World Victory Road

World Victory Road

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(Props to NickThompson.tv)

Nick Thompson has accomplished more before the age of 30 than most people will achieve in their entire lives. But it’s not because he’s a genius, or a super-athlete.

“I’ve always excelled just by outworking everyone else,” said Nick Thompson. “I’ve always loved athletics, but I’m not that athletic of a person…I wrestled in college and I really liked the fact that hard work pays off.”

It’s paid off in the form of a professional record of 38-11-1, two bachelor’s degrees and a law degree by the age of 28. And although Thompson was brought up in households of high achievers – his father was a chemist, his mother an attorney, his stepfather and stepmother a judge and executive, respectively – he thinks the source of his own work ethic is simpler than that.

“I get joy from trying to overcome physical challenges,” Thompson said. “More than anything, it’s probably just a love of competition. Even just shooting hoops with my dad when I was little, I always remember him never letting me win and us trying to beat each other. We were both very competitive.”

Fans can expect the same undiscriminating competitiveness from Thompson on Sept. 23 when he takes on rising welterweight and personal friend Dan Hornbuckle at Sengoku 10 in Tokyo, Japan. “Fighters like [Hornbuckle] are the future of the sport…but it’s not the future right now, it’s the present. And I’m the present.”

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(Props to MMAPredictions.com)
(Props to MMAPredictions.com)

By FIGHT! contributor John Lane

He just knew it. Ryan Schultz’s confidence was unshakable before he was about to trade blows and roll with the International Fight League’s meal ticket, an undefeated 20-year-old prodigy named Chris Horodecki. Schultz was a huge underdog, nothing more than a stepping stone for Canada’s next great athlete. Horodecki defeated Schultz handily in their first meeting and “The Lion” was a late replacement for John Gunderson in the IFL’s light heavyweight championship fight. If Vegas was wagering, this one would have been off the board.

But you’d have earned a Purple Heart if you had the balls to tell Schultz that on this night and it took a mere 2:51 for Schultz to TKO Horodecki and become the IFL’s first lightweight champ.

“That was one fight in my career where there was nooo doubt,” Schultz said. “I said ‘You just watch. I’m going to give him a beating.’ And I meant it.”
Before the IFL folded, Schultz successfully defended his title twice, defeating Gunderson and Deividas Taurosevicius by unanimous decision. These days, though, Schultz’s career is at a crossroads. He’s 2-2 since winning the title, a loser of his first two Sengoku bouts, and last fought a year ago. The layoff ends Sept. 23 at World Victory Road’s Sengoku 10 where he knuckles up with Kazunori Yokota for a possible shot at champion Mizuto Hirota.

There’s plenty left, insists Schultz (20-11-1), especially at age 32. He’s got three fights left on his Sengoku contract including Yokota and intends to use Japan as a platform, but first needs to crawl out of an abyss. Hirota knocked him out in two rounds at Sengoku IV and Schultz took a fight against Jorge Masvidal as a late replacement – 20 days later. Predictably, Schultz was KO’d in Round 1.

“I did what a fighter would do and said, ‘Let’s do it,’” Schultz said. “I’m a little smarter [now] in protecting myself as a fighter.”

He’s survived emotional humiliation, too. In early 2007 the IFL debuted the “IFL Battleground” television show by sensationalizing Schultz’s 2006 knockout loss to Bart Palaszewski. The illusion: “A Rescue 911”-like tease on whether or not his neck was broken. The reality: He was placed on a stretcher for precautionary reasons. “I could have walked out of there,” Schultz said. “They made me lay down on that stretcher. It was part of the game for them.

“I looked at it as the dumbest thing you can do for mixed martial arts. Not necessarily just against me, but I thought it was a black mark against MMA. I thought it was just ridiculous,” Schultz said.

Schultz refused to play the part of the fool, handling a potentially embarrassing situation with aplomb. Yokota will want to beat him like a dummy, but “The Lion”’s back is against the wall, and that’s when he’s proven most dangerous.

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Due to some technical problems, we didn’t get this video up until right before the fights but we still think it’s worth watching. Dan Hornbuckle banished Akihiro Gono to the land of wind and ghosts with a high kick at Sengoku Ninth Battle. Go here to learn more about “the best welterweight you’ve never heard of,” and check out some of Akihiro Gono’s best entrances.

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Resembling a battle-ready version of Ashton Kutcher with a so-called “warhawk” hairstyle, Dan “The Handler” Hornbuckle is hoping to garner as much attention as possible as he heads into Sengoku 9, where he will face MMA veteran Akihiro Gono.

August 2 will mark the second time that Hornbuckle has traveled to the land of the Rising Sun to fight. Like most fighters who have made the journey, Hornbuckle has only positive things to say about the experience.

“Up until recently, fans in the United States didn’t really revere fighters as Samurai warriors, but that’s how they view you in Japan. While we’re watching Sunday afternoon football in America, they’re watching Sunday afternoon fighting,” says Hornbuckle with a chuckle. And according to “The Handler,” it is precisely this type of admiration that makes the sacrifices of being a fighter more worthwhile. “When you’re walking the streets, it’s a very cool feeling when you have people coming up to you with smiles saying, ‘Oh, Sengoku-san! Sengoku-san!’ and wanting pictures,” he says.

Boasting a record of 17-2 and battling his second “big name” opponent in as many fights in Sengoku, Hornbuckle is on the verge of receiving the same treatment in the streets of America. “Where I would hope to eventually end up is the UFC, because that’s where the most elite fighters are,” says Hornbuckle. “I know I have a few fights left before I can just go romping around into that top level, but I feel like I’m taking all the right steps. Everybody needs experience and that’s why I’m not discounting where I am right now in Sengoku. There are many good fighters in Japan, including Gono, who just got out of the UFC. My experience with him will be used as a measuring stick of where I stand, and I’ll make adjustments accordingly.”

But until then, this Sengoku-san will enjoy his time in Japan. “When two men enter a ring and they mix all martial arts together and compete, that’s very pure,” says Hornbuckle. “I wanna prove to myself that MMA is born into me and I want to help the sport grow and be remembered as one of those foundational pillars that helps bring MMA to that next level.”

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