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GegardMousasi_HeadshotOn Saturday, April 6th, 2013, a ten-year mixed martial arts veteran was supposed to finally get his shot in The Octagon.

 

UFC on FUEL 9’s fight card promises some serious action, and the icing on the cake was to be a light heavyweight match-up between the promotion’s newest prospect, Gegard “The Dreamcatcher” Mousasi, and UFC fan favorite, Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson (15-1). Currently, at press time, the news that Alex cut himself training is spreading like wildfire. There has not been an official announcement from the UFC, but it does not bode well for Gustafsson, nor his eager challenger.

 

Despite these tidings, I want to share with you the story I wrote on Mousasi’s journey, and the thoughts he shared on his opponent. What you read will probably surprise you.

***

The Iran native, who currently fights out of Holland, is often regarded as having a “lazy” training style, despite his impressive 33-3-2 professional record. Many question whether or not he has what it takes to make it in the UFC.

 

Mousasi, 27, makes no excuses for his past, but instead promises the fans they will get what they want: one hell of a fight.  He tells me he has definitive plans for his UFC debut.

 

“I get the chance to make a run for the title, so that’s very motivating for me.  I got now new challenges in biggest organization, so I want to become the champion. I always knew I would end up in UFC, so I had this goal always in my mind.”

 

I ask him his response to those who say his previous training style has been a bit too “laid back.”

 

“I have always trained, but maybe not the right way. I think I train more professional, that’s it.”

 

I tell Gegard I am curious if there are differences between training in Holland and training in the states.

 

“Training is training. I just think training in U.S., you have more fighters and more MMA; they know how to [better] train for a fight, what works or not; but, that said, I don’t think I come short on anything in Holland.”

 

When Mousasi does train in the States, he relies on Gokor’s Hayastan MMA Academy and Glendale Fighting Club; however, he tells me that none of his colleagues from the U.S. have come to Holland to help train for this particular fight.

 

How does Gegard feel about Gustafsson getting all the media attention coming up to this fight? I get an intriguing response.

 

“He deserves it. I don’t have problem whit that. He is fighting much longer in UFC, so it makes sense.”

 

I ask what he believes Gustafsson sees as his “Achilles’ Heel.”

 

“I believe he will try to take me down.”

 

Gegard also tells me that Alexander’s biggest weapon is his ground game, but his opponent might have a tough time getting him there.

 

“It’s MMA, you have to be able to do everything! I [have been working] a lot on my wrestling.”

 

Also in Mousasi’s arsenal is the sharpened skill of boxing. At one time, he was slated to box in the Olympic Games. He admits that this path would have probably proved exceedingly difficult, and is content with his chosen career path.

 

gegard2

At a Strikeforce bout in April 2011, Gegard took another ding to his near perfect record, picking up a majority draw versus Keith Jardine. It was said at the time that Mousasi depended almost solely on his boxing and, despite tagging up his opponent pretty badly, Jardine was able to take him down several times. This factor is what forced the judges’ hands into a draw. I ask if there are any emotions there when he recalls that day.

“That’s a fight that I think I didn’t fight smart. I thought too easy about it and, of course, it was a hard pill to swallow.”

 

We recently saw a former opponent of Gegard’s make a big impression in the world of MMA. At UFC on Fuel in Japan last month, Mark Hunt broke Steven Struve’s jaw and picked up a big victory. Now, he’s up against former heavyweight champ Junior Dos Santos at UFC 160. I asked Gegard, who submitted Hunt via arm bar in the first round at Dream 9, about his experience with “The Super Samoan” in the cage and his expectations of the approaching match-up.

 

“[Mark] is a fighter; he comes to fight and to win. He doesn’t fight to win on points. This fight will be difficult. If JDS keep him on reach with his longer reach…I don’t see [Dos Santos] getting hurt. But [Hunt] has always a ‘punchers chance.’”

 

Speaking of the world of MMA and UFC, is there anything that fires Gegard up a bit?

 

“Nothing. I don’t care about nothing,” he says bluntly. Gegard has clearly been in this business for a long time.

 

To be exact, it has now been 10 years since he first started training professionally. So how does he keep things fresh?

 

“It’s actually getting very boring to do this,” he tells me.  “But knowing it’s just a couple weeks, you just do it.”

 

Judging by his phenomenal record and ability to pinpoint his own weak spots, it certainly appears as if Mousasi might have this wrapped up: in terms of a UFC newcomer, he is the complete package.

 

A package, that is, with no bows, wrapping paper or other frills. UFC fans will just have to wait until his debut to see what’s inside.

 

Photo credits: blog.betdsi.com  ufc.com

 

riddle2I must first confess that I never inhaled.

 

Clinton reference. And you’re shocked, I know. Hell, I didn’t even know how to spell “marijuana” correctly, truth be told. Heading into an interview with Matthew “Deep Waters” Riddle, you kind of know what you are getting yourself into. I read pretty much every feature and every interview he has done post “Ganja Gate” (Matt was fired from the UFC after testing positive for the substance a second time in seven months) and it occurred to me that I was very much uneducated on the subject of marijuana use.

 

It might surprise you to know that not only did Matthew and I speak at length regarding this debacle, but he also took the time to explain to a true weed cynic (me) why he uses, and rationalizes how it should never be considered a PED.

 

Last week, Matthew signed with Legacy Fighting Championships. This exciting development has created quite the buzz around the Houston MMA scene. (Many are anxious to see him take on current Legacy FC Welterweight Champion, Jeff Rexroad). I wanted to get a feel for how much Riddle knew about the promotion, as well as his feelings regarding his departure from the UFC.

 

“It’s not that I don’t like fighting in front of thousands of people, but at the same time it’s nice to go to the smaller shows and still fight good talent. My buddy, [Legacy fighter and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt] Robert Drysdale had nothing but good things to say about [the promotion]. It’s like the UFC of Texas.”

 

Riddle started training at Drysdale BJJ [Las Vegas, Nevada] in July 2012, just seven days prior to his UFC fight versus Chris Clements. That night, Matthew won Submission of The Night for his performance (although it was later overturned by the Commission after he failed his drug test). Despite his recent setback, Riddle attributes a lot of his growth in the sport to working with both Drysdale and striking coach, James McSweeney.

 

“I’ve never really had a real camp. All that stuff turns sour…it was always hit or miss and a lot of people would flake out on me. It’s Vegas,” he explains. “I can count on both those guys always helping me out. I’ve never had that in my career.”

 

MMA: UFC 149-Clements vs RiddleAlong with the news of Riddle’s signing with Legacy came the headline, “Dana White: Matt Riddle Got Cut ‘Because He’s a Moron.’” Obviously, I have to ask Matthew to give me his thoughts.

 

“I really don’t have a reaction to it because, to be honest, Dana White…it’s sad but he’s uneducated to the sport and the industry. He’s calling me a moron for using my medicine when half his fighters are on steroids. It’s pretty offensive, but at the same time, I am looking at the source, and he can’t help himself.”

 

He goes on, “Even now, I don’t have a dislike for Dana White or the UFC. But really, he’s just a juice monkey who’s bald, who doesn’t know sh** about business. He just yells the F word and expects things to be handed to him.”

 

“What should I do?” He asks me. “Should I get angry? Find out where Dana’s house is in Vegas? Ask him why the f**k did you fire me? Dana White should be thankful I am on medication!” He’s kidding, guys.

 

Matthew’s background is in wrestling, a discipline that he believes the UFC is trying to eliminate because of the lack of finishes. He considers that his wrestling style of fighting also led to his release from the promotion.

 

“It’s 100% true! Look at Dave Herman, he failed two drug tests, doesn’t even have a medical license and he still has a job. He’s lost three fights in a row. I’ve won four fights in a row, I got Submission of the Night; I have a medical license, but they fired me without hesitation.”

 

I ask Matthew if he thinks Nick Diaz would be fired if he were to test positive after his recent bout versus Georges St. Pierre at UFC 158. (The Nevada State Athletic Commission suspended Diaz for one year after he tested positive for marijuana metabolites at UFC 143).

 

“That’s hard to say; it depends on the outcome of the fight.  If he loses and then fails the drug test, I could see the UFC getting rid of him. [Diaz lost to St. Pierre via unanimous decision].  But the difference between me and Nick Diaz is he has a huge following, much bigger than mine. The UFC will outweigh the option of him flipping off the camera and calling you an a**hole with the amount of a**es he will put in the seats.”

 

Has Matthew ever taken diuretics or other aids to be able to pass his drug tests?

 

I’ve never taken [them]. I’m not trying to trick anybody. I am not trying to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes. I’m not trying to pass a drug test when I am on drugs. I always quit 2 weeks before or longer. I am trying to pass the test fairly.”

 

He jokes, “Maybe I should just start taking testosterone…no, I would never. I know I sound like a broken record, but in the end, everyone will see that abusing steroids is very bad, and marijuana is not.” He adds, “But if you don’t have to use it, don’t.”

 

Matt-Riddle-body-triangles-Chris-Clements-Zuffa-e1360634016129Matthew’s medical marijuana license in Nevada provides him with the ability to use the substance to control hand and knee pain, as well as providing him with some clarity.

 

“It slows things down for me, so I can comprehend things. It helps.” But does it help him perform better? “No it doesn’t put me in a zone or anything.” He continues, “People [tell me] all the time ‘it’s illegal, Matt,’ but it’s not illegal for me. [The authorities] couldn’t take anything from me, it’s mine.”

 

So what about when he comes to Texas? Is he going to be using while he is down south?

 

“Nooooo!” He exclaims with a laugh. “Texas is one of those states where they frown upon it greatly. You don’t want to have anything on you in Texas.”

 

Before our time was up, I wanted to ask Riddle how he got his nickname.

 

“They call me ‘Deep Waters’ because I don’t get tired. My waters run deep. To get stronger, faster, better, you have to break what you have and then rebuild. That’s how I see it. I have been breaking myself since I was 12 years old.”

 

So what is it that sets him apart, cardio wise, from other fighters? “I just don’t get tired. I run about four miles a day. I can run four miles in about 25 minutes. I’m pretty fast. I run sprints too; the key is that I like to make sure my lungs are always open.”

 

After a short pause, Matthew decides to ask me a question.

 

“So if I were to fight this Jeff Rexboard?”

 

I correct him, “Rexroad…”

 

“Yeah, Rexroad. That would be a title fight right?”

 

I tell him yes, it would be a title fight.

 

“That’s five rounds,” he says definitively. “So you see, that’s right up my alley.”

 

***

 

Although no formal announcements have been made, Riddle is expected to make his Legacy FC debut on May 31st.

Photo Credits: FCFighter.com  CagePotato.com  MMAGospel.com 

"Alpha" Cat Zingano

Alpha” Cat Zingano is one bad woman. And by bad, I mean ridiculously good.

Not only does she have a professional women’s MMA record of 7-0, but she finished six out of those seven fights: three by submission, two by TKO, and one by knockout.

Zingano will face Miesha “Cupcake” Tate [13-3] on April 13, 2013, at The Ultimate Fighter Finale in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she will take part in the second women’s MMA bout in the history of the UFC. On the line if she wins? A shot at the women’s bantamweight championship, and a chance to do battle with the “Queen of the UFC,” Ronda Rousey.

Additionally, at UFC 158, Dana White announced that the winner of the Tate-Zingano matchup will go on to coach the next season of The Ultimate Fighter alongside Rousey, which will now consist of both men and women’s MMA hopefuls.

I was fortunate enough to capture a few minutes of time from this phenomenal athlete, who in 2011 was ranked as the number one 125-pound female MMA Fighter in the World. We talk about her background as a wrestler, sex appeal in MMA, training under her husband, Master Mauricio Zingano, and of course, her guiltiest pleasure. Enjoy!

***

Stephanie Joplin: Tell me about how you got into wrestling at such a young age. Obviously an unusual sport for a girl of 12! Any fun anecdotes about beating up tons of boys growing up are welcome.

 

Cat Zingano: I had a mentor in middle school that was always looking out for me.  I was getting into fights and getting in trouble.  He coached the wrestling team and asked me to come check out a practice.  It turned out the boy I had a crush on was one of the top wrestlers on the team and in the region.  I came to practice the next day and got teamed up with him.  I beat him pretty bad and I was hooked on the sport.  Needless to say after that practice I no longer had a crush on the boy!

 

SJ: You were a four-time All American and National Champ wrestler and competed on Team USA. What are your thoughts on the International Olympic Committee removing wrestling from The Games?

 

CZ: I think it’s horrible!  Wrestling is one of the oldest sports in the world and founded the Olympics.  Wrestling has given me so much in my life and it’s sad to think other girls and boys aren’t going to get to live their dream because of advertising money.

 

SJ: Training in Colorado, how does one prepare differently to fight at sea level? Do you ever feel a bit off balance and if so, how do you train against that?

 

CZ: Training in Colorado is great.  I definitely feel great and my cardio is increased at sea level for a short amount of time.

 

SJ: You and your husband, Mauricio Zingano, make quite the pair! Is that how you got into BJJ in 2007? Or did you meet him along the way? Was he already a black belt at the time you met?

 

CZ: Yeah, he’s a great man!  Yes, I was looking for something to do and I walked in his academy signed up for a free week, and again I was hooked!  Master Zingano is truly an amazing coach and husband.

 

"Alpha" Cat ZinganoSJ: Was Mauricio your trainer or coach at any point in time? If so, how did that dynamic work for you as an athlete, and as a wife?

 

CZ: Yes he’s coached me from the beginning.  It’s tough sometimes being married to my coach.  But where there’s love, you find a way to work it out and find middle ground.  It’s so important not to bring your work home every day.

 

SJ: How did becoming a mother change your training and competing schedule? How did you manage to work around all the new responsibilities?

 

CZ: It adds an additional level of responsibilities for sure.  I take him to school each morning and train throughout the day (just like any one else that goes to work every day).  Mauricio is a HUGE help at home with our son, he takes on some extra tasks so I can rest and makes sure the home life stays as normal as possible.

 

SJ: How do you think being “attractive” or “pretty” factors in to success and fame as a woman with a career in MMA? Do you think “sex” is an important part of selling women’s MMA?

 

CZ: Well I guess it doesn’t hurt to be sexy!  But when it’s all said and done the fans want great fights.  If we just walked out all sexy and didn’t perform in the cage then it would just be modeling and our fans expect more…a lot more!

 

SJ: Do you feel “left out” of the rivalry between your opponent, Miesha Tate, and current UFC Bantamweight Champ, Ronda Rousey?

 

CZ: Nope, not at all.  Those girls don’t like each other that’s fine with me.  But I’m here to win the UFC Championship belt and plan on doing it in the cage, not on twitter, or jump into any girl drama.

 

SJ: Both you and Miesha are all over the board when it comes to skills in mixed martial arts. Your records speak to that – both strong strikers and grapplers. Do you plan on using that wrestling background to really gain the advantage in this fight?

 

CZ: You know Miesha and I type of fighters for the most part: our game plan is to dominate at ever aspect of the fight.  I’ve shown in the past I can finish anyone, anytime with any technique.

 

SJ: Do you have any pre-fight rituals or superstitions?

 

CZ: Not really.  I like to watch funny movies with my coaches and manager.  We just chill in the hotel room most of the time.

 

SJ: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

 

CZ: Sweets!  Love them; can’t talk about them now and for sure can’t have them during camp.

 

***

Photo Credits: Phenom Management

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