© Marc Wickert www.knucklepit.com
All photos copyright 2004 Zuffa
When Greco-Roman wrestler Matt Lindland was presented with a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics, he knew most of his preparation for the Games had not been spent focusing on his opponents. It had been consumed by red tape in his battle to be selected for the US wrestling team.
"My match in the final Olympic trials was misjudged, and they didnít want me to be selected, so I had to go and beat the guy again, which was no real problem because it was a guy Iíd already beaten 11 times in a row. It was just politics. There are a lot of politics in all sports," says Lindland.
Once Matt eventually made the Olympic team, he put the controversy behind him and concentrated on winning a medal. He says representing his country in the Games never overawed him. "For me, it was just like competing in any other tournament. It was where I wanted to be. But as for the competition I was up against, I wrestled against those guys all the time in international tournaments, so really it was just a bigger stage in that competition."
Matt believes his initial decision to take up wrestling was a natural path for him. "When I started wrestling, there wasnít really any other option for beating people up without doing it on the street."
With a successful wrestling career, which included such highlights as becoming World Cup champion, five times national champion, and three times Pan-Am champion, Matt stopped competing in wrestling after the 2000 Olympics.
He then turned to Mixed Martial Arts because he wanted to broaden his skills. "Iíd wrestled my whole life and I watched Randy Couture compete successfully in MMA. It looked like something I could do."
For UFC 49: Unfinished Business, fellow Team Quest member Couture will be fighting southpaw Vitor Belfort for UFCís World Light Heavyweight Title. And Lindlandís southpaw style has made him a suitable sparring partner for Randy, in his lead-up to the Belfort fight.
"Iíve been sparring a lot with Randy. It probably helps him since heís fighting another southpaw. Iíll be fighting a southpaw (David Terrell) too."
Based in Oregon, Team Quest is proving to be one of the most successful MMA stables in the world, with other members including Evan Tanner and Dan Henderson. "Not only do we have those guys, but we have a ton of young guys who come to train and will be upcoming champions."
Team Quest fighters are renowned for their high level of fitness, their takedown and wrestling skills, and more recently, for their ability to out-strike strikers. Prior to the Tanner v Baroni rematch at UFC 48, few people thought Evan would be able to withstand Baroniís fierce punching power. But Tanner dominated this aspect of their fight in a similar way to Coutureís domination of striker Chuck Liddell at UFC 43: Meltdown.
Lindland says the Team Quest members do sit down and discuss strategies for capitalizing on an opponentís weaknesses. "We talk about where their strengths are and where our strengths are, trying to exploit the weaknesses of the opponents."
Although Matt is primarily a wrestler, he has been doing a lot of work on his submission and striking skills. As well as sparring with Couture, Lindland has been working under the guidance of renowned Kickboxing and Kempo instructor John Hackleman at his gym, The Pit. At the time of this interview, Matt was having sparring sessions with Chuck Liddell at Hacklemanís gym.
"My striking has improved a lot. In my last fight, I stood with a pretty good stand-up fighter, Tony Fryklund, over in Hawaii, and I beat him to the punch every time. I out-struck him, so I think itís getting pretty good. Itís an area Iíd never trained in before. Itís the last part of the game Iíve had to learn, but itís definitely coming along well. Thatís why Iím down here in California training with Hackleman and Liddell: some of the best stand-up fighters in the world. Iím getting ready to spar with Chuck right now."
John Hackleman was one of the few people to predict Evan Tannerís victory over Phil Baroni at UFC 48: Pay Back. His prediction for Lindlandís bout at UFC 49?
"Heís gonna win!"
Mattís opponent for the fight is Cesar Gracie BJJ black belt, David Terrell, who has a 4-1 MMA record, with a KO victory over Yuki Sasaki to his credit.
"I donít necessarily expect Terrell to force the fight to the ground, but I expect him to be pretty savvy once the fight does hit the ground."
What can fans expect to see from Matt Lindland at UFC 49?
"I think they can expect to see a stand-up knockout for the first time. Yeah, Iím looking forward to dropping a big left hand on him, and stopping him with a punch."
For more on Matt Lindland: www.tqfc.com
For more on UFC 49:Unfinished
Matt Lindland and "Rowdy" Rod Piper
Sportfight 8: Justice
© Marc Wickert www.knucklepit.com
All photos copyright Matt Lindland
On January 8, 2005, UFC star and Olympic-wrestling silver medalist Matt Lindland will be going to war against JT Taylor.
Team Quest member Lindland will be testing the skills of BBJ exponent JT Taylor at the now-legendary tournament, Sportfight. And with seven professional bouts and six amateur fights on the jam-packed card, this is an event MMA fans wonít want to miss.
Having presented the show successfully on seven previous occasions, Matt Lindland states in the latest promo: "Sportfight brings professional No-Holds-Barred fighting to Portland, Oregon. If you want to see fighting in its purest form, then come check out Sportsfight: the ultimate evolution of one-on-one combat."
Southpaw Lindland promises to be back, better than ever, for January 8, and plans to take Taylor out in dynamic fashion. "I think fans can expect a pretty brutal beating of this guy in front of my home-town crowd. Iím just going to pummel this guy senselessÖOr maybe Iím going to knock some sense into him."
Matt is extremely confident of a win over JT and is excited to have such a high calibre of training partners to help prepare him for the contest. "Oh, we have a great bunch of guys here. Randy (Couture) is back from Vegas. All the Team Quest guysÖ"
The upcoming Sportfight is expected to attract a bumper crowd, partly due to the high standard of fighters the competition is attracting, partly to the success of the previous events, and also due to Mattís competing so close to home.
"We have a great event up here in Oregon. Like I said, itís my eighth show, and itís been growing every time. Weíre looking at packing the place to the rafters. I think, fighting at my own show in front of my home town will help put the people in the stands.
"We have a very solid card. Thereís Ryan Schultz vs Keith Wilson - thatís a big fight. Ryan is one of my guys. Heís easily a top-five, 155 pounder in the world. I actually wrestled him in the semi finals in the US Nationals, so I know heís a top wrestler, and heís got a decent MMA record.
"Thereís Jeff Monson, an Abu Dhabi champion. He fought in UFC and PRIDE. Iíd say theyíre the big international stars. The rest of them are top fighters, but theyíre mainly known here in the North-West. Theyíll be using Sportfight as an opportunity to prove themselves for bigger competitions, such as UFC."
For his next Octagon appearance, Lindland hopes to be fighting at UFC 52 in April. Although he isnít concerned as to who his opponent may be, there is one fighter - victorious in UFC 50 - that Matt would prefer to be matched with. "Iíd like to fight that Rich Franklin guy. He looks pretty tough."
Matt, can you give a brief breakdown of your average training week?
"Thereís not really an average week. I can just tell you that it varies from day to day, and week to week, depending on how close Iím getting to a fight. But itís pretty typical for me to train four hours a day Ė on the mat or off the mat, but at least two hours on the mat every day, five or six days a week."
Do you do a lot of weights?
"Recently, I have beenÖtwo to three times per week. Again, I mix that up, depending on how far off my next fight is. If a fightís coming right up, Iíll probably back off power and do more reps."
Hey, Matt, whatís the story on your having "Rowdy" Rod Piper as a special guest at Sportfight?
"Do you know who he is?"
Heís the pro wrestler, isnít he? Heís a funny bloke.
"Yeah, heís funny. Heís going to come out and watch the fight. Heís a fan."
So besides the professional wrestling, is he a legitimate fighter?
"Oh yeah, heís a black belt under Gene LeBell. Heís gotta know his stuff, having a black belt under Gene LeBell."
Tickets to Sportfight are selling quickly. For bookings and more info: www.sportfight.tv
SPORTFIGHT 8: Justice
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