“He sort of explained to me the science of lactate threshold and VO2 Max and how to build up your body’s ability to process lactic acid and expand the amount of oxygen you’re able to get to your muscles,” said Heun. “With him sort of at the helm of my cardio; I feel better than I ever have.”
While he’s made changes to his game, do not think that means he’s changed his fight philosophy.
“I lost both my fights with Strikeforce and they re-signed me to a contract, and it’s certainly not because I back up and avoid people,” he said. “I go out there to smash people and prove that I’m better than him.
“When I go out there and the door closes and the bell rings, I’m looking to establish my dominance and show the other guy that he made a mistake in signing that dotted line to face me. I think anybody that’s ever fought me will tell you that win or lose, they were in a war.”
Such is the mentality he’s carrying into his bout with the debuting Magno Almeida on the HDNet televised Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum undercard from Dallas on Saturday night.
“I know he has excellent jiu-jitsu – definitely the best jiu-jitsu of anyone I’ve fought – but to the best of my knowledge, that’s gi-based jiu-jitsu, and I’m not wearing a gi in the cage,” said Heun. “I’m going out there, bite down on my mouthpiece, and throw bombs.
“If Magno isn’t up to speed, it won’t be a war; it will be a real quick night. If he’s training and he’s as bad as they say he is, then it looks like we’re going to war.”
Never one to back down from a challenge, Heun saw his own limitations as such and aggressively eliminated them so he could begin to move up the 155-pound ladder and inspire others.
“Come out to the fight or check it out on HDNet,” he closed out. “Follow me on Twitter @ConorHeun and stay in touch and let me know what you think.
“I’ve never been in a boring fight, and come fight day I’m looking to go out there and shine and inspire people to chase their dreams; the winning and losing come second.”
For Bleacher Report, By Ed Kapp
Known for his exciting fighting style, Conor Heun, who returns to action this weekend, will be looking to put on another highlight-reel performance—as the American lightweight is slated to take on Magno Almeida—a fast-rising Brazilian prospect—on Saturday evening at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum in Dallas.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Conor Heun about, among other topics, his early days in mixed martial arts, his recent move to Greg Jackson’s camp in New Mexico, and what he hopes to achieve in this sport.
Do you remember your first day of wrestling?
My first day of wrestling? No, I don’t. I remember my first match, though...I got pinned without getting my thumb out of my mouth [laughs].
[Laughs] Did that shape the way that you looked at wrestling?
[Laughs] I don’t know, but it shaped the way that I looked at the ceiling from then on. I never really got comfortable sleeping on my back. Training with Eddie Bravo changed all of that, though; now I’m really comfortable training there.
What inspired you to try your hand at mixed martial arts?
After college, I was out in L.A. and I was looking for a way to feed that competitive fire, so I started training jiu-jitsu with Eddie—on the recommendation of my college roommate. He told me about this guy that was doing jiu-jitsu that was a lot like wrestling; mainly because you didn’t have to wear the gi.
I started training with Eddie and he had some fighters that were training with him at the time; namely Jason Chambers and Amir Rahnavardi. Those guys encouraged me. At the time, I had been in a ton of street-fights, but I had never had a fight with a date set and the idea kind of scared me.
I’ve always been one to conquer my fears, so I figured, “What the hell? Why not give it a shot?” Those guys said that they thought that I had what it takes, so I took my first fight and won by rear naked choke and quit my day job shortly thereafter and started training full-time.
How were you feeling going into your first match?
I was really confident. I was a really small kid growing up, but I didn’t back down and I had, sort of, a mouth on me. I’ve been in more than my fair share of street-fights and that was going against big guys, multiple guys—you never knew what was going to happen.
The idea of fighting someone that was my size with a ref in a ring with rules, made me really confident.
What were your intentions when you started training?
What were my intentions? I just started out training jiu-jitsu as a way to stay in shape and blow off some steam and have something fun to do.
It was pretty much just training jiu-jitsu for that first fight—after that, I realized that I had a future in the sport and I wanted to learn as much as I could. It was really just trying to get as good as I could and to see how far I could take it.
Do you think, had you lost your first match, you would’ve continued on in the sport?
Yeah—I would. I lost my second fight, you know? I like competing and I think martial arts is pretty much the purest form of competition; one man vs. the other ‘til somebody says “uncle.” I really enjoy the competition and I enjoy the sacrifice and the dedication and the lifestyle choices that you need to make if you want to be great.
I was super-stoked going into that second fight—just fired up in the locker room—everyone was looking at me like I was nuts and I ended up losing a split-decision to Brett Cooper. I fought him up at 165 and he broke my nose, knocked a tooth out, and knocked me down a few times.
He hit me harder than I had ever been hit before and afterwards, the commissioner—that had seen me all happy before hand—said, “Oh, so you think you still want to do this?” and I was like, “Hell, yeah! That was the most fun I’ve ever had.”
Has this ever wavered in your mind?
No, no. I think it’s either in your blood or it’s not, you know? I like to fight; I like to test myself and establish my dominance.
Nothing for me is better than seeing the look in that other guy’s eyes when, you know, he already knows that it’s over—he hits you with his best shot and you’re there smiling at him and coming forward. I really enjoy that sense of dominance.
When did you realize that this was something that you could excel in?
I don’t know. I never lost a street-fight growing up and I think, once I found out that I could beat people up for a living, [laughs] it was a pretty natural choice.
Do you ever think about where you might be—had you not come across 10th Planet?
I’m sure I would’ve found some other way to compete; whether it be doing grappling tournaments or wrestling tournaments. My dad played rugby for a long time to fuel his desire for competition and, since I discovered jiu-jitsu, he’s discovered the sport, as well.
He’s a Colorado state white belt jiu-jitsu champion in the old man’s division, so competition is in my blood—I would find some way to compete. My little brother is a professional cyclist, so that desire to compete is in my blood.
I really like fighting and I also ran cross country—I enjoy the individual sports where you don’t have anybody to rely on but yourself. I’m sort of a loner; I don’t have a lot of friends—I like to be by myself and push myself.
I only want myself to rely on; if something happens in the cage and I lose, there’s nobody to blame but myself. I like that sense of responsibility.
Do you feel being introverted helps your mixed martial arts career?
Yeah. Fighting is a selfish sport; you need to focus on yourself and do what you need to do to be in the best place that you can be. If you’re easily distracted and you’ve got a whole bunch of people that are taking up your time and your energy, then you’re not focusing as much on the task at hand.
That’s why I moved to the TapOut Ranch in Edgewood, N.M.; there’s nothing out here and the only other guys that are out here at the ranch are the same guys as myself—they like to fight and train and put their nose to the grindstone and see how far it can take us.
Being up here with a bunch of like-minded individuals pushing is great. I think that selfishness and singular focus is definitely an important characteristic in being a champion.
What inspired your move to New Mexico?
Two losses in a row. I think the definition of stupidity is doing the same thing and expecting different results. I lost a decision to [Jorge] Gurgel in 2009 and then I lost a split-decision to [KJ] Noons last June, so I figured that whatever I was doing, wasn’t working—it was time to change it up.
How did you choose New Mexico?
[Greg] Jackson’s camp. The fact that he’s trained more champions in the history of the sport, the level of sparring partners here, the amount of guys in my weight-class; in the gym, you’ve got Cub Swanson, Clay Guida, Joe Stevenson, Diego Sanchez, [Donald Cerrone], Leonard Garcia, and a whole host of guys that you’ve never heard of, but would probably beat the shit out 90 percent of the name-fighters out there.
This is where you come if you want to be a champion and that’s my only goal.
How much of an impact do you think the camp has had on you so far?
I think it’s been pretty phenomenal; I don’t think people are even going to recognize me. My cardio is going to be absolutely unparalleled and I’ve been fighting with the top-contenders in the UFC—the best lightweights in the world—every day. Stepping into the cage with my opponent—he’s obviously an extremely tough guy—but I’m sure he’s no “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Do you regret not making the transition earlier?
No—I don’t really have any regrets; I believe everything happens for a reason. I got a lot out of being in L.A. and I’m just happy to be where I am now.
How are you feeling going into your upcoming match?
I feel great. My little brother saw me gassing in the Noons fight and came to me and offered his expertise—like I said before; he’s a professional cyclist, graduated with an engineering degree.
He’s got me doing new workouts based on my heart rate and maximum output to really dial it in and make sure that I’m getting the most of my time.
Anything can happen in a fight; you can get caught in a submission or something like that, but the only thing that you can control going into a fight is how big your gas-tank is and I guarantee that I’ve got the biggest tank that I’ve ever fought with before. It’s going to be really exciting for the fans.
Do you think—in light of the changes that you’ve been making recently—that those two straight losses could have a positive effect on your career?
Yeah; anything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. That was a rough period in my career—I haven’t had a win since October 2008—and that weighs heavily on me, but I believe that I’ve done everything in my power to rectify the situation. I’m really looking forward to showing my improvements on Saturday.
Do you try to predict the outcome of your matches?
I predict I’m going to win [laughs]. I predict that you’re going to see a war. I’ve lost my last two bouts, but Strikeforce renewed my contract—obviously not for my record or because I’m winning—but for how I fight. I predict the fans are going to love it; it’s going to be a scrap.
I think that’s what people want to see. If people have never seen a Conor Heun fight, be sure to watch, because if you like guys going out there to finish, that’s what I do. I’m free to take any risk at any time to win the fight and I don’t hold back; I don’t believe in winning by points.
I’ve gone to decisions, but you’ll notice that I was always taking risks, trying to finish. Some people say that I fight recklessly—giving up positions to attack submissions—but that’s not going to change. I am the fighter that I am and that’s a fighter that wants to go out and dominate.
When someone signs on the dotted line across from me, they’re saying that they’re better than me and that’s disrespect to me; I feel like they’re disrespecting me, my training camp, and my father—who’s trained me since I was five years old. So, when someone signs on the dotted line across from me, my sole intention is to punish them for that decision.
Have you always had this outlook?
I remember being a little kid and having dreams of standing over the broken bodies of my opponents, you know, I wanted to be the champion.
I wanted to be a high-school state wrestling champion and I fell short—I lost by a point in the state finals—and that hurt. I had been training for that forever and I’ve just never given up on that goal of standing on the top of the heap.
Is it more important for you to win or to put on a good show?
I think my fight-style is entertaining, but I don’t go out there thinking, “Oh, I’m going to put on a good show.” To me, what is most important, is finishing people; making them tap, knocking them out—letting them know that I’m the best.
What would a win this weekend mean to you?
It means an extra $4,000 in my pocket and, hopefully, a step closer to fighting for that belt. That’s the goal; standing on top of that heap.
What do you feel is the next step in your career?
Whoever they put in front of me. There are a lot of great guys in Strikeforce, and I just want them to keep putting them in front of me. I want to stay healthy and fight a lot.
In 2007, I fought seven times—that was a great year—and I want another year like that; where I’m able to fight and to continue to show people what I’m capable of and Saturday is the next step.
Being in a cage is when I’m the freest, it’s when I’m the happiest, it’s when nothing else matters—there are no worries or outside thoughts—just being in the zone and living in the moment; being present.
I’m never more present than when I’m in the cage and that’s something that I work with daily; I meditate for an hour a day and I do an hour of yoga every day—all of these things to help me live in the moment—but never is that moment as intense and profound as it is when that door closes behind me in that cage.
Is there anything that you can compare it to?
Have you thought about how much longer you’d like to compete?
Until they strap that belt around me [laughs]. Then I’ll start thinking about something else—maybe—but I’m pretty singular in my focus; I’ve dedicated everything to this and I’ve lost lots of things in pursuit of this sport.
I want to stand on the top of the heap; I want that belt [laughs]. I want to be remembered; I want my name to live on. I want my kids to say, “One time, my daddy was the champ.”
What would that championship belt mean to you?
Just that; immortality.
How would you like to be remembered when it’s all said and done?
As somebody who never backed down; someone that never gave up and always gave it their all—that’s the most important thing to me.
I’ve coached wrestling, and I don’t care if the kid wins or loses—as long as he gave it his all—and I just want everybody that ever saw me fight to think, “Man, that kid’s got a ton of heart. He always gave it his all and he never held back—100 percent.” That’s all you can really ask for; to give the maximum effort.
5 favorite fighters to watch Why?
Wanderlie Silva, Anderson Silva, Fedor, Shinya Aoki, Uriah Faber
Favorite products that you use (food, supplements, equipment, clothing, etc.)
Favorite songs to train to:
House music and anything by Eminem
Most common training mistakes you see:
Stopping 'cause it hurts
Most common mistakes you see with people during a fight:
Stopping 'cause it hurts
Favorite technique combinations:
Short sonic boom to suplex
Most important drills or exercises:
Most important things to remember during the fight when you're WINNNG:
Hands up, chin down, and keep working
Most important things to DO during the fight when you're LOSING:
Keep your hands up, your chin down and work harder.
What are ways to mentally prepare prior to your match?
Get warm, stretch, and imagine having the most fun you've ever had. I ride through my favorite snowboard trail in my head until I can visualize landing every trick and making every turn perfectly. This helps me focus and relax without the stress of thinking about the fight.