Part I: Rebuttal interview with Nate James:
SJ Sports: I don’t know if you got a chance to read the article. I know Paul [Buentello] wanted me to talk with you and get your side of the story. I would be really grateful if you could tell us what you would like to say about the situation.
Nate James: I had the fight offered to me. Paul’s not my manager, by the way. He’s just my friend and teammate. I think Marcus probably met Paul earlier in time than I did, but I doubt he’s spent as much time as I have with Paul. I got zero coaching about how to fight Marcus from Paul. In fact, everybody I talked to out here was telling me not to take the fight with Marcus, because he’s bigger than I am. I was coming off of a loss in Bellator and was released. I kind of had this hope for myself; a little bit of a kamikaze mindset, like, “I know this guy’s bigger than me, but you know what? I don’t care. I just want to start fighting.” So, I took the fight with Marcus and I won and that got me into Strikeforce.
So, we get out there, we go to weigh-ins. We’re fighting at a catch-weight; it’s been so long now, that I don’t even remember what the catch-weight was, but Marcus was overweight. So, we had a big fiasco at the weigh-ins. The Boxing Commission asked me, “Hey, what do you want to do about that? Do you still want to fight?” I said, “Yes, I still want to fight, but if you’re able to negotiate a penalty. $200 a pound.” But then [Marcus] was like, “Woah, wait! $200 a pound? I’ve got a baby on the way,” and all this stuff. I said, “I don’t care about the $200 a pound, I just want you to make weight!”
For about an hour, we went back and forth negotiating. This is something that I’ve told very few people. Marcus brought my coach, Andy Fong, and me into the back room where we had the weigh-ins and for about a half hour, pleaded with us not to take the fight. I really could not believe what I was hearing from him. He was confessing that it wasn’t a good fight for me, that it wasn’t a good fight for him because he doesn’t do well against little guys. He also asked us if we would just take the show money and leave. I didn’t come all the way to Texas from California, make weight and not fight. I love fighting and I love the sport. So, after about a half-hour, I told him that I needed to take some time to talk with my coach to figure out what to do. At that moment when he stepped back out the door, I took one look at my coach, like, “What the f**k? What the hell just happened?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Basically we were like, “There’s no way we’re not going to take the fight now; he was basically groveling.” We decided to take the fight, so we said, “Okay, $100 a pound; let’s do it.” So I got $100 for every pound that he was over. I think it was like four or six pounds or something.
So, we had the fight. In the article it said, “split decision.” I guess it was? What sticks out to me was in that third round, he was really trying to rally: a lot of moving around, a lot of head movement, but it became really predictable for me. It was like child’s play. He was almost running his head into my chest and things like that. So, he was coming forward and I was able to maneuver around it. It made it easy in that third round.
After the fight, we are in the back room and I was about to do a radio interview. Marcus was walking right next to my coach and my coach said, “Good job; good fight,” and Marcus said, “F**k you!” So, Andy says, “F**k me? F**k you!” Marcus and Andy go into the other room and I’m giving this interview. All of a sudden, I hear tables flying. I think to myself, “Oh, it’s just a bunch of huffing and puffing; it will blow over; nothing’s going to come out of it. Marcus is just a theatrical kind of guy.” But, it continued so I stopped the interview and go into the back room; all I see is my coach, his back foot planted, ready to drill him. As far as the altercation, I didn’t see it because I was in the other room, but the way I understand it is that Marcus was trying to fight my coach and as he went to other room, Paul got in the middle to separate them and Marcus took a swing at Paul, telling him, “You set me up!” So then Marcus threw a punch at him and Paul slipped it and hit him and then they got in a wrestling match after that. The fight was really between Andy and Marcus. Paul did probably hit him, but it was in retaliation of Marcus throwing a punch at Paul. Paul went in to be a mediator, trying to say, “Hey, fight’s over, let’s pull back,” and Marcus felt like he was set up on the fight. After the scuffle, there wasn’t a scratch on Paul, though. He was right as rain. He looked like he didn’t fight at all.
SJ Sports: Have you talked to or seen Marcus since that time?
Nate James: No. I’m not really trying to paint him in a bad light, but I’ve never heard anything positive about him. Even that negotiation in the back at the weigh-ins, I told my coach that I would be embarrassed using my son as an excuse to get out of a fight that you had already agreed to. A lot of people applauded me after the weigh-ins and said, “You really handled yourself professionally.” Undisputed MMA was probably very disputed [laughs]; there were a lot of rubber checks that they gave us; mine included. But, everyone complimented me on my professionalism. I’d heard this is how [Marcus] does; he has the “lowest common denominator of the sport” type of mentality.
SJ Sports: What is your opinion on why the TDLR wouldn’t grant Sursa this fight against Paul?
Nate James: I don’t know all the legalities; for one, I’m not the type of person to have to worry about that kind of stuff. I think he’s proven to be a bad element; more of a hassle than anything and maybe that’s why they don’t want to deal with him.
Part II: Rebuttal interview with Leon Aragon (Witness to Sursa’s scuffle with both Paul and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.)
SJ Sports: Sorry that we have been playing phone tag! Definitely wanted to get your side of the story as a witness to what happened with regards to Sursa’s altercations with Paul and Donald.
Leon Aragon: It’s nothing like the way I read it. I was there when the incident with “Cowboy” happened and I was there for the incident with Paul. Me and Paul go back a long ways, so it’s not that I’m sticking up for either one of them, but I know the way Sursa is and how it’s laid out.
SJ Sports: Yes, absolutely. Go ahead. Let’s start with Paul first.
Leon Aragon: It didn’t start at the fight; it started at the weigh-ins. Me and Sursa go back a ways. Every weigh-in, he’s going to cause some kind of problem. Always. We were at Shark Fights and we were at the weigh-ins and he had words with his opponent. He wound up head-butting the guy and kicking him. Doing a favor for Sursa, I was cornering him at the time; I almost got a one-year ban because of it.
SJ Sports: You were cornering Sursa?
Leon Aragon: Yes; we used to be friends. All the stuff that he’s done, I threw him out of my gym. He ended up saying a bunch of nasty stuff on Facebook about me and my gym and I lost a lot of customers. This is what kind of character he is. As far as the Paul fight goes, he was mad at Nate James over the not-making-weight situation. Well, Paul and Nate James go back because they both train out of AKA out in California. So, that’s where that came from. It wasn’t that Paul was trying to do Sursa in or anything like that.
Anyhow, going into the fight…Sursa was actually yelling at Andy [Fong,] who was another cornerman for Nate James. Excuse my language, but I am going to tell you exactly how it went down: Marcus came out and said, “F**k you!” and I was like, “Who the hell is he talking to?” because he’s coming out of his locker room and Nate was giving an interview. Andy says it back to him and Paul comes up and is like, “Hey, hey; what’s going on?” Sursa was like, “F**k you, Paul! You did this to me!” Paul’s like, “I didn’t do anything to you. You need to calm down.” He grabs Paul by the shirt and pulls him back into the locker room. That’s when Sursa took a swing at him, Paul hits him back and it turned into a big brawl. That’s when Sursa head-butts him and so Paul says, “Oh, you want to head-butt me?” and head-butts him back. It just kind of escalated. Sursa’s dad had to pay a fine for Sursa because he was overweight of $700.
With Sursa, I think the kid has so much talent; believe me, he has a lot of talent, but his head is just not there. I’ve seen him pull a lot of stuff at weigh-ins, where he causes fights and he will take his show money and not the fight money. That’s what he tried to pull with Nate James. Nate was like, “I did not travel all the way from California to Amarillo, Texas, just to take some pocket money. I came here to fight.” So, the fight almost didn’t happen because of the way Sursa acted.
The Texas Commission afterwards kept calling me and I wouldn’t answer them. They said they needed to talk to me about the incident with Paul Buentello and Marcus Sursa. So I called Paul and I said, “Hey bro, what do you want me to do?” Paul told me to drop it and just not to answer them. One of the questions that was posed to me was that by pulling Paul into the locker room and holding him there, Marcus would have been looking at up to two years in jail for false imprisonment. Even though Sursa had done me so wrong and lost me a bunch of customers, I never said anything.
SJ Sports: What happened with Cerrone?
Leon Aragon: [Laughs] Okay. So, we were in Clovis, New Mexico. Sursa had been dating the girl that “Cowboy” is dating now. Sursa came down to where we were at; he was the main event. It was kind of like a “rodeo” arena. There was a big room, but there was a curtain between us: red corner, blue corner. The main event guys actually had their own rooms. Sursa comes out of his room, clear across the rodeo arena and walks up to “Cowboy.” I was standing right there. He’s like, “What’s up? What’s up?!” starts cussing and “Cowboy” never said a word to him. Sursa throws a swing, hits him in the mouth. “Cowboy” gets up to defend himself, but Sursa got the short end of it. That’s how that brawl broke out. So, “Cowboy” walks away and he was supposed to help me corner one of my guys that night. He said, “Forget this; I’m going to go sit down. Come and get me and I will walk out with y’all.” Marcus comes up to him again and keeps talking crap and keeps stirring it up. “Cowboy” never said a word to him; totally ignoring it. Finally, the guy that was running the fights came up to them and said, “Both of you guys, get the hell out. Y’all are both done.” They both got kicked out of the building. I know for a fact that “Cowboy” did absolutely nothing to start that fight. It got out and he had to explain to Dana White what had happened.
A few notes:
1) At this time, still no official response has been received from the TDLR.
2) You can find Paul’s personal rebuttal HERE.
Photo Credits: Paul Buentello Nate James MMACarnivale.com