FightTicker.com Exclusive: XFC 8 Post-Fight Interview With Julio Gallegos

One of the fighters I had a chance to catch up with after the recent XFC 8 event was Julio Gallegos, fresh off a second-round submission victory over CT Turner. In case any of you missed it, take some time to check out the excellent pre-fight profile of Gallegos done by FightTicker.com blogger Mike Menninger. The picture is from Fight For Life USA's Event Album. Pictured from left to right are Fight For Life USA co-founder Scott Wells, Julio, Zeena (holding their daughter Bralynn) and Fight For Life USA co-founder Brent Thompson.

Check after the jump for my interview with Gallegos.

FightTicker: Big submission victory tonight over CT Turner in the second round – obviously a lot of respect between you and CT, both tough guys – how did you feel going into the fight tonight?

Julio Gallegos: I felt pretty confident. I don’t know what it is man, but every time, the first round, it’s like I can’t get loose or something. It’s takes to the second or third round ‘til I get loose and I’ve got to change that. But physical-wise, conditioning, I felt very good, not a problem. I put a lot of work in between my teammates Reaction Fight Club, No Limits, and Submit Pit, they bust my ass.

FT: In your post-fight interview talking to Ron Kruck from HDNet you could’ve talked about anything and you took that time to talk about your association with Fight For Life USA. What does it mean to you being able to give them that kind of exposure on a live televised broadcast?

Gallegos: It means a lot because a lot of people lose their family members to something that they shouldn’t lose them to. I lost a couple close ones to me and it sucks to lose a loved one like that. It’s an honor to me being able to say Fight For Life USA like that. It’s an honor.

FT: You talked to my buddy and FightTicker.com blogger Mike Menninger about how you liked the XFC. Is it your plan to stay with them and keep fighting at middleweight?

Gallegos: Yeah, they always say try out your first contract and if you don’t like it, go to something else better. So far they treat me really good and I have no complaints so I’m going to stay with them until my future says not to.

FT: Anybody you want to give out a shout-out to or say thanks to?

Gallegos: I definitely want to say thanks to Rob Nickerson out of Reaction Fight Club, Willie Ray out of No Limits, Larry Combs and Darren out of Submit Pit. Thanks to Fight For Life USA which has allowed me to do what I do. Shout out to Zeena [Julio’s fiancée], and her father, [the man who was like] her second father, that just passed away from cancer, and Brenda, [Ron] Kruck’s mother, she’s battling breast cancer, so definitely a shout out to her. And a shout out to yourself, man, [laughs] being here and covering this and talking to me.


Gallegos is a class act both in and out of the cage. He came back from a first round that by all accounts had him down on the Judges’ scorecards 1-0 and turned a small mistake by Turner into a big win. From beginning to end, Gallegos expressed nothing but respect not only for his opponent CT Turner, but for his role in the fight game. He’s a fighter dedicated not only to his training and advancement in the sport but also the advancement of those who have helped get him there like training partners and organizations like Fight For Life USA.

Fight For Life USA recently released Gallegos’s signature shirt [pictured above] for sale to the general public and it will be available on their website within the next few days. Also, for any of you who didn’t notice, Gallegos has now joined FightTicker.com – take some time to check out his profile and say congratulations.


(Originally posted on FightTicker.com)

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FightTicker Exclusive: Post-Fight Interview With Corey "The Freak" Krebs

For those of you who were able to watch the live HDNet broadcast of XFC 8: Regional Conflict, I think you got to see some great fights on the main card. However, as many of you who attend live shows that are partially broadcast on TV know, some of the best fights and most exciting KOs and submissions are the ones that don’t make it to the television audience. Corey Krebs had one of those KOs.

It took him only 82 seconds to dispose of Fit Factory’s Dean Hamilton via KO, earning my vote for FightTicker.com KO of the Night. However, Krebs had to work for those 82 seconds – if you take a look at my live blog, you’ll see that their fight was filled with action right out of the gate. I caught up with Krebs after the event to speak with him about his win.

(Picture from Fight For Life USA's event album.)

FightTicker: Big KO tonight, my choice for KO of the Night – how did you feel going into the fight?

Corey Krebs: Felt good. I knew what kind of fighter he was – he comes out, he likes to drop big bombs, he’s physically dominant, tries to dominate from the clinch, but the guys he’s fought, I don’t think were at the same caliber that he was stepping into here. Not to say that I’m the best fighter in the world, but I think I was definitely a step up from his [prior] competition. I knew he dropped bombs big and I just had to prepare for the storm. I just knew I was going to counter – I’m a southpaw, so I counter with my straight lefts and eventually just put him down. It was good.

FT: How did you feel scoring a big KO tonight?

Krebs: It always feels good to knock somebody out, man, but I don’t come here to lose. I just want to win, so as long as it’s a win and it’s a good win – I don’t want to win by cuts, something like that – as long as I win, I’m happy. Knockouts are nice.

FT: What’s next for you?

Krebs: Just next fight. I’m still in the minor leagues trying to make my way into something big. This is the third pro fight for me, doing pretty well so far, two knockouts. Just got to see what pops up next, do it one step at a time.

FT: For only three professional fights, you have a lot of sponsors [see Krebs’s walkout shirt above] – how did you get that worked out?

Krebs: I have a really active manager, also a personal friend of mine from Paragon MMA, Remington Reed. He does a lot of good work, getting all of us [fighters] stuff. It’s a really good thing.

FT: Anybody else you want to give a shout out to?

Krebs: I want to thank 47 and Projekt Label, my two big sponsors. Also Bucklehead Knives, Grace Training Supply, she's actually a very good friend of mine, she supplies all our cut supplies. I also have to thank my team and most of all, my opponent - thanks for coming out and being in shape.

(Originally posted on FightTicker.com)

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FightTicker Exclusive: Interview With Bobby Lashley From XFC 8: Regional Conflict

On Saturday night, I attended XFC 8: Regional Conflict in Knoxville, TN. Former pro wrestler and new MMA heavyweight Bobby Lashley was at the event to present the XFC Featherweight Belt to Jarrod Card after he defeated Bruce Connors in their five-round FightTicker.com Fight of the Night. I briefly caught up with Lashley before the event to speak with him about his new MMA career and plans to fight for the XFC.

FightTicker: I know you’ve been talking to the XFC for a little while now and you’re attending your first show tonight – what do you think of the XFC so far?

Bobby Lashley: I think it’s a great promotion, man. They have everything one of the major promotions would have. They have a great staff – I’ve been working with these guys for the past few days and everything they do is professional. They’re bringing these fighters up to give them an opportunity to fight in front of a big crowd and they get everything some of the larger promotions get.

FT: You have a couple fights coming up, one of them against Bob Sapp – why Bob Sapp?

Lashley: I think every one of my matches I have to answer the critics. One of the things that a lot of people are saying is that “Bobby is fighting these guys that are his size or a little bit smaller and he’s out-powering them.” Well, Bob Sapp is not going to be out-powered easily. He’s 100 pounds bigger than me, he has a lot more experience than me so I’m going to have to step it up.

FT: One of your former colleagues, Brock Lesnar, is obviously doing well for himself in the UFC right now – do you think your paths will eventually cross in the cage?

Lashley: Of course, I think so. I think Brock is a smart man. Instead of doing what I do, and I’m taking all sorts of shots from the critics, that I’m staying at a lower level. He just said, “You know what? They’re going to take shots at me anyway, so I might as well jump to the top and see if I have what it takes.”

FT: There have been some rumors going around lately about you and the XFC - how long do you think it’s going to be before we see you in an XFC event?

Lashley: September. We’ve already talked about it and I think it might be a deal. (Lashley did confirm at the event televised live on HDNet that he'll be fighting on the upcoming XFC card Sept 5, 2009 in Tampa, FL.)

(Originally posted on FightTicker.com)

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ICF Officially Announces ICF: Sacrifice on May 16th - Luke Zachrich Set to Headline

From a Press Release:

On Saturday, May 16th, Cincinnati's own Luke Zachrich will return to the cage to take on J.R. "The Dragon" Hines at Turfway Park in Florence, KY.

Zachrich, who recently fought for ICF on April 11th at U.S. Bank Arena and took the win against Robert Thompson, is currently 9-1. He looks to add to that against J.R. "The Dragon" Hines. Hines carries a 2-2 record as a pro.

ICF Super Heavyweight Champion Jim Davis will return to Turfway Park to defend his newly crowned title against Oleg Koranevskis. Koranevskis hails from Florida and is 0-1 as an amateur. Davis from Team Vision is currently undefeated and has a record of 3-0.

Exclusive ICF fighter George Oiler will make his pro debut against 0-2 pro Neal Craft. Oiler is coming off a tough loss to former ICF Light Heavyweight Champ T.J. Ball. Craft is looking for his first win as a pro after suffering his second loss against ICF's Victor O'Donnell in January at Turfway Park.

Team Extreme's Kevin Cantley will be fighting Matt Pinzher for the vacant 135lb title. Also on the card is Team Extreme's Matt Egner versus undefeated Ben McQuerry for the vacant 145lb title. Egner with a 4-2 record will be looking to come back after two losses against ICF champ Steve Muldrow. McQuerry who last fought in October for ICF, will be ready to improve on his unmarked record.

Turfway Park's own, "Hacksaw" John Hays will make his return to the cage against Doug Keefe. Hays' last time in the cage delivered him the award for "Fighter of the Night". This fight will be no less than that as Keefe is undefeated.

Along with these exciting fights, other fighters on the card will be Jason Cocagne, Mark Crawn, Justin Hunt, Dave Heidorn, Doug Balinger and Tyler Johnson.

ICF "Sacrifce" is a charity event sponsored by ICF and Hooters. A portion of ticket sales will go towards the following charities, The Point Northern Kentucky and The Leukemia Lymphoma Society.


Additionally, ICF promoter Steve Stanton has released to me the full fight card:

1. Doug Bailnger 147 Rocky Bowman
2. Steven Garcia 159 Justin Hunt
3. Dave Heidorn 174 Brandon Dustmas
4. Joe Miller 174 Tyler Johnson
5. Scott Robert 135 TBA
6. John Hayes 147 Doug Keef
7. Kevin Cantley 135 (Vacant Title) Matt Pinzher
8. Jason Cocagne 189 Mark Crawn
9. Matt Egnar 145 (Vacant Title) Ben McQuary
10. George Oiler(pro) 170 Neil Craft(pro)
11. Jim Davis (Super Heavy Weight Title) Bill Fuller
12. Luke Zachrich(pro) 190 Jonathan Hines(pro)

(Originally posted on FightTicker.com)

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XFC 8: “Regional Conflict” Explodes into a Full-Fledged Mixed Martial Arts Warzone, Live on HDNet Fights

From a Press Release:

Knoxville, TN: In the XFC’s first-ever fight card to be broadcast live on national television, the next generation of Mixed Martial Artists hurled haymakers, swapped submission holds, and turned Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee into an all-out warzone.

The end-result was XFC 8: “Regional Conflict,” an event airing live on HDNet that showcased the top emerging talent and most promising up-and-coming fighters in the entire Southeast.

In the televised portion of the fight card, 22-year-old, 264-pound debuting heavyweight Chris “The Beast” Barnett outlasted 60+ fight veteran Johnathan Ivey via unanimous decision. Barnett, a two-time statewide heavyweight high school wrestling champion in Georgia and a third degree Taekwondo black belt, began his MMA training just five months earlier, winning an open tryout with the XFC for a spot in the MTV reality TV series “Made.” The young prodigy dominated the older fighter from the get-go.

“He held position well and was hard to move… he’s just better than me,” said a dejected Ivey. The well-traveled heavyweight from Clarksville, Tennessee had previously battled the likes of Dan Severn, Gan “The Giant” McGee, Ben Rothwell, Ricco Rodriguez, Travis Wiuff, Jake O’Brien, Sam Hoger and Jeremy Horn.

“It was a great experience,” exclaimed an excited Barnett, a native of Athens, Georgia. “I knew he’d try to confuse me with his veteran tricks, but I’m a different breed. I can move! Kicks, flips – I can do it all!”

Jason Wood survived a back-and-forth battle with Derek Schiffer in a 150-pound showdown between twenty-something contenders with a combined 17-3 professional and amateur record. The first round was a close, competitive matchup with both men delivering – and receiving – colossal head-shots. In round two, Wood rocked Schiffer with a vicious volley of cascading punches, forcing the referee to dive atop Schiffer and stop the bout at the 3:41 mark.

Schiffer needed assistance vacating the cage.

In the third fight, ex-University of Tennessee linebacker and “wedge-busting” special teams ace Ovince St. Preux won his blood-feud with light heavyweight Ombey “Kryptonite” Mobley of Tampa, Florida, twisting his ankle and winning by submission 2:36 in round one. Mobley brought a theatrical flair to the contest, mocking St. Preux by dropkicking a Smokey hound dog doll and repeatedly making a “Gator Chomp” gesture in the cage; Smokey is the official mascot of the Tennessee Volunteers.

The highly-partisan crowd loudly booed Mobley throughout the contest, erupting into a crescendo of boisterous cheers when the hometown hero finally upended his Florida challenger.

“It was really satisfying,” said St. Preux, reflecting on his victory. “I was really cranking hard [on the submission hold]. If he hadn’t tapped, he would’ve had a serious injury. This was definitely the highlight of my MMA career.”

Former light heavyweight CT Turner dropped to 185-pounds to face undefeated Julio Gallegos in the fourth fight on HDNet. Both fighters opted to grapple and strike in concussive waves in the first stanza, with neither man able to dominate the other. Arguably, Turner won round one 10-9. But Gallegos began to incrementally deliver the harder and more damaging shots in the second round, locking Turner into a guillotine and refusing to release until he tapped at 2:47.

“There was a little bit of déjà vu,” noted Gallegos, who also bested Turner as an amateur. “I like CT a lot. He’s a good person. In a way it was hard to fight him, because we both overcame adversity – and adversity never overcame us.”

Both Gallegos and Turner experienced homelessness and other serious setbacks in life before discovering the sport of MMA and embarking upon successful professional careers.

In the co-featured bout of the night, Rafaello “Tractor” Oliveira faced XFC Lightweight World Champion John Mahlow at the catchweight of 160-pounds, with Mahlow agreeing to defend his title against Oliveira if he lost to the Brazilian-born BJJ black belt and sparring partner of UFC title-holder B.J. Penn. From the very first round, Oliveira utilized his jujitsu prowess to stymie the XFC champion, winning a three-round unanimous decision.

“Rafaello is a good fighter,” said Mahlow afterwards. “No excuses. We’ll see each other again.”

Undefeated MMA heavyweight and former WWE superstar Bobby Lashley was on hand to present the XFC Featherweight World Title Belt to the winner of the Bruce “The Noose” Connors versus Jarrod “The Wild Card” Card fight in the main event. Connors entered the fight as the favorite, boasting a 6-0 record – with all six wins coming by first round knockout or submission. By the end of the night, Connors’ record would receive its first blemish.

Utilizing blazing foot-speed and precision punches, Card confounded Connors, peppering him with strikes from unorthodox angles, slicing his face into a gruesome mask of shredded flesh and free-flowing blood. Connors refused to back down and twice clamped Card into a deep guillotine, but each time the young fighter wrestled free and returned to his feet. Card won the contest – and the XFC world title – via five-round unanimous decision.

“I’m the new guy on the scene,” said an elated Card, who elevated his record to 10-2-1. “I’m more than ready for the next level. I’ll fight anyone.”

For his part, Bobby Lashley – who announced that he’ll finally be fighting for the XFC in September – seemed impressed with the fight card.

“I thought it was an incredible night,” gushed the former two-time ECW world champion. “I was blown away by all the talent in the cage. These guys now know what it’s like to fight in the big show. As for my upcoming fight with the XFC, anyone they want me to take out, I’ll do.”

Veteran sportswriter Dave Link covered XFC 8 for the Knoxville News Sentinel newspaper, and certainly appeared to enjoy the drama and action.

“I’ve covered all kinds of sports for 25-years but I’ve never covered MMA,” said Link. “This was just great! The entire event was first-class. If I wasn’t covering it, I’d be here as a fan. I’ll definitely be back when the XFC returns.”

Final results for XFC 8:


Devan Plaisance defeated Paul McEntee by TKO, 3:06 in round one

Matt Traylor defeated Richard Boyd by TKO, 4:37 in round one

Corey Krebs defeated Dean Hamilton by TKO, 1:22 in round one

HDNet Fights

Chris Barnett defeated Johnathan Ivey by three-round unanimous decision

Jason Wood defeated Derek Schiffer by TKO, 3:41 in round two

Ovince St. Preux defeated Ombey Mobley by submission (ankle lock) 2:36 in round one

Julio Gallegos defeated CT Turner by submission (guillotine) 2:47 in round two

Rafaello Oliveira defeated John Mahlow by three-round unanimous decision (Oliveira wins guaranteed rematch for Mahlow’s XFC Lightweight World Title)

Jarrod Card defeated Bruce Connors by five-round unanimous decision (Card wins vacant XFC Featherweight Champion)


About Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC): Xtreme Fighting Championships – better known to MMA fight fans worldwide as XFC – is the Southeast’s leading independent MMA promotion, and stages the largest live shows in the entire sport this side of UFC. Dedicated to launching the careers of the MMA superstars of tomorrow, XFC’s North American fight cards are broadcast live on national television, exclusively on HDNet. For more information about XFC, please visit www.mmaxfc.com.

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XFC 8: Regional Conflict - Live Blog on FightTicker.com

I'm here at Thompson-Boling Arena for XFC 8: Regional Conflict. I'm live blogging for FightTicker.com. You can check out the televised portion of the card starting at 9:00 p.m. on HDNet. For all of the undercard action and my take on things, check out FightTicker.com.


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FightTicker.com Exclusive: Interview with XFC President John Prisco

Just a few days before the XFC's debut live event on HDNet, XFC 8: Regional Conflict, I caught up with XFC President John Prisco to discuss the upcoming event, his feelings on the live broadcast and special guest Bobby Lashley. As always, Prisco took the time to give some thoughtful answers.

Check after the jump for the full interview with Prisco.

FightTicker: Your first show in Tennessee was an exciting night of great fights – what can we expect the second time around?

Prisco: Thanks so much for the kind words, Brian. The great thing about the XFC is that our shows are always so unpredictable. I know it’s become a cliché to “expect the unexpected,” but there’s a lot of truth to that expression. Of course, some of this is by design: As a matter of policy, the XFC does not protect any of its fighters, and every single bout on XFC 8: “Regional Conflict” – on paper – is a toss-up. And what could be better than a night of young, hungry, well-trained fighters battling each other in the pursuit of MMA greatness?

There’s going to be some brutal knockouts. There’s gonna be some tactical wars. There’s gonna be some shattered dreams and broken hearts. But there’s also gonna be a number of rising stars that take the next step – taking a giant leap forward on national television in their quest to become superstars.

That’s what the XFC is so passionate about, Brian – launching the careers of the next generation of MMA champions. I might have no idea which fighters will ultimately prevail, but I fully expect to see some full-fledged cage wars erupt this Saturday night!

FT: How do you think the turnout will be with this show since it’s on a Saturday night and not on a Friday night like your last show in Tennessee?

Prisco: Being on a Saturday generally helps, because it’s easier for people outside of your immediate area to travel to the event. So while I expect most of the audience to still be from Knoxville, we have heard from a number of MMA fans in Nashville and Memphis that are planning a weekend road trip to watch our show.

Saturdays usually work better for our younger fans, so I’d also expect many more college kids, 20-something-year-olds, and teens than last time. Which is something we love, since these fans tend to be exceptionally loud and especially vocal – and the fighters really feed off the energy of the audience. A hot crowd really does make a big difference.

So if you’re coming to XFC 8: “Regional Conflict” this Saturday, April 25, at Knoxville’s Thompson-Boling Arena, plan on getting rowdy! It’s gonna be a tremendous night of MMA action!

FT: How does it feel to have the XFC card televised live exclusively on HDNet?

Prisco: It’s huge for us. In just one night, more people will see the XFC product than ever before – and we’re instantly transformed from a Southeastern promotion into a national promotion. Just one year ago, we were putting together the biggest fight cards in all of Florida – out-drawing everyone else, the UFC included – and now MMA fans from coast-to-coast will finally get to see what all the fuss is about! And what’s so special about what we’ve accomplished in such a short period of time is that we’ve done all this without compromising our core vision. See, some promotions – i.e. EliteXC – tried to buy their way into prominence. Others spent big money on past-their-prime “names” to draw a crowd. But the XFC has been singularly focused on developing new talent, growing the sport, opening new markets, and showcasing the superstars of tomorrow.

This vision has worked because our product is good: The fighters couldn’t possibly be more motivated, the fans are loud and boisterous, and these young warriors are now reaching new heights of prominence. And we’re very excited about finally sharing this product with MMA fans nationwide!

FT: You’ve already made great headway in Florida, and in hosting the first sanctioned Pro MMA card in Tennessee – how do you think this TV deal is going to further increase the XFC’s exposure?

Prisco: It doesn’t just increase our exposure, Brian. It also increases the exposure for all our young fighters. And if you’re an emerging star with big dreams – and you firmly believe in your heart of hearts that you have the skills and discipline to be a champion – then what could possibly be better than joining a promotion where all you have to do is perform, and everyone throughout America will get to see you in action?

Forget about all the politics and inter-promotional rivalries. We don’t get involved in that. What we do is provide a platform for emerging stars to perform against the top rising talent in their division. After that, it’s up to the fighter.

Which means that the XFC isn’t for everyone. If you’re a fighter with holes in your game and you need to be protected, we’re not a good fit. If you’re more concerned with inflating your record against so-so competition while hoping for a future payday, you’ll have to do it elsewhere. And if you’re a veteran looking to cash-in on your name recognition against an overmatch opponent, we’re not interested. But if you’re ready to battle the best available fighters – and do so live on national television – then we can truly help launch your career.

I think this mentality in and of itself will not just separate the XFC from everyone else – but will also separate the kinds of fighters that the XFC attracts from everyone else.

FT: New MMA Heavyweight Bobby Lashley is going to be there to present the XFC featherweight belt to the winner of Bruce Connors and Jarrod Card – when can we expect to see Lashley fighting for the XFC?

Prisco: I don’t want to negotiate through the media, but we think very highly of Bobby Lashley. His amateur wrestling background is superb, and I respect the hell out of him for walking away from the guaranteed paydays of the WWE to pursue his MMA dreams and start anew in a brand new profession. That takes a great deal of courage and a lot of faith in his abilities. Part of the appeal of Bobby is that nobody knows just how good he can be, but in my opinion, his ceiling is exceptionally high.

Bobby wants to work with us and we want to work with him. And when both parties have that kind of temperament, good things usually happen. So stay tuned!

FT: Ovince St. Preux will be making a return in front of his hometown crowd after his KO of CT Turner at XFC 7 – what are you expecting from St. Preux in his performance against Ombey Mobley?

Prisco: Ovince will definitely have his hands full with Ombey Mobley. Ombey is a former professional boxer and an absolute terror in the XFC training facilities, but Ovince has an uncanny knack for elevating his game and delivering when it counts the most. What’s so compelling about this fight will be all the emotions – and how each fighter handles them.

Ovince just won the biggest fight in his entire career with a highlight-reel knockout of CT Turner, instantly becoming a part of the light heavyweight conversation and is now a big celebrity in Knoxville. Will he be able to maintain his focus? Will he be able to build on his last victory?

Ombey is a close, personal friend of CT, and he’s legitimately outraged by how he believes Ovince has disrespected CT. Will his temper get the better of him? Or will he be able to control his emotions and simply take care of business in the cage? Psychologically, how will Ombey react when Ovince tries to kick him in the head – the same way he kicked and KO’d CT?

Either way, there’s definitely the potential for some serious fireworks!

FT: You have some other great match-ups on the card - Julio Gallegos will be facing CT Turner in Turner’s first fight for the XFC at Middlweight and XFC Lightweight Champ John Mahlow will be taking on Rafaello Oliveria at a catchweight of 160, to name a couple – is there a particular match-up you really think the crowd should look for as Fight of the Night?

Prisco: Gallegos against Turner is a fascinating matchup. Both men are in their 20s and both men have dealt with serious setbacks in life. Turner was homeless and fighting in the streets before he discovered MMA, and Gallegos’ mother and father were both killed in a senseless, violent crime while he watched as a young boy. In both instances, Julio and CT’s personal demons were exorcised, in a way, by this sport. I just know that neither man is gonna back down to the other, and both men are willing to sacrifice almost everything in order to prevail. Their hearts are just huge. Both men are class acts.

Mahlow versus Oliveira is another fight I’m really looking forward to watching. Mahlow is the XFC lightweight world champion, and since losing a tightly-contested split decision to WEC title contender Jeff Curran in May of 2007, Mahlow has gone 5-1, including 2-0 in the XFC. In his last three fights, Mahlow has defeated Eben “The Big O” Oroz, stopped UFC’s “Fight Night 13” veteran Ryan Roberts, and submitted Belator’s Luis Palomino in the fifth and final round of their XFC championship bout in December. Mahlow’s victory over Palomino attracted a particularly high level of media interest, especially after ex-UFC heavyweight champion Antonio Nogueira publicly declared Palomino to be his “personal protégé” and a future world champion. He’s a fighter who’s just starting to reach his peak.

Oliveira is a Brazilian-born BJJ black belt fighting out of Premier Martial Arts in Knoxville, where he works as a fighter and trainer. Interestingly, he trains one-on-one with UFC lightweight champion B.J. Penn in Hawaii, serving as Penn’s sparring partner for his past three title fights. Penn flies him over to Hawaii, specifically to help Penn work on his BJJ. Oliveira is 7-1, and his one career loss was the byproduct of a doctor’s stoppage – by cuts – on the undercard of the “ShoXC Elite Challenger Series” on Showtime in October of 2008. He was winning that fight, too, when an inadvertent elbow sliced him.

Oliveira versus Mahlow should be an exceptional battle – and I honestly have no idea who’ll win!

FT: You beat the UFC to the Tennessee market with XFC 7, and now you’re hosting XFC 8 approximately a month after the UFC’s first show in Tennessee – what sets the XFC shows apart from the UFC’s?

Prisco: I have enormous respect for the UFC. More than anyone else in all of MMA, the UFC has helped grow the sport and create a climate where an organization like the XFC can prosper. For that, the XFC – and every other promotion – should always be grateful and respectful. But there are differences.

At its heart, the UFC is a private, invitation-only fight club. They crown their own champions within this fight club, and promote their most marketable matchups within their private universe. And they’re great at it.

But the XFC strives to be an open market for all rising MMA superstars – no matter where they’re from or who they are – with no politics and no hyperbole. See, the UFC is more about the present, and we probably focus more extensively on the future. The UFC showcases some of the best fighters of today, but the XFC’s guiding principle is that there’s more undiscovered talent than established talent – and if we can identify and promote these fighters first, we can really help build this sport – raising it to even greater heights for decades to come. Not that the UFC doesn’t care about MMA’s future, of course, but each company goes about safeguarding the future in a very different way.

I don’t view the XFC and the UFC as being in competition with each other, not in the classic sense. They’re older and much more established, while we’re younger and still forging an identity with fight fans nationwide. But to us, the bottom line is that the UFC and Dana White are good for the sport, and although they’re not perfect, they’ve earned every single accolade they’ve received, because the UFC is a tremendous, world class product. And this isn’t just something that I’m saying to you, Brian – I’ve also said it personally to Dana White.

But I’d also like to think that our work with young, emerging fighters is a positive for the sport as well, and that we both bring something a little different to the overall equation.

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FightTicker.com Exclusive: Pre-Fight Profile on XFC Fighter C.T. Turner

One of the matches that I'm most looking forward to at this Saturday's XFC 8: Regional Conflict event in Knoxville Tennessee is a middleweight match-up between Julio Gallegos (1-0 Pro/8-2 Am) and CT Turner (6-3 Pro/6-2 Am). In Turner's first fight at middleweight (Turner fought all of his other MMA matches at Light Heavyweight), he looks to turn the tables on Gallegos, who handed Turner a loss in Turner's fight as an amateur. In this fight between two hard-hitters who have an earned mutual respect, as my buddy Mike Menninger said in his profile of Gallegos, this fight has all the makings for Fight of the Night.

Check after the jump for the full profile on Turner as well as videos of some of his previous fights.

When a friend of mine initially brought Highlander MMA to my attention, after mentioning Highlander MMA founder and current XFC Head Trainer Mike Yanez, the next name that came up was C.T. I remember him exclaiming, "Man, Highlander has this one guy who is a beast at Light Heavyweight. His name is C.T. - he's a hard hitter and has a great ground game." After seeing some of the numerous videos of C.T.'s fights and grappling matches on YouTube, some of which you'll find below, I had to agree. I was able to catch up with Turner via phone to discuss his upcoming match with Gallegos as well as his thoughts on his still young MMA career.

For those of you who read my semi-live blog from XFC 7, you'll remember that C.T. got caught on the wrong end of a head kick from Ovince St. Preux. However, quick to get down to business when I asked him if that loss changed the way he prepped for this fight, Turner replied, "It brought to light a bad habit. Next question." On a side note, Turner, who has been training with St. Preux's upcoming opponent Ombey Mobley feels Mobley won't make that same mistake and predicts a victory for Mobley via a Ground and Pound KO in Round 1.

Turner's MMA career thus far - 6-3 as a pro and 6-2 as an amateur is somewhat surprising in that he only started training about two years ago with Mike Yanez and the Highlander Fight Team and relocated to Tampa to train at the XFC facilities when the opportunity presented itself. Turner describes his life before MMA as one with no direction, "any which way but loose," but he feels his fast-tracked MMA career is what he needed to do to survive and keep himself motivated. Turner views his MMA career as having had a great run so far. He commented that he's had more fights than many other pros starting out and that he views his losses as learning experiences, "kind of like paid training at the workplace. You wear a suit and tie, I wear shorts and a cup."

Discussing the move to middleweight, Turner feels it's made him better in all aspects of his fight game. He jokingly commented that he hadn't been at this weight since he was 12 years old, but more seriously remarked that he feels faster and just as strong as he was at 205, noting that the improvement in cardio comes naturally with the weight loss as there is less weight to move around. He also noted that his flexibility has improved as well. He spoke to his diet as playing a big role in the drop, telling me that "I feel like a skinny white girl."

Never one to forgo an attempt on humor, when I asked him about his thoughts on Gallegos, Turner replied "He bangs, he bangs," parodying a popular song from a few years ago.

However, as I stated before, the respect shown by Gallegos was reciprocated by Turner. When asked about how he was feeling going into the fight, he stated, "Relaxed, another day at the office. But there's more anticipation because Julio was my very first mma fight two years ago and my first loss. We have a lot of respect for each other. Nothing personal, but winning is what I plan to do, with extreme prejudice. I'm sure he's thinking the same."

Wrapping up our interview, Turner wanted to thank Brawl and Maul, Highlander Fight Team, Mike Yanez, and his team in Tampa.

With Turner looking to bounce back in the XFC's second show in Knoxville, I wouldn't be surprised to see this fight as a three-round war between two of the toughest guys on the card. Regardless of how the fight goes, it's going to be an exciting one.

For more information on the XFC and the full fight card for this weekend's event, check out the XFC's website.

Here are some highlight videos from some of Turner's previous fights.

(Originally posted on FightTicker.com)

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FightTicker.com Exclusive: Pre-Fight Profile on XFC 8 Competitor Ombey Mobley

This weekend, the XFC will once again take over Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee for their sophomore show in the state, XFC 8: Regional Conflict. Among the high profile matches featured on the card, set to be televised live on HDNet, is a Light Heayvweight match-up between Ombey Mobley and the FightTicker.com KO of the Night winner from XFC 7, Ovince St. Preux.

Check after the jump for my profile on Mobley and comments from him about his upcoming fight with St. Preux.

In a recent Press Release on St. Preux, Mobley was characterized as a "hard-nosed ex-convict and former pro boxer." Surprised that the XFC would speak of Mobley's status as an ex-con, I contacted Mobley to speak to him about his upcoming match against St. Preux and how he felt about the press release. We caught up via phone and Mobley took some time out of his training to speak with me.

Mobley, 4-0 as an amateur, is making his pro debut against St. Preux who is 2-2 as a pro and was 10-0 as an amateur. Mobley characterized his upbringing as one on the wrong side of the tracks, doing what he had to do to survive and playing the cards life dealt him. He broke it down simply enough when he said there are two types of people in life - "Fighters and victims. I'm no victim."

Mobley spoke of his transition from boxing to MMA as an evolution and that he feels quite confident going into his pro debut against St. Preux. Although relatively new to the MMA game, he has surrounded himself with quality trainers and training partners, people he refers to as a great team to be a part of - helping him really focus on his Jiu Jitsu and catch wrestling as he prepares for the fight - more like a family - including guys like Mike Yanez and C.T. Turner. Mobley stressed the importance of this, saying "I have strong family values, and my team is my family."

When I asked what kind of advice C.T. was giving him about St. Preux, Mobley didn't mince words when it came to the topic. However, his words didn't seem to come from anger but more a sign of his eagerness to step into the cage and prove himself. Mobley specifically stated that he's not a boastful person as much as some may think. And about Turner's advice, he simply stated that there was no advice to give, that 99 times out of 100 C.T. would have won that fight.

A quotation from Mobley in the previously mentioned press release stated, "Ovince landed the luckiest kick in MMA history with both his eyes closed, and now he’s running his mouth like he’s frickin’ Chuck Norris...And I definitely ain’t impressed by the fact that Ovince used to wear orange and white on Saturday mornings while the Vols got their skulls stomped by the Gators. He’s a dead man walking.”

However, Mobley wasn't past a little humor either. When I asked him how he saw this weekend's fight going, he stated that he saw himself looking like a movie star and that after beating St. Preux he'd be the next Hollywood movie story.

Candidly addressing his status as an ex-convict and the characterization of it in the press release, Mobley stated, "There is nothing to glorify about being an ex-con or a felon. The comments have angered me because I'm not that type of person. What has happened in the past is not a reflection of who I am today. I want to be viewed for my skills in the cage like any other fighter and to be glorified for my victories."

Mobley made it a point to take some time to thank Coach Mike Yanez and his team for getting him ready for this, St. Preux for having great courage to take the fight against him, Brawl and Maul for taking care of his team and his family and finally, the XFC for giving him this opportunity.

Although I was admittedly somewhat skeptical of Mobley based on what I'd initially read, even in briefly speaking to him it was easy to see he's not just some ex-con fighting because he likes to pick a fight. He's just a fighter doing what many others are trying to do - prove that he belongs in the world's fastest growing sport. Saturday night, he gets that chance.

(Originally posted on FightTicker.com)

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Kentucky Fighting Challenge #49 Fight Card and Event Details

Jimmy Mc's Kentucky Fighting Challenge is Kentucky's longest running MMA promotion. I have had the opportunity to cover a few of Mc's shows and he always puts on good events. In fact, the first regional event I ever attended was KYFC #44 in Mt. Sterling, KY and I had a blast. The respect Jimmy garners from fighters and people in the industry is second-to-none. He even hosts grappling matches at a number of his events to give some of the under-18 crowd a chance to get in the cage or ring and compete in front of a hyped up audience.

Check after the jump for details on the event and the fight card.

- PreView

Jimmy's next event, KYFC # 49, will be this Saturday April 25th at Four Seasons in Lexington, KY. For the first time in the history of the KYFC, Jimmy Mc has publicly released the fight card for the event, highlighted by four amateur title matches and including a women's MMA fight. There are still a few fights pending, but I have no doubt Jimmy is working to finalize those fights - his dedication to the fighters is a kind you don't often see anymore.

From the Press Release:

KENTUCKY FIGHTING CHALLENGE #49 FIGHT CARD ...Come and enjoy great fights, some great food and drinks at KENTUCKY FIGHTING CHALLENGE. The event will be held at the new large 4-Seasons Gym at 951 Floyd Dr. in Lexington. The date is April 25th. The doors open at 6:30 P.M. and the fight starts at 8:00 P.M.General Adm. is $20.00. Front Row Seats are $25.00. And the rare VIP Table is $200.00 (seats 6 people) for that price.To reserve a Front row seat or a VIP table call Jimmy Mc at (859)948-5577 or e-mail to happyapple1©peoplepc.com below is a current fight card.

135 LB.
Chris Sallie vs. Jonathan Kinder
James Douglas vs. (pending)

Josh Rucker vs. Scott Ratlife
Michael Cavenah vs. Fred Horn
Carl Thornsberry vs. David Crow

Tanner McCowan vs. Zack Sanders
Ken Tichenor vs. Andrew Haverer
Phill Stevens vs. Chad Talkington
Vic Nesenchuck vs. (pending)

Anthony Baumgardner vs. Brandon Hubbard ( TITLE )
Brandon McNeeley vs. Tim Mason
Brandon Radford vs. Adam Slaughter
Toleman Haley vs. Tyler Walling

Derick Ruiz vs. Chris Holms ( TITLE )
Michael Cockerham vs. Cullen Babcock

Clell Swinnet vs. Christopher Nickerson ( TITLE )
Brent Alphers vs. Ken Thacker

Brian Kilgore vs. Jeremy Centers ( TITLE )
James Watts vs. (pending)
James McDevitt vs. (pending)

Venessa Beachcamp vs. Kathy Waldrop

Tim Wright vs. Kyle Havens
Chanc Lykins vs. Jordan Daniel

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FightTicker Exclusive: Profile of XFC Competitor Julio Gallegos

A buddy of mine at FightTicker.com has posted one of the most interesting and candid fighter profiles/interviews I've ever seen, on Julio Gallegos, who will face CT Turner at this weekend's XFC 8: Regional Conflict in Knoxville, TN.

Take some time to check it out.

You can find the post on FightTicker.com.


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ICF: Breakout Wrap-Up

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Intimidation Cage Fighting’s ICF: Breakout at U.S. Bank Arena. The night was capped off by a main event that saw ICF exclusive fighter “Vicious” Victor O’Donnell defeat former UFC fighter Forrest Petz via rear naked choke.

This was ICF’s first show at U.S. Bank Arena, and it was a good one. A number of people from the local fight scene were there supporting their teammates, but the event also played host to such spectators as Rich Franklin, Jens Pulver, Matt Hammill, Monte Cox and Mike Patt.

Team Jorge Gurgel made a successful foray into the ICF, going 3-0 on the night and other local teams, Team Xtreme out of Cincy MMA and Fitness and Team Vision also notched a few more wins. Team Xtreme went 2-1 on the night and Team Vision 5-3. Team Vision by far had the most fighters on the card with eight.

I caught up with a couple of the fighters and ICF promoter Steve Stanton after the show to get their thoughts.


Jeremy Pender brought home his first pro win, the FightTicker.com Submission of the Night, with a rear naked choke over Carson Gainey in the second round.

FightTicker: You got your first pro win tonight over Carson Gainey – how did you feel going into the fight?

Pender: Man, I was really nervous. Big place, lot of people. Took me a little while to get comfortable, tried to settle in and do some striking at first. I knew I had a little bit more of a range than he did, but I hesitated, I couldn’t get off. Took him to the ground in the second round and it worked out for me.

FT: When you two fought against each other as amateurs, you were able to finish him then via submission as well – do you think he stepped up his game between that fight and this one?

Pender: Honestly, it was like fighting two different guys. His striking was a lot more crisp. He was still a little bit wild, but he hit me with some good shots. I thought I was a little too long and lanky for him on the ground and I ended up trapping his arm with my leg and got control. The first time [during the amateur fight], I think it was more he took me down and didn’t know the guard I worked and I caught him in a trick. But this time, he was a lot more cautious. Every time he took me down, if I got to guard, he got back up and wanted to strike. But I thought I was winning the striking with my footwork.

FT: What’s next for you?

Pender: I think I’ll take about a month off [from fighting], I’ll go back to the gym and start working with some new people, work on my jiu jitsu, get my striking a little bit better and going to come back in June, I think. It’s up to Steve, he’s going to be my manager.

FT: Why the Oscar the Grouch hat? [Pender walked out for the fight wearing a green Oscar the Grouch hat.]

Pender: Honestly, it’s for the pictures. I teach pre-school, and I teach at Redwood, a place for autistic kids, and they like my hat so I had to wear it out and support them, keep the roots, you know?


I also got the chance to catch up with Chad “H-Bomb” Hinton after his FightTicker.com KO of the Night win over former UFC fighter Jeff Cox. Although Cox appeared to keep Hinton from really getting his stride in the first round, Hinton came out hard and KO’d Cox thirty-seven seconds into the second round.

FightTicker: Big KO victory over Jeff Cox tonight – how’d you feel going into the fight?

Chad Hinton: I felt great. I knew Jeff was a tough guy and I didn’t underestimate him. In fact, I was a little bit hesitant in the first round which I regret, but after all said and done, it’s all good.

FT: How did it feel to get the big KO in front of your hometown crowd?

Hinton: Man, it felt great. Brian, it felt great, I appreciate you asking. It was my first knock out, so I was really pleased. I was looking at it – the goal of the night was to get the KO of the Night, so it was great.

FT: What’s next for you?

Hinton: I’ll let Steve Stanton figure that out for me. We hope to have the opportunity we’ve been hoping for, for a while, to get in the UFC and if not, we’ll keep working hard in the ICF and get things done here.

FT: Are there any people or sponsors you’d like to thank?

Hinton: Ok, people / companies I want to thank...I hope you're ready. My wife, Lynne, and kids, Caylan and Mikayla. They had to deal with me through training camp and cutting all of the weight. God truly blessed me with an incredible family. My mom, dad, brothers and sister and in-laws. In a very sincere and special way, my grandfather. He's like my second father. Yeah, we're THAT close. He has fallen on bad health lately and has been struggling in and out of the hospital. He was actually my inspiration before the fight. I dedicate that win to my Grandpa Joe. He's the man. My coaches, corners and motivators, Marty Slone, Dahei Haile, Corey Boyle, Lonnie "Scotty" Scott, Marcus Finch, Matt Koz, Nick Corey, Tommy Wells. My business partner Tony Brucato, massage therapist Selena Keller, ICF owner Steve Stanton and his wife Melissa Stanton, Denver Cavins and the rest of the ICF team, and my friend Brian Kinamore. I'm sure I'm forgetting someone. If I forget them they still know I appreciate them! Sponsors....Toezup and Tony Palazzo, Cincinnati Chiropractic and Andy Limle, Cincy MMA & Fitness, EnergexNutrition.com, Scoreboard Sports Bar (West Side, Cincinnati, OH) CockDiesel, and FightForLifeUSA.com.


Finally, I was able to catch up with ICF Promoter Steve Stanton. I’m sure Stanton was ready for a break, but as always he took some time out to sit down with me and discuss the show.

FightTicker: What did you think about the show tonight?

Steve Stanton: I think it was great. Ohio is a good place to come and fight, everybody treated me really good; the [Athletic] Commission is good, the fans are just crazy, nice, and exciting. Good show, good fights. Three-rounders [almost] every time!

FT: I saw that you premiered some new production videos and things like that tonight – how did you feel about the production that you were able to use at U.S. Bank Arena?

Stanton: It’s off the hook. It [the production] gets better and better every time. Our videos, our camera guys, our website, it all gets better all the time. And man, the crowd was great.

FT: Any preliminary numbers on crowd size?

Stanton: 3000-3500. Pretty good for my first time at U.S. Bank Arena. A guy out there said this was a pipe bomb dream – he wasn’t kidding - it blew up tonight. I’m glad he said it was a pipe bomb dream, that’s pretty cool.

FT: A lot of your ICF exclusive fighters, Chad Hinton, Jeremy Pender, Victor O’Donnell had big victories tonight – what did you think of their performances?

Stanton: I’m proud of all the guys. All the guys, even the guys that lost all fought their hearts out tonight. It’s a great privilege to come to Ohio and fight at U.S. Bank Arena. It just gave me cold chills when I walked in tonight and the music started playing. I’m proud of Jeremy, Chad and Victor, all the guys that won tonight. There were a lot of close calls, Cincy MMA and Fitness did good tonight, there were a lot of good fights.

FT: You have an event coming up next month back at Turfway and then back here in August, right?

Stanton: Yeah, May 16th we’re back at Turfway, in June we’re going to Evansville, Indiana. July 18th, we’re going down to Louisville at the Kentucky International Convention Center, and then July 25th we’re back at Turfway, and back here at U.S. Bank Arena August 22nd.

FT: You think you might get a day off somewhere in there [Laughs]?

Stanton: I’m definitely going to take off tomorrow and be with my family, my kids, my wife. I’ve neglected them, and it’s family time tomorrow for sure. My phone’s dead and I don’t even think I’m going to charge it.

FT: Chad Hinton had a big KO win tonight – what’s next for Chad?

Stanton: He’s done great. He probably won’t fight until August – he’ll probably be my main event. He definitely proved himself tonight to all those guys that didn’t believe him, all that bad stuff they say [on the internet]. He beat a guy that’s been in the UFC twice, I think that’s going to stop the talk.

FT: You had a number of former UFC fighters on the card tonight – do you think you’ll be trying to nail down as many of those big names for the August show?

Stanton: Oh yeah. What I’ve done tonight – I can’t go backwards, I’ve got to go forwards. It’s going to be awful hard to top tonight’s card and everything like the advertising and my truck [UFCW 75 did a wrap on Steve’s truck – picture below] but don’t worry. Everything we do, I want to do the best, be the best and whatever I got to do to do it, I’m going to do it.


FT: Is there anybody you need to thank?

Stanton: I want to thank my sponsors, UFCW 75, the U.S. Army, Pure Romance, Cadillac Ranch. Thanks to Miller Lite for running the beer specials, thanks to Hooter’s – we’ve got the prettiest ring girls [Hooter’s waitresses]. I want to thank Cataclysm MMA for the great trophy they gave Victor O’Donnell tonight. Definitely want to thank 7 Hills Church, ain’t nothing like having God in here, that’s for sure. Fighting’s not all bad, just because you’re fighting doesn’t mean it’s bad.


For my FightTicker.com “Of the Night” Awards, there were a number of fights that deserved Honorable Mentions as well. Here are my choices.

FightTicker.com KO of the Night – Chad “H-Bomb” Hinton
Honorable Mention – “Ruthless” Ron Mitchell

FightTicker.com Submission of the Night – Jeremy “Pony Boy” Pender
Honorable Mention – Luke Zachrich

FightTicker.com Fight of the Night
– Marcus Finch vs. Tyler Johnson
Honorable Mention – Matt Egner vs. Steve Muldrow

I'll be back covering the ICF on May 16th for ICF: Sacrifice at Turfway Park in Florence, KY. A portion of proceeds from the event will be donated to The Point Northern Kentucky, and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society

For more on the ICF, including some great pictures from Breakout, check out their website.


(Originally posted on FightTicker.com)

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The Bank Robbery that Fueled Bobby Lashley’s Quest to Become an MMA Champion

From a Press Release:

Knoxville, TN (4/21/09): Bobby Lashley’s life nearly ended in 2003.

“It was a day like any other,” Lashley recalled. “I was still focused on my amateur wrestling career when I walked into my local bank in Colorado Springs to take care of some business. And then suddenly – directly behind my head – exploded the sound of gunfire. It was an armed robbery and I was precisely between the gunmen and the money. If you watch a slow motion replay of the bank’s security cameras, you can actually see a small cloud of gun powder just behind my head.”

The ex-WWE superstar and current MMA heavyweight prospect gazed skyward as he remembered his near-death experience – and his life-changing realization:

“If I had died then,” he slowly spoke, “there would’ve been so many dreams unfulfilled. So many goals and aspirations gone forever – dead on arrival. And that’s why I’m in the Mixed Martial Arts. Before I die, I wanna be the heavyweight champion of the world. That’s my dream.”

Bobby Lashley will present the new XFC featherweight world title to the winner of the Bruce “The Noose” Connors versus Jarrod “The Wild Card” Card fight in the main event of XFC 8: “Regional Conflict” on Saturday, April 25 at the 21 thousand-capacity Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. The event will air live on national television, exclusively on HDNet.

For Lashley, Connors and Card represent what the 250-pound, American Top Team heavyweight prospect is working so feverishly to achieve.

“It’s all about becoming a champion,” said Lashley. “My father always told me that no matter what you do in life, you owe it to yourself to the absolute best at it – to push yourself until there’s nothing left in the tank. There’s a fine line that separates a champion from everyone else. We all have doubts and we all have fears, but a true champion finds a way to overcome them. And when a champion is fully focused and fully prepared, nothing can stop him.”

Becoming a champion is something Lashley understands well: From 1996 through 1999, Lashley wrestled at – and earned two degrees from – Missouri Valley College, becoming a three-time NAIA national wrestling champion and a four-time All-American. He later followed in his father’s footsteps by joining the U.S. Army, winning a pair of Armed Forces championships and a 2002 silver medal at the Military World Championships.

Lashley’s eye-popping athleticism, chiseled physique and elite wrestling pedigree landed him an opportunity with the WWE. He won the ECW heavyweight championship twice, and perhaps most memorably, tag-teamed with billionaire Donald Trump at Wrestlemania 23 on April 1, 2007, helping “The Donald” shave the head of WWE chairman Vince McMahon.

But despite achieving celebrity status – and main event compensation – while with the WWE, something was missing.

“I still dreamed of becoming a champion and testing myself against the very best in the world,” Lashley said. “Yeah, I know I have my critics. I know some people think I’m crazy for leaving behind the WWE and starting all over again in MMA, but this is my dream. And I’m pouring my heart and soul into this sport. Believe me, I’m gonna give it everything I’ve got.”

Which is why some in the MMA community raised their eyebrows when Lashley appeared this past weekend at the TNA “Lockdown” professional wrestling pay-per-view, rejoining the “sports entertainment” profession after a yearlong absence. But according to Lashley, his heart is still dead-set on becoming an MMA world champion, and TNA is a means to that end.

“It’s not the kind of professional wrestling that everyone thinks,” explained Lashley. “With the WWE, I was on the road nonstop; it was my entire life. With TNA, I’m only working four days a month. And with the extra income from wrestling, I can take care of my family and afford to fully dedicate myself to my MMA training. I’m no different than so many young fighters: I still need a day job, because MMA training is expensive – especially when you want to travel to different camps and learn from the top minds in the game. And TNA has been great to work with.”

Lashley plans to travel to Las Vegas and train with one-on-one with a top-ranked heavyweight in the UFC, although he declined to disclose this heavyweight’s identity.

“I’m still learning,” Lashley readily acknowledged. “In my last fight [a unanimous decision victory over Jason Guida on March 21] I made the mistake of letting my opponent get under my skin, especially after he ran his mouth. Instead of focusing on executing my game plan and doing what I do best, I focused on hurting the man. MMA is sort of like professional wrestling, in that the key to success isn’t actually hurting your opponent – but focusing on implementing and executing your game plan. If you do that, everything else takes care of itself. And I love training. When I leave practice, I’m so amped-up. It’s a feeling of euphoria.”

As Lashley continues to develop his craft, his dream of becoming an MMA world champion remains in the forefront of his mind.

“I definitely want to fight for the XFC,” he exclaimed. “100 percent. All I’ve heard are good things about them and their promoter, and I know they have a lot of great fighters. Hopefully I’ll be on their next card. Meanwhile, I’m excited to be at XFC 8 this Saturday night. Card versus Connors in the main event for the XFC featherweight world title – that should be a phenomenal fight! It’s a golden opportunity for both men, because opportunities to become a champion don’t come around every day. It takes so much blood, sweat and sacrifice. Believe me… I know.”

Lashley paused briefly before continuing:

“And one day soon, I’ll be a champion again, too.”

XFC 8: “Regional Conflict” features the fastest-rising young prospects and top emerging superstars from Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and North Carolina in a series of contender-versus-contender cage fights. Tickets are now available at the Thompson-Boling Arena box office and Tickets Unlimited outlets, including Cat's Music, Disc Exchange, and Fye Music.


About Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC): Xtreme Fighting Championships – better known to MMA fight fans worldwide as the XFC – is the Southeast’s leading independent MMA promotion, and stages the largest live shows in the entire sport this side of the UFC. Dedicated to launching the careers of the MMA superstars of tomorrow, the XFC’s next mega-event, XFC 8: “Regional Conflict,” takes place on April 25 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee, and will be broadcast live on national television, exclusively on HDNet. For more information about the XFC, please visit www.mmaxfc.com.

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FightTicker.com: Interview With Blood in the Cage Author L. Jon Wertheim

A while ago, I posted my review of L. Jon Wertheim's Blood in the Cage. I was also fortunate enough to speak with Wertheim about a number of topics in the MMA world. What follows are the highlights from our interview. Wertheim really does a great job of putting things in perspective - in spite of how much we've all seen the sport grow, the difference in the popularity and marketability of the sport has changed a lot even in just the last few years. You can find Wertheim's first article on MMA, the one he speaks of giving him the idea to write the book, on SI.com.

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

L. Jon Wertheim: I write for Sports Illustrated, and have been for a while, and the story with this is that a couple years ago is that I told my editors I wanted to look into this MMA phenomenon and it was a whole lot of fun to work on and I came back and just sort of thought to myself, “There’s just so much material here – why not spin this into a book?” That’s pretty much how the book got started.

FT: Was there a defining moment or a particular fight that really made you say to yourself you wanted to take a look into MMA?

Wertheim: I didn’t really know much about this sport at all. I went to a UFC event in Houston, I went out to Bettendorf, Iowa to the Militech camp and I went to some amateur shows and Renzo Gracie’s gym – I don’t know if there was one defining moment. One of the first fights I saw was Roger Huerta vs. Leonard Garcia, and it was just an insane fight. It was so gripping and I told someone afterwards that I don’t think I’ve ever felt that alive. I enjoyed talking to the guys, and Dana was a trip, and this gave me eighteen or nineteen pages of material to work with and even after that I just sort of said to myself that I could just keep going and going with this stuff.

FT: Why Pat Militech?

Wertheim: We sort of hit it off to begin with and I sort of wanted to talk about who had gotten in there to help it [MMA] get where it was. The other thing is that these characters change so fast. I would tell the story where I asked someone – at this point exactly two years ago, who were the biggest names, who were the five biggest fighters? The answer I got was, Chuck [Liddell], Randy [Couture], Tito [Ortiz], Rich Franklin and Matt Hughes. And if you look at the scene right now, Randy may have fought for the last time, Tito is out of the organization, Chuck is kind of off the radar a bit. I wanted to pick a guy to base this on who I knew would still have some relevance when the book came out, so I figured with Pat, he’s working, he’s in there training guys and I didn’t have to worry that he’d be hot at the time, lose two UFC fights and suddenly get cut.

FT: The first image you throw at readers is of an offer made to you that I don’t think many people would want to take – Jens Pulver offered to break your nose to help you better understand what the fighters go through – what was the first thought that went through your mind when he offered to do that?

Wertheim: I wanted to be sure he was kidding [Laughs]. He sort of had a smile on his face, but these guys are a little different from me and you. Broken bones and lumps and bruises – they have a different approach to them than I have [Laughs].

FT: Why did you choose to start with that image?

Wertheim: I wanted to start with a bang, and you know, I knew he was sort of half-kidding, but he would’ve done it. Part of the book was just to explain the sport, but I also wanted to give people a chance – one question that always came up was “Who would do this, what kind of guy would be a cage fighter for a living?” I wanted to explain what breed of cat we were dealing with here.

FT: In the book you highlighted the fact that a number of the UFC fighters are highly educated or had various jobs one might not associate with fighters (i.e. Rich Franklin being a former math teacher), and I know these facts often surprise people – what are some of the things that surprised you when you were doing your research?

Wertheim: That was one thing – that people in the general public think a guy who fights in a cage for a living must be in there wearing an ankle monitor with his parole officer there waiting for him to get done – but the quality of guys overall, it’s probably higher than any other sport I’ve dealt with. Something else that struck me is these are some badass guys, but a lot of them were really sort of sensitive and fragile. There’s a real sort of fragile nature to a lot of these guys. Just physically they’re on a completely different level, and then you talk to them and a lot of them are kind of emotionally damaged. As strong as some of these guys were physically, a lot of them were insecure almost, a completely different person when they weren’t fighting.

FT: You interacted with a lot of different people in the industry. Besides a love for the fight game, did you see any other common denominator between the people involved with the sport?

Wertheim: A lot of these guys have similar sensibilities, but I think that something else that surprises people is there is a real diversity to the sport. The guy who came up through brazilian jiu jitsu is completely different than Randy Couture who came up an All-American wrestler who is different than GSP who is French-Canadian. A lot of these guys came from damaged homes, but not all of them. A lot of these guys wrestled in college, but not all of them. I think it’s [the diversity] is something that really helps the sport. Like with NBA players or boxing, it seems like the fighters have the same story over and over. But a guy like Roger Huerta is a guy that has a completely different story from a guy like Rampage. They’re black, white, American, foreign, and that’s something that helps the sport, it’s pretty diverse.

FT: You spent some time on the book on the history of the UFC and the rise of the UFC, and you acknowledged that during the “dark” days, it was the hardcore fans prowling the internet who did more than anyone to keep the sport alive and the UFC alive – in these days, as someone who has written about the sport – what percentage of MMA news do you think is on the internet versus the print media?

Wertheim: By and large, I still think it’s a sport that – it’s not a sport that the New York Times has a section on. I don’t think any newspapers do [have a section devoted entirely to MMA]. This is a sport that lives and breathes on the internet.

FT: Having made that statement, do you think it’s odd the UFC won’t credential websites for press passes at events?

Wertheim: Yeah, and I wrote about that in the book, about how the internet is really what saved this sport, and then I went to some of these fights and there were even very few [print media] guys [covering the event a few years ago] and that’s a little strange. I guess the UFC figures the websites are going to cover it anyway, but it’s still a little hard to figure out.

FT: You wrote about how, as the UFC has grown, they’ve signed some bigger name sponsors. However, a lot of people still refer to the sport of MMA as being in its infancy – how do you think the sponsor scene is going to change as the sport continues to grow?

Wertheim: That’s a good question. It’s going to keep growing. It’s going to be interesting to see what’s going on with whether the fighters are going to start demanding extra things [from sponsors] but it’s only going to keep growing. Even in the few years I’ve really been following it closely, in the beginning there wasn’t Harley-Davidson and sponsors like that a few years ago. Even though the sport is being de-mystified, there are still people that say, “Oh, mixed martial arts, isn’t that the sport where people die in the cage?” or “Is that real?” But I think gradually people are going to take to the sport even more.

FT: Given that, do you think that even with the expanded growth and more sponsorships and more televised fights and network deals, do you think MMA as a whole will ever get to the point where you don’t see shows hosted in these back rooms and strip clubs anymore? Do you think all the shows are going to take on a more professional appearance like the UFC does?

Wertheim: There’s always a buck to me made, and you still need a feeder system. Like if you go to an NBA minor league game, that’s really the equivalent of one of the MMA strip club shows. I think those are always going to be there. As long as there is a buck to be made, I think that’s only going to continue, to be honest.

FT: Over the last couple seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, there has been some criticism that in spite of what it does for the athletes’ exposure and the chance to get in the UFC, that the show has taken a downturn when it comes to actual content. Do you think that TUF is still more a positive than a negative for the sport?

Wertheim: There are only so many variations of the show you can do. But I think it’s good to kind of pump the pay-per-views and the fighters. Everybody knows who Josh Koscheck is now. I think maybe they need to figure out a way to spice up the show a little bit, but I think the show has done a lot for the sport.

FT: Do you still watch TUF?

Wertheim: I don’t [Laughs]. Once you realize what’s going on – everybody has seen Dana swear – I don’t know how much more they can do with it.

FightTicker: You've written books on various sports like basketball, tennis, and pool. What kind of different challenges did you face writing a book on MMA?

Wertheim: That’s a good question, because in some ways it’s hard because I wrote a book about tennis, and that’s a sport I’ve covered, so with this, I was really trying to get up to speed on a lot of this stuff. But something that was easy [with mma] was that everybody was cool to deal with. If you want to talk to Randy [Couture], you talk to Randy [laughs]. Everybody was so easy to deal with, so open and honest, you’re not running through agents and that junk. It was a little tricky just because I didn’t initially know that much about the sport. Somebody would mention Gary Goodridge and I had to google him to figure out what it was, but it was very nice to work on a project where everybody was pretty accessible.

FT: When you told your colleagues you were going to write a book about mma, how did they react to that?

Wertheim: It was two years ago, and it [mma] has come a long way since then, but a reaction I got a lot was, “You’re writing a book about what?” And the people asking me this are mainstream sports journalists. It kind of gave me the sense that despite what Dana says, the sport still has a way to go. There were people from major TV networks asking if they [the fighters] used props. I think mma has come a long way, but there are still an awful lot of people who don’t differentiate it from something like a Toughman Competition.

FT: Along the way, did you have any doubts that this book was something you’d be able to parlay into a success or were you more concerned with doing it for your own edification, to inform yourself and others?

Wertheim: I think the publisher knew there was a market there, and it may not be what the 55 year old reader would like, but there was a demographic [for it]. It was hard, because I wanted to kind of write a mainstream book, and write it so the average sports fan could get a feel for what the sport was about. But I also didn’t want it to be all John McCain, human cockfighting – I wanted to make it so your readers could get something out of it. But I didn’t want it to be so specific, just talking about who triangle’d whom in UFC 11. It was sort of a balance between writing a mainstream book and also making it interesting enough so that the guy who had just been watching UFC could still get it.

FT: You used a lot of different quotations to open the chapters in the book, from Hemingway to Lao Tzu, Bruce Lee, Dana White, Sugar Ray Leonard – why did you want to start each chapter of the book with a quotation?

Wertheim: It was really a device to show different aspects of combat and fighting and competition. One thing I wanted to do with the book was just kind of clear up some of the misconceptions [about MMA]. You can like it or you can hate it, but I wanted to make the point that it’s legitimate competition. It’s not as barbaric as people might think it is.

FT: One of the topics that has been big in MMA news as of late is the fight to pass MMA legislation in New York. One of its biggest opponents, Assemblyman Bob Reilly has made some statements that MMA is more dangerous than boxing and football. Taking a sport like boxing versus MMA – do you think one is necessarily more violent than the other?

Wertheim: I think you can’t sanction boxing and not sanction MMA. I think boxing is so much worse. I think the promoters are more abusive, the fighters have harder lives afterward. Say what you will about the guys in MMA, but they’re not taking 30 minutes of non-stop headshots. They can take each other down and grapple, and with boxing you just stand there and eat leather. If you don’t like and you don’t want to see it sanctioned, that’s fine, but you can’t sanction boxing and not sanction MMA.

FT: A logistical question – the book was mainly about Militech – why the picture of Liddell in the front?

Wertheim: The author doesn’t always pick the cover [Laughs]. They [the editors] thought it [the picture of Liddell] was an arresting image.

FT: In the press packet I read through for Blood in the Cage, David Mamet is quoted as saying “As Voltaire said, ‘That’s why they invented the squeegee’”. What do you think Mamet was trying to convey with that?

Wertheim: He’s a big MMA guy, and I think he was thinking, “People bleed, it’s a part of life.”

FT: Do you have any other plans to write another book on MMA?

Wertheim: I just finished a tennis book, actually, going back to my roots a little bit. I don’t have any immediate plans to do it, but I wouldn’t be adverse to that.

FT: If people could only take away one thing from Blood in the Cage, what would you want it to be?

Wertheim: I think it depends on who the reader is. My big thing is, not everyone is going to like it [MMA], I understand that. But at least have the facts. At least understand what it is, and that’s what I was trying to do with the book. It’s [MMA] not for everyone and it’s always going to be controversial and have its critics, but I just wanted to clear up some misconceptions, what it is, what it isn’t, and you see where I stand on this. It’s here to stay, it’s not a fad, it’s not the XFL, it’s not something that we’re not going to know what it is in two years. If you don’t like it, fine, but at least know what you’re talking about.


Wertheim was a great guy to talk to, and I really enjoyed Blood in the Cage. For a guy who claimed to have only picked up the sport a few years ago, I think he gave readers a fair and honest portrayal of the sport and one of its legends.


(Originally posted on FightTicker.com)

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Ex-UT Middle Linebacker and Strength Coach Kevin Simon: “Ovince St. Preux Was Born to Be a Cage Fighter!”

From a Press Release:

Knoxville, TN: Between 2001 and 2005, Kevin Simon trained, practiced, and competed on the gridiron against hundreds of Tennessee teammates. Some – like Albert Haynesworth, Jason Witten and John Henderson – went on to achieve considerable NFL success. Others are now in graduate school, pursuing various professional degrees. But none left an impression quite like Ovince St. Preux.

“He’s a little crazy,” laughed Simon from his office in Dallas, Texas, where he works as a scout for the Dallas Cowboys. As Tennessee’s starting middle linebacker, Simon led the Vols in tackles in 2003 and 2005 and played five years for the Washington Redskins. He rejoined the Volunteers in 2007 as a coach on the strength and conditioning staff, leaving at the end of the 2008 season. “There’s a screw loose somewhere in there. But that craziness is why Ovince was such a great special teams player – and why he’s so good in the cage. He just loves contact.”

Ovince St. Preux will be returning to the steel cage at XFC 8: “Regional Conflict” to face Florida fighter Ombey Mobley on Saturday, April 25 in Knoxville at the 21 thousand-capacity Thompson-Boling Arena. The MMA fight card will be broadcast live on national television, exclusively on HDNet. This will be St. Preux’s first fight since his spectacular one-kick knockout of rising light heavyweight prospect CT Turner on February 20 at the first-ever professional MMA show in Tennessee state history, XFC 7: “School of Hard Knox.” The kick earned St. Preux the FightTicker.com “Knockout of the Night.”

Even as a wide-eyed freshman, Simon remembers Ovince St. Preux as a fearless presence in the locker room.

“Ovince was a star wrestler in high school. I think he went something like 30-1 as a senior and finished second in the state,” said Simon. “So right from the beginning, he was always ready to mix it up, always ready to fight or wrestle anyone who got in his face. And that definitely translated to the playing field because he was one of our biggest hitters and most explosive tacklers. When Ovince hit someone, they stayed down for a very long time.”

St. Preux entered Tennessee as a 200 pound defensive end. The coaches moved him to linebacker because of his size limitations, but he made his biggest mark – both on the field and on the other players – as the Vols’ special teams ace and “wedge-buster.”

“Linebackers rely heavily on their instincts,” explained Simon, “and because Ovince was originally a defensive end, he lacked that instinctive first step that a linebacker needs to succeed. But he’s such an amazing natural athlete and so completely fearless, he was an absolute terror on special teams. And keep in mind what brutally violent position a wedge-buster is! Your job is to sprint at full speed, locate the wall of blockers trying to protect the returner, and blow-up the wall so your teammates can make the tackle. Nobody was better at this than Ovince.”

Perhaps his most devastating hit was against his own teammate.

“Oh, man – Ovince had something like 15 tackles and was named Defensive MVP of our 2004 Spring Game,” Simon recalled. “But he had one hit on our running back. Maybe it was Ced [Cedric Houston] or one of the backups, but Ovince just lit him up – knocked the poor guy’s helmet clean off his head. We must’ve watched that hit at least 20 times in the film room. ‘Course, his hit on CT Turner was pretty sick, too!”

Originally from Louisville but training out of Gainesville, Florida, CT Turner boasted before fighting St. Preux that he was going to “destroy Ovince like Florida destroyed Tennessee in football,” and even walked to the cage while doing the “Gator Chomp.” Turner, then 6-2, learned the hard way not to agitate the ex-Vols special teams ace: St. Preux silenced his trash-talking opponent with a jaw-busting rear leg kick to the chin that blasted Turner to the canvas. Out cold, the referee immediately stopped the fight at 2:36 in the first round.

“That victory really changed my life,” noted St. Preux from his training camp at the Knoxville Martial Arts Academy. “Even months afterwards, people are still congratulating me. In fact, after beating Turner, my hand was hurting – not because of any punches I threw, but because of all the autographs I signed! I really feel like I’m ready to make my move in MMA, and I can’t wait to fight one more time in front of the home crowd right here in Knoxville!”

St. Preux will face Ombey Mobley, a hard-nosed ex-convict and former pro boxer who trains with CT Turner in Florida.

“Ovince landed the luckiest kick in MMA history with both his eyes closed, and now he’s running his mouth like he’s frickin’ Chuck Norris,” complained Mobley. “And I definitely ain’t impressed by the fact that Ovince used to wear orange and white on Saturday mornings while the Vols got their skulls stomped by the Gators. He’s a dead man walking.” Mobley is undefeated (4-0) as an MMA amateur and will be making his pro debut.

For his part, St. Preux, 12-2 in MMA as a pro and amateur, declined to engage in a war of words.

“I’ll do my talking in the cage, but I have noticed that Mobley likes to point to his prison background a lot. I guess he thinks that makes him look tough. But people don’t go to jail because they’re tough; they go to jail because they got caught. There’re different kinds of toughness, and I’m confident I’m plenty tough enough.”

Kevin Simon would certainly vouch for his former teammate’s toughness.

“You kidding me?” chortled Simon. “Ovince never missed a single game because of injury. You better believe he’s tough enough, strong enough, athletic enough, crazy enough, and absolutely violent enough. Look, I scout prospects for a living now. Morning, day and night, I’m studying tape and accumulating information. And in the scouting world, people are always comparing prospects to someone else – that this guy has a release like Marino, or that guy can run like Deion. I have an unfair advantage over the other scouts, because when I need to compare a kid to the personification of toughness – and an insatiable blood-lust for violence – all I have to do is think of Ovince. He was born to be a cage fighter, and I sure wouldn’t want to be in Ombey’s shoes on April 25.”

XFC 8: “Regional Conflict” features the fastest-rising young prospects and top emerging superstars from Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky and North Carolina in a series of contender-versus-contender cage fights. Tickets are now available at the Thompson-Boling Arena box office and Tickets Unlimited outlets, including Cat's Music, Disc Exchange, and Fye Music.


About Xtreme Fighting Championships (XFC): Xtreme Fighting Championships – better known to MMA fight fans worldwide as the XFC – is the Southeast’s leading independent MMA promotion, and stages the largest live shows in the entire sport this side of the UFC. Dedicated to launching the careers of the MMA superstars of tomorrow, the XFC’s next mega-event, XFC 8: “Regional Conflict,” takes place on April 25 at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee, and will be broadcast live on national television, exclusively on HDNet. For more information about the XFC, please visit www.mmaxfc.com.

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Stephen Zimmer at Joseph-Beth Bookstore in Lexington on Friday

From author Stephen Zimmer:

My first bookstore signing takes place this Friday evening at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington for The Exodus Gate from 7-9 pm. Those who already have a signed copy,bring it out and I will add a special inscription on another page to commemorate this night.

Come on out and say hi, and don't feel a need to buy the book. I'd love to just see some friendly faces to share this occasion with.

Joseph-Beth Booksellers is an incredible place, and I have bought books there since their very first version of the store at Lexington Green. It is simply amazing to think that my first bookstore signing will be at this incredible store.

Word has it that my editor Amanda DeBord and my illustrator Matthew Perry will both be hanging out as well.

For more information on The Exodus Gate, please feel free to visit www.seventhstarpress.com


I'll soon be posting my review of Zimmer's book The Exodus Gate as well as an interview with the man himself. If you're in Lexington, KY on Friday night, make sure to check out the book signing.


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