While the world of MMA is focused this week on UFC 71 and the epic battle for the light heavyweight crown between Chuck Liddell and Quinton Jackson, there is a MMA event the following weekend that features some interesting bouts as well. The “Dynamite!! USA” card -- being co-promoted by Pro Elite Inc. (parent company of EliteXC) as well as F.E.G. (parent company of K-1) -- takes place June 2 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The first hour of the fight card will be televised by Showtime and then switches over to Showtime pay-per-view for the remainder of the card.
The two co-main event fights on the card are a match between former professional wrestler and NCAA wrestling champ Brock Lesnar (making his MMA debut) and 7’2” South Korean Hong Man Choi, as well as a rematch between Royce Gracie and Kazushi Sakuraba.
On Friday, a conference call with Lesnar and Jake Shields (who fights Ido Pariente on the undercard) was held for the media. Though I did not participate in the call, I was able to obtain a transcript from the folks at Showtime. Here are some of the highlights from the call.
Question: How do you prepare for somebody so big and is that an advantage or a disadvantage?
Lesnar: I think the things to prepare for are very obvious. He is a very large man. He has a long reach. He is fairly agile. I have got to up-weight his hands and be able to get inside and create angles, and angles create openings for my hands and for my takedown. So we have been working extensively on that program.
Question: Can you compare the learning curve of MMA to the learning curve you experienced when you first took on the NFL or wrestling?
Lesnar: With each sport, you really have to break it down and the advantage that I have had to train for fighting has been I have had plenty of time. When I trained for the NFL, I was in football camp and football camp is a short period of time and everything gets thrown at you very fast. So you want to comp a lot of things in a short amount of time. As a fighter, I have had plenty of time to learn each discipline. The more time you have to spend with something, the better you are going to get at it. By the time I learned something in football, we were already on to another chapter. So I have had enough time to train.
Question: So, now the money is there in MMA to be a draw for big time wrestlers like yourself?
Lesnar: Well, yes. MMA is huge. So there is money to be made and I am enjoying it. I have been a fan of mixed martial arts (a long time). So I have been a follower. And it has been something that I wanted to do for a long time, but a guy has got to make a living too. I was not going to go fight in some Bingo hall for $250 a night.
Question: As a pro wrestler, did you ever sustain any serious injuries?
Lesnar: Out of the four or five years of being a pro wrestler, I sustained more injuries than I did as an amateur wrestler. Even though it is choreographed, the things that I did were very unforgiving on my body. But nothing (terribly) serious. I have had arthroscopic surgeries here and there and nothing really serious, thank God. I could have very easily ended up in a wheelchair. But no, knock on wood, and I am back down to 270 pounds, back to my college wrestling day’s weight. So I feel really good.
Question: Do you have any heroes that have influenced you?
Lesnar: I am a big fan of Couture and Coleman and Shamrock. I enjoyed watching those guys. Those guys were very fun to watch. Couture and Coleman were amateur wrestlers and so I kind of followed the amateur wrestling guys.
Question: Without giving away your strategy, what weaknesses in Hong Man Choi do you see that you figure you could exploit?
Lesnar: Well, I think being because he is very large, there is going to be one definite difference in us. I will be able to move a lot better. He is very agile for a big guy, but I think I will exploit that he is not as agile as some people think. So hopefully that is the case.
Question: Would it be safe to say that if you do get cogged pretty well from Hong Man Choi that you will take the fight to the ground?
Lesnar: Well, yes. Obviously, my game plan is to try to get this guy on the ground and to smother him. I want to come out and set the stage for this fight. I want to set the pace. There is one thing that I do have control over and that is my cardio and I want to set a fast-paced fight for this guy, and one where I want to make sure I know that he will not be able to keep up.
Question: What was it that really frustrated you about wrestling and how much do you estimate that you lost financially by getting out of the business?
Lesnar: Go on and read on the Internet. I have talked so much about pro wrestling, I am tired of it. It is not all about the money. It is about being happy and being close to home every night, waking up and having my daughter run into the bedroom and wake me up. Being able to put my kids to bed at night and not be on the road 300 days a year was the main reason.
Question: What do you think is the possibility for Curt Angle actually getting into Mixed Martial Arts are? If he does, do you think it would ever be you two in the ring?
Lesnar: I hope so. I would really like to fight Curt. If somebody is willing to promote that fight, I am all for it. I think Curt has done enough jaw jacking where -– I have said it before –- he has got to either put up or shut up. It is time for him to stop running his mouth and to physically do something. I am the kind of guy who is going to walk the walk, and I do not do a lot of talking. So if there is a promoter out there that is willing to back this fight, I am all for it. If Curt has enough “guts’’ to do it, then let us do it.
On his background
Shields: I am fighting on the Cesar Gracie fight team and Fairtex team in San Francisco, Calif. I have been fighting for quite awhile, probably about six or seven years. I originally started fighting on the San Luis Obispo wrestling team. [A long time ago] Chuck Liddell had a little gym. I stopped by and hooked up with Chuck and started working out a little bit. [I] kind of got into it from there. [I] fought in a few small shows in California. Then I moved to San Francisco to wrestle and that is when I hooked up with Cesar Gracie and then from there he got me in Shooto. [I] Fought in Japan for quite awhile and won the Shooto world title. I recently hooked up with Rumble on the Rock and won the Rumble on the Rock Grand Prix tournament and their championship. Then I did a couple of other shows. Now, here I am with ProElite and ready to fight.
Question: You are fighting a guy, Ido Pariente. What do you know about him?
Shields: I do not know too much. He is a brown belt in Jiu-Jitsu. He supposedly has got pretty good Muay Thai (skills). I have only gotten one fight of his, but he was pretty good. I think he is someone I should beat, but it is hard to tell. He is pretty much an unknown because of only having one fight and coming from Israel. It is hard to know too much about the guy.
Question: How would you describe your style?
Shields: I started as a wrestler and then got into Jiu-Jitsu. Lately, I have been doing just Muay Thai and boxing. I am trying to round it out but originally I was definitely more of a grappler.
Question: Are you worried that since Nick Diaz is now with ProElite that you guys might come into conflict with one another in the future, where you might have to compete against each other, or one of you has to step aside for the other to get a world title shot?
Shields: That is a little bit of a factor, but we are good friends and I am sure we can work it out. I doubt we would fight each other. It would have to be a lot of money to get us to fight each other, to make it worthwhile. As far as one of us holding the title, the other person could always either go up or down in weight or figure something out. It is just good to have a good training partner like that to really push [you].
Question: What has been your toughest fight?
Shields: I have had some tough fights, but Yushin Okami was really tough. He comes to mind.
Question: What has been your most pleasing victory?
Shields: I’ve had a good amount of good victories, but beating “Mach” Sakurai was really nice because I was completely unknown at the time and he was one of the biggest name fighters.
Question: As a lifelong vegetarian, what do you eat and how do you prepare your food when you travel, or go overseas?
Shields: I try to bring some food with me, obviously. When I was going to Japan, I started even bringing my own little stove so I could cook my own food. Especially in Japan, it is hard to eat because everything is fish and meat. But around the U.S., I am able to find vegetarian food. But when it is fight time, I try to bring extra food with me.
Question: How old were you when you decided you wanted to pursue a career in MMA? Were you a tough kid growing up?
Shields: I was a pretty tough kid growing up. I grew up in the mountains and it was a tough area. My parents were kind of hippies. I had longer hair when I was a kid. So growing up there, I had to fight a lot. It got me kind of tough. But I never really thought I wanted to be a fighter. I always watched fights and then kind of got caught up in them by accident. In the first few fights, I did not think I wanted to make a career out of it. I was just doing it as more of a hobby, and then kind of got hooked from there. A few years ago, I decided to pursue it as a career.
Question: What is your deal with ProElite in terms of fights on your contract? Is it a single fight or multiple fights?
Shields: Three fights, but there is a little bit of a non-exclusivity to it. So I will still be able to fight in some other shows.