steph


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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.

 

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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?”

 

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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?

 

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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

 

***

 

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

Internet sensation and juiced up cartoon man, Tommy Toe Hold, came to visit me down in Texas this past weekend. Take a look as Tommy tells the world why the Texas MMA scene, especially in Houston, is soon becoming a force to be reckoned with in the UFC.

Check out UFC 162 on Saturday, July 6th, as Texas takes over, with appearances from the likes of Andrew Craig, Brian Melancon, Charles Oliveira and Tim Kennedy.

HUGE thank you to Tommy for putting this together for StephanieJoplin.com and also to Andrew for being such a good sport.
Tommy’s Website: http://ttths.com
Follow Tommy on Twitter : http://twitter.com/TommyToeHold
LIKE Tommy on Facebook: http://facebook.com/TommyToeHold

What makes an undefeated, demi-god-lookin’ UFC fighter even more deadly than his 7-0 professional record? I set out to find the answer, and Andrew Craig did not disappoint.

You wouldn’t know it from the way Andrew picks each of his opponents apart, one by one, but he is one of the most charismatic, humorous, and, lest I forget, devastatingly handsome athletes I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. His stats speak for themselves: in just eleven fights (seven pro, four amateur), Andrew has racked up five wins by unanimous decision, three submissions, two TKOs (one of which resulted in a referee stoppage from strikes), and one KO. Want to know Andrew’s secret? That smile of his could distract the white off rice.

If there ever was a hometown athlete to root for, Craig is it. He is a graduate of Stratford High School, and obtained a degree in Corporate Communications from the University of Texas in Austin. When I asked him what the heck he thought he was doing, deciding to fight in a cage for a living, he replied, “You know, it wasn’t that I wanted to do it for a living. I just wanted to do it once. I was obsessed with this sport. I thought it was the coolest sport in the world. “

Andrew explains, “My cousin [Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, Travis Tooke] was teaching [Jiu Jitsu] in Houston, and he had some fighters under him at the time like Yves Edwards and Todd Moore…so I was like man, those guys are legit, maybe I could learn a little something, maybe do one amateur fight, get it out of my system, and be done with it. But I was hooked.” Craig went on, “Even though I kept on telling myself it was going to be one, nahh…so now I have 11 [fights under my belt].”

(Notice right away how freaking rad this interview is already, and we’re not even five minutes in).

Andrew and I both order smoked salmon sandwiches, his on sourdough, mine on a whole-wheat bagel, and a couple of iced teas. I notice that he uses one Sweet-N-Low and one Equal packet each in his glass. Of course, I call him out. “Yeah, you know, I like to keep it lean, keep it healthy.” [Laughter, on my end] You know I don’t usually see Equal a lot, so I thought I’d give it a shot.” [More laughter]. Yep, we’re going to get along.

One would imagine this fighter would have an ego the size of Serena Williams’ ass by now, but not Andrew. “To be honest, I couldn’t tell you [if I’ve had any impact on Houston MMA]! It’s not so much me having an impact; it’s people like you or like “The Cage Door” when they were around. They did a huge job on promoting fighters. None of us would be near as well-known if it wasn’t for them.” He adds, “Mick Maynard’s got Legacy right now, it’s mostly those guys that shed light on us.”

I asked Andrew if there were any fighters on Houston’s MMA radar that stand out to him as being able to sustain a long-lasting career: “As far as the guys I train with I really think Lester Batres; he’s as bad as they come. Him and [William] Bubba Bush, who I fought previously. I think that dude can dominate some fools on a national level.” He continues,  “[Artenas] Chico Young could get there with a couple more wins. [Mike] Bronzoulis and Todd Moore, they have already fought for Strikeforce. One of my coaches, Jace Pitre, he’s been out of the game for a little while, but if he came back to it, I think he would make it, make a good run for himself.”

Craig reflects, “It’s tough to say just because it’s such a fickle business. There’s so much talent, which is why it makes it easy to live and train in Houston and not have to move anywhere else. If you’re in a different sport like Muay Thai, you are going to have a hard time competing at a top level internationally, unless you go to Thailand, Amsterdam or California; whereas if you wanted to go to a top level in Houston, you could do that.”  In conjunction, I ask how he thinks Houston MMA is measuring up to other hotbeds like Vegas and Albuquerque: “It’s like at least top three in the nation, right?” I would certainly say so, yes.

So what kind of a fighter does Andrew like to go up against the most (and the least)?  “I enjoy fighting all [types of fighters], because you train differently for each one, and each one poses a new challenge.”

“My past couple of fights have been like ‘defend the takedown, get up, take them apart on their feet’ so, I think it would be good if I had to fight a really elite striker. As far as what I’ve had the most trouble with is the power wrestler, which I think my toughest fight to date was with [William] Bubba Bush.” As far as submissions go, “With the Jiu Jitsu guys, I’m not too worried, because most of the time their wrestling’s not as good as a pure wrestler. Most of the time Travis [Tooke] submits me worse than anybody else, so I’m usually pretty good to go.”

Andrew’s next UFC fight will be on July 11th versus Rafael Natal. “He’s a Brazilian dude, lives in New York, trains with Renzo Gracie, Phil Nurse…he’s got good coaches around him.”

When asked how he will prepare differently from his last UFC face-off versus Kyle Noke on March 2nd of this year, Andrew reassures me, “honestly this [fight] is almost identical. This guy, he switches stances a little bit more, whereas Noke didn’t really [do that] as much; this guy will go Southpaw and go back and forth.  I don’t think [Natal] has as good of a takedown as Noke, but, this guy [is] a good grinder, honestly. He’s been dropped in a lot of his fights, but he still just comes back and you’re like ‘Wow! How the hell does that guy do that without getting in that much trouble?’”

Andrew pauses, “I think the biggest thing with this one is just…don’t get sloppy. Cardio has almost been the best thing I have. My wrestling, my Jiu Jitsu, my striking, you know, none of those are that great; but my cardio is pretty damn good…yeah.” (Like I believed any of that for one second).

“As far as what I’m going to do [in the future] and the goals, I’m pretty short term actually. I’m going to beat [Natal] and that’s the thing I’m going to do next. Down the road, as far as fighting goes, just it’s pretty general, keep fighting and winning. But as far as what do I want to do with that success? I’d like to keep coaching; I’d like to open my own gym. I’ve already talked to Travis about it. I’d like to open a gym probably in Austin, actually.”

Quickly I start tabulating the trips and gas mileage between here and Austin, since naturally the first thing that comes to my mind is that Andrew and I will most likely be entertaining a long-distance romance by then. So I ask him, “Austin?” He hesitates, “I mean, I would like to.  Again, that’s more the indefinite goal, you know. The first one being my next fight, very definite, this next one is indefinite. Not as big of a definite time frame I should say.” (Insert sigh of relief).

So, what does Andrew Craig do to prepare for a fight? What does he eat? All of these are questions that were on my mind. He obliges, “I try new things all the time…not to stick with such a rigid structure if I know there’s something better out there. I’m always open-minded, trying to learn new things and improve myself. For example I did hot yoga this morning. This might be what I would call an ‘active recovery day’…so it was like an hour and a half and it was brutal, but that’s something I need to do to become a little bit looser.” Andrew explains, “I fight at 185 which is middleweight, so if it’s a non-title fight you can weigh 186, and I usually walk around, like before I start really buckling down in my cardio before a fight, maybe around 205, 210.”

“The biggest thing that Travis taught me since I first started was [taking] ‘positive thinking’ to like a crazy level. For instance, some guys say ‘there’s no way I’m going to lose’ I don’t even do that, because that’s like you’re still saying there’s like a ‘lose’ in there, so I say ‘I’m positively going to win.’ I imagine beating my opponent. Before I go to sleep, if I’m nervous about it, I’ll go through my progression, and then go to sleep with peace of mind, knowing that it will be an easy decision, like unanimous, winning a hard-fought split decision, getting a crazy knockout, winning the submission, every single time it’s like ‘BOOM! BOOM!’ My hand raised-type of thing…”

I confirm, “So…you just fire yourself up?” “I mean not even that, just like reinforcing my mind that I’m going to win”, he replies. Boss.

I ask about pre-fight rituals: “Yeah, I slap myself like a hundred times… [laughs] no, I don’t do anything like that. We honestly, like, chill out to tell you the truth.

Next I talk to Andrew about MMA athletes, and what sets them apart from other athletes. “There’s no team, there’s nobody to take the fall if something happens except for you. You don’t get another game the next week; you don’t get to redeem yourself that quick. You’ve got to wait months. If you lose, you go to the undercard. People are forgetting about you that quick. I think it’s much bigger pressure than a lot of other sports.”

All right ladies, you’ve been patient: time for y’all to tune in while Andrew and I talk chicks. “When I first started [fighting], I had a girlfriend. I dated her until my last Legacy Fight, so…[Eric] Schambari. I got done with that fight, signed with a big management company, and it’s been kind of training and business since. So not a whole lot of [a dating] life that you have.”

I retort, “So no groupies?” Andrew smiles, “I don’t think so…. uh I don’t know. Maybe? [Laughs.] That’s possible I suppose? It’s not like I walk around the street and have people stop me and ask me for autographs. Now, if I go to a Legacy fight, yeah, I get a lot of attention from an MMA community. Like when I was in Sweden [supporting teammate, Michael Chase Corley], they didn’t know who I was…I just got a lot of ‘Thor’ comments, and that’s it.’ [Laughs.]

So what’s Andrew’s type? Shit, this guy’s hard to crack:  “I’ve never really broken it down like that.”  Okay…so I go with a different route: “Well, not just physically, in terms of personality, is there anything that’s important to you?

Eventually, I get what I’m looking for: “Humor is big. Being sweet and nice, stuff like that. But being thick-skinned enough to handle me being a sarcastic asshole at the same time.” Bingo.

UFC on FUEL TV 4 will take place July 11, 2012 at HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. The main card will air on FUEL TV, and Facebook is expected to carry the prelims.

Follow Andrew on Twitter @andybcraig.

#peaceloveandsubmissions

photos via: Mike Calimbas  TXMMA.com  Jexse Studios by Jesse Soto

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