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Training: Generally, my days consist of training once in the morning and once again at night, totaling anywhere between 4 to 7 hours depending on the conditioning and skills covered. And, the focus is to just be better anywhere the fight goes. We're both well rounded fighters, and so in training there is a real need to execute perfection everywhere. As I see it, this fight should be completely dictated by my will because I should be the more well rounded and experienced of the two of us.
When and why did you start training for fighting? My training for MMA started in 2004, but my love for fighting and motivation to fight started long before. Since I was a kid, I always loved pro-wrestling, Ninja Turtles, action movies, and things like that. In Jr. High I wrestled, and since my high school did not have a wrestling team, I took up Karate in high school. It was in high school that I learned about MMA and really wanted to train to see how I would do in a real. In college, a friend of mine told me about Dave Strasser’s Freestyle Academy, the only MMA gym in my area back then. Those were the days just before it became really popular. I started there in 2004, eventually fighting on a couple of local MMA shows. I took to the sport very well under the pressure of competition and decided that I wanted to do MMA as my career after I was finished with college.
What ranks and titles have you held? I have never held a title but I am currently the number one ranked lightweight in Wisconsin and recently was made the number one contender in Japan’s legendary Pancrase organization at the 145lbs weight-class.
Do you have any heroes? I don’t have any heroes in the sport anymore, but I highly respect and look up to my coach Dave Strasser, and my Japanese coaches Dokonjonosuke Mishima and Tsuyoshi Iwakura.
What is your favorite technique? Any strike to the liver.
What does it mean for you to fight in the WEC? Fighting at 145lbs, I see the WEC as the pinnacle of the sport. This is the world’s best MMA show and every fighter in my weight class here is a shark; they’re all the best, and everyone is dangerous. I’m just humbled and glad to be here, and I plan on being with the WEC for a very long time. It’s a dream come true.
Did you go to college and if so what degree did you earn? I went to college at Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL and majored in History/Secondary Education. History has been another passion of mine and I always liked the idea of passing on what I have learned to another generation.
What was your job before you started fighting? Before I started fighting, I was simply a college student. Of course I had part time jobs like working at a movie theater, but my most interesting job I had just until recently was working as a substitute teacher for Waukegan’s School District No. 60 in IL for middle school and high school. I did that while I was still fighting because I needed the income and experience just in case fighting never worked out. Also, it’s a very rewarding job for its own reasons.
Most memorable professional fight (who, where, why)? My favorite fight took place last year against Canadian standout Myles Merola at the now defunct Hardcore Championship Fighting. That fight was crazy. I took it on two weeks’ notice, got injured the week of the fight (injured my hip flexor) and went to war for three rounds of madness regardless. It was my first really big show too. Sitting in the locker room and seeing Marco Ruas warming up a student of his and another Pride veteran there was daunting to me. I didn’t think I belonged there. Then I went out and won the first round, lost the second, and dominated the third to win a unanimous 29-27 decision. I just remember that fight had a frantic pace and we went at it hard. I would kick him hard, he would pick me up and slam me and I would go right into a submission attempt, back and forth the whole fight until I finally took control in the third round and dominated the ground. I definitely had points in that fight where I was getting it handed to me, and that was so fun and awesome, to know that I could still come back and win and never gave up. It was the first fight I really knew I belonged on the big show.
What was your most challenging professional fight (against who, when, what was the outcome)? My most challenging professional fight was against Ryan Healy at 155lbs in Arizona‘s EVO MMA promotion last October. The reason I consider this fight so challenging is because I took the fight on three days’ notice and had to work off a lot of mental nerves, and scramble to get my medicals done and do all of those pre fight things that can distract you from your focus. Ryan has fought in the WEC before against Razor Rob and he has fought on others shows against top-level competition. He’s also a great boxer who boxed as an all- American in college, and is a lot bigger in size than I am. Taking that fight on three days notice without training for anything in particular could have been a big mistake, but I believe that sometimes you have to make your own opportunities and my career needed a boost. That fight, I just did what I needed to do, controlling him in the clinch and on the ground and neutralizing his reach when he tried to strike. I went for subs and grinded away to win a hard fought unanimous decision victory. Definitely a highlight in my career.
Who were your training partners for this fight? Training at Dave Strasser's Freestyle Academy in Kenosha WI has been awesome and I've been training extensively with Dave of course, as well as Brian Geraghty, Sergio Gomez and undefeated up and coming striker Laso Savic, who has really helped me tighten things up striking again. Also, I've been to some other gyms in the area to get some time in with fighters and timing I am not familiar with just to keep things fresh. Medina Boxing Club in Waukesha, WI has a talented group of strikers that have really helped me in this regard and I am also planning on visiting the Midwest Training Center since I've been invited by John Hosman, who is also scheduled to be fighting on the same WEC as I am. I hear only good things all around about that gym. Keeping it fresh and new with sparring partners is important in training and I really appreciate these gyms that have been open to helping me along with my main camp at the Freestyle Academy.
Did you put more emphasis towards a fighting style or adjust your training to prepare for your opponent (what did you do differently/why)? Coming off any loss hurts, much less two in a row in the biggest organization for 145lbers in the world, good fights or not. Really looking back and learning from those losses is important to me in winning this next fight, so I'm focusing on me and my own game plan, not my opponent so much. I'm aware of what he will want to do and how he does things, but that should not stop me from imposing my will.
What, other than WINNING, are you using for motivation for the fight? My two losses. Never before and never again will I see two in a row. Also, those close to me are the people I love and fight for. Training as a pro fighter is difficult and I want to make their lives better. I want to make the life and opportunities of my gym and teammates better. We all work hard and focus hard. It’s not just me in the cage but it’s my team who have put countless hours into me, making me a better person and a better fighter. On December 19th, I may be the one fighting but it’s not just my fight, its all of theirs too.
What is your favorite thing about this sport? MMA is such a dynamic sport. I am not sure that anyone can ever stop learning new techniques and approaches to fighting. Also, it is the most complex and challenging sport anyone can do. I love that about it.
How long do you see yourself staying in this sport? I plan on fighting as long as I can physically, and then when I am done fighting, I want to teach others to fight and stay with it in that way.