You seem to have shifted away from your roots in western boxing in favor of a more traditional muay thai style, which was pretty apparent in your fight with Big Nog. Have you gone back to boxing to prepare for your upcoming fight with James Toney?
I'm still doing both. I have a coach for each style and I think you need tools from both of them. You just need to be able to plug them in with the appropriate opponent. Boxing wise, for this fight it's more about the defense, the footwork, and the angles than it is about the exchanges and the combinations. I don't need to get into big fire-fights and try to box it out with James, that would be stupid. But I do need to know where he's coming from and what kind of combinations he's trying to throw, and the way he's going to move and set up his punches, where his jabs are coming from. So I've been working with my boxing coach to focus on those areas. He's teamed up with my thai coach because the boxing stance presents particular vulnerabilities, especially with kickboxing.
How do you feel about James Toney's comments hyping up the fight? He's really gone off the radar on some of the interviews he's done lately.
I've only heard stories. I haven't really watched or listened to any of it, and I don't intend to. It all boils down to fight night walking out there and doing what you've trained to do. That's all that really matters. The rest of it's just a bunch of crap.
I wanted to ask you what you thought about Fedor's recent loss to Fabricio Werdum. I know that's a fight you've been very intrigued by for years now, has that feeling soured since the loss?
I kind of got over that fight quite a while ago. The clock is ticking, so I cant spend a lot of time trying to facilitate that fight into happening. It didn't look like it was ever going to happen, so I kind of had to put that to rest and put it where it belonged. Just focus on getting back to competing and doing what I wanted to do. He's still a guy I would love to fight, and he's a great fighter regardless of his loss to Werdum. Everyone loses in this sport. Nobody is going to walk around undefeated forever. I think he summed it up best by saying that 'those who have never fall, will never stand up.' It was a pretty interesting comment.
Since Fedor has essentially been dethroned, and you've gone up against Brock Lesnar and trained with him over at Death Clutch with Marty Morgan, do you think he's the legitimate number 1. heavyweight right now?
I think he probably is, yea. I think the level of competition he's been competing against lately is certainly some of the best in the world. He's taken on some pretty substantial challenges, and I think that puts him at the top of the heap right now. He's progressing each and every time he gets in there, and he showed more progress this last time with Carwin, managing to survive that first round. He did something no one would have thought he'd have ever done by submitting him.
I've only been up at Death Clutch for about 5-6 days during his Carwin camp, and it's a very interesting place. He's got a great camp and he's done a great job up there. Brock's got a lot of big guys, and it's really something to see that many 6'5, 265lb plus guys in the same place. It's a very peaceful, focused, and interesting place to train. I liked it. Whether I go back up there or whether he comes to train at my gym in Vegas is yet to be seen, we'll see what happens.
You've said you're very interested in solving problems that your opponents present. You like taking certain fighters, game planning and figuring them out, so what do you think about someone like Anderson Silva who hasn't really been figured out too well. How would you prepare for someone like that?
I definitely think being tentative and standing around allowing him to find his rhythm and range is a mistake. Obviously he's a tremendous striker and he's got great accuracy and power. He uses those long arms to set up his exchanges, and if you allow him to find that reach he's going to make you pay. I think the style Chael Sonnen brings to this fight on [August] 7th will give Anderson trouble. He's not going to try to stand with him, he'll cut right to the chase and try to get his hands on him. If he can do that without getting caught with something on the way in, he can make it a rough night for Anderson. It should be interesting.
Would you be interested in that fight at 205 with Anderson?
I'm definitely interested at fighting at 205. I think Anderson would be a great fight. I'm not sure what his perspective has been the last couple of times, though. I think since the Cote fight he's taken on a different style and hasn't been as explosive, not trying to finish fights early on. I don't know if it's concerning, but it's interesting where he's coming from with that. He certainly still has that capability. Maia, Cote, he could have finished those guys if he wanted to take the risk, so I'm not sure what's going on where he doesn't want to step up and take that risk. I think he's a fantastic fighter, and if that's someone they want me to compete against I'd be all over that.
Would you be more interested in the Machida fight?
He's a whole other animal. I was very impressed with his fights, and he's got a very unique style. Obviously, Shogun, I think, figured out how to solve that problem twice. I thought he won the first fight as well. He's still a great fighter and another one that would be interesting to fight.
You're widely known as the best game planner in MMA, the guru. So many of your fighters from Xtreme Couture claim you're the best at figuring out an opponent, so who do you turn to for advice?
I feel like it's a team effort. I've got several different corner guys who all have different backgrounds and expertise's. We all sit down and watch tape together, then I go and develop my own opinion of what I think about potential weaknesses and areas that can be exploited for a certain opponent. I get their input because of their specialized backgrounds and sort of formulate a game plan based on it. I take it all under consideration to be put in the best position to win. I have to take the same mindset when I'm looking at tape on behalf of someone else. I've looked at tape for Gray Maynard, Tyson, different guys that I've trained with, and they ask me how to approach opponents, and it's exactly the same process. I have an idea about my guys' skill sets, and I try to get a feel of where the other guy is coming from, realizing where he doesn't like to be. Once you get an image in your head of how that all fits together, you can decide where you want to try to put them.
MMA has progressed so much in the past ten years that it could be very interesting to see how far it can go in the future. Where do you see yourself fitting in a landscape like that with MMA rising amongst some of the more traditional sports? Do you see yourself as a coach? an announcer? maybe politics? or going further into your acting career?
There's probably three things there that are true. I definitely see myself continuing to transition into more acting roles. I'll always be a coach. I'm always going to have a training center, always going to work with guys that are looking for some input and want help. I love commentating, and that's something I can always go back to and enjoy doing. There will be more and more opportunities to do that in the future.
Can you tell me about your role in 'The Expendables?' Was it a stretch playing him or did you fit right in?
I play a character named 'Toll Road.' He's a college educated warrior, basically, and he's part of this group of mercenaries. He's more of the cerebral type, but when push comes to shove he's perfectly capable and comfortable with breaking your neck. He runs around quoting Nietzsche and has a great mind, but at the same time is very physical.
I felt great about it. You have to find ways to relate to the characters you get to play. Put it in terms and in a context that speaks to you. Whether it's killing someone or whatever he's doing, find a way within you to tell the truth. I felt pretty comfortable playing Toll Road. I enjoyed his character and thought he was an interesting guy to play.
How was it working with that whole group of action heroes?
It was very cool. There was something very special about it. There was no posturing, no antics on set. Everybody got along and we all had fun laughing and joking around. I think [Stallone] created a particular environment with all those guys in the same place, it was almost electric.