SAN JOSE, Calif. — Just weeks before his return to the Octagon, Paul Buentello has been suspended by the American Kickboxing Academy.
“I’m on suspension. I think Bob [Cook] has most control of it, letting me back in the gym,” said Buentello, who returns to the Ultimate Fighting Championship on Dec. 12. His UFC 107 bout with Stefan Struve will mark the first time he has competed for the promotion since Feb. 2006, where he notched a record of 3-1 between 2005-2006, losing only a title fight versus Andrei Arlovski.
The Strikeforce veteran has been with AKA since his cage debut in an International Fighting Championship event in 2000. Though Buentello lives in Texas, he has continued to train in San Jose, and prior to the suspension, he was one of four—alongside Josh Thomson, Mike Swick and Bobby Southworth—of AKA’s original fight team members to remain with the pioneer camp.
According to the fighter and his long-time trainer and friend, Dave Velasquez of Nor Cal Fight Factory, the dispute arose when Buentello replaced Cook with a new manager.
“I’ve always came to this crossroads, if I ever go back to the UFC, I gotta have somebody on board that’s gonna sell me like I’m the best thing since sliced bread,” said Buentello. The native Texan believes that someone is Elis Pacheco of New York-based Dedos Marketing Group, which has worked with Ice-T, Fat Joe and Beyonce Knowles.
Cook, Buentello’s former manager and trainer, declined comment.
Buentello met Pacheco on the set of a commercial spot with former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Rashad Evans. Pacheco wrote Buentello a check on the spot for 30 minutes of work, which pleasantly surprised the fighter.
“You just get that vibe, you know? That he’s out for your best interest no matter what and he doesn’t care about pushing the limits,” he said. “He’s gonna get the deal done.”
Velasquez, an original member of AKA’s fight team alongside Cook and Buentello, has taken over Buentello’s camp.
“We all were in the sport when it was nothing. We were in bathrooms for locker rooms, you know what I mean?” he said. “Now that the sport’s blown up, its kind of hard feelings to say, ‘Hey you can’t train here anymore because I’m not managing you.'”
Both agree AKA’s doors closing to the former King of the Cage Heavyweight Champion has negatively impacted his training camp. Without the luxury of training in one place, Buentello has made treks to Sacramento—two hours away—and gets little rest because of the added commute and the crowding it creates in his schedule.
AKA isn’t out of Buentello’s life yet though. AKA fighter Mike Kyle has come to Nor Cal Fight Factory to spar. Bobby Southworth, too, demonstrated support, but cannot spar due to the recent birth of his child. Velasquez also brought in another AKA exile, Matt Major, to train with Buentello.
“I’ve been there a long time,” said Buentello. “That’s my home. It sucks, it sucks, it sucks that I can’t go home for a little bit.”
(Buentello works the pads with Velasquez.)