(Crunkilton versus Sergio Gomez. Props to MMATKO.com)
Oct. 10 is a decade and a day away from Rich Crunkilton’s first professional bout. And despite his tenure in the sport and a 19-month layoff due to injuries, the 29-year-old wants to fight another 10 years after his WEC 43 bout att the AT&T Center in San Antonio, TX against Dave Jansen.
“I feel like I’m gonna play it to the bone again and keep going ’til I can,” Crunkilton said.
Numerous injuries kept him sidelined and out of big bouts with Bart Palaszewski and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, and 19 months off isn’t even the longest lull of Crunkilton’s career. Hermes Franca broke Crunkilton’s arm in the fighter’s lone UFC appearance at UFC 42 in 2003, resulting in 22-months of inactivity. But “Cleat” is finally healthy and ready to go.
“I’m feeling great. I’m doing lots of strength and conditioning. I’ve rehabbed all my stuff,” he said. “I’m feeling healthy, I feel really strong.” And the long layoff, potential ring rust? “I don’t think its gonna be a factor.”
A former challenger for the WEC lightweight title, the UFC veteran expects a win upon his return to competition.
“I heard [Jansen is] a tough guy but I don’t really feel like he presents any serious problems in any area,” he said. “I train everywhere. I train on the ground. I train in stand-up. I feel anywhere he brings it, I can comeback just as strong in any area.”
Victory could reposition the Armory of Daytona Beach representative for a crack at the 155-pound belt. If Cerrone becomes the interim champion in the main event versus Benson Henderson, he’d be happy the bout once proposed to him. A rematch against the man who kept the belt away from him, Rob McCullough, is welcome too.
“I’ll fight anybody,” he said. “Right now I’m worried about one person in front of me, but whoever they pick for me is who I’ll fight.”
Jansen is an M-1 veteran, fighting internationally and cutting his teeth on the blue collar wrestling mats of Team Quest Portland. Ending his 13-fight win streak—hurting instead of being hurt—is what Crunkilton has in mind for Saturday night. That, and serving up a friendly reminder.
“Getting back on the scene and making my mark again,” he said of his goals for the clash with Jansen. “I’ve been out a while. [I want] people to know that I’m back and I’m gonna be pushing for the title.”
This interview was conducted on Fox Sports’ Inside the Cage on Reno, Nev. AM 1450 and is hosted by Greg Delong with co-host Danny Acosta.