Jake Shields held championship belts from three different promotions –
Shooto, Rumble on the Rock and EliteXC – but the only organization that once called him king still in existence is Shooto.

Both Rumble on the Rock and EliteXC were promising promotions in the mixed martial arts landscape and the San Franciscan a chance to establish his name in North America after reaching the top in Japan via Shooto. But they were liquidated, leaving Shields to search for another chance to attach his increasingly popular name to a North American championship. So when Strikeforce founder and CEO Scott Coker approached Shields with a fight against the dangerous former ICON and EliteXC middleweight champion Robbie Lawler on June 6, he didn’t hesitate.

“I didn’t even have to think about it. Yeah, of course I’ll fight Robbie in the main event,” he told ‘The Info.’ “I want to go out there and put on a great show so I can keep being a main event fighter.”

Lawler is a fight Shields has wanted for some time and pursuing it made him an enemy in Strikeforce welterweight Joe Riggs. The two were scheduled to fight at the organization’s April 11 show, however, the bout didn’t fit with Shields’ plan

“For a minute there, I was having a hard time getting excited for my fights,” said the Cesar Gracie black belt. “I was fighting good opponents but ones that didn’t quite excitement me. But now [Strikeforce] got me Robbie Lawler, so this is an opportunity to showcase my skill.”

Signing up to get punched in the face by a larger opponent is not something fighters do often. Yet Shields was willing to step up and meet Lawler at a catch weight of 182-pounds.

“Knowing that I’ve fought two top [1]85-pounders in the world it really helps my confidence,” said Shields, who once sought out an Affliction bout with 185-pound standout Matt Lindland and holds a decision victory over Yushin Okami.

Shields currently weighs 188-189 pounds, bulking up on protein shakes at the behest of the strength trainer who oversaw Shields’ Rumble on the Rock middleweight tournament win, but he doesn’t worry that the extra mass will sap his energy.

Whether he’s a welterweight or middleweight, Shields believes “next is that Strikforce belt” and Robbie Lawler is “Ruthless” and in his way.

“The Info” is the official podcast of promma.info, hosted by Matt De La Rosa and Eddie Constantine, who had on Danny Acosta as a guest during their Jake Shields interview.


What happens when Japanese journalists ask questions in English to a Lithuanian man who speaks it as a second language? Not much, as you’ll see above. Marius Zaromskis will fight in DREAM.10’s welterweight grand prix seminfinal. The card will be broadcast live on HDNet at midnight, July 19 PST and 3 a.m. ET, July 20. The show will be replayed at 10 p.m. ET on Fri., July 24. To get a better sense of the fighter, watch the videos below for Zaromskis’ cosplay at DREAM.8 and the London Shootfighter’s highlight reel, which includes some gnarly spinning axe kicks and flying knees.

Zaromskis as Akuma.

The insanity starts at the 2:00 mark.


FIGHT! Magazine spotted 2008 Olympian and two-time NCAA wrestling champ Ben Askren wandering through the crowd last night at Strikeforce: Lawler vs. Shields, so we asked him for an update on his young MMA career, the challenges he faces, and what he thinks about USA Wrestling’s new bonuses for Olympic medal winners.


(“No you didn’t.” “Yeah, I did.” “Nuh-uh.” “Yeah-huh.”)

UFC 114: Rampage vs. Evans is still a week away but there are three noteworthy MMA events taking place tonight and tomorrow. First up is Bellator XIX in San Antonio, where Ben Askren, Ryan Thomas, Dan Hornbuckle and Steve Carl will duke it out to determine who is in the final and Bellator Featherweight Champion Joe Soto squares off with UFC vet Diego Saraiva in a non-title fight.

Thomas, who re-entered the tournament after Jim Wallhead’s flight from England was canceled due to a light volcanic dusting of Europe, gets a chance to avenge what he thinks was a bogus referee stoppage loss to Askren in the first round. Both fighters are looking for a decisive finish but frankly I’d love to see another controversial loss on Thomas’ record. Then if Hornbuckle or Carl is injured and can’t fight in the final, Bellator can bring “The Tank Engine” back again, and Askren can attempt to become the first fighter to win an eight-man fighter by beating the same guy three times.

(Pics or it didn’t happen.)

Tomorrow night Woostah, Mass. will play host to Moosin: God of Martial Arts< http://www.moosinusa.com/>, which as far as we can tell is a South Korean company promoting a show in North America through some Polish guys and Butterbean. It’s earily reminiscent of M-1 Global, only Moosin has Mariusz Pudzianowski, not Fedor. There are some compelling match-ups on this card, namely the bout between Tara “I Can’t Get A Fight To Save My Life” LaRosa and Roxanne “Tougher Than I Look” Modaferri. The card is littered with UFC vets and FIGHT! contributor Jeff Harder will be on the scene to see how it all goes down, and hopefully to get to the bottom of how undercard competitor Fred Belleton earned the nickname, “French Foot Fighter.”

Tickets – including floor seats – are still available through Ticketmaster and the PPV is available through all major outlets for $29.99, which is a fair price considering the fact that you’re going to get several hours of Bas Rutten’s color commentary in exchange.

Also tomorrow night is Strikeforce Challengers 8 in Portland, Ore. Anchored by Matt Lindland, the card features some of Strikeforce’s best young talent, guys like Tyron Woodley, Roger Bowling, and Tarec Saffediene. Given Lindland’s success with Sportfight, this Challengers show may turn out to be the most successful installment of the problematic series. Considering how badly the promotion needs to start building it’s next wave of stars, let’s hope it is.

Fight Bookings

Loretta Hunt is reporting that KJ Noons will ride the “Krazy Horse” one more time. Strikeforce has signed Charles Bennett to face Noons in a lightweight bout on June 26, the same card that will feature Fedor vs. Werdum and Cris Cyborg vs. Jan Finney. Bennett vs. Noons I resulted in a KO win for Krazy Horse and the rematch should be a barn burner if Bennett can avoid kidnapping anyone between now and then.

In other fight booking news, MMAJunkie reports that freak fight favorite Ikuhisa Minowa will face Imani Lee at Dream.14. Lee, who tips the scales at three bills-plus, will face the natual middleweight in the “White Cage.”

Shaolin Protests

According to Tatame, Andre Pederneiras and Alex Davis will protest Lyle Beerbohm’s unanimous decision win over Vitor Ribeiro last Saturday night at Strikeforce: Heavy Artillery. Beerbohm is a great story and a good fighter, but I watched that bout from press row and thought, along with everyone else I spoke to, that it was at least a split decision victory for Shaolin. Hopefully Strikeforce will re-book this fight, possibly as the headliner on a Challengers card?

Maximum Fighting Championship’s In Drag


Drag racing, that is. Ragged Glory Racing will run an MFC-sponsored Top Eliminator-class dragster at the Rocky Mountain Nationals and other events at Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta. According to MFC, the racer features a 274-inch Spitzer chassis on a carbon-fibre body with a 1,360-horsepower engine and 1,200 foot-torque.

Miguel Angel Torres Day

East Chicago, Ind. has declared Fri., June 4 to be “Miguel Angel Torres Day.” The former WEC Bantamweight Champion will be honored for his work with kids at a mid-day proclamation, after which he will multiply the fishes and loaves and teach Ninja invisibility techniques to the kids of East Chicago. “The city is full of hardworking people and I have done my best to represent East Chicago in a positive way,” Torres said. For a full dose of Miguel’s positivity, read my Sept. 2009 cover story about him.

Game (Nearly) On

GamePro has already given UFC Undisputed 2010 a perfect 5/5 rating and word is that Official Playstation Magazine slapped a 9/10 on that bad boy. GameStop is staying open late to release the game next week – find out where you can get it here.


(Serra connects with a right against Matt Hughes. Courtesy of Zuffa, LLC)

Joe Hall’s profile of Matt Serra originally appeared in the first issue of FIGHT! Magazine in Aug. 2007.

Matt Serra is in the moment. Those fifteen minutes of fame Warhol promised each of us? Serra’s stretching it. He’s taken the flash of his celebrity and frozen it.

I’m waiting for him this afternoon at his Jiu-Jitsu academy in Huntington, New York. This is Long Island, where Serra was raised and still lives. Banners drape the walls of his school. One of them declares Serra’s brand of the Brazilian art to be Jungle Jiu-Jitsu, and a pair of surly monkeys wearing blue gis stand alongside the words, glowering.

Despite the group of white and blue belts grappling on the mat, the school is relatively quiet, kind of hushed. Then a door swings open, and Serra enters shouting, “Ho! Hi-oh!”

Serra is loud. He is Long Island loud; he likes to joke and he likes to laugh. He’s short, only five-six, and he will joke about that, too. The guy is stout, but not physically imposing. His presence comes from his attitude. He commands attention. When he enters a room, you turn, you look, you listen. His students clap, and Serra hoots back at them.

“Hey guys!” he yells. “What’s up, guys! Come talk to me!”

I realize he’s yelling at me and the photographer. He brought the belt, the UFC welterweight title he won in April, for the photo shoot. Serra won the title in one of the greatest upsets in mixed martial arts history. He walked out to the Rocky music, stepped into the cage, and demolished the guy who was supposed to demolish him, Georges St-Pierre.

We move to the back of the school for the interview. Within minutes of sitting at his desk, however, he’s manning the phone. Calls have been steady since Serra won The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback and then walked through St-Pierre. The popularity of mixed martial arts has exploded and Serra is suddenly at the forefront as a UFC champion. People want to train with him; they want to do what he’s done on Spike TV and pay-per-view. Already he has two academies: one here in Huntington, the other in East Meadow; four hundred students and growing.

After the call, he starts shouting again. “What’s up, guys! Are you going to make me look good? You can’t make me look bad,” he teases, “or you’ll look bad. I look good, you look good. You know what I mean, guys? Hey, feel this.”

He hands over the UFC title. It’s heavier than you would think. The black leather is a little slippery, and diamonds are nested in the gold.

“Listen to this,” he says. Typing on a computer, he summons an interview St-Pierre did with Toronto radio station FAN 590. The former champ is saying he shouldn’t have fought Serra because he was injured and hadn’t trained properly. Each comment prompts Serra to sling an index finger at the screen. “Wait, wait, wait, wait,” he says. “This is the best part.”

“If I was going to fight Matt Hughes,” says St Pierre through the speakers, “I would never have taken the fight. I told myself, ‘Oh, its Matt Serra. I can beat this guy easily.’”

Serra’s eyes flare. He curses at the computer, “Fu-uck you, guy!”

St-Pierre’s comments contradict what he said leading up to the fight – that he was 100 percent – and what he said while standing in the Octagon – that Serra was the better man that night, no excuses. More than a month has passed since the bout, and there’s a tension now where there wasn’t before. Serra retaliated yesterday, calling St-Pierre “a pathetic liar” in an interview with UFCmania.com.

Why is Serra so bothered? Maybe it is that extended moment he’s in; St- Pierre’s words pull him out of it, dismissing what happened in Houston as a fluke. Or maybe not.

“That guy,” Serra says, shaking his head. “I liked him.”

He’s playing the interview again now, setting the speakers on top of the counter and cranking the volume. Class is over, and several students have crowded around. Each one Serra sees warrants a shout of recognition, a knuckle-knock. “Hey!” he yells. “My man! Hey, listen to this.”

St-Pierre is saying again that he wouldn’t have fought if his opponent had been Hughes. Of course he also says fighting Serra was a mistake, but that doesn’t appease the man who beat him.

“Did you hear that, Dennis?” Serra asks one of his students.

Dennis shrugs. “Who’s that interview with?” he asks.

“Some Canadian press or somethin’.”

“Well, who’s gonna listen to that?”

The phone rings again. “Come on down, see how you like it,” Serra encourages.

“Take the Jiu-Jitsu for a little test drive.”

As soon as he hangs up, Serra swears St-Pierre has trained his last day at Renzo Gracie’s New York City Jiu-Jitsu academy. Serra is Renzo’s protégé. St Pierre was studying jiu-jitsu at the academy as recently as last week, and was welcome, but not anymore.

“That’s like me staying at your house and saying your wife cooks like shit and your dog stinks and I’ll be back in three weeks,” Serra says. “He’s out! You can’t go back to the house I helped build and talk shit like that.”

The conversation moves along, though more than once Serra steers it back to St-Pierre’s excuses. Eventually his anger cools. The school begins to clear out and the calls cease. Dennis is the last student to leave. “Hey, Matt,” he calls, stopping at the door. “Bring the belt back in some time for my boys? Get some pitchas?”

“Hey you got it.”

“All right. I’ll see ya then, Matt. You’ll never catch me talkin’ shit about ya on Canadian radio.”

Serra is ready for the shoot now. “All right, guys!” he whoops. “Ready! Let’s do it!”

When he learns that St. Pierre was planned for the cover, before their fight, he howls, “You serious? Ha! Take that Frenchy!”

The train’s whistle wails. Its wavering pitch plays off the walls of pine that line the tracks, but Serra doesn’t hear it. He’s asleep. The year is 1995, and he’s 21 years old. Every night he rides the Long Island Railroad into Manhattan. An hour into the city, and an hour home, just so he can train with Renzo Gracie.

For a living he works the graveyard shift as a security guard at Estée Lauder. The job’s embarrassing. He sits in a little guard booth. And the uniform, Jesus. Clip-on tie, fake badge. But mostly he hates that fucking guard booth.

He’s off at eight in the morning. Gets some sleep, then back to the city for training, then back to the booth by midnight. But the training is incredible, and that’s why he’s willing to sit in the booth all night just for a few hours on the mat in Manhattan. A few hours with Renzo, who’s become his mentor, who’s become family. What Serra learns from Renzo he takes to his garage in East Meadow, and he drills it, over and over, with his brothers.

He has been riding the train to Manhattan since he was 19. His Jiu-Jitsu has become very good very quickly, but he is wearing down. He has a girl, one that he’s dated since he was 16, almost six years. She doesn’t like him sitting in the guard booth instead of going to school or working a real job, and her parents don’t like it either. He’s wearing down on the mat, too. One day, Renzo pulls Serra aside and says, “Look. You’re training like shit because you’re tired. You’re tired because you’re up all night in that booth. Quit. Work for me.”

Work for Renzo? Are you kidding? So Serra quits his security gig and starts teaching Jiu-Jitsu for a living. He tosses that tie in the garbage because of Renzo. Renzo got him out of the booth.

“Matt ‘The Terror’ Serra, is he in here?” asks a man poking his head into Serra’s school.

Serra is pacing in the back, his cell phone at his ear. Now he is speaking with someone involved with The Ultimate Fighter. He’ll be coaching the next season opposite Matt Hughes.

“The guy’s a prick,” Serra says of Hughes. “I’ll tell him to go fuck himself, so get your bleepers ready.”

“Hey, is that the belt?” asks the man, stepping inside. “Can I get a picture?”

“I’m not puttin’ up with Matt Hughes’ shit,” Serra says into his phone.

He films season six of The Ultimate Fighter in a few weeks. In the meantime, he’s getting married. After a honeymoon in Aruba, he has a day to repack his suitcase and fly to Vegas for the show. That’s life at the moment – chaotic. He’s moving too, buying a new house in a nicer Long Island neighborhood. Today’s a photo shoot, tomorrow an autograph session in Atlantic City, next week The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

It wasn’t always like this. Serra was 4-4 in the UFC, his last bout a decisive loss, when he got the call. He was content running his Jiu-Jitsu schools. He liked to fight, but he wasn’t after a belt or anything. “We might have a good opportunity for you,” said Joe Silva, the UFC matchmaker. “It’s called The Comeback.”

Serra wasn’t sure he’d win The Ultimate Fighter 4, but the special season of the Spike TV reality show, featuring UFC vets instead of newcomers, would provide plenty of free advertising for his schools. He won, of course. His reward was a title shot, and he won that too.

That is why the belt is in Long Island today. The man wanting a picture of it has snapped a few. Two girls have joined the scene, along with another man. He’s big, at least six-three and 230 pounds and dressed all in black. One of the girls is getting a picture with the title, and the guys are elbowing each other, arguing over which of them will ask if they can get a picture as well.

Serra strolls over, shouting, “Hey! How are you? Good to see you!” Maybe he knows them. I’d swear he doesn’t, but he acts like he knows everyone. He poses for pictures, chats.

“I wanna be a ring girl,” one of the girls tells him.

Serra answers with his palms out. “Hey, who am I, Dana White now?”

“Matt, what can you do with these two?” the other girl asks. She motions at the guys. She wants them trained, she’s suggested already, to fight.

“What do you mean?” Serra says.

“They wanna be ring girls, too?”

The big guy in black leaps onto the mat, hands raised, squatting in a strange stance no one’s ever fought from. He is clearly joking, but Serra might kick his ass anyway, for the poor humor if nothing else. Serra spares him, posing for another picture instead.

When the fans finally exit, the real photo shoot begins. It is just Serra now, the lights aimed at him alone against the backdrop. The camera is connected to a computer, and each picture materializes on the screen within seconds. You hear a little boom, the flash, then an instant later there he is, Serra on screen with a gold belt around his waist.

They say he won’t have the title long. First defense, some experts say, he’ll hand it right over. It’s true that even as champion he will be the underdog against the top tier of UFC welterweights.

The shoot breaks. Serra checks out the most recent photo on the computer. The camera had caught him between poses, his face frozen awkwardly. “Well,” he says, “they can’t all be gems. Not gonna sell many magazines with that pitcha.”

When the shoot resumes, he squares his jaw and glares through the next series of shots. He cuts up when the camera stops clicking. “Don’t make me fuckin’ laugh,” he says, reigning in a grin.

At one point, while shifting the title from his waist to his shoulder, the belt slips out of his hands. He has been oiled for the shoot, and the oil slicked the leather. The title hits the floor with a heavy clatter. Serra’s face tightens into a pissed-off expression, and he picks up the belt. Carefully, he positions it over his shoulder. After a long fifteen seconds or so, he is grinning again.

A spinning backfist, like a Bruce Lee movie. That’s what got him, and twice at that. Twice! And the second time, the second time there were only nine seconds left in the fight, and the fight was his. Fucking Shonie Carter and that spinning backfist.

Serra’s brother, Nick, is telling him not to worry about it. They are driving back from Atlantic City in May 2001, where Serra was knocked out the night before in his UFC debut. A few weeks earlier Serra had solidified himself as one of the best grapplers in the world. He went to Abu Dhabi and cleaned out his division at the World Submission Wrestling Championships. Not much more for him to do in grappling.

Nick’s saying the fight was a thriller. None of Serra’s previous bouts had gone more than three minutes. This one went fifteen, and it was on pay-per-view. Yes, he lost to that spinning backfist. But had anyone showed a submission game like his before in a fight? Had anyone ever thrown an omoplata shoulder lock? Chained it to a triangle choke? Chained the choke to an armbar?

Serra is disappointed, but the sting doesn’t hurt that much. It’s just a little bite, and the pain is already leaving. It doesn’t hurt much at all, and Serra knows something else is happening here. That fight was a war, Nick’s saying.

“Yeah,” Serra replies. “I had a war. I never had a war before, Nicky.”

Serra enters a local restaurant the same way he entered his academy. “Ho!” he howls. “Hi-oh!”

He orders ostrich. It comes served on a bed of yellow rice. “That fight,” he says, stabbing at a piece of meat. “That fight against Yves Edwards I had to win.”

Edwards was his second UFC bout, and he needed the winner’s purse to open his first school. He opened the academy in his hometown, East Meadow. Joe Rogan visited once and found Serra living in the basement.

“This is where you live?” Rogan asked, seeing just a bed, a sink, and a television.

“I was never late for class,” Serra says between bites. “So what if it was old 1970s Kung Fu-style shit? So what if I was 28 and living in the basement of my school?”

I ask what happened with the girl he dated from the time he was 16 to 22, while he was working in the guard booth and taking the train into Manhattan.

“Her? One day she said to me, she said,” here Serra heightens his pitch to simulate the girl’s, “’I know you like your judo stuff, but my parents worry about you not going to college.’ And I said to her, ‘Judo? Judo stuff? Its Jiu-Jitsu, bitch!’”

No doubt, he can deliver a line. “Now,” he says, “I just hope she has Spike TV.”

The spotlight doesn’t scare Serra. In its glow, he is quickwitted and comfortable, a natural. “I’m giving you some gems, ain’t I?” he says. “I’m giving you some gems. Hey could you hold on a minute? Sorry.”

Someone is calling. “What’s up, buddy?” Serra shouts into his phone. “You got your tux? All right, buddy. Look, I don’t want to sound like Mr. Fancy Pants here, but I’m doin’ an interview.”

Seems as if he’s always doing an interview these days. Mixed results followed the win over Edwards, but The Ultimate Fighter was a relaunch. He avenged the loss to Shonie Carter, eating another spinning backfist but staying conscious this time, then edging out Chris Lytle via split decision in the season finale. Suddenly he was a title contender. It was incredible, except no way in hell was he beating St-Pierre, the man who had mowed down Matt Hughes, who had beaten B.J. Penn, who had stopped Sean Sherk, and Frank Trigg, and nearly everyone else he had fought. But hey, everyone was saying, it was a nice run. Got some free advertising, got to fight for the title. You can tell the kids about it some day, but really it was pointless to board the plane to Houston and stand across from St-Pierre and act as if you can beat that guy.

Everyone knew his only chance was to score a takedown and search for a submission. Serra’s striking had always been mediocre. His strategy had always been the same; get the fight to the ground. But during his training camp, Serra realized that wouldn’t work. St- Pierre had shucked off Matt Hughes’s takedowns, for Christ’s sake. Wrestling with him would leave Serra exhausted, beaten.

“I’m not taking him down,” he decided. “I’m standin’ up with him.”

So he trained to batter St-Pierre’s body, then to take off his head when his hands dropped. He thought it would take longer than three and a half minutes.

“I did what I had to do,” Serra says. “I beat him up.”

But what if he hadn’t? What if he’d lost? What if there had been no reality show, no title shot, no comeback?

“I’d still be content. I’d still be livin’ the dream,” he answers quickly. He shrugs. He stabs the last bite, chews it. “Not as content as I am now, though.”

Now Serra’s set. He has already made a nice chunk of change, and he will make plenty more for his first title defense, a showdown with Hughes after The Ultimate Fighter 6. The phones at his schools won’t stop ringing anytime soon, either. That is why the critics barking about him losing his first title defense miss the point.

“What’s gonna happen?” he asks. “I’m gonna lose some skin? Take a nap? Either way, I ain’t goin’ back to that guard booth.” He’s unafraid to lose because he wasn’t supposed to win in the first place. But don’t call what he did a fluke. Upset, yes. Fluke, no. Watch the fight again, and you’ll see. Watch Serra’s face as he walks to the cage. He’s smiling. Fighters smile sometimes on the way in. Sometimes the smile looks contrived, sometimes distant and sinister. No one grins his way to the cage knowing he’s in for an ass whipping, though. So watch Serra walk in. His smile, which extends from ear to ear, says something else. He knows something we don’t: he knows he’s walking into the moment.



WEC founder and general manager Reed Harris returned to Pro MMA Radio just two days after WEC 43 Cerrone vs. Henderson in San Antonio, Texas, to talk about the card, the future of the lightweight division and more.

“The California Kid” Urijah Faber also joined Pep on this WEC-heavy edition of Pro MMA Radio to talk about his new contract with the WEC and his future goals for his career. Also, WEC lightweight contender Danny Castillo dropped by to talk about Cerrone vs. Henderson and where that leaves him in the division.

Pro MMA Radio is hosted by Larry Pepe and airs to a worldwide audience every Monday night at 6 p.m. PST / 9 p.m. EST at ProMMARadio.com. On-Demand replays of every episode are available 24/7 at Bodybuilding.com and on iTunes.


(Hungry Bear/Double Complete Rainbow Guy’s MMA Debut. Props to Middle Easy.)

Each week FIGHT! brings you the spiciest bits from our friends around the web.

10 Unlockable Characters Who SHOULD Be In EA MMA (Middle Easy)

UFC 117 Is Basically USA vs. Brazil (Cage Potato)

Bold Predictions for the Second Half of 2010 (Heavy MMA)

Josh Grispi Answers Fan Questions (LowKick)

KO of the Day (MMAScraps)

After TUF Loss, DaMarques Johnson Still Climbing UFC Ranks (Versus)

Brock Lesnar Makes It Rain PPV Buys (Watch Kalib Run)

UFC 119 Prelims Set for Spike TV (5 Oz of Pain)

Chad Griggs: Bobby Lashley Is Very Beatable (MMAFighting)


Frank Mir had an accident.

Everyone knows about it; it’s old hat. When I ask Frank about it, I can see his eyes roll back in his head with boredom. “Another idiot with a pencil,” I can hear him think. He knows he has to talk about it. It’s an integral part of his story, the elephant in the room. He’s going to be talking about that damn accident for the rest of his life. He gives me a tired grin. Frank is a big friendly guy, with a cherubic face and massive, veined hands that belie his boyishness.

FIGHT! is digging into the archives to celebrate UFC 100. Go here to read the rest of Sam Sheridan’s December 2008 cover story, and check out FIGHT!’s photos of Frank. Mir is scheduled to face fellow UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar in a title unification bout at UFC 100 on July 11. Go here for more Mir, and click here for more on Lesnar.


As appearances go, Gegard Mousasi didn’t cut an impressive figure standing across the cage from Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos the night of Feb. 1, 2008, in Calgary.

The two met in Alberta, Canada, on a Hardcore Championship Fighting show, and while his record was not as impressive as Mousasi’s 18-2-1 tally, Santos’ experience against fighters like Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Yuki Kondo made him an easy favorite over the Armenian-Dutch kid. His craggy face, cold demeanor, and tattooed, action-figure physique recalled Santos’ teammate Wanderlei Silva and gave the impression that it was going to be a short night for Cyborg and a long one for Mousasi. But it was the “Young Vagabond” who left the cage a victor that night, starting one of the most impressive 1-year runs in modern MMA history.

Known for his Dutch-flavored muay Thai, Mousasi peppered Santos with kicks before tossing him on his back, where he controlled the Brazilian from side mount, secured a crucifix to render Santos defenseless, and pummeled his opponent’s face until the referee stopped the bout. It was the 15th first-round finish of Mousasi’s career but just his first signature win.

The next month, Mousasi dispatched Steve Mensing at 2:44 of the first round of an M-1 Mixfight bout in Holland, and the young Middleweight was slated for Dream’s inaugural Middleweight Grand Prix. Likely booked as an “opponent” for popular veteran Denis Kang, Mousasi reeled off a quartet of victories that left him bedecked with belts and solidified his reputation as a top-10 middleweight in the process.

In April, Kang took Mousasi to the ground but allowed his opponent to control his hands while falling into guard and Mousasi applied an airtight triangle choke. Two months later, Mousasi dominated Dong Sik Yoon, earning a decision victory for just the second time. In September, Mousasi needed less than 4 minutes of ring time to force fearsome striker Melvin Manhoef to tap out due to triangle choke before knocking out renowned grappler Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza with an upkick to win the tournament.

During the tournament run, Mousasi demonstrated high-level striking and grappling, fluidly transitioning between the two to exploit his opponents’ weaknesses. When Affliction announced that it had signed Mousasi, a member of Red Devil’s International Team and client of M-1’s Vadim Finkelstein, American fans began salivating. Soon after the signing was announced, Mousasi talked about using Affliction’s relationship with Golden Boy to kick-start a boxing career, letting his frame fill out to compete as a light heavyweight in MMA, and competing on Affliction’s “Day of Reckoning” card in January.

That fight never materialized, and Mousasi instead took a K-1 rules match on New Year’s Eve against kickboxing star Musashi at Fields’ K-1 Dynamite!!, dropping the Japanese champion three times in the first round. The win was Mousasi’s seventh in 2008, yet Dream’s Middleweight champion spent little more than 30 minutes in the ring.

After a flurry of activity last year, Mousasi has done little more than vacate his Dream title and announce a move to light heavyweight in 2009. Mousasi is slated to face super heavyweight Mark Hunt in the first round of the Super Hulk Tournament at Dream.9. A melding of New Year’s Eve freak show matches and Pride’s open weight Grand Prix, Super Hulk pits light heavyweight and heavy weight fighters against so-called giants.

The Super Hulk Tournament bracket is filled out by matches featuring Ikuhisa “Minowaman” Minowa vs. Bob Sapp, Jose Canseco vs. Hong Man Choi, and Jan Nortje vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou. Additionally, Jason “Mayhem” Miller with meet the man who defeated him in last year’s Dream Middleweight Grand Prix, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, for Mousasi’s vacated title, Gesias “JZ” Calvancante will face Tatsuya Kawajiri in a co-main event bout and Dream’s featherweight grand prix continues with the following match-ups: Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto vs. Joe Warren, Yoshiro Maeda vs. Hiroyuki Takaya, Bibiano Fernandez vs. Masakazu Imanari.

The Super Hulk Tournament will likely produce entertaining highlights but hardcore fans will have to wait for Mousasi to take on more meaningful opponents. The UFC has a stranglehold on the top fighters 185# and 205#, but Mousasi isn’t lacking for strong opponents elsewhere. There are a number of good light heavyweights under non-exclusive contracts that he could meet at Affliction, Dream, or Strikeforce events, including Renato Sobral, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Tito Ortiz, Vladimir Matyushenko, Mike Whitehead, Kevin Randleman, and Trevor Prangley.

If Mousasi chooses to drop back down to middleweight, Vitor Belfort, Melvin Manhoef, Murilo Rua, “Jacare,” Miller, Cung Le, and Robby Lawler are there waiting for him. Throw in fighters under contract with World Victory Road and there are interesting fights possible with Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal at light heavyweight and Jorge Santiago, Kazuo Misaki at middleweight.

Whatever Mousasi’s next step, it’s likely to be more deliberate and drawn out than his fast track trip to the top.

Dream.9 will be broadcast live on HDNet on Tues., May 26 at 5 a.m. EST / 2 a.m. PST. The event will be re-broadcast on Fri., May 29 at 10 p.m. EST / 7 p.m. PST.


UFC light heavyweight fighter Drew McFedries has spent a lifetime standing tall against forces that have the potential to drop anyone to their knees. From becoming an adult much too soon, to living with Chron’s disease and battling a serious staph infection, to coming to terms with his mother’s murder, Drew McFedries has seen it—and lived it—all. His incredible story documents the will of the human spirit and can serve to inspire others to make their own dreams a reality.

From a Childhood to Manhood
Telling his story, says Drew, was a long-time in the making. “Nathan Quarry has said for a long time that I should tell my story,” says Drew. But it’s one he may have held back from telling simply because he recognizes that he is powerless to change the past. He’s also the type of guy who would rather move forward without making excuses than look backward or have people feel sorry for him.

By his own admission, as a child, Drew became self-reliant much too soon. A necessity, he says, due to his mother’s on-and-off addiction to drugs and involvement in prostitution.

“We were always on government assistance. My mom was into drugs—and it’s the people that drugs bring around—a lot of craziness and prostitution—and you can just imagine when people are really hard up for something.”

Drew says as a child he had “the best of the best and the worst of the worst.” The worst times came partly as a result of his mother’s severe mood swings during the times she attempted to stop taking drugs. His mother’s lifestyle brought a multitude of unsavory characters to the home, which created situations where Drew was forced to stand up for himself to adults at an early age.

“I had to fight for myself and my two sisters—I had to fight for everything.” At the tender age of 11 or 12, Drew says he quickly learned to do his own cooking, cleaning, and laundry and relied on himself for basic necessities.

Much of his life was spent without a father figure, his own having little contact with him as he was growing up. In retrospect, Drew says of his father, “the only thing I wish my father would have done is just stepped up as a man…and said, ‘yeah, I did this…you were created and I’m sorry I’m not there’… just something to some degree…it would’ve been enough for me.”

His father lives about three hours from Drew’s home in Iowa, but rarely even calls. “If I could tell any guy anything it would be to just step up…it doesn’t take a whole lot to be a good dad. It’s about being attentive…about being there if the kid does need you for any reason that you’re available… just step up and be responsible and don’t leave your kid hanging.”

From 50Cent to Urkel
The stressors at home eventually led a troubled and confused young Drew to the point of being expelled from school in his freshman year and on the verge of dropping out. Drew explained, “I was frustrated with life and everything that happened to me at home and I took it to school with me.”

Luckily, he was noticed by his gym teacher Randy Scott and recruited by Merv Habenicht, the head football coach. “They kind of took me in and taught me a lot about life and kind of turned me around,” says Drew.

“They made me who I am by introducing me to great people and bringing me into the right circle of friends.”

Habenicht, now retired as Bettendorf High School’s head football coach, and his wife Evelyn, fondly recall Drew as a young man who became a good family friend and fit into their family well. “Outside the ring, he’s a real gentleman, but when he gets into a competition I guess you could say he really turns it on!”

His coaches served as father figures who Drew wanted to both please and emulate. Kevin Freking, who is the head football coach at Bettendorf High School, was another coach Drew credits with the ability to bring about change in him. “He was one of those people—a very hard-nosed guy who didn’t take any bullshit from anybody—who helped a lot of kids get ready for football or whatever.”

“He really pushed me to my limits and was one of the guys who really formed me physically and taught me how to avoid the pain and suffering of training and to take myself to the next level.”

Freking says, “Andrew had a bad life up to that point, but he never felt sorry for himself…he was always self-driven and he knew that through hard work good things would happen…he’s always persevered through it and that’s a sign of good character.”

In many ways, Drew says he credits his alma mater Bettendorf High School for making him who his is and changing his whole ideology of what life is about. “High school was a big change for me…imagine 50Cent going to Urkel…it was that drastic.”

Pissing off Monte Cox & Impressing Pat Miletich
With the help of his mentors and a new focus, Drew lettered in football, track and soccer, baseball. After graduating high school, Drew earned an associate’s degree at Iowa Central Community College, and later attended Saint Ambrose University in Davenport, IA to study sports management.

After college, Drew worked as a bouncer and sometimes competed in Tuesday Night Fights, an amateur MMA fight show hosted by legendary MMA manager Monte Cox at a local area bar, where Drew not only showed promise but also aroused suspicion.

“Monte actually thought I had been trained by somebody else and had been sent there to beat up on Miletich guys because that’s who I was getting matched up against.”

After nearly beating an up-and-coming import fighter from England, Pat Miletich realized he was in the presence of some serious, albeit raw, talent in one Drew McFedries, and offered him the opportunity to train at the Miletich Fighting Systems gym in Davenport. Monte was then able to see Drew’s talent, dedication and commitment with training and decided to represent him as his manager.

The opportunity put Drew training alongside the likes of Tim Sylvia, Matt Hughes, Jens Pulver, Jeremy Horn and Spencer Fisher, before his UFC debut at UFC65: Bad Intentions, where he won by TKO over Alessio Sakara (16-6-1) at 4:07 of the first round. His disappointing loss to Martin Kampmann (15-2-0) by arm triangle choke at UFC68:Uprising proved to be a valuable learning experience. Drew says the Kampmann fight catapulted him to the Radev win, where he knocked out his opponent in 33 seconds, because he was determined not to go to the ground again.

You Can’t Keep a Good Man Down
It was, however, an opponent of an entirely different nature that took Drew to the ground after the Radev fight, when he was diagnosed with a methalyn-resistant form of staph infection that resulted in hospitalization and a skin graft on the back of his thigh.

Mentally more than anything, the infection wore on Drew more than any hardcore training session at MFS. But because of his tremendous determination and great physical shape, he was able to cut the doctor’s predicted healing time nearly in half to get back to training.

No stranger to dealing with debilitating illnesses, Drew was diagnosed with Chron’s disease about six years ago. The disease, which affects the gastrointestinal tract, is typically characterized by episodes of severe abdominal pain and cramps and other excruciating bowel problems.

During the worst of it, Drew was hospitalized and says dealing with the daily fears and pain was “brutal.” His Chron’s disease is now largely manageable with medication and a focused diet. “I learned not to touch certain foods—I can’t drink Vitamin D milk, but I can drink skim milk; I can’t eat grapefruit, but I can eat an orange…I can only eat certain types of ice cream, nuts and bread…things like that.”

Losing a Mother, Gaining Perspective
With all the trials life has placed in front of him, nothing could have prepared him for the murder of his mother Agnes just days before Christmas and weeks before his scheduled fight against Patrick Cote at UFC’s Fight Night 12 on Jan. 23.

“You know…I’ve seen so many things happen to my mother and I’ve seen her deal with so much and overcome so much—being beat up, strung out, in and out of hospital beds—that I thought she was indestructible.”

“I think a lot of my family members thought I was pretty cold to what had happened, but that really wasn’t it…I was really trying to stand strong for people in my family—mainly my little brother who is 14 because he was really confused about the situation.”

“A lot of people in the family didn’t do too well, including my sisters, and they may think I’m cold but it was more the fact that I wanted to stand tall for everyone else and kind of be that somebody to hold onto,” he explains.

“With my mom’s passing…it did reignite the fact that there were some really good times…in the end, if there’s anything to be said about my mother, it would be that she did hurt a lot of people and she do some real bad things, but nobody deserves to go out like that…every living thing deserves a chance and you never know what one more day will bring.”

To Fight or Not to Fight…
Given the tragic events of his mother’s death and his desire to be the rock his family could lean on, Drew faced the difficult personal and professional decision of whether to commit to the scheduled fight against Patrick Cote just weeks away.

“Taking the fight wasn’t the hard part,” says Drew. “It was the fact that I’d be so scrutinized for it.” Drew says sometimes you have to take the good with the bad, and that some felt he should bow out of the fight in consideration of the tough year he had with recovering from the staph infection and his mother’s death.

“I needed to take that fight to prove I could still do it…it really wasn’t about the fight…it was more about if I could persevere and push through this, and I did.”

Training for it, Drew says, was an entirely different issue. “It affected my training greatly because the fight game is very mental…it’s a very mental battle you fight to get yourself prepared.”

“It was hard to keep it together—you break down—I was cracking.”

Before the fight even began, Drew considered himself a winner—regardless of what the outcome might be—solely based on what he had overcome over the past year and his ability to even step inside the Octagon.

After a hearty standup exchange, Cote hit Drew and rocked him backwards into the cage, and even though Cote’s punches weren’t making it past Drew’s hands that were held up to shield his face, referee Herb Dean stopped the fight at 1:44 of the first round. In retrospect, Drew doesn’t fault the referee for what some saw as a quick and controversial stop.

“From Herb Dean’s standpoint, maybe I would’ve stopped it too. In my position, I know I should’ve fought back…bounced back. In my mind, I feel I didn’t react fast enough.”

Since then, McFedries scored a quick TKO win over Marvin Eastman and dropped a fight to Mike Massenzio via kimura.

Pushing Forward
Drew takes away from his life and Octagon experiences a belief that all of his trials have, in some way, shaped and molded him into the realistic, hardworking athlete he is today. “I think those lessons teach me that everything and anything can happen to you.”

And with the possibility that anything can happen very much a reality, Drew keeps pushing forward in the UFC, stating, “I’m so fortunate to be in the UFC—it’s a great organization—it’s the most rockin’ experience a guy can have to have 20,000 people screaming for you.”

In just 29 short years, life has thrown just about everything at Drew McFedries. His former coach Merv Habenicht says, “He has an inner spirit that keeps him going.” Some may call it the human spirit and others may call it the warrior spirit, but no matter what you call it, Drew McFedries has it. And after one hell of a year, Drew continues to stand tall with the intention of making an indelible mark in the UFC’s light heavyweight division.