Exclusive: Lindland On Fedor Fight, A. Silva, UFC Buying PRIDE

Matt Lindland is arguably the top 185 pound fighter in mixed-martial arts today, and is known worldwide as a silver medalist in greco-roman wrestling in the Olympics.

Not only that – he's also part of the best fight team in MMA today – Team Quest. Already in 2007, Team Quest fighter Dan Henderson shocked the world knocking out Vanderlei Silva to become the first multiple weight-class champion in a major organization in MMA. Also in 2007, Team Quest fighter Randy Couture came out of retirement at age 43 to regain the Heavyweight title via dominant victory over two-time champion Tim Sylvia.

Later this month in the main-event of the second ever BodogFIGHT pay-per view, Matt Lindland will attempt the most shocking of the Team Quest accomplishments. Lindland will jump up two weight-classes to Heavyweight and challenge the PRIDE Heavyweight champion, and arugably the best pound for pound fighter on the planet today – Fedor Emelianenko.

Luis Cruz discussed that fight among many other topics in an interview with “The Law,” conducted yesterday, March 31, 2007. Thanks to Roy Mackie for writing up the following full text transcript.

Luis Cruz of MMANews.com: This is Luis Cruz of MMANews.com, and I'm joined now by one of the top Middleweights in the world, Matt Lindland. What's up, Matt?

Matt Lindland: Not just one of the top, but the top. What's going on though?

MMANews.com: [Laughs] How's the training going? Have you been healthy?

Matt Lindland: Yeah, oh yeah. I'm very healthy, I'm doing good, and I'm training hard.

MMANews.com: I was actually wondering about your weight for this fight [with Fedor Emelianenko]. What's going to be a comfortable weight for you here?

Matt Lindland: Well, I weighed 206 [pounds] today.

MMANews.com: Is there any goal weight that you're trying to reach?

Matt Lindland: Not really setting a goal, I'm just figuring when I, when I start tapering my training, [in the] week after next, um, I'll probably bounce up another five pounds.

MMANews.com: Alright. Well, obviously everybody knows you've got the biggest fight of your career coming up now, and you're taking on Fedor Emelianenko, who's the current PRIDE Heavyweight Champion. How did this fight come about?

Matt Lindland: Well… they were looking for a suitable opponent for Fedor Emelianenko and, there's not a lot of, you know, Heavyweight free agents out there. Most of the top Heavyweights are signed with other organizations, and you know, I'm one of the top fighters in the world and I think they wanted a quality opponent; so that was the thought, you know, lets get someone who's maybe not in the same weight class but, you know, he's a quality opponent, and, uh, ranked number one in his own weight class. So we've got number one versus number one.

MMANews.com: Now, what was the purpose of you taking this fight? Like, when they asked you. What went through your mind of why this is a fight you want to take?

Matt Lindland: Well, the purpose of taking any fight is to get in there, beat someone's ass and get paid! You know, thats the… anytime you take a fight, thats the whole goal of being a prize fighter.

MMANews.com: Now, were you, uh, I don't know how to word this… were you honored or anything, that they'd choose you to take on Fedor?

Matt Lindland: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I think that says a lot about the kind of fighter than I am, that they would consider me, and ultimately offer me a contract to fight Fedor. Yeah, I think its a great opportunity, and it is certainly an honor to be picked, you know? I know Fedor passed over some other opponents because he didn't think they were, you know, tough enough opponents, or they didn't have good enough records. So, I was glad [that] he looked at me and thought “Hey, this is a guy I'm willing to fight.”

MMANews.com: Do you have idea who some of those people were who he passed up?

Matt Lindland: Do I have any idea? Yeah, I do, but, uh… I don't know if I want to go through the list, but I know there were a couple guys I talked to who were hoping to get that fight, but they didn't get the opportunity to.

MMANews.com: Alright… I thought I'd at least try to get some names out of you, I didn't think you'd answer. [laughs] Now… you're going against a man who's destroyed everybody in the Heavyweight division in PRIDE and some of the top fighters in the world, and you're going into his backyard to do this. Is there any added pressure to that, fighting in Russia?

Matt Lindland: Is there added pressure? I wouldn't say there's added pressure, I'd just say that there is more adversity, you've got to travel, you're fighting in front of his crowd, and its going to probably be a fairly hostile crowd. You have to travel and being over in another country, and all the things working against you. For sure, but I perform well in the midst of adversity.

MMANews.com: Now, what are some of the weaknesses that maybe you've seen, I don't know too many, but maybe you've seen something [with Fedor] that you can expose?

Matt Lindland: What are some of the weaknesses? Oh, I don't know if the guy has got any weaknesses, he's a pretty well rounded fighter. He's got strong punches, he's good on the ground… I think I'm going to just have to capitalize on my strengths and not really worry about what his weaknesses are.

MMANews.com: Are you looking to take this fight to the ground as quick as you can, or are you going to stand with him?

Matt Lindland: Well, I'm going to fight a strategic fight. I'm not sure if I'm going to stand [with Fedor] and see who can hit harder… he's a bigger guy, [and] that's never really been my style of fighting, but I definitely would expect that we'll see some clinch fighting, and some ground fighting… I'd suspect there's going to be a portion of the fight that is going to be on the feet though. Trying to put the fight into the clinch or on the ground, there's always that middle range that you have to deal with in a fight. Each round starts on the feet, and there's stand-ups, and BodogFIGHT does a lot of the quick stand-ups, so if there's not a lot of action on the ground we'll be back on our feet.

MMANews.com: Is that one of your biggest concerns, that the fight might get sped up a little bit too quick?

Matt Lindland: Umm… I'm aware of it, that Bodog wants a lot of action on the ground, so if I want to keep the fight there, I'd better be doing damage and looking for finishes. Most organizations, you know, they're heading more towards that philosophy, they want a lot of action, if there isn't any action, they're going to bring the fight back up to the feet and push for action there.

MMANews.com: Alright. Now, hypothetically let's say you pull off the win here. What does that do for your career? Obviously its going to skyrocket.. do you try to go for his title after this, if you do get a win?

Matt Lindland: Do I try to go after his title? I don't know if he's still got a fight, er, a contract with PRIDE or not… I don't know how that all works out. You know, each organization has their own titles, and there is no true world champion, and there is no true world title, and it's just the organization that has the title, and you know, all that would make me is the PRIDE champion, I think taking out the number one guy in the world is equivalent to any organization or probably greater than just one organization.

MMANews.com: Yeah, that's definitely a prize in itself for sure. Now, shifting gears to the IFL real quick, your team The Wolfpack is taking on the Pitbulls on the 13th, that's the day before your fight. Who took over for you as coach?

Matt Lindland: Yeah, I won't actually be there. [Laughs] I've got some really good assistant coaches… I've got Dennis Hallman and Chael Sonnan are a couple of my assistants.

MMANews.com: Oh, Ok.

Matt Lindland: Both very qualified guys to go out there, and look out for the guys, and Aaron Stark – who's not competing will be out there helping the guys out. He's injured, but he's going to be out there supporting the team. And Kevin Jackson is going to be filling in as my coach.

MMANews.com: Ok, those are definitely suitable replacements… I mean, obviously you had a plan when you signed onto this fight.

Matt Lindland challenges Fedor Emelianenko at BodogFIGHT 2 on PPV – April 14th…

Matt Lindland: Yeah well, originally I think the fight was scheduled for a week earlier. So I would've been back… this was way back when, it's been [set for] April 14 for quite a while, but it was originally a week earlier, and I think they were looking for pay per view dates and arena dates, and it just ended up being on the 14th and it just so happened that the IFL had already scheduled a show on the 13th. The IFL has been very supportive of my fighting career, as a coach for them they saw the opportunity for me to go out and take this fight and they didn't want to deny me that opportunity. So they were very gracious, in saying “as long as you find a suitable replacement coach, and you know, have your team ready”… they were very supportive of me going out there and fighting. They are a good group of guys and a quality organization to work with, so I'm very pleased that they allowed me that opportunity.

MMANews.com: What about Bodog? Is that just a one fight deal, or did you sign for a couple of fights?

Matt Lindland: I'm going to fight for them three times. Hopefully we'll be done before September. So it'll probably be April, June, September. Three fights.

MMANews.com: You're going to stay busy then!

Matt Lindland: I'm looking to stay very busy. Yeah, absolutely. This is what I do, I fight, I'm going to fight as often as I can, the more times you get in the ring, the more pay checks you get.

MMANews.com: [Laughs] Alright. Now, real quick, let me get your thoughts on the recent purchase of PRIDE by the Fertitta brothers.

Matt Lindland: Thoughts on that?

MMANews.com: Yeah.

Matt Lindland: Um… thoughts on that are: it's interesting, we'll see what happens.

MMANews.com: Do you see yourself fighting for that company, either for PRIDE or UFC now, in the future?

Matt Lindland: Will I?

MMANews.com: Do you see yourself fighting in there?

Matt Lindland: Oh, well… I haven't been offered a contract with them, but uh, right now I'm with Bodog until September at least, so we'll see. But yeah, me and Lorenzo [Fertitta] are good friends and we talk, and I think with them owning PRIDE now, I don't see why I wouldn't. They want to get the best fighters out there, and I'm the best Middleweight, so they're going to have to make me an offer.

MMANews.com: Now, speaking of Middleweights, I'm assuming that they're going to make PRIDE's 183 [pound] division a Middleweight division as well now. What do you think of their current champions right now, Dan Henderson and Anderson Silva?

Matt Lindland: What do I think of Dan Henderson? Oh, he's terrible.

MMANews.com: [Laughs]

Matt Lindland: I think Dan's a phenomenal fighter, he put on a great show in his last outing [against Vanderlei Silva]. I mean, he had a game plan, he trained hard, he came in well prepared, he stuck to his gameplan to the “T”. I mean, he's just phenomenal. What more can you say?

MMANews.com: And Anderson Silva?

Matt Lindland: What do I think of Anderson Silva?

MMANews.com: Yeah.

Matt Lindland: His last fight?

MMANews.com: Any.. uh, just as a fighter in general.

Matt Lindland: He seems like a very talented fighter. He's definitely got a lot of skills and a lot of talent. No question about it, you know, he's a good fighter.

MMANews.com: What do you think about a rematch between him and [Rich] Franklin. Do you see it going any different?

Matt Lindland: Hmm…. You know, I don't know how good Rich Franklin really is. He's got some good stand up skills. His wrestling doesn't seem very good, and he doesn't seem very dangerous on the ground. I don't know, I think Anderson's probably a little better in a lot of areas than Rich Franklin is. Rich is a bigger guy, but uh… Yeah, I don't know, its hard to predict fights, on any given day anybody can win a fight, but uh… just my observation, I would think that Anderson's probably a little better fighter than Rich.

MMANews.com: Alright, now, the 205 [pound] division in the UFC, you took on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson less than a year ago [in the WFA] and lost a very disputed split decision to him. Uh, what do you think…

Matt Lindland: …I would say it was so close it could've gone the other way, I mean, it probably should've gone the other way.

MMANews.com: [Laughs] Now, what do you think his chances are of beating Chuck [Liddell] in this rematch?

Matt Lindland: Oh man… I don't know, well, he's already beaten Chuck once… so I would say he's got a fairly good shot at it, but Chuck, in my opinion, right now, he's at the top of his game. He's one of the best out there. Chuck's a very dangerous fighter. From everywhere. He hits hard, he hits at all angles, he can hit moving forwards, moving backwards. He didn't fare too well the first time against Quinton though, it was a bad style matchup, and Quinton came in well prepared. I don't know, it's hard to say. I definitely think he's got a shot at it, I mean for sure, we've already seen him beat him [Chuck] once. You know, yeah, its hard to say.

MMANews.com: Alright. Now, you've been going up and down a lot in weight recently. Is that hard for you, to come down back to Middleweight, or is it hard for you to come up?

Matt Lindland: Is it hard to? Well I normally walk around under 200 [pounds]. When I fought Quinton Jackson I weighed in at 200 pounds, what I walked around at, focused pretty hard for this fight on strength training and trying to put on some size, and I'm all the way up to 206, so… I don't think it'll be that hard to lose another extra six pounds to get back to Middleweight. It might be hard to get down to Welterweight though.

MMANews.com: [Laughs] Yeah, I don't see that in your future. You're going to weigh 210 you said, for this fight, you're assuming?

Matt Lindland: Yeah, I'm guessing.

MMANews.com: How do you think your cardio is going to be at Heavyweight?

Matt Lindland: Should be fine. I don't really see a whole lot of difference there. I'm not stopping doing any cardio [exercise] because I'm trying to put on weight. I think that's the key that I keep pushing hard, keep getting my rounds in. You know, I'm in phenomenal shape, I'll try to out-condition him.

MMANews.com: Alright. Now, before I let you go Matt, is there anything you want to add, anything you want to say to your fans, sponsors you want to mention?

Matt Lindland: Yeah, for sure. I want to thank all my sponsors. Sprawl's been good to me for a long time, and I've got Rock Star coming on board for this one, and Fidelity Mortgage and… yeah. You know, I'm excited. I'm looking forward to this opportunity, and I'm definitely going to put on a good show for the fans. So that's probably about it. Check out the Team Quest website, www.TQFC.com and yeah. So check us out.

MMANews.com: Alright Matt, well I want to wish you lots of luck in that fight, I can't fathom being in your shoes, going into Russia, but you're a warrior, you've proved it, and I'm looking forward to a really good fight.

Matt Lindland: Well thank you very much, I will talk to you later!

MMANews.com: Alright, Matt, take care.

For more information on Matt Lindland's upcoming fight with Fedor Emelianenko or the BodogFIGHT promotion in general, visit their website at BodogFIGHT.com. Also check out the official website of Matt Lindland's Team Quest at TQFC.com.

Special thanks to Roy Mackie (aka “Smoogy” on the MMANews.com forums) for giving me a break and doing the transcript for this interview.

And if you want to contact Luis Cruz about this interview you can do so by clicking here to chat with him in the forums, or e-mail him at [email protected].

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