Quick Hits

Quick Hits

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BULLY GRIP

195: Gray Maynard’s grip strength in pounds per square inch.

Poor: <96
Below Average: 97-104
Average: 105-112
Above Average: 113-122
Excellent: >123
* Grip Strength for Men Aged 30-39

MINTY MOJO

The smell of peppermint around the holidays may evoke fond childhood memories, but treats aside, peppermint oil has quite the array of health benefits. Found in natural products for nasal congestion, headache relief, upset stomach, stress, and pain, peppermint isn’t just for candy canes and seasonal goodies.

DON’T LAG BEHIND

A recent study suggests that you can train your brain to ward off jet lag by working out and eating at the same time in both time zones. Your inner clock will realign based on eating, exercising, and light cues.

WINTERIZE YOUR SKIN

The low relative humidity of cold weather can wreak havoc on your skin, making it dry and flaky. You can ditch the winter itch by using a petrolatum based moisturizer, utilizing a room humidifier, and taking a vitamin D supplement.

PUMP YOU UP

According to a recent study, people who lift weights are less likely to have metabolic syndrome—a cluster of risk factors linked to heart disease and diabetes. Research has linked greater muscle strength and muscle mass to lower rates of metabolic syndrome. Incorporating weight lifting or other forms of resistance exercises into your daily regimen is a step in the right direction to keeping your heart healthy.

Health Radar

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By looks alone, Phil Nurse isn’t the most intimidating chap in the world, with his calm demeanor and 5’7” frame giving off a more man-on-the-street than man-in-the-ring vibe. But for three decades, “Kru” has been a man of action, winning multiple championships in the world of Muay Thai and running a successful school in New York City while becoming one of the faces behind the striking prowess of three current UFC champions.

At 48 years old, Phil Nurse still has plenty left to do in the fight game and plenty of would-be-champions to work with. He has become one of the most sought-after striking coaches in MMA, in addition to having his own fight team that keeps his calendar full.

Phil NurseAnyone familiar with combat sports understands how vicious Muay Thai is—a Thailand-born sport of punches, kicks, elbows, and knees. Nurse found the sport when he was 17 years old, after he suffered a knee injury in soccer. Desiring an activity that would help “get his leg back on track,” the Bolton, England, native accompanied a friend to a Muay Thai school and his interest was piqued.

“It wasn’t just standing there and boxing,” says Nurse. “It wasn’t just kicking. Muay Thai was everything. At the same time, it was cool. I loved it so much that I never went back to soccer.”

There were plenty of opponents who wish that he did. Nurse retired with a 32-3 professional mark, winning several different United Kingdom-based titles and retiring with all of them intact. YouTube compilations show a hybrid of Jose Aldo, Roy Jones Jr., and Mirko Cro Cop wrapped up in a 145-pound package of entertaining destruction.

After hanging up the gloves, Nurse moved to NYC and began teaching his craft at several schools, eventually opening up his own. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that he met a talented Canadian fighter and set on a path that made him recognizable to a much larger audience.

“RUSH” IN

Arguably, Nurse’s most famous student is UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St-Pierre, who has a current nine-fight win streak, including six consecutive title defenses. Nurse didn’t begin working with St-Pierre until the train was already in motion and after he had claimed UFC gold once.

Two months before St-Pierre was set to fight Matt Hughes for the UFC Interim Welterweight Title in 2007, a member of GSP’s team was persistent in asking Nurse to evaluate St-Pierre. Nurse was unfamiliar with MMA and was completely booked. However, persistence paid off, and when a client canceled on Nurse, he relented and agreed to evaluate GSP. After a quick discussion and abbreviated 45-minute sparring session, Nurse came away with respect for St-Pierre for not putting on a display of
false bravado.

“He never tested me, and I never tested him,” says Nurse. “When we moved around, we were just two athletes who knew what we both could do. It created a good level of respect between us. This is a guy who could have come in and tried to test me and say, ‘I’m an ex-world champion.’ He never did, and, as a coach, that was a big ‘yes’ to me.”

St-Pierre canceled a flight to Montreal and stayed for four days to work with Nurse. The two fighters continued to train in both Montreal and NYC leading up to the Hughes fight, which ended with a second-round win for GSP via submission.

“I can say that out of 10 specific things in the gameplan that we worked on for the Hughes fight, George did eight out of 10,” Nurse says.

Since then, the two have continued to work together, helping fuel GSP’s ascent as one of the world’s greatest and most respected fighters. “Georges picks stuff up so quickly,” Nurse says. “Once he came down and was training with some of my guys and he dropped one of the experienced guys right on his butt. The guy said, ‘Where did you learn that?’ GSP pointed and said, ‘I learned it yesterday.’”

FINDING “THE ANSWER”

Assembling a great fight team is just as important as learning how to attack the leg or stuff a takedown. Your coaches are the ones who formulate a plan, drive you when you’re dragging, and tell you when you’re doing great. With fighters like St-Pierre and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, Nurse has the luxury of working extensively with fellow coaches Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn. But when the call came from a young fighter preparing for his first shot at UFC gold, Nurse was sure to contact his head boxing coach before things could even begin. The fighter was Frankie Edgar, the coach was Mark Henry, and the fight was Edgar vs. UFC Lightweight Champion BJ Penn in 2010. At the end of
their first sparring session with both Henry and Nurse giving instruction, all three men got together and reviewed how things went. Nothing was lost in translation.

“Frankie said that Mark was in one ear and I was in the other, but we were both saying the same thing,” Nurse says. “That was a big thing for Frankie.”

Fellow striking expert and Muay Thai champion Mike Winkeljohn has worked alongside Nurse frequently for the past three years and is complimentary of the style that he brings to the gym.

“He’s as old as I am but still incredibly fast, and that plays out when showing guys moves,” Winkeljohn says. “He instills the confidence to try those moves and practice those moves. He’s got the ability to make guys believe, and that’s really important.”

MAKING YOUR “BONES”

When it comes to striking, there are few fighters in the sport who are more dynamic than Jon Jones, a whirling dervish of long limbs that have the power and speed behind them to inflict damage.

Jon Jones v Quinton JacksonNurse joined the Jones camp before his December 2009 fight with Matt Hamill (ironically Jones’ only loss because of illegal 12-to-6 elbows), soon bequeathing the same superlatives nearly everyone else did (“a sponge, very talented”) and discovering a shared love of creative ways to strike. Nurse, however, saw the opportunity to teach, something he does every day at The WAT, his Manhattan-based Muay Thai and fitness school.

“I saw all of the creativeness, but it was wasted in a way,” Nurse says. “It was done for the sake of doing it—not doing it for a specific time and not set up to get the full lot out of it.”

He began working with Jones on the mental aspect of striking and putting together sequences that would lead to later sequences. Nurse challenged Jones to think like Nurse thought, and with time, he saw the changes he was looking for. Since that loss to Hamill, Jones has won three of his five fights by TKO and now carries the 205-pound title.

“Phil is beneficial to Jon Jones, because Jon is long and can use lots of Phil Nursetype motions and movements,” says Winkeljohn, adding that Nurse’s influence can also be seen in GSP’s feared leaning jab.

However, Nurse is a bit pained when it comes to the subject of former teammates Jones and Rashad Evans, who have taken a once-scheduled title fight and turned it into something a lot deeper and a lot more emotional. As someone who has worked with both men, Nurse understands his role if the fight is eventually made, but he wishes it didn’t take this path to get there.

“It’s very, very tough. As a martial artist, there’s personally not enough money in the world for me to want these two to fight each other,” says Nurse. “As a martial artist, you bond more than two friends. You become a lot, lot closer. That’s out of my hands. I don’t necessarily love the idea, but it is what it is.”

What does fall in Nurse’s skilled hands is building a mutual trust, something he looks for in anyone that he works with. St-Pierre, Jones, and Edgar have all earned that trust and share a common bond: UFC championship gold. As long as students want to share that trust—regardless of whether they’re a UFC prospect or 96-year-old that wants to be fit—Nurse will be there to hold the pads and inspire their minds.  

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image descYou’ve been through some madness this past year, but now you’re back in action. How is life for Eddie Alvarez?
My life very much consists of family and training. Being here in Florida makes everything organized and simple. Honestly man, I miss Philadelphia. I miss my friends, family, and the people in Philadelphia, but I couldn’t be happier with the lifestyle change. I get to wake up every day, take the kids to school, and head off to training. We get done around 1 p.m., pick the kids up, do homework, hang out at the pool or the beach, and go back to training again at night.

I bet you don’t miss those Philly winters.
Oh man, those are fun. When it snows, my kids and I used to go out and play in it. We’d go out and have a snowball fight or build an igloo, but when it’s just cold, it’s awful. It’s hard to get to get up for training and get excited.

You’re a member of the Blackzilians. Being that you are neither black nor Brazilian, did you have to go through some initiation process?
No [laughing], it’s more of an expression that everyone from everywhere is welcome. At the beginning, there were black and Brazilian fighters, and it was their way of coming together and saying we are all one. For me, that’s what it says. Everyone that is in there is one unit, and we all work together.

You fight at lightweight, but the past two places you’ve lived are known for some decadent cuisines. How do you dodge those bullets?
Honestly, a lot of it is just tunnel vision. I get in the zone, and I’m only thinking about getting lean, fast, and ready for the fight. When you have that frame of mind, it’s really simple to stay away from the bad stuff. You can see the difference in just one training session when you eat like shit versus when you eat like a lean, bad fighting machine.

You’re back in the cage on November 2. Does it feel good to have a challenge to set your sights on?
It’s funny because I’m at a point in my life where there are no ends to the means. I used to set goals, push, and then I’d achieve them. After that, I’d be like “What’s next?” I’ve begun to realize it’s a never-ending game. I have my goals. I know what I want to achieve, but for me, it’s really just about the next day. I’m really beginning to enjoy what I’m doing, and I’m in a very good place with the right people and right team behind me. I’m enjoying what I do every day.

Your upcoming bout with Michael Chandler is a rematch from your epic battle back in November 2011. In the only other rematch of your career you wrecked Shinya Aoki to avenge the loss. Does your motivation change at all in those situations?
I don’t know if the motivation changes. I’m always motivated to win and dominate my opponent. I never let my losses define me as a fighter. I never let any of my wins define me as a fighter. I think it’s important to not look too far into it. I know what I’m capable of. Unfortunately in this sport, some times you take a loss. The important thing to do is correct the mistakes you’ve made, come back stronger, and show that you are a champion. That’s what I’m going to do on November 2.

A good friend of yours, Frankie Edgar, is the “King of Rematches.” Did he give you any advice for your upcoming rematch?
Since I’ve moved to Florida, I’ve only spoken to Frankie once. He called me to tell me congratulations that I got my rematch with Chandler and talked to me a little bit. But we haven’t really gotten to talk too much. I will call him, though, and might be able to train with those guys a little bit before I go into this next fight.

I once saw Frankie wearing boat shoes in the airport. He defended them because they were Polo, but would those shoes fly in Philly?
Boat shoes. They’re like loafers. [Laughing] To each his own, man. We’ve got our own style. I don’t know how they do it in Jersey, but if that is what he’s rolling with these days, then I’m sure he’s doing it right.

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Hatsu Hioki’s mat destruction of American Top Team’s Chris Manuel in Sengoku’s Featherweight grand prix was vintage Hioki as much as it was an emphatic statement:

Leg trip, mount, and bring the pain. Armbar to topside triangle choke, bear down on opponent with all 143 pounds while constricting blood to the brain. And since he can, pummel him a bit before taking the arm home, forcing the tapout in less than 5 minutes. The Japanese fighter solidified his spot as the tournament’s favorite.

Hioki first ventured into mixed martial arts by placing third in amateur Shooto championships. At just 19 years old, the Nagoya-based fi ghter won his fi rst three bouts after turning professional. Then he ran into another future Japanese standout, Hirokyuki Takaya. The “Streetfi ght Bancho” landed overhand rights at will, knocking down Hioki multiple times. But the Alive team representative shook them offen route to losing his first bout.

That kind of resiliency — along with ill-fated slugfests like a draw against Bao Quach and a decision loss to Jong Man Kim — earned him the endearing unoffi cial moniker “Iron Broomstick.” At 5 feet 11 inches tall and 143 pounds, he holds wins over former WEC Featherweight title challengers Joe Pearson and Jeff Curran. He nearly submitted ADCC and Brazilian Jiu- Jitsu world champion Baret Yoshida before scoring a technical knockout. Like all Shooto standouts, he defeated Shooto legend and MMA cult icon Rumina Sato.

But perhaps his greatest accomplishments were in the only two non-Japanese bouts of his career, where he traveled to Canada and defeated TKO champion and UFC-WEC veteran Mark Hominick. In the fi rst outing, he worked “The Machine” over on the mat, fi nishing with a triangle choke. Their second bout saw Hioki beat the Shawn Tompkins pupil standing. It signaled a shift in Hioki’s game — he was no longer the fighter that hit the mat multiple times against Takaya. More importantly, he could fight a champion’s fight, lasting five 5-minute rounds.

His impressive international ledger spawned rumors Hioki was headed back to North America to fi ght for Zuffa’s WEC. Instead, the PRIDE veteran signed up for Sengoku’s Featherweight tournament.

The organization hopes to fill the void left by PRIDE’s departure. Its approach is a sporting one rather than the usual Japanese meld of professional wrestling theatrics and shoot fighting. Hioki fits perfectly into its mold: a serious athlete in need of a grand stage to rock. Shooto, for all of its virtues, is like a first love — always remembered but gladly in the past.

The move from Shooto’s ropes to Sengoku’s has been smooth for Hioki. He dispatched Manuel with his classic aggressive submission game. Standing, Hioki fights like a patient Miguel Torres, employing his length to keep distance and punish opponents. He favors low kicks and is increasingly interested in trading leather. Defensively, he loves push kicks and keeps his head out of range like Yushin Okami. A quiet character, Hioki entered the tournament’s second round — as a headliner — a three-to-one favorite over banger Ronnie Mann. He handed the Brit his second loss in 19 bouts by transforming an anaconda choke into a triangle.

The victory moved his record to 19-3-2, marking his tenth submission. He’s never been stopped, and moving into the tournament’s dusk, it appears he won’t go gently.

Two wins — that’s one night in Japan’s tournament format — away from the Featherweight championship, Hioki, 26, embodies Sengoku’s youth movement as a calm but dangerous role model. The killer instinct he brought into Sengoku has the universally ranked Featherweight on the brink of Japanese superstardom. And his chain submissions prove the “Iron Broomstick” is a weapon to watch.

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For the third time in as many years, the Ultimate Fighting Championship is headed back to Columbus, Ohio. Live from the Nationwide Arena on Saturday, March 7, UFC 96 looks to borrow a little bit of the Columbus MMA magic that made UFC 68 and UFC 82 so successful.

At UFC 68, Randy Couture stole the show when he came out of retirement and handily defeated Tim Sylvia to win his third UFC heavyweight championship. At UFC 82, middleweight champ Anderson Silva made an emphatic case for being the best fi ghter in the universe by choking out PRIDE champion Dan Henderson.

UFC 96 has a lot to live up to if it wants to be compared to its Columbus predecessors. No titles will be on the line at UFC 96, however, there are some great match-ups that will go a long way in determining the pecking order in each division.

Main Event

Quinton Jackson vs. Keith Jardine: Light-Heavyweight

The favorable perception of UFC 96 is contingent on Rampage Jackson and Keith Jardine living up to their billing as a couple of the top light-heavyweights in the world. Jackson’s game plan will be to overwhelm Jardine with devastating punching power the same way Wanderlei Silva and Houston Alexander did. Jardine, under the guidance of MMA guru Greg Jackson, will look to utilize his herky-jerky boxing while delivering powerful leg kicks to Rampage’s thighs and midsection ala Forrest Griffin.

If Rampage wins, look for him to be next in line to fi ght Rashad Evans for the light-heavyweight belt. A victory for Jardine would put him a win away from a potential title fi ght. There’s a lot on the line for both men, but then again, there always is.

Main Card

Shane Carwin vs. Gabriel Gonzaga: Heavyweight

Carwin puts his perfect 10–0 record on the line against a very well-rounded Gonzaga. In fact, all of Carwin’s 10 victories have been fi rst-round stoppages. If Gonzaga can escape the onslaught of round one, look for him to use his ring savvy and BJJ to wear Carwin down.

Matt Hamill vs. Mark Munoz: Light- Heavyweight

Both men have impeccable wrestling credentials. Hamill is a three-time Division III national champion. Munoz is a two-time All-American and a one-time Division I national champion. Wresting pedigrees of this nature often negate each other. Look for this bout to be settled by the better boxer. Gray Maynard vs. Jim Miller: Lightweight Expect Miller to bring an aggressive pace and tough BJJ against Maynard, who is considered by many critics to be nothing more than a “lay n prey” wrestler. Maynard knows he needs an entertaining fi ght to win back the naysayers, but a victory is a victory in my book.

Jason Day vs. Kendall Grove: Middleweight

The reach of Grove could prove costly early on. Day needs to fi nd a way to get his guard working and end it with an arm bar.

UNDER Card

Mike Patt vs. Brandon Vera: Light-Heavyweight

Vera has lost three of his last four UFC fi ghts. He needs a win to stay relevant.

Ryan Madigan vs. Tamdan McCrory: Welterweight

Madigan is making his UFC debut and wants to prove he belongs with the big boys.

Tim Boetsch vs. Jason Brilz: Light- Heavyweight

One way or another, Boetsch is going to go down swinging—in victory or defeat.

Matt Brown vs. Pete Sell: Welterweight

Brown is too likeable to root against him.

Shane Nelson vs. Aaron Riley: Lightweight

Riley is always entertaining, but you’ll need a ticket to see him fi ght this time.

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What have you been up to lately?

 

I’m co-hosting a reality TV show with Joanna Krupa about female fighters. It’s called The Ultimate Women’s Challenge, airing on NBC on September 25. Basically, these girls go through a series of challenges, and at the end of the show, after all the challenges, they’ll be chosen to fight. It’s just been a real cool experience. This is actually gonna be my first national TV show as a host. Other than that, I’m still the Xyience spokes model, and I just got back from the fan expo at UFC 118 in Boston.

 

What’s been the experience like being part of something that’s growing—not just MMA—but women’s MMA?

 

Most people expect fluff from girls, but you’re not getting that from these girls. They’re the real deal. It’s a premium show, watching these girls fight and persevere through all of the challenges we put them through is awesome. It’s been a really cool experience—being on set with a supermodel like Joanna Krupa.

 

Were you intimidated stepping on set?

 

Not at all, I was actually really excited. This show—being the first of its kind—really goes in depth with training and challenges. They give me a basic script, and I’m just allowed to go with it. I actually feel more comfortable on the fly.

 

What’s been the most exciting part of filming?

 

I really think people are going to be excited when they see the kinds of things that we put these girls through. Some of these challenges are fun, of course. We want it to be fun, but some of these challenges I’d be surprised to see a guy complete. We’re really taking them to every level and kind of pushing them beyond their breaking point, which is exciting. We also have a lot of guest coaches and popular fighters coming in, which I think fans will enjoy seeing.

 

What’s the grand prize?

 

I think the grand prize is $50,000 and a one-year membership to a training gym and a contract with an organization for at least a one-fight deal. It’s going to be a great opportunity for the winner. It will really open some doors for these girls.

 

Did you ever see yourself as the host of an NBC show when you first started in MMA?

 

Not on the MMA side of it, but I’ve always known that’s where I wanted to go with my life. I’ve always wanted to act and model. Hosting and MMA have just been a part of it. It wasn’t a driving force, it wasn’t something I pursued, it’s kind of something that fell on my lap and it’s wonderful. I’ve already actually been offered two more hosting jobs on Fox and FX, so if I can land those as well, this is gonna be a tremendous year for me.

 

A lot of fighters are doing movies now. Who is a fighter you’d like to work with on a movie set?

 

Probably Forrest Griffin. He’s like a natural actor, and he’s hilarious.

 

What kind of roles are you looking for?

 

I think I can play a lot of different kinds of characters. I definitely have a comedic side to myself, but serious or romantic or action—I’m up for it all. I’ll do anything.

 

Who are some actresses you admire?

 

Lately, I’ve been getting Megan Fox—“You’re like Megan Fox.” That’s cool to me because she’s a young, new actress also, and she’s like the new hot thing, so that’s been cool for me.

 

You’re just putting yourself in line.

 

That’s right!

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What’s goin’ on with you? What’s it look like for your next fight? Have they told you anything?

Naw, they haven’t told me nothing, but I haven’t stopped training yet. I just kept training after my last fight. I just got back from Montreal, helping out Georges [St. Pierre] at his base camp.

 

Where would you rank yourself among the light heavyweights in the world?

Definitely within the top five. I’m undefeated. I fought some tough guys and I’ve won. But really I see myself as number one, I just gotta go out there and prove it, ya know. Go out there and get that belt.

 

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

The worst job was being a security guard at this little hole in the wall. I had to ride the buses and everything, the metro. I had to work at this bus station and break up fights, and kids had guns and knives and shit like that. It was horrible man!

 

Okay, what’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice is…ah…somebody told me Bill Cosby said he doesn’t know the key to success but he knows the key to failure, and it’s trying to please everybody.

 

Now what’s this rumor I hear about you and Greg Jackson singing disco tunes and stuff on the road?

Aww man, me and Greg have a good time when we’re together. Greg’s favorite song is one by Michael McDonald. Funny shit. We jam to everything.

 

Well that’s a perfect lead-in to one of the FIGHT! famous two questions. First, what’s a song you jam out to when you are by yourself that no man should ever be listening to? That you would be embarrassed about if someone found out you were listening to the song?

[laughing and semi-stuttering] Uh, it’s uh, a song by George Michael. Man… can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s Kissing a Fool.

 

And finally, Jessica Simpson, Jessica Alba, or Jessica Beal?

I gotta go with Jessica Biel, she’s got that booty! (For those scoring at home, that’s two votes Biel, one vote Alba)

 

Thanks for your time Rashad…and yes, she does have that booty, doesn’t she?

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When I initially found out that M-1 was coming to New Jersey for their first show on American soil in February 2010, I scoffed at the notion. Any MMA fan worth his weight in Pride FC DVDs knows about the notorious M-1 Global: the Russian company that owned Fedor Emelianenko’s fight contract, which kept him away from the UFC because of their constant demand to copromote. There were all sorts of rumors flying around about the business practices of the company, none of which were very positive. Smugly, I trekked to Atlantic City for what I assumed would be a train wreck and another one-and-done show with the start of their American Selection series.

Against the odds, I became hooked on the company and was ringside for every future show thereafter in The Garden State. Storylines began to grow with their roster of fighters as I followed them along the tournament all the way to the final Selection event in NJ, leading up to the first M-1 Challenge event held in the U.S. It took the company more than a decade to bring their events to our continent, but it was worth the wait.

In the past, most fans associated M-1 with Fedor exclusively, unaware of the promotion’s history and how far back it stretched. The creation of M-1 Global was initially a way to have the best talent in Russia under one roof, and it has acted as a feeder system for some fighters and a launching pad for others. The earliest M-1 Mix Fight shows were one-night tournaments, but by 2001, the company experimented with nationalistic events that pitted Russia against another country. This concept proved to be wildly popular overseas, and events with teams representing a nation expanded into a beast of its own, leading to the formation of the first M-1 Selection event in early 2009, creating a pyramidal system to seek top talent.

“Russia has been known to favor martial arts, from hand-tohand combat early in history to Sambo later on,” says M-1 Global president Vadim Finkelchtein. “MMA is a relatively new, developing sport, but its popularity in Russia is rapidly growing, to a great extent due to the promotional activities of M-1 Global.” Vadim came from humble upbringings, but he always had a knack for business. Starting with a fruit and vegetable stand in his home-town of Uzbekestan, his company quickly grew to 15 stands across the country, and it expanded into a restaurant and meatimporting business. In 1997, Vadim made the move into MMA when he founded the Red Devil Sports Club, and he soon became acquainted with the man who would later become the most dominant heavyweight in the sport—Fedor Emelianenko.

Beginning with the M-1 Selection series, fighters from specific regions battled in five weight classes through an eight-man tournament held over a series of events. The top winner in each division moved ahead into the M-1 Challenge shows, where they represented their country against winners from other nations. Essentially, M-1 took the format for the IFL but started earlier, where the fighters had to earn their way onto the team before they could start to compete together and represent their nation. In 2010, M-1 sweetened the deal by creating their championship belts, while maintaining their team-based format but also emphasizing their single talent in a more mainstream way.

During the M-1 Challenge 2010 series held in Atlantic City, a team was selected over the course of four events to represent America in the next phase. The group consisted of lightning-fast lightweight Jose Figueroa; highly-skilled MMA veteran welterweight Tom Gallicchio; never-say-die middleweight Tyson Jeffries; knockout artist light heavyweight Byron Byrd; and heavyweight wrestling phenom and one-man marketing machine Kenny “Deuce” Garner. These five fighters put on action-packed shows from their first fight in the series—all the way to the finals.

“I didn’t have any hesitation working with them,” says Byron Byrd, American Top Team fighter and eventual winner of the lightheavyweight selection series. “At the time, I was trying to make my pro debut, and I wasn’t going to be picky. I was glad to have the opportunity to make my pro debut with them. Regardless of what other people say, M-1 is a good company and they treat their fighters accordingly.” Byrd was actually a last-minute replacement for a different fighter and came in on two-week’s notice.

With an undefeated amateur record, Byrd made his pro-MMA debut at the second Selection show, knocking out Mike Shenkenberg in 10 seconds and earning himself the fastest KO record in the company. Byrd followed up that win with another first-round knockout, leading up to the dramatic showdown against skilledgrappler Daniel Vizcaya.

“No one really knew much about me because my first fights were so fast, and everyone was saying Vizcaya was a good wrestler who would put me on my back since I didn’t have any ground game, which wasn’t true,” Byrd says. Vizcaya ended up taking down Byrd, who then locked in a triangle choke on the wrestler. Vizcaya worked his way into a standing position while Byrd held onto the choke. Vizcaya then delivered a vicious power-bomb, but Byrd survived and forced his opponent to tap seconds after impact. “At the time, it didn’t hurt, but for the next week my back was killing me.”

While the team was being selected for America, M-1 also formed teams in Western and Eastern Europe, and by the end of 2010, an international clash of fighters led to crowning the first M-1 champions with the creation of their title belts. “The only thing they can do to improve is their travel arrangements,” welterweight Selection winner Tom Gallicchio says about his time across the ocean. “When they fly the American fighters overseas, I think they should give us more than a day and a half to adjust.” Gallicchio earned Fight of the Night honors in his matches against Reggie Pena and Aaron Meisner, and he made quick work out of his final opponent, Len Bentley, who later ended up on TUF 13.

Gallicchio had his shot at the M-1 welterweight title at M-1 Challenge 23, but he fell victim to champion Shamil Zavurov after two rounds. Jet lag may have proven to be their undoing, as Kenny Garner was the first man to fall victim to the Russians on their home turf, when Guram Gugenishvili submitted him by guillotine early in the second round in their first bout for the heavyweight championship.

Luck was not on the Americans’ side until a change of venue occurred. At the first M-1 Challenge Show in the U.S., taking place in Norfolk, Virginia, Jose Figueroa TKO’ed champ Artiom Damkovsky at M-1 Challenge 24 to become the first American M-1 champion. This event was another milestone as well, since it was featured live on Showtime. One event later in St. Petersburg, another American champion was crowned when Vinny Magalhaes submitted light-heavyweight champion Viktor Nemkov with a slick gogoplata submission from s-mount. An alumni of TUF, “Pezao” has since placed third in the inaugural Ultimate Absolute nogi tournament in New York this past Summer, and he won his division at this year’s ADCC no-gi grappling championships.

M-1’s growth has continued this year, with the creation of a new event called M-1 Fighter. At it’s inaugural show in Russia at the International Festival of Ol’gino Bikers, local unknowns were given a chance to show their stuff to M-1’s European matchmaker Alexander Shuldyakov. The bout winners may earn a shot in the M-1 Selection tournament or an undercard bout on a future M-1 Challenge card. Meanwhile, business rolls on as usual in Russia and the Ukraine, while the company combs more cities in the U.S. and around the world to find untapped talent.

“UFC has a long history and M-1 is still a growing and developing organization,” Vadim says about the outlook for his promotion and how they stack up against the top dog in the U.S. MMA scene. “To speak of competition here would not quite be appropriate. M-1 Global sets its targets on strengthening its presence on the international market. We keep working for the brighter future of M-1. These are exciting times for us.”

Guram GugenishviliGURAM GUGENISHVILI

Born in Ukraine, Guram has been called the next big thing to come out of M-1, and likened to Fedor in his style of fighting and dominance. Guram has submitted all but one of his opponents in his career, six of which happened within two minutes of the first round. Guram was set to make his American debut earlier this year but an injury pushed it back till October, where a second injury sidelined him, forcing M-1 to create an interim heavyweight championship until his return.

Kenny GarnerKENNY GARNER

Garner has been the man chasing the Heavyweight gold since winning the Americas selection tournament and beating Pat Bennett in the finals. The ATT fighter met Guram for the title in Russia, where he fell victim to a second round guillotine. Garner pushed on, and defeated Pat Bennett in a rematch, earning another shot at the heavyweight title. Guram was forced to withdraw due to an injury, allowing Garner to step in against Maxim Grishin, where after five grueling rounds, an exhausted Grishin gave up. Garner has earned his interim Heavyweight title, and fans can look forward to seeing Garner VS Grishin 2 down the line.

Yasubey EnomotoYASUBEY ENOMOTO

Having grown up in a martial arts family in Switzerland, Enomoto has held numerous titles in various disciplines from Karate to Muay Thai. Enomoto entered M-1 with a record of 6-2, and earned an immediate title shot against Shamil Zavurov for the lightweight title, becoming a very last-minute replacement for his original opponent. Enomoto went the distance and lost, but has become a solid contender and very exciting fighter in their roster, beating Rafal Moks and Joshua Thorpe in his follow-ups with M-1.

Jose FigueroaJOSE FIGUEROA

At 6’3”, Figueroa won the lightweight selection tournament with wins over George Sheppard and Joshua Thorpe. Figueroa has been fighting high-level competition from day one and holds a respectable 10-4 record. “The People’s Champ” dismantled Artiom Damkovsky in M-1’s first American show to become the first American M-1 Global champion ever..

Eddie ArizmendieEDDIE ‘CRAZY FACE’ ARIZMENDI

The 25-year-old Native American of Mexican heritage is Tucson’s middleweight gem. Standing a solid 6’3”, Arizmendi was previously a top-ranked high school football quarterback and a former RITC champion. Eddie just lost to Arthur Guseinov at M-1 Challenge 27 by heel hook, but expect him to quickly bounce back and work his way up the rankings to get a shot at Magomed Sultanakhmedov’s middleweight title in 2012.

Matthew Kaplowitz is the editor of TheFightNerd.com. He may be reached at Matt@TheFightNerd.com.

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Right now in the IFL, there are some guys who are really hot…and I don’t mean good looking! They are, however, very talented fi ghters.

First, there’s Ben “Northstar” Rothwell. He’s 8-0, and now holds the record for the fastest KO at thirteen seconds. He’s a big guy that moves really well

on his feet. I had the pleasure of meeting his parents, and there is no doubt where he gets his great personality. They own a restaurant and Ben helps them out from time to time.

Then there is young Chris Horodecki. He’s only 19, and he looks 15! Chris is unbeaten to date, having posted a 10-0 record. Six of those wins are in the IFL. He’s a great fi ghter with amazing striking and take down defense. He goes through people with ease and has excellent conditioning. On top of all of that, he’s a great person and an even better interview!

He’s incredibly popular. Girls and older women like him because he’s cute. The boys his age like him because he’s such a cool guy. The older guys like him because they want their sons to be just like him. I mentioned all this in a press conference, and he told me I had to stop because he was about to cry! He’s always quick with the jokes.

The next standout performance was put in by Vladimir “The Janitor” Matyushenko who is 4-0. He acquired his nickname because he “mops the floor” with his opponents. The guy looks very intimidating, but when you talk with him you realize that he is a real comedian. He has phenomenal wrestling skills, great ground and pound, and good submissions…all while having very heavy hands. He’s smart and articulate and is a great ambassador for the sport, in and out of the ring.

Benji Radach, 4-0, came in this year as the new 185 pounder for the Anacondas. He suffered some injuries that kept him from competing for a while. Despite this, when Mike Pyle left the Anacondas, the fi rst guy I called was Benji. I had trained with him a long time ago and knew how capable he is. During the season, he stopped all but one of his opponents in the first round. Benji is the real deal.

Some folks will tell you that Antonio McKee, 4-0, is not that exciting of a fighter. I say, so what, he gets the job done! He’s a confident fighter who takes his training very seriously, and always shows up in great shape. He’s a super wrestler that got each of his opponents to the ground quickly. He loves the side kick and ground and pound, and if he sees a submission opportunity, he’ll take it. He has an amazing story. He fell on hard times and started hanging with the wrong crowd…was even stabbed. He found MMA and says that it saved him. Now, he teaches kids and shows them there are better ways than being a thug!

Finally, there’s Antoine Jaoude. Antoine, 3-0, said his dream growing up was to be an Olympic champion of any kind, and to work for the United Nations. He was a silver medalist at the Pan Am Games and competed at the 2006 Olympic Games. He speaks five languages! Funny guy and a great fighter.

With so much talent emerging in just its 2nd year, the IFL is shaping up to be one of the most fruitful sources of talent in all of MMA.

Party On,

Bas

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How are things going for “The California Kid?”

 

Fantastic. I’m working on a really cool project on the northern, northern coast of Cali about three hours from Sacramento on Highway 1. We’re building our Team Alpha Male retreat. The town has 450 people. Bare necessities. It’s right on the ocean. We’re going to have a private gym, so I’ve been working on that.

 

Is the idea behind the new gym to have a new atmosphere for you, Joe Benavidez, and Chad Mendes, or is it to have your young fighters focus in a certain environment?

 

It’s kind of like a Big Bear idea. It’s just another thing that’s unique about our team—to have a retreat with all sorts of cross-training out there. It’s just a really unique place we can go to get away from all the distractions.

 

Have you had the “it” moment yet with FORM Athletics that caused you to feel like the company has made it?

 

It’s pretty surreal. If you look at the guys that we’ve signed and how close everyone is to having world titles: Anthony Pettis is one fight away, Jon Jones has a title shot, Chad Mendes is close to a title shot, I’m close to a title shot, and Joseph Benavidez is fresh off a title shot. It’s cool to take a step back and realize we have all the stars—and the future stars—of the sport signed and ready to go.

 

What’s in your DVD player?

 

I was just watching East of Eden with James Dean. It’s his first movie. Someone suggested I check it out. I thought it was a cool flick. It’s good stuff. James Dean is a stud.

 

You seem to be a fan of the classics.

 

Yeah, I am. I like Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman. Have you ever seen Cool Hand Luke?

 

Yeah, we talked about when we did the [April 2010] cover story. I’m glad you bring it up. I was at a bar with a bunch of friends after Newman died, and I toasted to him, and my friend asked, “Who is Paul Newman?” How would The California Kid have handled that situation?

 

I would say, “Go to the grocery store for salad dressing. It’s the best salad dressing in the store.”

 

You’re really health conscious of what you’re putting into your body, not just as an athlete, but as a person, For people who aren’t into that lifestyle, what do you feel is a good starting point toward a path of progress?

 

That’s another project that I’ve been doing. We have some cool viral videos and stuff at www.eatlikeachamp.com. It’s a website that I started primarily to help people become educated about nutrition and leading an active lifestyle. I think the most important thing is eating the best quality of whatever you eat. There’s a difference between a frozen hamburger and a lean-beef burger on a whole-wheat bun with vegetables and healthy ingredients. It’s important to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and lean meats into your diet and less sugar and processed food.

 

One thing I know you and Chad Mendes have been involved in has been saving wrestling programs. What do you feel it will take to keep wrestling in schools?

 

Wrestlers that are having success in the world need to start giving back. I think a lot of successful businesses in addition to the sport of MMA are filled with great wrestlers. We need to make a push to ensure wrestling programs aren’t dropped from funding. It really is the feeder to our sport.

 

Have you received your Joe-Jitsu black belt yet?

 

It’s not a black belt, it’s a tie-dyed belt. I do have my Joe-Jitsu belt—it’s called my scrump-tra-licious belt. I’m one of the few guys that have it. Joe-Jitsu is away of life.

 

You are the only fighter to appear on FIGHT!’s cover twice. What’s one magazine you haven’t been on the cover of, but would like to be?

 

I can only dream, but Fortune 500 would be a good one.

 

Has your biggest business venture been created yet?

 

I have some big things in the pot. I have a great book that I’ve been working on that I think is gonna be huge. I also have a project I’m working on with Phil “Mr.Wonderful” Davis that I think is gonna be great for our sport, but you’re gonna have to stay tuned for that one.

 

Who would you like to see as a guest Octagon girl?

 

Brooklyn Decker. She’s smoking.

 

Your opponent at UFC 128 is Eddie Wineland, who came out for his last fight to Hulk Hogan’s “Real American” theme song. What pro wrestling theme would you come out to?

 

I’m a big fan of the old-school pro wrestlers, so we’re talking like the Junkyard Dog maybe.

 

What would Dana White look like with Urijah Faber’s hair?

 

It definitely wouldn’t hurt, that’s for sure.He has so much money he can probably work out a deal. I might be able to switch it over for him.

 

What can fans expect from The California Kid inside the UFC Octagon?

 

Lots of excitement. I’m looking to be the leader in the new organization. I want to be the top draw, the most exciting fighter, and a world champ.

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