“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?”
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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