GC: You have a fight coming up at UFC 145 against Mac Danzig on April 21st. How are you preparing for this fight, and do you feel ready?
Yeah, I feel extremely ready for this fight. I’ve been working really hard, I had a really good long camp. I’ve been training on everything. We had the time to study my opponent. We had the time to figure out his weaknesses and work on exploiting them.
GC: Is there anything different in your camp this time to prepare for Danzig?
No, it’s still all the same group of guys at my gym, we still keep the same regiment. We have a gameplan on the way we’re going to take on this fight, other than that it’s the same thing, you know? We’re training with the same coaches, same everything, just a little different.
GC: Now you are coming off a loss to Jacob Volkmann. What are you thoughts on that fight and what have you learned from it?
Don’t let anybody hold you down. You know, he’s a tough fighter. He’s one of those wrestlers. There’s different kinds of wrestlers, you have the ones that lay and pray, or like Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, Randy Couture, Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, you know, some of the biggest names in the game right now come from a wrestling background and become mixed martial artists. Volkmann is still the same wrestler guy. What do take from it? Never get held down. And what do I gain from it? You gotta go in there and continue to fight until the last minute. It was really close at the end, I almost finished it, but we just keep fighting to the end.
GC: How does it feel to be back in the UFC?
Being back in the UFC feels awesome, man. You know, it was a long road back. Now being back, it’s really exciting. I was able to take that fight on short notice against Volkmann. It feels good. Fights go through here, there are a lot of organizations out there where fights fall through and the UFC is setup for fighting. We know there is no screwing around, they’re professionals about it, and I love being part of this organization.
GC: Now you just returned to the UFC from fighting in Bellator. What do you like more about fighting in Bellator than the UFC and vice versa?
You know, it’s two different atmospheres. The UFC is more of an individual kind of thing and they do tournaments over in Bellator. They’re both great, both organizations are great. But I want to move up the ranks and fight the best in the world. I want to keep moving up that ladder. We got the newly crowned Benson Henderson, the new UFC champ right now and trains out of MMA Lab where I train at, and he’s my training partner. So just seeing the way he trains and the way he fights…it wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t like “Oh, he got lucky”, no, he worked his butt off. He’s fought a bunch of people, he’s moved up those ranks and that’s the way you do it.
GC: Take us through what it’s like to be a winner of the Ultimate Fighter. What are the biggest perks, and what are the disadvantages? Speaking with Season 7’s Dan Cramer a while back, he described a situation how the contract is for a certain amount of time and at a set pay number. He explained that if you kept winning and got a title shot quickly, even though you could be paid more because of your success and popularity, you would still be restricted to the contract pay number. Take us through the ups and downs of winning that contract.
You know, winning that contract is awesome. You get the notoriety, you get all the sponsors, you get the fans. There’s a lot of ways to make money outside of the Octagon, and essentially that is what all fighters worry about, you know, how much money we can make. The window of fighting is only open for X amount of time and we won’t be able to fight forever, unless we’re Randy Couture [laughs], but at the end of the day we gotta try to make as much money as possible while you can. There’s a certain number in your contract, but you know, there’s negotiations, there’s things that go up and down. It’s not all about holding me back. The UFC is very fair. If you give a good fight, they give you good bonuses. At the end of the day there’s hardly any restrictions…they’ll work it out with you.
GC: You train with some great fighters, most notably newly crowned UFC Lightweight champion, Benson Henderson as you mentioned before. What is it like training with him, and Jamie Varner and others?
Training with those guys everyday is good man, it makes me a better fighter…especially because I’m fighting these guys that, you know, Jamie Varner the ex-WEC champion, who lost to Benson Henderson, who is my other training partner. So at the end of the day, what do I think? I mean, these guys are top caliber fighters, and I’m fighting them everyday…I’m going against them everyday. So for me to go out there and fight my fight should be easy…well not easy, but should be fun. Usually hard practices should be extremely hard. I don’t know if you’ve heard that saying “Train Hard, Fight Easy”.
GC: Benson is the new champ of the same weight class you are in. If you earned a title shot, and Benson was still the champ, would you fight him? There was a video prior to UFC 141 where Benson mentioned that you two had talked about that. What is your view on the whole “fighting teammates” subject?
Me and Benson have talked about it a bunch just because we’re so close. We’re not like this whole Jon Jones and Rashad Evans atmosphere, we always talk about it. How would I feel about it? You know, this is our job. I would fight him, it would be fun, and I would hope that he would want to come in and knock me out! And that’s fine, we fight each other everyday for free [laughs], so why not get paid for it? The whole thing that gets me in he back end is the coaching staff part of it, you know? The main coach…like John Crouch…he has always said it, “If you guys ever fight each other, I’m going to be at home, not even watching the fight”. You know, I can respect that. That’s the only thing I disagree with…Jackson, he’s at another level…he’s able to choose and pick his battles.
GC: Let’s get your prediction on how you think the rematch will go between Benson and Frankie Edgar.
I think Benson stops him this time. I think it’s going to last a little bit, it’s not going to go the distance, but will go to the later rounds. Frankie has hard cardio, he’s hard to get at the beginning, but he’ll eventually gas.
GC: Another big topic in MMA right now is the use of PED’s and TRT. What is your opinion on these, and the Overeem situation for example?
I don’t know, the random testing was kinda cool. Do I agree or disagree with it? I kinda I agree with it, they should do some of these things because I believe in a fair sport, especially MMA. You have the big story going on about baseball players, and that’s sort of cheating and stuff…and as an MMA fighter, I don’t want to be known as those guys. I work hard to be where I’m at, and for a couple of guys to cheat the system is not so right for me. So I agree with it. You know, Overeem, it was no surprise to us. He’s a big guy, and after he lost to Shogun, he became a heavyweight and gained like 30 pounds of muscle. Who in their right mind does that?
GC: You are a part of a stacked card, and I’d like to get some predictions from you: First off, Brendan Schaub, vs. Ben Rothwell?
I think Rothwell will have it. He’s been in the game longer. He’s had his ups and downs, but I don’t know, that’s a hard one to tell.
GC: How about Rory Macdonald vs. Che Mills?
I would have to go with MacDonald.
GC: How about the main event, Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans?
I think Rashad is going to beat him. It one of those things that Henderson always tells me, he would never bet against Anderson Silva until he loses. It’s the same thing for Jon Jones, he would never bet against him until he loses, but I think that...what does Jon Jones have that a lot of other people don’t have? The reach. He uses it in all his fights to get submissions. He used it to beat Ryan Bader, he worked it constantly against Rampage, he broke him down and picked him apart and finally finished him. He used his reach against Shogun too. So he’s using a lot of his reach to get submissions and nice little throws, but I think that Rashad has first-hand training with him. He knows he strengths and weaknesses and moves…the distance of how to get inside that range. Especially because in training they are just joking around, he’s playing around with different stuff and if it works, it works and if it doesn’t it doesn’t. I think he’s had the opportunity to do different kind of stuff with him. For me, I think Rashad might have his number.
GC: And of course the biggest fight of the night, who wins between Efrain Escudero and Mac Danzig. Who wins, what round, what method?
Me, I’m ready to win anyway possible. You know, I’ll finish it in the first if I have to, I’ll finish it in the second, or at the buzzer right before the third ends. I’ll go all three rounds. I’m ready to scrap for 15 minutes of non-stop fighting, I’m ready to go anywhere it goes. Expect a fight. Expect us to go in there and give you guys a show!