Interview with Joe "The Deal" Heink

In my continuing series of interviews, I'd like to introduce you to another guy fighting out of Highlander MMA in Louisville, KY - Joe "The Deal" Heink. Thanks to Joe for agreeing to the interview.

Check after the jump for the full interview as well as some of Joe's fight videos.

(FYI, I posted this on FightTicker first, so when you see a reference to FightTicker or "FT" asking the questions, it's really me, PV.)

FightTicker: First, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Joe Heink: I’m 23 years old, originally from Lexington, KY…I came to Louisville to go to Bellarmine University, and I graduated in 2008 with a degree in History.

FT: How did you get into MMA?

JH: I started out just training BJJ, after watching some of our guys have their first fights, I decided that I could do that too.

FT: What is your current record?

JH: Amateur: 8-1 Pro: 2-0

FT: In what promotions have you fought?

JH: RFL, AFL, Wild Bill’s Fight Night, Warfare MMA to name a few

FT: Are you able to train full-time, or do you work a regular job as well?

JH: As of right now I train full-time.

FT: Are you able to work a typical training camp before a fight, and how long does that generally last?

JH: I haven’t done a traditional camp yet, but I’m going to start one 5-6 weeks before my next one.

FT: What’s an average day of training like for you?

JH: In the morning I either see my strength/conditioning coach or I work out (strength and cardio) on my own, then I teach and train techniques in the evenings.

FT: What kind of mental preparations do you go through before a fight?

JH: Mostly I get myself very relaxed…I’m not one of those guys who gets all angry and spazzed out before he gets in the ring. I do get a certain intensity going, but I stay calm.

FT: What kind of training do you consider to be more important than the others?

JH:Any kind of training with a fully resisting opponent is pretty important!!

FT: Where did you get your nickname, “The Deal”?

JH: It was given to me by Mike Yanez, because “no one can deal with my Jiu Jitsu” haha.

FT: The Highlander Fight Team recently hit a milestone in getting win # 100 as a team – how did it feel to be the guy who hit that mark?

JH: It was awesome, but still just one win. A lot of other guys worked really hard to get Highlander where it is.

FT: Mike Yanez recently accepted a job as a trainer for the XFC in Florida – now that he’s mainly in Florida, what is your day-to-day role at Highlander?

JH: I’m co-owning it with Brian Holmes, another fighter. I make a lot of decisions regarding the school and training programs, and I am the head instructor.

FT: What do you think of Mike’s new position?

JH: It sounds like he is enjoying it! I have yet to visit down there and see for myself.

FT: One of your teammates, CT Turner, has recently been enjoying some success in the XFC – do you see him fighting for the title any time soon?

JH: There’s been some talk about it, CT is down there training now, he’s in a great position for a shot.

FT: What are your initial impressions of the XFC?

JH: They put on an impressive show! Any promotion that can get that many people pumped up to go and watch MMA is fine by me!

FT: You only have one loss (as an amateur) – a decision loss to Neal Craft – in a rematch in November (as a pro), you submitted him in under two minutes – how did you feel after that win?

JH: After I won, I felt that I had overcome a loss which had been bothering me all year. Losing the decision in January was frustrating to me, but I knew that I had gotten a LOT better since then, and I knew that if I fought Neal again I would have a lot more weapons in my arsenal.

FT: What do you consider to be your biggest achievement in your fighting career so far?

JH: Beating Neal Craft in the rematch.

FT: You’re currently 10-1, with all 10 of your wins coming by submission – clearly your BJJ background has proven effective – where do you think BJJ ranks in terms of skill sets necessary for strong competition in MMA?

JH: BJJ is wholly necessary for MMA! I think the wrestling/BJJ style we train at Highlander is particularly effective for the sport.

FT: What is your favorite technique?

JH: Hmm, probably the triangle.

FT: As a pro fighter, what kind of sponsorship deals do you have/are you working on?

JH: I have a sponsorship deal with Brawl and Maul, a clothing company from Ft. Lauderdale. I am currently working on a few others but I can’t name any names.

FT: How have you seen the sport of MMA grow since you’ve been involved with it?

JH: When I first started, amateur fighting was pretty much unregulated and not standardized between various events and promotions. Now it is all under the state Boxing commissions, which I feel is a good thing because it keeps things organized and keeps the fighters safer with insurance and medical support. Also, MMA recently got legalized in Tennessee, which is awesome.

FT: Who are some fighters, past or present, that you admire?

JH: Kenny Florian, Minotauro, Matt Serra, GSP, Sakuraba.

FT: In your opinion, who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world?

JH: Anderson Silva.

FT:What do you like most about being a pro fighter?

JH: I get paid to do what I love!

FT:What do you like least?

JH: Its a tough schedule and its hard on me sometimes.

FT: What’s something you’ve had to deal with you didn’t expect when you first started in MMA?

JH: Hate to say it, but having to deal with drama and bickering type stuff.

FT: What kind of hobbies do you enjoy in your down time?

JH: Music (both listening to and making it), reading, video games, and being with my friends and beautiful girlfriend!

FT: How do your family and friends feel about your fighting career?

JH: They weren’t sure about it at first and had a lot of questions, but they all support me!

FT: When do you think your next fight will be?

JH: February 20 in Knoxville, TN!

FT: Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions, Joe – are there any people or sponsors you’d like to give a shout out to?

JH: Mike Yanez, Brawl and Maul and all the guys at Physique Institute!

So that's Joe - really nice guy. I intended to interview him immediately after he got the 100th win for Highlander, but time constraints prevented that. However, when I ran into him at the Soneca tournament (where I also met Alan Belcher), he readily agreed to the interview.

Here are a couple videos of some of Joe's fights.

(Joe is wearing the white shorts with black trim.)

(Joe is in the white shorts - not a good angle on his submission win, but there's a great slam around the :50 mark.)

(Joe is the one in the black shorts with the white Brawl and Maul logo.)

More of Joe's fights (along with other Highlander stuff) are available on YouTube here.

You can find Highlander on the web here.

I'll be back in the future with more from Joe and the rest of the Highlander crew.


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FightTicker Bloggers' Favorite Moments of 2008

On of my fellow bloggers on FightTicker asked a few of us to write a brief description of our favorite MMA moment of 2008. As the year is wrapping up, I thought I'd go ahead and post a link to this article because I thought it was a nice year-end look at MMA from different perspectives.

After the jump, you'll find a link to the full article on FightTicker, as well as my favorite MMA moment of 2008.

The other guys wrote some great things about everything from the emergence of the WEC as a promotion, and Forrest Griffin as a great fighter, the fall of Kimbo Slice and the return of B.J. Penn as a dominant fighter.

And from me....

I guess I'm taking a different approach. My favorite MMA moment of 2008 was covering the MMA Big Show: Relentless. It was my first official event coverage for FightTicker, the first time I got to do a live blog, and the first time I got to sit cage-side at a show. Watching the fights from that perspective and knowing that people were keeping up with fights as I reported them was a great feeling. Watching Chad Hinton win the 155 lb title and watching Matt Egner put on a Fight of the Night caliber performance after taking the fight on about 10 minutes notice had to be one of the greatest fight-related experiences I've ever had.

Also, being able to talk to Chad Hinton after he won the 155 lb title was a great way to wrap-up my first live-event coverage. I met a lot of cool people at that show, made a lot of great contacts, and had a great time. I've attended shows before that one, and I've attended shows since then, but that will always stick out in my mind as my favorite MMA moment of 2008, and one of my favorite MMA moments of all time.

Thanks to FightTicker blogger Hardyz55 for setting this whole thing up - nice concept and a nice end result. For the full article, go here.


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ICF: Shattered - Jan 24th at Turfway Park

From Intimidation Cage Fighting:

Intimidation Cage Fighting presents "Shattered" on January 24th, 2009 at Turfway Park

On January 24th ICF will be back at Turfway Park to bring you "Shattered" our biggest event yet.

Undefeated Pro Roger Bowling takes on Grant Sarver in the Main Event. There will be 2 title matches for the evening. 9-0 Matt Egner will be defending his ICF Lightweight belt against Steven Muldrow. Newly crowned and undefeated Light Heavyweight champ George Oiler will take on undefeated T.J. Ball. "Ruthless" Ron Mitchell makes his ICF return to the cage against Mark Crawn.

There will also be a womens match for the night. Team Visions Jami Miller will go up against Buffi Hayes. This will be an awesome match so you won't want to miss this one.

Lucid Grey will be opening the show so make sure to get there in time to check out this up and coming band from Lexington, KY. You can find them on MySpace here.

I'll be at the event doing a live blog like last time, and I'll be talking to some of the fighters for my post-event write-up as well.

To check out my post-event write-up from ICF: Redemption, go here.


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FightTicker Radio Show # 2 - Thursday Night, 7pm ET.

From FightTicker.com.

Fight Ticker Radio is back this Thursday at a brand new time: 7 PM ET. This week I have two very special guests: Dr. Johnny Benjamin, MD for the first half and Dr. David Mayeda, PhD for the second half. We'll discuss a myriad of topics ranging from the Corey Hill leg break to "justice being served" on TUF 8.

Check after the jump for some details on the two guests as well as the call-in number in case you'd like to call in and ask the guests some questions.

Dr. Johnny Benjamin, MD, is a fight doctor who has been featured on FightTicker, MMA Junkie, and on the HDNET show, Inside MMA.

Not only is he an established doctor, but he's also a well-spoken guy and an mma fan to boot, so listen in for some great opinions.

Additionally, Pramit is hosting Dr. David Mayeda, PhD, a socials issues contributor for FightTicker, and author of the book Fighting for Acceptance: Mixed Martial Arts and Violence in American Society. For Dr. Mayeda's latest article, "A Visual Glimpse into Thailand's Culture of Combat", go here.

If you're interested in ordering his book, go here.

I've personally corresponded with Dr. Mayeda a number of times - he's also an intelligent, insightful guy - a huge mma fan with a great respect for the sport and its fighters.

I'm sure that the two doctors are going to have some great things to say - make sure to check out the show Thursday night at 7pm ET. You can get to the radio show by going here.

If you're interested in calling into to chat or ask one of the guests a question, just call this number (standard long distance rates do apply). (646) 929-1737

I'm looking forward to it. Additionally, I've been asked to be on a future show, so I'll give you all plenty of notice when that is going to happen. As Pramit is waiting until after the holidays to have another show, I imagine it will be sometime early to mid-January.

Until then....


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FightTicker.com Radio Show - First Episode Archived

Just wanted to let you know all about a new feature that we have on FightTicker that's going to take things to another level. That's right, people - Pramit (the owner of FightTicker) has started a radio show.

Check after the jump for info on the show, and how to get to the first archived episode.

The inaugural episode happened yesterday and in addition to being hosted by Pramit featured two guests - MMA Fighter Binky Jones and one of FightTicker's top bloggers, Bryan Levick, a/k/a KingLev.

Each episode, Pramit plans to interview someone from the industry (i.e. fighters, promoters, etc.) and have as one of his guests an mma pundit, like KingLev. Each week they'll discuss current news in the mma world, including things like follow-ups on recent events. Additionally, during part of the radio show, people can call in to ask questions and comment (I'll post that number with my next article on the shows).

I'll be posting either a reminder about the show each week, or a follow-up with a link to the archived show.

In this first one, though, I'm going to post a link directly to the article on FightTicker, and from there you can find a link to the show. So check that out on FightTicker here.

Tentatively, each show is scheduled for Thursday nights at 6p.m. e.t.

Keep watching for updates. Next week's show may have a very special guest.


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Behind the Scenes with Rick Brewer of House of Pain (Clothing Company)

When I attended the MMA Big Show, I got a chance to speak with the reps from the House of Pain company. I got in touch with their President, Rick Brewer, and he agreed not only to this interview, but to sponsor one of our giveaways on FightTicker.com. If you're interested in getting entered in the giveaway, just go to FightTicker and sign up for a membership (it's free) and then follow the instructions on the main page for the giveaway.

House of Pain doesn't just sponsor MMA fighters, but other athletes as well.

Check after the jump for everything Rick had to say. You can find House of Pain online here, or you can get there by clicking the House of Pain banner that is currently at the top of the main page.

PV: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Rick Brewer: I’m just a regular gym-rat, with a history of Powerlifting and boxing. I’m basically the weakest powerlifter ever, but I have a decent bench - and I never quit competing. Best recent competition bench-press of 468# at bodyweight of 214#. Is started selling HOUSE OF PAIN gear at Powerlifting meets, and began shipping worldwide in 1996.

PV: You sponsor a number of athletes in other sports as well, i.e. bodybuilding – how do you feel this multi-sport approach sets you apart from other similar clothing companies?

RB: A lot of my friends are fighters, so HOUSE OF PAIN got into the MMA Fight world back in the late 90’s. There is a lot more crossover between these groups (weightlifters and fighters) than most people realize. We even did a study a few years back on what was more important in the cage; explosive speed, or absolute strength. I can’t use the word ‘power’ because most people don’t understand true meaning - but we basically examined the value of weight-lifting for fighters. As expected, there were heated disagreements over the results!

We sponsor extreme athletes in a variety of disciplines; including Strongest Man Competitors (everyone loves to see a telephone pole thrown for distance), MMA Fighters (breakin hearts and teeth), Powerlifting(stronger is better), and Bodybuilding (size matters). When the Last Man Standing was filmed all over the world; the biggest fighter wore HOUSE OF PAIN at his own expense. When Never Back Down was filmed; several of the MMA fighters (and one bouncer) wore HOUSE OF PAIN gear. Our gear is on Powerlifting platforms all over the world, and anytime big rocks are lifted by men wearing kilts - HOP is there! HOUSE OF PAIN is on MTV and cable-TV fights every day of the week. We are pleased to clothe fanatics in a wide variety of pursuits, and happy to ignore the normal population.

PV: Who was the first athlete you ever sponsored?

RB: First sponsored athlete; Skip LaCour (former natural bodybuilder). First celebrity contact; James Caan (led to my 15 seconds of fame).
(PV's note - I asked Rick to expand on the James Caan contact - here's what he had to say.)
I met James Caan in the Venice Gold’s Gym, about the fall of 1999. I was sort of stuck between OR & CA Powerlifting meets, with a HOUSE OF PAIN truck & trailer. I had one more HOUSE OF PAIN P/L meet to do, before I could return to TX. I met James Caan the first day I worked out at Gold’s Gym, and we casually talked between sets. I told him I was a fan. On day 2, I gave him some HOP clothes. I worked out every day that week at Venice Gold’s, and talked to him every day - it was just a random coincidence that we were there at same time day after day (I had extra time to kill).

That Thursday afternoon, after 4 days of these gym-meetings, I went to a business lunch with a famous bodybuilder. We went to a famous Venice dive called The Firehouse (I still love it). He suddenly looked over my shoulder and whispered “there’s James Caan!” I turned around in time to see James and several big guys walk in; they came over to our table - and James said ‘Hey Rick, how’s it going?’ with his hand on my shoulder. I remained cool and casual, but inside I glowed like radioactive waste! The bodybuilder was incredulous, and I laughed and laughed as I drove away later! Of course, I realize that James Caan forgot my name before I got back to TX - but I was famous for a few seconds! LOL.

PV: Can you tell us about a typical sponsorship deal H.O.P. would have with an mma fighter?

RB: We sponsor fighters on a per-fight basis, rather than year-round. We go to as many cage fights as possible, and try to sponsor at least 2 fighters everywhere we go. Fighters send us info on their fight (date/location), and the fight promoter (with contact info). If we can arrange an HOP booth; we sponsor them. For this reason, we have sponsored almost 150 MMA fighters so far. Some of these fighters have been sponsored 4 or 5 times by HOP. We’ve sponsored a similar number of weightlifters and porn stars. (Just Kidding)

We take a grass-roots approach, with an emphasis on being present to see the fights in person. We attend well over 200 events per year in the US, with roughly half being MMA fights or grappling tournaments (the other half are weightlifting-related contests). We go to fights and shows all over the USA, and we are currently looking for HOP event-reps to go to events in NY/NJ, PA, IL, MO, MA, GA, MI, MN, and SC/NC. (These HOP-reps would stock & sell gear, as HOP Distributors.)

On MMA fights; we require a HOUSE OF PAIN booth before we offer anything. Then our sponsorship level depends on TV coverage and other factors concerning exposure value. A typical amateur deal might be free HOP gear; possibly with a small $$ win-bonus. A typical pro-fighter deal might be extensive free apparel for fighter and friends; plus base $$ and a $$ win-fee. If the bout will only get TV coverage of highlights, then the fighter might also get a $$ bonus for any HOP logo appearance on network TV.

There are thousands of MMA fighters that think they are the next big thing, based on winning a few amateur fights. These guys think they have hit the jack-pot, and get a sponsorship manager to help them start raking in the cash. It is much easier for us to deal with a professional manager, because IF THEY HAVE SEVERAL FIGHTERS, they will be more realistic about the value of each fighter. Obviously, there is a wide variety of fighter values. Unfortunately, fighters are generally worth much less to an apparel company (like HOP) than they think. Sad, but true.

PV: What kinds of challenge do you face running a company like H.O.P.?

RB: Working here at HOP is like trying to work a huge puzzle, with 1000 complicated pieces, while people hit you. That’s what I like best. Our HOP customers are the most interesting people in the world. The thing I like least about working here at HOUSE OF PAIN is when I have to talk on the phone! I much prefer email, so that I have a written record of lies that people tell me. If someone calls HOP and tells an employee that “Rick asked them to call and speak with him;” my guys know to hang up on the obvious liar!

If you're a fighter, Email me with info on your MMA fight: Rick@houseofpain.com

Thanks for your willingness to talk to me, Rick – and thanks for agreeing to sponsor a giveaway on FightTicker. I'm looking forward to see what House of Pain has to offer in the future.


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A Chance Meeting: One-on-One with UFC Fighter Alan "The Talent" Belcher

Like I've said before, you never know who you'll see at local fighting events. This weekend, I realized that also included local grappling tournaments.

This weekend I attended the 1st Helio Soneca Grappling Tournament. Check it out on the web here. They haven't posted results yet, but there were definitely some good matches. They had both gi and no gi competitions. A number of guys from Highlander MMA were there as well as Stephens Vale Tudo.

A couple hours into it, Helio Soneca made an announcement that Alan "The Talent" Belcher had walked in. I was definitely surprised by this, and sought out Alan to get a few words with him. Belcher is coming off a split-decision win over Ed Herman at UFN 15, and is slated to welcome Denis Kang to the UFC at UFC 93.

Check after the jump to see what Alan had to say.

PreView: So you're coming off a split decision win over Ed Herman - what have you been doing since the fight?

Belcher: Man, I've just tried to jump in the gym a little bit faster than I normally do. Just been training every week and trying to get back into my conditioning, like two weeks after [the Herman fight]. I started just working on my speed and stuff, trying to keep going, because I think I'm at the age where I can improve the next couple years on my speed and strength. I think that's going to be what makes me beat everybody, so that's what I've been working on. Mainly my agility and speed, hand-speed, stuff like that. I'm up here in Kentucky training with Helio Soneca. I've been with him about the last four years. I got my blue belt and purple belt [under him]. I try to get up here whenever I can.

PV: Prior to the last fight with Herman, I heard you spent a lot of time working on your muay thai.

Belcher: My deal is I have a lot of different styles. That's something a lot of people can't do. You can pretty much tell what one guy is going to do if they only have one style, so I have a couple different styles - you don't know if I'm going to counter or clinch; it keeps the guys on their toes. But my main thing is always going to be my athleticism, my footwork, hand speed, that kind of thing - slick boxing, sparring muay thai and trying to use a lot of that. I'm getting stronger, my takedown defense is getting stronger. I'm getting to a point in my life where I'm just worried about getting ready for the fight. I've got complete confidence in my game. I used to sit in bed the night before a fight and go through every situation and worry about what to do in those. I'm learning to, kind of like a boxing mentality, just go in there and do my work; spar, do my different kinds of training, get my hands and my eyes going. Go in there, get in the fight, get hit, have fun.

PV: What's your training schedule with Helio like?

Belcher: I just train with him whenever I can. I've got the fight [with Kang] coming up, and I'm going to do a camp with Duke Roufus up in Milwaukee, so I thought I'd take a week and come up here. We train twice a day every day; I'm also sparring with Brent Weidman, a really good local fighter, and just working with the gi and no gi, trying to get slick on the jiu jitsu, take time to work my mind. He [Helio] has some really good jiu jitsu guys up here, too.

PV: Talk to me about your upcoming fight

Belcher: January 17th, against Denis Kang. It will be his first fight in the UFC.

PV: How do you feel about the fight right now?

Belcher: I feel strong. He's good, and he's got a lot of the same aspects that I do. I've got a couple things on him. I'm bigger, and taller, and I've got a lot more experience boxing. My hands are a lot faster. He brings a lot of stuff to the table; I'm sure he could beat me in a straight wrestling match or jiu jitsu tournament, but it's going to be hard for him to take me down. That first fight in the UFC is hard for everybody. It's going to be a little bit different than what he's used to and I think he's going to be a little nervous about going in there and falling on his face in his first fight [in the UFC] like some of the Pride guys have. I think he's looking for an easy win, so I've just got to take him down - I break people's spirit, so I look forward to every guy trying to take me down and breaking their spirit when they figure out they can't - then I've got them.

PV: Where do you see yourself in the middleweight title picture?

Belcher: I'm definitely thinking about it. I want to keep improving. In my last fight, I felt it was all starting to come together for me, I'm started to get it figured out. So we'll see how this one [against Kang] goes. If I can do what I did in my last fight, it could be in the near future for sure. There are so many tough guys though, it's hard to say who you need to beat to get in contention for that top spot. You know, there are five or six guys who look equal to me. In the UFC, it's all about what the fans think, what [match-ups] makes sense to the fans, who to put in there. So if this fight is on TV, and they see me and a lot of the people are talking about it, it's only going to make sense to the fans that I deserve to be there. It's weird ranking people in the UFC - there's no guy that's undefeated. Everybody has some loss, and you never know who's going to lose, so it messes the mathematical rankings up. So who knows? If I put together a couple wins, you may see me in there fighting for the belt. I definitely feel like I can fight with anybody. It's just about going in there and letting my hands go.

PV: I know you're not looking past Kang, but is there anybody in the division you'd like to fight that you think would put you in a better spot to fight for the title?

Belcher: I'd like to fight Rich Franklin or Dan Henderson. Both of those guys could be a good fight for me, I see myself beating both of them. And those guys would definitely put me up there [to contend for the title]. The guy I'm most afraid of now would be Nate Marquardt. He's a really dangerous, aggressive guy. Being aggressive as he is, he can throw guys off their game. As far as guys I think I match up with - I'd like to fight Demian Maia or Jason MacDonald - I think those guys would match up well with me, all of their fights are hard.

PV: What do you think about the Penn vs. St. Pierre, and then the potential match-up of St. Pierre vs. Silva? Do you think these fights are just going to hold up the titles or what?

Belcher: It does [hold up the title], but us UFC fighters, we're just trying to keep fighting and keep getting a pay raise every time, and it ain't really - that's just something we deal with. The titles are always held up - there aren't many title fights and there so many good fighters, it's [getting a title shot] is a very slow process.

PV: What do you think about the recent criticism of TUF? As a fighter yourself, do you think TUF is a bad thing for the image of the UFC as a whole?

Belcher: No, because there is a good mix of guys on there. It shows that everybody is their own person. I think that maybe if the show wasn't there, I'm not sure that MMA fighters would have a better rep. At least on there it shows that just because you're an mma fighter doesn't mean you act a certain way. Every single one of the guys has a different personality. Some of the guys aren't really tough guys at all; some of them are sweethearts and nerds. I think it's good for the sport; it gets new fans all the time and gets more people interested, so I'm not hating on it.

PV: How many fights do you have left on your current contract?

Belcher: I got a new one after my last fight, so I've got four fights on it. They keep you on a leash like that. When you win, they give you a new contract, and you don't want to turn it down, because it's a little bit more money than you'd be making your next fight anyways.

PV: Does that exclusivity bother you? Would you like to be fighting more often?

Belcher: I'd like to be fighting more often for sure. I'd like to be making more money for sure. The UFC is the world championship - I can't wait to be making that world championship kind of money.

PV: About money, what do you think about a guy like Lesnar coming in so early in his career and getting a title shot and getting paid so much for it? As somebody that's been in the game longer, does somebody new coming in like that, making that kind of money bother you, or do you think it actually benefits the other fighters?

Belcher: It does [benefit us]. I think it's great man. That guy [Lesnar] has got skills - he's spent his whole life wrestling, and he went into the WWF because that was the way he could make the most money. A lot of these top wrestlers get stuck not being able to make money doing wrestling. I'm proud for him. He worked hard and he deserved it for sure. He's an athlete and he deserves to be where he is. I guess if you're the best, you should be making the big money.

PV: I appreciate you taking the time to talk with me Alan. Any predictions for the Kang fight?

Belcher: I'm predicting I've got a knock out coming. I haven't had a knockout in a while and I'm wanting one pretty bad. I think I'm going to end up catching him. I'm going for a knockout for sure, I'm trying to push it a little bit harder every fight. I trust my conditioning. I'm scared to death of getting tired, but I think I'm going to push it this fight and get that knockout. If not, I'll definitely win a decision, it would be nice to get one of the bonuses for KO of the night or Fight of the Night.


So there you have it. I really appreciated the fact that Alan took as much time as he did to talk with me, and he was just as accommodating with the rest of the crowd. He was there the rest of the afternoon, hanging out and talking with everybody, even helping coach some of Soneca's fighters during their matches. He also helped present an award on behalf of Soneca to Allen Manganello for his service in supporting BJJ in the state of Kentucky - I'll be talking more on that with Allen in the future.

I'm interested to see what Belcher does against Kang. I do think he showed a marked improvement against Herman, and I'll be looking for him to score that bonus-winning KO.


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FightTicker's November 2008 Top 10 Rankings

I recently participated in a "Top 10" ranking poll for FightTicker.com. As a member of the ranking team, I submitted my Top 10 fighters in each weight class from Heavyweight (206-265) down to Featherweight (136-145).

You can find the final lists on FightTicker here. These are really for FightTicker.com purposes more than anything else. We're not saying that our rankings are better than any other website's (even though they are). We just use them as a more official way to speak of the fighters we're writing about (i.e. "FightTicker's #1 ranked Heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko decided today that.....").

Members of FightTicker do these rankings approximately once every quarter, so the next rankings will be published in February. If you're interested in getting in on the next rankings, head over to FightTicker and join the site. The spots on the rankings team are open to all members of the website.


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Mike Yanez Named Head Trainer of Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC)

We can say we knew him "back when".

As some of you might recall, a while back I did an interview with Mike Yanez, owner of Highlander MMA in Louisville, Kentucky. You can find that here.

When I spoke to Mike at the MMA Big Show: Relentless, where he ref'd all the fights, he let me know about some big news he had. I held back on it at the time because he said details were being finalized, but now it's out in the open, so I thought I'd let you all know.

Mike has been named the Head Trainer of the XFC.

Check after the jump for all the details.

From the XFC Website:

Head trainer and professional Mixed Martial Arts fighter Mike Yanez led his Kentucky-based Highlander MMA Camp to a 101-30 combined amateur and professional record – and an incredible winning percentage of 77% – over the past few years, earning Yanez industry-wide acclaim as one of the rising superstar trainers in the sport. One of the industry leaders who has closely followed Yanez’s string of victories is John Prisco, the president of Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC) – the Southeastern-based MMA promotion that MMAJunkie.com credited with being “the best kept secret in the sport.” Following a nationwide manhunt to upgrade XFC’s training staff, Prisco announced today that Yanez has accepted the position of head trainer at XFC’s MMA training facilities. Yanez will begin working immediately with all of XFC’s professional and amateur fighters.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of the XFC, the fastest-rising MMA organization in the United States,” said Yanez. “And after competitively wrestling for eight years – and earning my black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ten years ago from legendary world champion Pablo Popovitch and his father Jorge Popovitch of the Carlson Gracie side of the Gracie family tree – I firmly believe that my training qualifications and career résumé speak for themselves; no trainer wins 101 of his first 131 fights on a fluke. The Mixed Martial Arts are my one true passion, and I’m 100% dedicated to transforming dedicated fighters into unstoppable world champions. I’ve been following the XFC for quite a while now, and they clearly have multiple fighters on their roster who are right on the cusp of stardom. Hopefully I can play a role in helping them reach to the top of the mountain.”

John Prisco was effusive in his praise of his company’s most recent addition: “I’m deeply proud of all the past and current trainers here at XFC, but opportunities to hire a rising superstar trainer like Mike Yanez don’t come around every day. It’s not just the lineage of his BJJ black belt that makes him so special – it’s his uncanny ability to motivate young talent, instill his technical mastery in his pupils, and develop a program that wins nearly 80% of its matches. Look, there might not be any shortcuts to success in this sport, but Yanez sure makes the path a heck of a lot shorter. We’re honored and privileged to have him in XFC.”

Prisco recently mentioned these training facilities in his most recent entry on MMA Junkie.

And our gyms – I've got to mention our XFC training facilities! Our first gym is located slightly north of downtown Tampa, and we're in the process of opening multiple XFC-branded gym franchises throughout the Southeast. In addition to MMA-themed gyms being incredibly popular right now among the general public (why in the world would anyone go to a one-discipline dojo to learn self defense when top-notch MMA training is available?), almost everyone who trains – or knows someone who trains – at our facilities becomes a goodwill ambassador for XFC. They wear our shirts, hats and merchandise all over town, taking pride in their affiliation with XFC. A good many of them bring their friends, neighbors and kids to all of our shows and become part-time promotional members of our team. In the very near future, we envision each new XFC gym franchise playing an instrumental role in not just providing us with a pipeline of new talent but also providing us with a pipeline of new fans. And vice-versa.

Mike is a definitely a BJJ standout, and based on his team's fighting record, there's no doubt he knows how to motivate fighters.

I think the fact that the XFC is opening a line of gyms is yet another indication that they know how to capitalize on the growing sport of MMA, and securing a guy like Yanez shows they're serious in their commitment to the sport.

I don't there will be much of a concern with XFC branded fighters fighting in XFC events. The way I understand it from the website, it seems more like the XFC fighters are the ones who are locked into more exclusive contracts with XFC, and that many of them train with their own teams, but are given the opportunity to train at the XFC training facilities.

Congrats to Mike on this great opportunity - given this development, I'm even more interested to see what the XFC has to offer. They're definitely one of the top-notch growing promotions, and I'm interested to see where they go from here.

The XFC noted that Mike will immediately begin working with all of the XFC's pro and amateur fighters, and Mike's teaching skills will once again come into the spotlight this Friday when one of his longtime students, C.T. Turner, takes on Brett Chism. The event will be broadcast on XFC's website for $9.99.

I'll be talking to Mike again in the future, so look for updates from him on XFC developments and how his new role with XFC is taking shape.


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