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Jorgensen Packing the Old “Young Guns”

Do not be mistaken, this is Scott Jorgensen’s second UFC fight. On December 16, 2010, he fought Dominick Cruz in the co-main event of WEC 53 to decide who was the last WEC bantamweight champion and who would be the first ever UFC bantamweight champion. It was a five round decision that was fought inside the blue cage of the WEC, but it was for UFC gold.

Technically, “Young Guns” is making his UFC debut on June 4th at The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale, but Jorgensen has already been to the top of this division’s mountain and he is looking to make Ken Stone his first step back there.

“Everybody keeps asking about my Octagon debut, but I’ve already fought for a UFC championship and it doesn’t get much bigger than that,” said the 28 year old, explaining the unique circumstances surrounding his UFC debut. “Whether people say it was in the WEC or not – I fought for the UFC belt. It is something that everyone fighting longs for and I’m getting back on track to get that belt. I’ve already fought for the belt, so the pressure is not on me.”

Most debuting fighters worry about having the infamous UFC “jitters”. For Jorgensen, it is simply a new name on the cage, but not a new company. “I fought 10 times under Zuffa and that is more than most guys have ever fought for them,” he says of a 7-3 Zuffa stint that included a five fight win streak that led to his title shot. “This is not my first rodeo, I’ve been to the big show, and I’ve fought for the most important thing I could ever fight for. I grew up in the WEC, I grew up fighting for Zuffa, I grew up fighting the best guys in the world – it is no different on June 4th. I’m fighting one of the top guys in the world and I’m back to being the good old Scott Jorgensen that everyone loved.”

The “old Scott Jorgensen” is a two-time WEC “Fight of the Night” winner in his decision victories over Brad Pickett and Takeya Mizugaki. WEC fans know him as a violent flash of vibrant tattoos and a colorful mohawk who has consistently put on some of the most entertaining fights. The bantamweights have been heralded as arguably the most exciting weight class out there. This is due in large part to Jorgensen and his quintessential wars, like the two he had with Antonio Banuelos.

“The old mentality of mine was to go in there and go 110 mph and make something happen. If I can’t strike with him, then take him down; if I can’t take him down, then I’m going to strike with him. I’ll find a way to win. The biggest thing that helps me put on these exciting fights is that I don’t go into the cage just to win. I want to get the guy tired. I want to drag this guy through hell. I want to make him wish he had took an easier opponent.”

Jorgensen fostered this mentality in the wrestling room at Boise State University, where he was a three-time Pac-10 champion. Also, this is the same mentality that he fully admits was abandoned in the title fight against Cruz. No one is or could be more critical of that performance than Jorgensen himself. Also, no one is more committed and focused in proving to the fans and himself that it was a fluke failure than Jorgensen.

“I still am kind of baffled by the way I chose to fight. I let my emotions get the better of me in that fight. During that fight, I was banking on landing a big hard right hand and knocking Dominick out in grand fashion and walking out with a UFC belt, instead of setting it into my mind that as soon as I step into that cage it is going to take a lot of work. I never applied it in the cage, my performance showed it, and it was the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever been through. To go out there and fight the way I did and knowing what I’m actually capable of and what kind of fighter I actually am, I’ve learned from it. And I’m coming back stronger.”

The loss to Cruz is in the past and Jorgensen’s future is a matchup with American Top Team’s Stone on June 4th. He is preparing for the fight at his own gym in Boise, “Combat Fitness,” and this training camp has been a re-dedication of sorts, as he is getting back in touch with his roots as a wrestler. To do so, Jorgensen has brought in a fellow Boise State Bronco, Andrew Hochstrasser, and he believes the All-American has played a huge role in him returning to his grinding style.

“I’m a wrestler at heart. For me, it’s a mentality that I have to earn everything in the cage just like I would in a wrestling match, just like I would in a practice room. If I want something I’ve got to earn it. Nothing is given, nothing is expected and there is no such thing as luck. I went through some of the most grueling training and fights in a college wrestling room. It’s about getting the mentality back to putting my body through that inside and outside of the cage and not worrying about a pretty fight, but just get the job done no matter how I can get the victory.”

At The Ultimate Fighter Finale, Ken Stone better be ready to be transported back in time to his college wrestling room days at Bridgewater State University. “Young Guns” would like nothing better than to turn this into a “who breaks first” type of fight. “In a college wrestling match, pins don’t come very often. We call them grind matches. I try to turn every fight into a grind match.”

After waiting on the sidelines for six months, waiting to put his worst performance behind him, waiting to make his official UFC debut and waiting to get back into the title picture – Scott Jorgensen is itching to fight. “I’m ready to fight and ready to knock this ring rust off of me. I’m back to being me, so get ready for war.”

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Danny Downes – The Lightweights' Jolt of Fresh Air

The rear naked choke was sunk in tight by Tory Bogguess, but in the interest of space and time, we’ll only reprint a couple of the thousand thoughts running through the mind of the recipient of that choke, UFC lightweight Danny Downes, who was seconds away from possibly losing the “UFC” in front of “lightweight” if that May 6th submission attempt was successful.

First thought…

“I have to put my arm here, relax, control your breathing, listen to your corner.”

Second…

“You idiot, you did it again, you’re caught in something.”

Downes had been here before, nearly a year earlier, when he faced Chris Horodecki and lost his WEC debut and his perfect pro record via rear naked choke. Since that bout, he decisioned China’s Tiequan Zhang and was gearing up for his UFC debut. But while waiting, he wanted to stay sharp with a local fight in Milwaukee against the 5-4 Bogguess.

This wasn’t what he bargained for. But you never know what you’re going to get in a fight, another lesson learned for “Danny Boy,” who calmly looked for an escape hatch.

“I gave myself a little mental lashing with a couple expletives, but I just stayed composed, and once I got out, I was like, all right, let’s get back to work.”

Downes escaped the rear naked choke, but a guillotine was waiting for him. He escaped that one as well, and finally, at the 3:39 mark of the first round, he finished Bogguess via triangle choke.

What a night.

“Hindsight’s 20/20, and obviously it worked out, so it’s like ‘oh yeah, it was a brilliant move,’” he laughs. “But then if I lost, it would have been the dumbest thing ever, so I suppose the result skews how it went. But all things aside, it was worth doing to stay sharp and it also put more attention on me than I would have gotten for other things. You can spar, you can train, you can do as many pushups as you want, but even if you’re fighting someone no one’s heard of, a fight’s a fight and the experience of being in the cage, you just can’t replicate.”

That’s fighting talk from a real fighter, but maybe not what you would expect from a Marquette University graduate who double majored in International Affairs and German and interned for the United States Secret Service. And that’s the hook isn’t it? The unlikely prizefighter battling it out in the Octagon when he could probably be doing whatever he wanted to in life.

“It’s like the Rocky story,” said Downes. “I’m just a little more well-spoken than him. If you see Brock Lesnar go in a cage and beat up a person, well, yeah, look at him, he’s a beast. People see me, and through my whole career, I’ve had people telling me, ‘yeah man, when I saw you walk in the cage, I thought you were gonna get your ass kicked.’ (Laughs) There’s that part of it, and I also get the ‘you don’t seem like a fighter thing.’ People ask me ‘what do you do?’ I’m in the UFC. ‘No, but seriously, what do you do? Don’t lie to me, we just met.’ No, really, I promise you. And if I may be bold, I’m charismatic to a certain extent. It’s something different. There were guys on the (Chicago) Bulls like Jud Buechler and Bill Wennington, and they were kinda unathletic, slow white guys, but they were always the fan favorites, and every team has those guys.”

Yet as self-effacing as the 25 year old Chicago native may be, he isn’t here for his personality. There are plenty quick-witted folks out there, but few get invitations to fight in the WEC or UFC, and Downes, while a work in progress, does have the raw talent needed to take his game even further. But with just nine fights, two on the big stage, is he ready for his opponent this weekend, Jeremy Stephens?

“I always tell people I’m either stupid, arrogant, or confident in my abilities, and it’s probably just a combo of the three,” said Downes, who took the bout on short notice when Jonathan Brookins was forced out due to injury. It’s not the first time he’s answered a Zuffa call with ‘yes’ before the question was asked, and you have to admire his chutzpah and impatience.

“If they said ‘would you want to fight BJ Penn?’ obviously that would be a big opportunity, but that’s not really the best thing for my career,” said Downes. “So it’s just picking and choosing. Stephens has been there a while, he’s big and strong and not a pushover by any means, but I like the way I match up against him, I like the opportunity, and I think it’s the right move for me.”

And he probably would say yes to a fight with Penn now anyway.

“I probably would.”

For now though, it’s Stephens, and a fight for Downes which “Lil’ Heathen” himself admits is a no lose situation for the Roufusport team member. If he wins, it’s gravy; if he loses, well, the oddsmakers said he would. Downes doesn’t quite look at it that way.

“You’ve got a lot to lose besides brain cells from getting punched by Jeremy Stephens,” he said. “If you look at it honestly and look at oddsmakers and who they’re picking and how the majority of the people think this is gonna play out, if I win, it’s an upset. And if you view it as an underdog / favorite thing, I guess he has more to lose, but I have a lot to lose too. The UFC is competitive and you’re always risking something, and not just your health. Especially at lightweight, it’s such a competitive thing, and you can’t take fights haphazardly and just get in there and lose, because you never know if you’re gonna have another one. So I wouldn’t say I have nothing to lose. I would say that this puts me in a better position than him, and I definitely plan on playing the spoiler.”

That’s as bold as he’ll get when it comes to calling the fight, and frankly, it’s refreshing, because trash talk and callouts become a dime a dozen after a while, so to hear some witty humor and honesty in place of bluster is a welcome change. Downes is smart enough to know it too.

“Everyone likes big, strong athletes, but people don’t want meatheads,” he said. “If I walk out there and say ‘I’m gonna kick your ass,’ or ‘I’m gonna knock you out,’ people are gonna be like ‘well, that’s not gonna happen.’ So it’s like Biff and Marty McFly from “Back to the Future.” You can’t go up there and threaten Biff. It doesn’t make any sense and no one would buy it; they’d laugh at him. So I try to use the weapons I have.”

And those weapons are getting sharper with each fight, leading to the obvious question: with everything on your side outside the Octagon, why step inside of it to fight? It’s a generic query, but if you’ve been reading so far, you know you won’t get a generic response.

“You know how they talk about Freud and the tri-part division of the mind?” he asks. “It’s all Id. When I’m in the cage, I don’t have to worry about if I paid my bills or all the other stuff in the back of my head. I’m just there, and I’m singularly focused on one objective. It centers you. I call it primitive, but not as a negative connotation; I mean it in a good way. It’s you against another guy and you’re fighting for supremacy. It’s not who can hit a ball a certain way or throw something in a basket, it’s two guys going in there and it’s that innate desire to win. There are violent aspects of it, but it’s not for violent people. It’s that test. That’s why people run marathons. I think that’s stupid; I wouldn’t want to run for five hours, I think that’s a terrible idea. But people do it because they’re trying to push themselves to that limit. You want to see how far you can go. If you can get punched and then come back, my coaches say you find out a lot about a guy in a fight, and that’s why I do it. It’s that challenge.”

Can you get more real than that? Probably not, but Downes will try, giving a glimpse not only into his own psyche but that of most of his peers.

“People appreciate the honesty, and if you reveal part of your vulnerability, I think that endears you more to them,” he said. “A lot of guys go ‘yeah man, I’m not scared at all.’ I have no problem saying oh yeah, I get scared. I’m just being honest. That doesn’t mean I’m terrified, that doesn’t mean I’m gonna go out there and fight to not get hurt. But any fighter that says they go in there and they’re not worried or don’t have nerves is being disingenuous, and I think people recognize that.”

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Do not pass begin | MMA monopoly

Shot of The Octagon from UFC 74 ; Clay Guida v...
Image via Wikipedia

By the time you read this you probably would have heard about Zuffa’s (UFC parent company) colossal purchase of the Scott Coker run production “Strikeforce”. I am almost certain that there are many ecstatic fans as a result of this sudden turn of events. On the surface everything may sound splendid, however the implications of this sort of scenario is far more complex than many fathom. This type of complexity may not necessary be for the best…

When I first heard about Zuffa’s new venture, an italicised “WTF” sprung to mind…In 2007, Dana White, Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta (Zuffa owners) made it public that they purchased the Japanese MMA event “Pride Fighting Championships”.  While this was supposed to be fantastic news for the MMA world, it proved to be converse. These fat cats dissolved what was in my opinion the greatest MMA show on earth and took a few Pride fighters over to the UFC and rendered the remainder of the fighters abandoned, including titans such as Shinya Aoki and Ricardo Arona. According to  USA Today, White currently controls the contract of almost every American. While MMA is one of the fastest growing sports on the planet, it still does not have the sustainability of boxing since it was only introduced to the western world in the early 90’s .In a nutshell, if you are a serious MMA fighter looking to crack it in the big show and you are not friendly with White, then you are basically screwed. This sort of blackened smudge is a capitalistic evil.

In 2006 Zuffa bought WEC and eventually merged it with the UFC. They don’t compete, they buy competitors. UFC has a major head start on the other organisations in terms of experience and growth so the chance of them getting legit competition that’s going to make them sweat is slim. White has never downplayed his pull on MMA. Presently, Coker maintains that there will be no merges and Strikeforce will still operate independently from UFC but only time will tell. That sure was not the case with the UFC and WEC. It is laughable that White is adamant that that there is no monopoly as there is no barrier to entry and all you need is cash to get started. His closest American competitor is Bellator and I doubt they have half the muscle of Zuffa. If anti-trust laws did not tame Microsoft, I have a feeling it will be the same for Zuffa.

The monopoly of MMA is bad for the sport. It is also bad news for sponsors because if the relevant boss does not like a certain sponsor then fighters could be barred from wearing a certain brand at an event.  This will affect the pocket of both the sponsor and the competitor. In a local context, it is not a secret that there are politics between our major MMA organisations. However through the existence of each other, they force each other to try  to better their events in a bid to become the top MMA organisation in South Africa. Several organisations also open up options to fighters as opposed to one ruling entity.

Deep down I always knew White would eventually snag Fedor but not like this…

By Lenin Rajgopaul

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