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Mike & His Beloved Father

“This is the sport I love, and if I die in the ring, then so be it. I am going to die doing what I love, but not before I am champion.”

 

It takes barely five minutes with Mike “The Greek” Bronzoulis to know what’s in his heart. The Bellator MMA Fight Master finalist has had his fair share of trials and tribulations trying to climb his mountain, but he’s finally near the top. On Saturday, November 2nd, Bronzoulis will take on Joe “Diesel” Riggs in the welterweight division in hopes of being crowned the Spike TV reality show’s first ever winner and earn the title of “Fight Master.”

 

In the final week leading up to his fight, the former Legacy champion sat down with me in our hometown of Houston, Texas, to discuss the show, his roots, Riggs’ injury, and his newfound relationship with mentor and coach, Randy Couture.

 

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The Early Days with Dad

SJ Sports: Tell us how you got started training MMA.

 

Mike Bronzoulis: I got into mixed martial arts when I was about seven or eight. My dad had a restaurant here in Houston and there was a Shotokan karate place next door. Since my dad was Greek, he wanted us to train martial arts and be into the whole “Spartan,” “300” stuff. He was really proud of [his heritage.] I fell in love with [MMA.] I did Taekwondo, karate, Shotokan, Shito-Ryu, American freestyle, American kickboxing, Thai boxing. When I was 16, I moved to Chandler, Arizona, and went to Fairtex Thai boxing camp. I came back when I was 17 and met Saul Solis. I’ve been training with him ever since. About two years ago, my gym and I moved over to Paradigm Training Center. Now, I am also training with Randy Couture at Xtreme Couture in Vegas.

 

SJ Sports: How did the opportunity come up for “Fight Master?”

 

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Mike with Randy & Ryan Couture and Don Gilberg

Mike Bronzoulis: It’s a funny story. I called my manager and I was like, “Hey, man. I need a fight. Is there anything on the table?” He said there wasn’t and to just keep training. I said, “What about that Bellator reality show I heard about?” He told me that he didn’t think I wanted to be on it and he had already sent two guys on there and that it was too short notice. I was upset; what does he mean he doesn’t think I wanted to be on it? I’m not really sure what he meant by that, but we hung up. I took it in and had faith; I asked God to help me through this. Later on that day, Drew Ratichek called me and said the producers were looking for me to see if I wanted to be on the show. They called me that same day and Skyped an interview with me and said they wanted me on the show.

 

SJ Sports: What was the experience like living with the other contestants?

 

Mike Bronzoulis: There are always going to be problems when you live in a house with a bunch of guys. Most of them that are married are used to having their wives do everything for them. When you take away their wives, they don’t know how to act. They don’t know how to cook for themselves, they don’t know how to clean; they’re pigs. It’s not fun.

 

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Mike Wearing SJ Sports with Maurice Smith & Anthony Njokauni in Las Vegas

There weren’t too many problems as far as altercations, except for that one incident with Chris Lozano and I. We were really good friends and hit it off big time. When it came down to it, he told me we weren’t going to pick each other and then he picks me. So, that’s what pissed me off, but there is nothing but respect and love now. I know, one day, he wants to work his way back up and get a chance to fight me, so if that happens, it happens, but I still love the guy and I’ve got no problems with him.

 

I think that people had the wrong impression of me when I first got there. I was ranked last the whole time. They see the tan skin, they see my hair, they think I’m this “Jersey Shore” guy fist-pumpin’ around… I can see why they wanted to pick me, but I already knew that they were looking at me like that. They had no idea what I was capable of. I wasn’t cocky about it; I was very confident and you can see in my interviews; I called it, like Babe Ruth. I said I was going to do this, this and this, just because that’s what I know I am capable of doing. I’ve fought the best fighters around, the best wrestlers, the best jiu-jitsu guys, the best stand-up guys and I know where I stand. I’m good everywhere.

 

SJ Sports: Going in to your first fight on the show, had you already picked out who you wanted as your coach?

 

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“Fight Master” on Spike TV

Mike Bronzoulis: I knew exactly who I wanted. I was trying to find out any information related to the show. I saw Randy Couture’s name and it was a done deal; no brainer. This guy was world champion eight times in two different weight classes. He started when he was 36 and finished when he was 47 and captured another title. This is “the man.” In my eyes, he’s the best in the world, and no one will ever be able to do what he did. I wanted nothing more than to be on his team.

 

SJ Sports: Had you ever met him before?

 

Mike Bronzoulis: One time, when I was in Strikeforce… it was either me or Brian Melancon who was on the card… with his son, Ryan Couture, and Randy was backstage. I was like, “Oh my God, there’s Randy,” and I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth to say something!

 

SJ Sports: You’re now living with Randy in Las Vegas. How did that come about? Obviously, not everyone who Randy trains gets to have that opportunity. How did you become so close?

 

Mike Bronzoulis: Randy and I have a really strong bond. I think he admired my work ethic and my heart and determination. I think he sees something in me. He took me under his wing and moved me into his house, I train at his gym, he has mentored me, we spend time together, talk about stuff. I pick his brain, he tells me all kinds of inside information that he experienced as far as fighting goes and his experience and what made him so great. It was a dream-come-true. It gave me a lot of confidence on the show knowing he was in my corner and that he believed in me and it gives me even more confidence now that he took me in like that and has done so much for me. The man has been there for me like a brother, like a father and has shown nothing but love for me. That guy is a great guy. I just want to make him very proud.

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Team Paradigm Before Our Interview

 

SJ Sports: Regardless of the outcome this Saturday, are your plans to stay in Vegas at Xtreme Couture?

 

Mike Bronzoulis: I’m always going to stay here in Houston; I am going to keep my place here. I am always going to train here at Paradigm and with Saul Solis. I’m always going to train at Lou Savarese‘s Main Street Boxing Gym and with Bobby Benton. This is my team over here [at Paradigm,] but also, that’s my team over there now [at Xtreme Couture.] Randy is my coach, all the coaches over there are my coaches. I love Xtreme Couture with all my heart. I am going to finish out my career getting ready for my fights with them.

 

SJ Sports: When Riggs got injured, were you disappointed the finale had to be postponed?

 

Mike Bronzoulis: No. When Riggs got injured, I wasn’t disappointed at all, because actually my back went out and I was going to fight the way I was. I wasn’t going to tell Bellator. The whole team wanted me to pull me out, but I wasn’t going to do that. I wasn’t going to give the opportunity to somebody else. [Riggs’ injury] gave me time to get injections in my back and my neck and now I’m healthy.

 

SJ Sports: What do you think would have resulted from Tito vs. Rampage?

 

Mike Bronzoulis: I think Rampage would have ended up knocking Tito out. It’s good that the fight fell through because now it’s live on Spike, which it should have been in first place. I’m happy about that.

 

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Fight Week

SJ Sports: Tell me what you know about Riggs and what type of competitor he is.

 

Mike Bronzoulis: Riggs is a good dude; I like Riggs. He’s a very well rounded fighter; he’s been in the game. Everybody knows everything about him. He had an opportunity to become a UFC champion and Strikeforce champion. His mental strength isn’t that great and his heart’s not that great either and I am going to exploit both of them. Those are both my strong points and we are going to see what he’s made out of. We are going to test him.

 

SJ Sports: Has he been in camp at Jackson/Winklejohn’s?

 

Mike Bronzoulis: Greg Jackson was his coach on the show, but now he trains at The Lab in Arizona with Ben Henderson and his coaches. As far as I know, Greg was his coach just for the TV portion of the show. His stuff was fake and all for TV; mine was real.

 

SJ Sports: After this fight, will you be locked in with Bellator?

 

Mike Bronzoulis: I have a two-year contract with Bellator and Spike TV. Who knows what will happen after this fight; maybe they will renegotiate my contract. Hopefully I will win and they will lock me down for longer. I want to stay where I am going to get paid. I want to become champion and I want to get paid. This is a very hard life to live. You can’t do it for cheap.

 

SJ Sports: Tell us about your experience fighting for Legacy Fighting Championship.

 

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After Winning the Welterweight Title for Legacy FC

Mike Bronzoulis: Legacy is an awesome organization, by far one of my favorites. Mick and Andrea Maynard are awesome people and good friends of mine. I love them to death. I am a former Legacy champion. They have a great show and have some of the best fighters in the world fighting for them. He’s right up there with the big dogs; Mick’s done great and I am very proud of him.

 

SJ Sports: Tell us about your dad and how he was such an integral part of your life and still remains to be even after his passing.

 

Mike Bronzoulis: My role models have always been my parents. My dad was this big Greek guy, this foreigner that could barely speak any English when he moved to America. He went from being a dishwasher to owning his own restaurant; he was a serious workhorse. I admired that my whole life. This man came from nothing. I always wanted to be like my dad and always wanted to impress him, but I had some big shoes to fill.

 

My dad passed from cancer six years ago. His last wish before he died was that I become champion and take care of my mom. That’s what I am trying to do right now; make good on my dad’s last wishes. This week, before the biggest fight of my life, my brother was moving into his new house and uncovered this letter that my dad had written for me that I hadn’t seen until just now because it was hidden amongst some things. It couldn’t have come at a more important time. It’s like he’s talking to me from the other side. I could have gotten that letter any time in the last six years, but the week before my fight? It’s unbelievable. The chances of that happening are one in every billion.

 

SJ Sports: You had a couple of really rough years…

 

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With Mother, Barbara, at the QUILT Show in Houston Last Weekend

Mike Bronzoulis: I was in an accident in 2004. A Ford Expedition hit me from behind. The last words out of my mouth were, “Mom, I think I need to get back into church,” and then, bam. God wanted in my life. You know how people ask for signs? My mom said to me that she has never seen God in anyone’s life more than me. I was hospitalized and couldn’t walk for six months. The doctors said I would have problems walking and would never fight again. I got better and believed in myself and believed in God to give me strength and here we are. I still have back and neck problems, but I am working through them. The doctors say if I get injured one more time, I will probably be paralyzed for the rest of my life. This is the sport I love, and if I die in the ring, then so be it. I am going to die doing what I love, but not before I am champion.

 

SJ Sports: Is there anyone you would like to thank?

 

Mike Bronzoulis: I want to thank everyone at Xtreme Couture and Randy Couture, Metro Fight Club and Saul Solis, Paradigm Training Center, Reed Shelger, Grant Johnson, Brian Melancon, Jeff Rexroad, Lester Batres, Angel Huerta, all my teammates, George Parker, Main Street Boxing Gym, Lou Savarese, Bobby Benton, all the guys over there. I want to thank my sponsors Innovative Pain Care Center, Lexani, KO Dynasty, XCAP Athletic Pharmaceuticals, Blu Medical, RBP, Trap Fighter, Formula Med, and International Garage. I also want to thank my neighbors, Tara and Damien Gaffney. They went and got me this beautiful St. Michael’s pendant from Italy that was blessed by Pope Francis. I want to thank my brother, my nephew Dylan and my mother, Barbara Bronzoulis. The woman has spilled nothing but encouraging words into my heart and into my mind since I was a child. I wake up and I see this encouraging signs that she leaves me. I see encouraging phrases about never giving on and staying strong. Believe. No Fear… She is my rock.

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Tune in to Spike TV on Saturday, November 2nd to watch Mike Bronzoulis take on Joe Riggs at Bellator 108.

Follow Mike on Twitter

 

Photo Credits: Mike Bronzoulis and Family   Mike Calimbas   Bellator MMA   SpikeTV

King Mo Lawal“It’s good to be the king.”

 

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal is as well known and highly acclaimed in combat sports today as this famed and equally classic Mel Brooks’ one-liner. Currently, the Bellator warrior and Strikeforce veteran stands 11-2-1, with Roger Gracie, Gegard Mousasi and Seth Petruzelli representing only a handful of the peers he has slain in his path.

 

The best thing about Mo? You never know what’s coming next. Whether it’s a vicious knockout blow in the Bellator cage, an insightful look into MMA politics, shedding light on steroid use, or the fact that he recently signed with TNA Impact Wrestling, Lawal never fails to keep his fans on their toes.

 

With an arsenal of talent, a sharp wit and a game plan like Mo’s, how can one fail when they are already destined for greatness?

 

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Abdullah “Bull” Lawal before his Victory at Legacy FC 19.

SJ Sports: What was your experience like cornering your brother, Bull, in the Legacy FC cage, being that this was his MMA debut?

 

King Mo: Personally, I hated it because he’s so young. There’s a lot that I was saying for him to do but he couldn’t do it because he had no idea what it was. So, I was getting frustrated. I was proud of him, but at the same time, he only trained five months for this. He’s a basketball player, so he had no contact experience whatsoever. Most people that wrestle, they’ve been wrestling for a while so you kind of know what to do, but hell, he’d only been wrestling five months. So every time I yelled something for him to do, he said, “What’s that? I don’t know what that is.” I’m like, “Keep on; just take him down!” It was just frustrating and nerve wracking because he’s my little brother. It was good to see him win and fight through, push through to get that W.

 

1374371822SJ Sports: Do you think Bellator trying to compete directly with UFC (for example, PPV) is a good idea? Or should they try to evolve and become their own complimentary brand?

 

King Mo: Here’s the thing: they’re not trying to directly compete. It’s just like when Strikeforce was around; years ago, Dana White said, “Hey, Strikeforce is doing a great job; they have a reasonable promotion.” As soon as Strikeforce started saying, “Hey, we’re going to go nation wide,” and just have shows nationally, UFC was like, “’F’ Strikeforce; they’re wrong; they’re our enemy.” The thing is, UFC wants to be the only show; the only big show. With Bellator, you don’t ever hear Bjorn Rebney talk about UFC. He doesn’t say anything about the UFC. You hear Dana White talk about Bellator all day, every day. Bellator does things different: we have a tournament system to determine who gets a title shot. The UFC, all you have to do is just look good and say the right things and you’ll get a title shot. Bellator’s more ‘sport’ and the UFC is more ‘spectacle.’

 

SJ Sports: Is mixing a “real” sport like MMA together with pro-wrestling dangerous for integrity or are some people overreacting?

 

King Mo: I think people are overreacting. For one, pro-wrestling, the objective is to pin somebody, one, two three, or make him tap out with a move. You don’t ever see anyone jump to the top rope in MMA. You don’t see anyone poking people in the eye in MMA, because it’s against the rules. The organization I fight in, we fight in a cage. In pro-wrestling, it’s usually a ring and if it’s a cage, the rules are to climb up the cage to get out the cage. In MMA, if you grab the cage, you could be disqualified or lose a point. There are big differences. There’s no way to get them mixed up unless you’re new to both sports. If you watch pro-wrestling and you watch MMA, you can see the difference right there. Big-time difference.

 

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Brothers at Legacy FC 19.

SJ Sports: There has been a lot of talk lately in sports media regarding PEDs and suspensions. Seeing as you have also been recently suspended for steroid use after your fight with [Lorenz] Larkin, what is your stance now on using them?

 

King Mo: When I fought Larkin, I wasn’t, like, injecting anything; it was over the counter. It’s like a pro-hormone. It’s like if you go to Wal-mart and buy something called ‘DHEA.’ That’s illegal; you couldn’t use that. It’s illegal in sports all across the board. I’m hoping to do year-round drug tests; I’m open to it. I’ll be drug-tested by Bellator and TNA. I’m cool do to whatever.

 

SJ Sports:When people think of PEDs, they think of athletes sticking big needles in their necks. Is that a huge misconception?

 

King Mo: Yeah, it’s a big misconception! You could get nasal sprays that have performance-enhancing drugs [in them.] Too much caffeine and you could fail a test. Alcohol. Marijuana. People say marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug because it calms your nerves and gives you a steady hand. It’s pills, it’s injections, it’s nasal sprays. Even IVs. When I used to wrestle, last year, IVs got banned because they were considered performance enhancing. You have to be careful what you buy. I don’t take anything in pill form besides Iron, Vitamin C and B-Complex. Everything else is powder or oil. Omega-3s and Fish Oils. I don’t take any type of pre-workout pills. None of that stuff. I don’t mess with no crazy supplement companies. Things pop up here and there. I saw something on Twitter; this company was sponsoring the Olympics, or the governing body for the Olympics, or a sport like USA Wrestling, or something like that. I don’t know which governing body, but the supplements they had had some type of pro-hormone in it, so they had to can the whole supplement because it had an illegal substance in it. It happens all the time.  BodyBuilding.com had stuff they were shipping out that had traces of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in it. There’s no regulation for it. It’s not FDA-approved. There is no governing body that oversees the way supplements are made or if they even work. Now, I’m thinking they don’t really even work because if they did work, they’d be banned.

 

SJ Sports: So you obviously disagree with the fact that the commission overturned your win into a no-contest?

 

Mo LawalKing Mo: Well, yeah. You’ve got to decide: what did I do? The dude had no ground game, but it’s the rules. At the same time, I’m not going to go out there and use some kind of steroids to defeat somebody that had no ground game. I could have taken him down anytime, at will. It is what it is. I’m passed that, but at the same time it’s just bitter; it’s bitter in my heart.

 

SJ Sports: Speaking of the Olympics, do you think a lack of Olympic wrestling will affect MMA?

 

King Mo: Yeah, I think so. You’ll get more sub-par wrestling. How can you determine what world-class is if you don’t have the Olympics or world championships? There are four or five world-class wrestlers in wrestling: me, Joe Warren, Ben Askren, Daniel Cormier, Yoel Romero, Alexis Vila…and that’s about it. No one else there competes at the world-level in amateur wrestling. There’s college wrestling. College wrestling is tough, but it’s not world-class wrestling, in my opinion.

 

SJ Sports: Who, in your opinion, is the most “overrated” fighter?

 

King Mo: I think we all are. It’s true; everybody talks about fighting like it’s the biggest and baddest thing, but it’s just fighting. It takes a lot of training and work, but it’s just fighting. So, in this instance, we are all overrated. It’s just entertainment. It’s nothing earth shattering.

 

SJ Sports: More important for a fighter’s career: winning or being an entertainer?

 

King Mo: I think winning. You could be a good entertainer, but if you you’re losing, you’re a loser. In real sports, how many football games you been to where you’re like, “Man, that was a boring game.” Or you see the commissioner saying, “Hey, you know what? Buffalo Bills, you guys win, but you’re boring, so this year you’re not going to be playing football.” Let’s be real; let’s be honest. In true sports…MMA is not a true sport, really…it’s more of a spectacle, but in true sports, people don’t care about ‘boring.’ They care about winning. If the game goes to overtime, all they care about is the result. “Oh man, it went into overtime. It was a great game, even though no one scored. It was all defense.”

 

SJ Sports: Then again, football is a team sport; MMA is not.

 

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Cornering Brother, “Bull” at Legacy FC 19.

King Mo: No, but at the same time, it’s a sport.  It’s like tennis. The result is winning. To me, tennis is boring. Same with golf, but people watch it for the result. Tennis and golf are bigger sports than MMA.

 

SJ Sports: So you would say MMA isn’t really considered “mainstream” yet?

 

King Mo: I think it’s real mainstream, but I don’t think it’s a true sport just yet. There are a lot of things lacking. There’s no true ranking system…true media. It’s controlled by certain people in the sport. Say you were in the UFC and you put me on the cover of your magazine, they might be like, “Guess what? Just because you did that, you’re not going to get your credentials anymore.”

 

SJ Sports: Has MMA reached its money-earning potential for fighters, or will it get better?

 

King Mo: I have no idea. I think it’s oversaturating right now if you look at it. The clothing companies are falling by the wayside. They’re doing too much. The Ultimate Fighter and all the reality shows have fallen off. The reason football never gets oversaturated is because you have seasons. When football season’s over, you got a long break. That’s why everybody’s like, “Man, I can’t wait till football season.” Same thing with basketball. Same thing with baseball. The seasons keep it fresh.

 

SJ Sports: Who were you most impressed with and what shocked you about your experience calling Invicta FC?

 

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“King Mo” Lawal, Julie Kedzie & Mauro Ranallo at Invicta FC

King Mo: It’s not the fighters that shocked me, because I knew they’d be good. The women always bring it. It was how much momentum Invicta has garnered within a year. The first show had a little hype. The second show had a little bit more. By the third show? I was like, “Damn, we got something going here.” After that, it just got bigger and better.

 

SJ Sports: Cris Cyborg is ‘The Terminator.’ She’s amazing.

 

King Mo: Not many women are going to beat her. There are not many women that can match her skill and athleticism and wrestling.

 

SJ Sports: Have you heard a timetable of when you are getting your title shot?

 

King Mo: I’m hoping it’s November. We’ll see what’s up. I’m open to fight whenever; I’m always in shape.

 

SJ Sports: What’s the dumbest rule in MMA?

 

King Mo: You can’t knee a down opponent. That’s it.

 

SJ Sports: Does Silva win the rematch over Weideman?

 

King Mo LawalKing Mo: I don’t know. You never know what’s going to happen. Anything could happen in MMA. Silva could win and Silva could lose. We all have opinions until something happens. I could believe what happened. To me, the biggest upset in all sports, to this day, was when Mike Tyson got knocked out. Mike Tyson was a 30-1 favorite. Anderson Silva was only like a 2 or 3-1 favorite. MMA is such a new sport that everyone’s trying to figure out, “Oh, he’s the greatest-of-all-time!” The sport’s only been around for 20 years. They do that for marketing purposes so people will go and watch. When I first started watching MMA, the greatest of all time was Royce Gracie. Then, after that was [Kazushi] Sakuraba, then after that it was Wanderlei Silva, after that it was Chuck Liddell, then after that it was GSP, Matt Hughes, Randy Couture. The first one came out was NHB, No Holds Barred. So, since I’ve been watching the sport, or the entertainment, we’ve had like eight greatest-of-all-times. There’s Fedor [Emelianenko]: greatest-of-all-time. Then it’s Anderson Silva. Jose Aldo. Jon Jones. Nope! Cain Velasquez. Nope! Brock Lesnar. Every three years, we have a greatest-of-all-time. People try to say that the greatest woman fighter of all time is Ronda Rousey. She’s good, but then you’ve got Megumi Fuji smashing girls with submissions, all sorts of submissions for years, but she’s got no recognition because she’s Japanese. Megumi Fuji’s been fighting for a long time. Thing is, greatest-of-all-time in women’s MMA…women’s MMA has only been around for about 15 years, if that. Megumi Fuji is revolutionary because she was doing what Ronda Rousey is doing now, back then.  She fights a different weight class, but people don’t know that. People have forgotten about her, but she’s an all-time great. People didn’t grow up fighting. They probably saw MMA for the first time on TV, so they will believe whatever people tell them. They’ll say, “Okay, he’s the greatest-of-all-time because Joe Rogan said so on TV.”

 

SJ Sports: Who do you think is the best promoter in MMA?

 

King Mo: I don’t know. People say boxing is a dead sport. Boxing is not dead and boxing will always be a bigger sport than MMA because of the way it’s run. There’s more money and more match-ups. A guy like Shane Mosley could lose four fights and still make big fights and make big money. In MMA, you lose two fights? You’re done. That’s what’s kind of stupid. In MMA, the promoter is the organization, so they just promote their fighters. Let’s say all the fighters in the world fight for Bellator. They could take a bum from the street, clean him up, get him the right match-ups and people would think he was a great fighter. Anybody could turn pro. Bull turned pro after five months! The right promoter could make you into a star.

 

SJ Sports: Let’s talk about wrestling. We know you’re signed with TNA. When can we expect to see you get in the ring?

 

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Lawal’s Introduction at TNA Impact Wrestling

King MoWell, I’m hoping this year. I’ve been doing this pro-wrestling school in Ohio Valley and people don’t understand how hard pro-wrestling and pro-wrestling school is. One practice would be anywhere between three to five hours getting slammed with hitting the ropes or something like that. The typical guy that’s a pro-wrestler in TNA or the WWE will spend six to ten years at the pro-wrestling school before you make it big. I’m on the accelerated route. I’m in wrestling matches for OBW and I’ll go back and wrestle more matches within the next few weeks.

 

SJ Sports: What is more physically demanding? Training for pro-wrestling or training pro-MMA?

 

King MoThat type of training [pro-wrestling.] MMA, I can take people down; I can block stuff. In pro-wrestling, you’re doing stuff for the sake of entertainment. You’re like a stuntman. You get body-slammed. You get thrown over the ropes. You fall. You’re taking chair shots. You’re getting power-bombed. If you look at the average wrestler, at 40-years-old and you look at an average MMA fighter of the same age, the MMA fighter looks much younger and much fresher than the pro-wrestler. An MMA fighter fights three to four times a year. A pro-wrestler is kept on the road doing wrestling matches four days a week. You put on a show; it’s brutal. I see Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan can barely walk. Pro-wrestling is like a soap opera. It’s drama-filled. You’ve got a bigger stage. You’re still using talent and skill like in MMA, but you take it over the top.

 

SJ Sports: Did you get support from your MMA fans when you announced your deal with TNA?

 

IMG950134King Mo: Yeah! The ones that didn’t like it were the fans that were one-type minded. They didn’t understand that I could get paid from many areas instead of one area. Many MMA fans think this is ‘life’ when it’s just a job. To me, [MMA] is a job in my style. It’s cool to watch. I like to watch more boxing. I’ll go watch the guys I know, but I can’t just go to a UFC fight or Bellator and just sit down and watch a card. I do it every damn day. I need a break from it.

 

SJ Sports: I know, in the past, you’ve expressed interest in teaming up with Rampage. Has there been any talk of you joining the Main Event Mafia?

 

King Mo: What! Nah, I’m going to do my whole thing. Maybe I’ll tag team partner with Rampage, eventually, but I’ll do my own thing.

 

SJ Sports: That being said, who wins? Tito or Rampage?

 

King Mo: If Rampage is hurt, I give the match to Tito. If Tito is hurt, I give the match to Rampage. The training camp is what counts. You can go into a training camp feeling good and leave beat up. Depends, though. Eventually I think maybe Rampage has the advantage, but as far as them two? They trained together, so somebody knows what’s up or the secrets. Somebody knows more than the other guy. I just don’t know who. That’s all.

 

SJ Sports: Do TNA obligations ever interfere with MMA obligations or training?

 

King Mo: Nah, not right now. TNA knows that MMA comes first and they allow me to let that come first. In between camps, and here and there during camp, I’ll go to pro-wrestling school to do a few matches here and there.

 

SJ Sports: Do you think you will continue with both or eventually choose one sport over the other?

 

King Mo LawalKing Mo: My goal is when I’m done fighting to keep on doing pro-wrestling and having fun. After a while, I’d probably pick that.

 

SJ Sports: Is there anyone you would like to thank?

 

King Mo: First, I’d like to give a shout out to my boy, Frankie. That’s my dawg. Lana’s Egg Whites, Nutrition Zone, MMA Elite, Ohio Valley Wrestling, FightHype.com and TNA Impact Wrestling.

 

SJ Sports: Who would you want to play you in a movie?

 

King Mo: I’d like my little bro to play me.

 

SJ Sports: Biggest pet peeve?

 

King Mo: Keyboard warriors.

 

SJ Sports: Movie that if it comes on you have to watch it, no matter what?

 

King Mo: Black Dynamite, I’m Gonna Git U Sucka, Troop Beverly Hills and IP Man.

 

***

Follow King Mo on Twitter.

 

Photo Credits:  Special thanks to King Mo

www.mmaopinion.co.uk    Mike Calimbas Photography    www.mixfight.ru

For Marcus Sursa’s version of the story, click here.

 

Part I: Rebuttal interview with Nate James:

 

Nate James

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.

 

James in the Bellator Cage

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.)

 

Legacy FC 22’s Paul Buentello

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.

 

Donald Cerrone

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.

Again, for Marcus Sursa’s version of the story, click here.

 

Photo Credits:    Paul Buentello   Nate James   MMACarnivale.com

 

By: Mark Carrillo

calimbas1 MMA fighters are a sexy species. Am I right? With their chiseled bodies, ass kicking ability and sweet tattoos, one must admit: they are modern day gladiators and chicks dig that sh*t. Trust me, I know. I have my first MMA fight coming up in a couple weeks and the amount of attention I have been getting from girls is crazy. Just the other day I had to get a physical for my fight. As soon as I get to the doctor’s, I see a girl and she wants to check my blood pressure and temperature. Then, I go to the store and I walk in and this older lady is all, “Welcome! Have a nice day!” Then, I’m standing in line and this other girl screams out, “I can check you out down here!” She totally crossed the line, but you see what I mean. So how do you tame one of these tigers and make him your boyfriend? I got all the answers ladies, so read on and take notes and get ready to bag yourself an MMA fighter.

 

First off, if you are not a fan of violence to some degree don’t even try. Dating an MMA fighter will only cause a rise in blood pressure and the risk for a heart attack. That being said, you don’t have to be crazy into violence, so don’t go joining a fight club. You just can’t mind seeing a little blood and people getting knocked out. No fighter wants a girlfriend that’s going to have some kind of meltdown in the crowd if he gets knocked out; tough skin is a must.
Secondly, you have to be patient and ready to deal with the mood swings that come with cutting weight. This is where a man can become a boy; you can easily make him mad enjoying a cookie in front of him. Next thing you know, he’s telling you how you don’t care and that you never say, “I love you” first. It’s horrible, taking away a man’s food and water.

 

Third, you should be good at doing laundry. This is not a must, just a plus because when your boyfriend works out twice a day he goes through a lot of underwear. It’s ridiculous I mean I’m doing laundry four times a week now; this could also be because I don’t own many pairs of underwear but should still be considered.

 

Fourthly and lastly of all, you have to know how to be supportive. Your boyfriend will get his ass kicked some days and needs a strong woman by his side. Ready to get his pain meds when he can’t walk, ready to eat like a rabbit in front of him while he cuts weight, and ready to refrain from any funny business leading up to a fight: and by funny business I mean sex.

 

It’s a tough job being an MMA fighter’s girlfriend, but it is worth it, because they all make love like Picasso. It’s a fact, I saw it somewhere online once a few years ago… scientist said so.

 

***

Follow Mark on Twitter 

Buy tickets to Mark’s upcoming ammy MMA fight HERE.

He will face Ramon Nanes on August 31st at EAC 6 – Lonestar Showdown II in Bryan, Texas.

Special thanks to Mike Calimbas Photography.

Marcus Holding Pads for One of his Students

In preparation for my interview with Legacy FC 22’s Paul Buentello, I stumbled across another story that piqued my interest.

 

On July 22nd, MMAJunkie.com broke the news that James McSweeney was to replace Buentello’s original opponent, Marcus Sursa [12-8], citing only that he had been “forced out” of the light heavyweight main event.

 

What does that even mean, “forced out?” Was Sursa injured in training? Did he ultimately decide a fight on August 23rd just wasn’t feasible for him at this time? More importantly, how do we go about finding out why Amarillo-born Sursa hasn’t fought in his home state of Texas since 2011?

 

Shark Fights Face-Off

I soon discovered that Sursa did not vacate the card on his own accord: the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration [TDLR] had not approved the fight with Buentello. Speculation as to why this happened can often get a bit carried away, so I decided to educate myself further on the regulations handed down by the TDLR [found here].  Under Chapter 61.20, it states that, “Professional combative sports contestants… who… participate in a regulated professional event authorized by the Code must be licensed or registered by the executive director.” Chapter 61.19 discusses sanctions and penalties.  It reads, “If a person violates Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 2052, or a rule, or order of the Executive Director or Commission relating to the Code, proceedings may be instituted to impose administrative sanctions and/or recommend administrative penalties…”

 

Upon further research, I came across this 29-page chart provided by the TDLR dated March 5, 2010. Sursa is the only fighter listed as “suspended indefinitely” with an otherwise blank entry, besides a note that curiously reads “CONTACT TX.”

 

Was Sursa’s problem a valid license? Not according to his manager, Train, who informed me that Marcus’ paperwork was, to his knowledge, up-to-date. What I did find out, however, is that the TDLR did give a reason to Sursa’s camp regarding his dismissal from the Legacy card…but not one Train could find on the regulations.  “[The TDLR] said he was ‘too volatile’ for weigh-ins,” Train explained. “That’s a matter of opinion. You’ve seen weigh-ins where guys punch each other all the time and yell at each other. It’s a combat sport. He’s never done anything at weigh-ins that I’m aware of. He’s got in some verbal arguments or some pushing matches, but so have a lot of guys.”

Buentello training at Bastos BJJ in Midland, Texas.

 

“We have requested to know what the basis for suspension is, legally, so we can appeal it by the book,” says Train in earnest. “We have contacted Greg [Alvarez, Assistant Combative Sports Program Manager] and the Regional Director of the ABC [Association of Boxing Commissions] Josef Mason, but have not received a response from either.”

 

I did confirm a suspension levied by the commission, one that Train insists Sursa completed after an incident with none other than would-be opponent, Paul Buentello, in 2011.  “There is no existing suspension or code that cited for him not getting a license in Texas that I’m aware of,” he says. When I asked, Buentello confirmed that the two fighters were, indeed, in a fistfight on June 18, 2011. Upon receipt of this information, I noted that Sursa had fought that night for now defunct Undisputed MMA promotion out of Amarillo. Finally, I begin to connect the dots.

 

I wanted to wait a few days to see if I could get in touch with Marcus and get his side of the story. After a few tries, I was able to get several details, including what incited the blowout between him and Buentello in 2011.

 

“It’s complicated,” Sursa begins. “All I know is that the commission won’t accept or give me my license to fight. I’ve already done my 90-day suspension and Paul’s already done his 90-day suspension. They cleared Paul to fight, but they won’t clear me to fight. I think Paul doesn’t want to fight me.”

 

Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone

Are these simply the musings of a downtrodden opponent? Sursa has a different story. “[Paul] used to be my first boxing coach. I know all about him; I’ve trained with him a bunch. [That night] I was fighting Nate James out of American Kickboxing Academy.  I saw Paul was in James’ corner, which pissed me off because Paul’s from my hometown; we’re both from Amarillo. You don’t corner against someone that’s your friend or someone that you’ve coached. I would never corner against Paul. NEVER.”

 

Sursa continues, “After the fight was over, I ended up losing a split decision. I felt like Paul was a lot responsible since he was in my opponent’s corner. I told Paul when we were going back to the locker room that I thought they hadn’t beat me and they were all, ‘Ha-ha! We beat Marcus Sursa!’ and laughing about it. So I walked over and I was like, ‘Screw you guys; you won a s****y decision and you didn’t beat me.’ Paul got in my face and was like, ‘Well, I’ll beat your ass,’ and I was like, ‘I bet you don’t.’ I told him to get out of my face and he goes, ‘Make me get out of your face!’ so I head-butted him. I split his head open and I split mine open. He knocked my dad down…knocks two of my coaches down. So I threw him in the corner and started beating on him and some people pulled me off him.”

 

“I did some investigation on why Paul was in his corner,” Sursa admits. “Come to find out, Paul was managing Nate James. I thought he was my buddy, my friend. He was asking me how training was going and how my weight loss was going…questions about my camp.  I gave him the answers because I didn’t know he was a part of Nate James’ camp.”

 

“He knows I beat his ass in that locker room,” Sursa says with confidence. “He’s looking for a fight that’s going to make him look good and get him back in the show [UFC]. He doesn’t want to lose. James McSweeney is an easy win for him. If James does take Paul down, I think he could win the fight; but I think he will try and stand with Paul.

Marcus and his Glowing Girlfriend, Carah Christensen.

 

Perhaps contributing (and ultimately unhelpful to his cause) was Sursa’s previous altercation with UFC 155er, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in October 2010. According to several reports, including one from MiddleEasy.com, the brawl took place backstage at an Evolution Combat Sports card in Clovis, New Mexico, where Sursa was to fight in the main event that evening. Sadly, the bout never came to fruition. Cerrone showed up with Sursa’s ex-girlfriend and both got heated after several choice words were exchanged. Sursa ended up with a cut above his eye and “Cowboy” with a busted lip.

 

“I was in my locker room, where it was supposed to only be people on the team and people that had corner passes. No family members, no friends could be back there,” Sursa tells me. “I have my phone, my wraps, and all my stuff in my hands. Then Donald Cerrone is standing inside the locker room where no one was supposed to be. I see him and I see my ex-girlfriend and they look all mad. So, I take my headphones off and I’m like, ‘What’s up man?’”


Sursa explains further, “My girl broke up with me and started going out with Donald. She broke up with Donald, came back and started dating me again and told me a bunch of stuff. So, I told him, ‘This girl was cheating on you when she was with you.’ So he’s like, ‘You talking s***t?’ and I was like, ‘What’s up?’ and he pushes me. So we got into a pushing contest. I go to push him again and he sticks me right in the eye with his right hand and it cuts my eyeball. I went crazy and I pushed him kicked him and knocked him down. I went to kick him again and knock his head off, but my dad came through the curtains and pulled me off. So that’s how that went down…Donald initiated it. He came into the locker room to look for trouble.”

 

I ask Marcus if he thinks this incident is being held over his head, in addition to the scuffle with Buentello. “Definitely,” he laments. “There’s another thing that gets on my nerves. They talk about how I’m aggressive at weigh-ins. Well, Jim Larsen [now deceased] and Brent Medley, the two presidents of Shark Fights…they used to tell us, ‘Get in each other’s faces; go crazy and yell at each other. It will pump the fights up for us so everyone will want to come out and watch.’ So, that’s what I would do. I would get up in the opponent’s face and build the fights up so there was some drama. I mean, we’re going to fight each other, not playing dominos. Now, I’m reaping the consequences off of all of that.”

 

Proud Father, Marcus & Son, Orion Hunter Sursa.

Train recounts that Marcus has had a hard road and was very much looking forward to this fight. “He just had a kid,” he tells me. “We received the contract [for Legacy FC 22] and we were fighting in it. He had a warrant in Amarillo for some child support payments and basically, to show how responsible he is, he drove 18 hours to Amarillo and spent nine days in jail, so he wouldn’t get picked up at the fight. So, he spent everything he had to go down there and take care of that, so he would legally be okay for that date to fight. All of this happened when he was in jail, so he didn’t even know that they denied his license. When he got out, he was expecting to have a main event fight and a nice payday and he hears that they’re not going to license him. [Marcus’] position is if he’s too volatile to fight, the guy that he got into it with is still fighting,” says Train. “If they were worried about volatility or someone doing something in the back room, that’s a contradiction in itself.”

 

With that, the question still remains: what code did Sursa violate that prevents him from fighting under the Legacy banner, or in Texas at all, for that matter? What would have happened if Sursa had attempted to fight someone other than Paul Buentello? All questions that, for now, go unanswered.

 

A request to the TDLR for more information has been submitted, but no response has been received as of yet.

 

***

LEGACY FC 22 will take place in Lubbock, Texas, on August 23, 2013.

LEGACY

 

Catch Sursa next at Shogun Fights in Maryland on October 10th and follow him on Facebook.



Marcus would like to thank: “All my family, Premier Combat Center here in Omaha, Nebraska, Jason Brilz, Houston Alexander, Anthony Smith, my coach, Kurt Podany, for helping me not only training, but getting my life back together and back to winning again!”

 

Photo credits: Special thanks to the Marcus and the Sursa family. Paul Buentello photo credit to Bastos BJJ – Midland. Donald Cerrone photo credit to mmaggregate.wordpress.com.

 

…Thoughts expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer….

BUBBA3

The Legacy Middleweight Champ, a.k.a. “Captain America”

“Whoever has the best wrestling in the fight gets to pick where the fight happens.”

 

Many fans might have scoffed at such a statement, but Bubba Bush [6-2] knew exactly what he was doing when he spoke these words over a month ago during our Legacy FC 21 interview. Those who would criticize such a statement are now silenced…at least for a little while.

 

On July 19th, Bush was crowned the new Legacy FC Middleweight Champion over contender, Larry Crowe. What is that experience like, to have over six years of competition, time and dedication all culminate in one ultimate goal? Where do you go from the top?

 

Read on as Bubba takes us through it all, including his experience at weigh-ins, the day of the fight, the hard weight cut, thoughts on his opponent and, without fail, the one constant he always finds in his corner: his resilient and unwavering Faith.

 

***

 

SJ Sports: Now that it’s been a little over a month since we last spoke, how is the transition going from having a full-time job and training to strictly MMA full-time?

 

Bubba Bush: It’s amazing and it’s everything I hoped it would be. I got worried how much of a difference it would make and if it would be worth it and it turns out it was. Just having the mental energy to train harder and more often is amazing and being able to get things done with the two and three-a-days is something that I have never been able to do. Going into this fight was the first time my legs didn’t feel like jelly coming out of the locker room. I was just so confident in my cardio and that I was prepared for the fight and actually had done everything I could do, as opposed to coming into the fight wondering, “What if I were full time? What if I had trained harder?”

 

BUBBA6

Larry Crowe vs. Bubba at Legacy FC 21 Weigh-Ins. Photo by Mike Calimbas

SJ Sports: Take me through your entire Legacy FC 21 experience. Let’s start with the weigh-ins.

 

Bubba Bush: Leading up to this fight was actually really hard on me, weight-wise. I’ve never had to cut so hard. It was good that I came in big; I weighed more for the fight, but it was hard because I had to do a two or three week hard dietary cut and had some diabetic complications and things to deal with there. That was a little tough on all of us, but coming in to the day of the fight, the actual morning of the weigh-in, I woke up pretty light and had an easy eight or nine pound cut. Kidneys didn’t hurt. Felt really good about it.

 

SJ Sports: What kind of energy did you feel from Larry at that point?

 

Bubba Bush: It was subdued, but respectful. We respect each other. We’re not the big “talkers” outside the ring and there’s a mutual respect there, so that was consistent. I got to shake his hand before the fight. He was really big; wasn’t surprised there. I wasn’t worried…all that training and a good camp leading up to it.

 

SJ Sports: Did you feel that Larry was confident? Or was he nervous in any way?

 

BUBBA5

Legacy FC 21 Middleweight Championship Fight. Photo by Mike Calimbas

Bubba Bush: Yeah. You know, you always wonder because your corner is going to say, “Oh, he’s scared…” and they’re going to build you up, but you never know. He seemed fine. I don’t think he was cocky or over-confident by any means, but I think he came in thinking he was going to win. He wasn’t defeated ahead of time.

 

SJ Sports: The day of the fight, walk me through it all. What did you do to prepare?

 

Bubba Bush: I ate a lot. Usually, I’m nervous. The day of the fight, my stomach is in knots and I have a hard time making it back up to 200 pounds. I have a hard time eating before the fight; I’m sitting there forcing myself to eat just so I don’t run out of energy. This time, I got down two or three meals, no problem. No twisted stomach. I was just hungry all day and loving it. I rested, went to lunch with my parents and my girlfriend; they came into town so I got to see them for the first time since I’d been here. I got with my cornermen and ate again [before heading to the arena]. It was a long wait because we had to be there so early; five o’clock and we didn’t fight until 11. I knew I was going to have six hours, so I ate again twice in the arena and then took a nap.  That’s what I have to do, or else I get so mentally drained just sitting there.

 

 

SJ Sports: You finally arrive at 11 o’clock…it’s time for your fight; what goes on through your mind as you’re walking out?

 

Bubba Bush: Well, I’m a little nervous up until the point of the weigh-in; the whole game is trying to subdue that and keep that bottled up. Not let that come out and let that affect you because the longer it affects you, the more tired you’re going to be. I try to put that out of my mind. Just visualize the fight until I fall asleep…visualize it until I fall asleep…and I do that until I get up at nine o’clock to warm up. Honestly, I have to warm up mentally and I just decided not to lose. I decided that there was no way he could beat me. I won’t quit. I won’t stop. There’s a lot of prayer involved and that’s mostly that “His will be done.” “Give me the strength for what I need to do.” You have to make peace with it, but I decided, mentally, not to lose. That really helps me control; I let it come over me, that nervous energy, because you’re using that to warm up, to get amped up. I’m just hungry for it. I was so confident. I was just excited and for the first time in a couple fights to get in the cage…I really felt like they were locking him in there with me. It helps cut a lot of the nervousness, because instead of creating the moment where it can go wrong, you’re just excited about getting in there and making it happen.

 

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Bubba with the Legacy FC Middleweight belt and new Bantamweight Champ, Matthew Hobar. Photo by Warhorse Fightwear.

SJ Sports: When the fight began and the cage door closed, did Larry have the “feel” that you were expecting him to have? You mentioned he looked huge; was his strength a difficult aspect to overcome? What surprised you?

 

Bubba Bush: One thing I should have expected, but he still caught me off guard with, was I have seen him in fights before smile at his opponent and interact during the fight and talk between rounds. At one point, I threw a jab out there and I think I actually caught him off-guard. He was expecting me to be a little slower, perhaps, when I was engaging on the feet. I caught him in range and jabbed him in the nose a little bit and he smiled and nodded at me. I almost got caught by that and nodded back and right when he did that he exploded out and threw a three-punch combo. It almost froze me up. I should have been expecting it, but it was a weird dynamic and it caught me a little off-guard. As far as his strength, you can tell he’s a very strong guy, but I expected him to feel stronger than he did. As soon as I got him up on the cage, he’s strong, but he didn’t have the wrestling to transfer it into something meaningful. When he first pushed me off, it was effective. He got that, but most of the time he didn’t get to really utilize his strength in a meaningful way. It was not as big a factor as I expected it to be.

 

SJ Sports: That leads into my next question. In the second round, it appeared that once you assumed full mount, it “sealed the deal.” Was it difficult for you to maintain that position and land strikes?

 

Bubba Bush: No, it felt good. In fact, every time I got my hands on him, I really felt like I could do what I wanted. I wasn’t pressing the action that much against the fence. There were some times when I think someone said he “stuffed a couple takedowns,” but really I felt like I could do what I wanted when I wanted. I just knew I wanted him out…racking up riding time. There was no hurry to go to the ground, but it felt like when I needed to, I could do what I needed to do.

 

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Photo by Mike Calimbas

SJ Sports: Do you think the stoppage was timed correctly?

 

Bubba Bush: It definitely could have been stopped earlier, but I think it was just right. I think it was a great reffing job there, because it’s a title fight. I actually talked to [the ref] before the fight and he said, “I’m not going to determine this fight; I’m going to let you guys settle it.” That’s exactly what you want from a referee in a title fight. There doesn’t need to be any doubt or uncertainty or early stoppages. If I were in Larry’s position, I would say, “Let it go; let me take a few more punches.” He’s fine now; no one’s worse off. No arms are getting broken. Let it go a little further and let’s not have any doubts.

 

SJ Sports: There were a couple times when it looked close to being stopped.

 

Bubba Bush: Definitely. There were a few times where the ref stepped in to stop it and Larry did a great job. He would take four or five punches and then as the ref stepped in to stop it, he would change position. That’s exactly what they say in the rules: if you change your hips, that’s intelligently defending yourself, so he wanted to keep going. The other thing is, if I punch myself out, if I get too tired to do anything to damage him anymore and I just stop punching him, well, then he gets a chance to recover. He can push me off and that can be an entirely different fight.

 

SJ Sports: How did it feel to finally have that strap put around your waist? Was it a blur or were you able to relish the moment?

 

Bubba Bush: Oh, absolutely relish it. I was there; it was as clear as could be. You think and dream about it a lot, but that was just the most amazing moment. It’s a long-term goal you fulfill; I’ve never had that. I’ve never had a long-term dream come to fruition like that. It’s everything it should be.

 

SJ Sports: Tell me about that little “thing” that you did…that leg and arm thing…

 

Bubba Bush: Right before I shook Larry’s hand? It was supposed to be “The Dinosaur Walk.” I’ve got two guys I train with: Matt Steward and Ellis Boyd. They’re just giant meatheads. They’re 205 and heavyweight; just big balls of muscle. Every time they win, they just tense up every muscle in their body and start stomping their feet around the cage. It’s kind of BVMMA tradition.

 

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Beauty and the Bubba. Girlfriend, Chloe Turner.

SJ Sports: I meant that thing you did right when Mick [Maynard] put the belt around your waist!

 

Bubba Bush: Was it a “Whoop?”

 

SJ Sports: I don’t know what that is… [Laughs]

 

Bubba Bush: Okay [laughs]. It was probably when I put my right leg behind my knee and point my finger into the sky? Yeah, that’s an Aggie tradition. All the Aggies out there will get that one.

 

SJ Sports: I noticed a special lady got a kiss at the end of the fight; I assume she does not play basketball? [See our previous interview!]

 


Bubba Bush
: [Laughs] Oh no. No. No sports with her before the fight! She was amazing; it’s a very hard thing to be a fighter’s girlfriend. You get very distant and in “kill mode” the month before the fight, so she was extremely patient with me and helping me out and a good manager and everything else. She was very supportive during the whole thing.

 

SJ Sports: What’s her name?

 

Bubba Bush: Chloe Turner.

 

SJ Sports: Why do you think there was some criticism of your statement in your post-fight interview that you wanted to take on a competitor in the UFC?

 

Bubba Bush: I have no idea. When you’re in any national social media, there are enough people to argue any point you want. I confirmed with Mick and basically just said, “I hope I didn’t ruffle any feathers; I didn’t mean any disrespect.” Mick has been amazing to all of us and I’m going to keep fighting for him as long as I can, but he’s trying to put as many people in the UFC as he can and put on good shows until then. So, I think all of our goals are the same, to take it to the next level. He’s been supportive of Andrew Craig, Daniel Pineda and Brian [Melancon] and even me. He put me in touch with my current management [First Round Management] and that’s what’s going to get me in the UFC. I think he wants to see that as much as I do. As long as I wasn’t insulting anybody or stepping on any toes, then I don’t care what Twitter thinks. We’re all trying to get there.

 

SJ Sports: Have you received any phone calls or emails we should know about yet?

 

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Bubba’s Sister, Jackie, with her Handsome Son, Benen.

Bubba Bush: I’ve talked to my management and he was working on it. We’re probably going to do a title defense with Legacy.

 

SJ Sports: Is there anyone that you can think of right now that would be a good opponent for you?

 

Bubba Bush: I’m going to leave that one up to them for now.

 

SJ Sports: Tell your fans what you have been up to the past week and what special person you got to meet for the first time.

 

Bubba Bush: I’ve been in Boston with my sister [Jackie] and just met my nephew. He was born two days before my birthday, so a bit prematurely. [Laughs] He’s here; he’s healthy. Seven-something pounds and his name is Benen. [After St. Benigne, St. Patrick’s disciple. Their other son is named “Patrick!”]

 

SJ Sports: Is there anything you need to focus on when you get back more than you did previously, or will you continue on the same path?

 

Bubba Bush: Not more so. I think I am focusing on the right things, but I just need to keep at it. So, just getting down with Saul [Solis] more, hanging out with Tim [Kennedy] and Andrew [Craig] and all the right people. We work everything and that’s what I need: to get better in general. Hard work with great people. Just going to keep doing that.

 

Bubba would like to thank: Cellucor Supplements, Warhorse Fightwear, Versa Carry Concealed Carry Holsters, Fox and Hound Restaurant, Fuzzy’s Tacos, First Round Management, BVMMA, and AFC.

 

“…For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. JOHN 3:16

 

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Special Thanks to Bubba Bush & Family, Mike Calimbas Photography and Warhorse Fightwear

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