Thursday, February 22, 2007

Not your average fighter, jiu-jitsu ace Dean Lister lives and learns

By Neil Davidson

CP) - No matter how solid a fighter's game plan is, a good knee to the face can scramble strategy.That's what happened to mixed martial arts fighter Dean (The Boogeyman) Lister last month in his UFC loss by decision to middleweight Nate Marquardt.

"Wow, it changed the fight," Lister said of the Marquardt knee at the beginning of the second round. "I was dizzy the rest of the fight. It was hard to do things normally."

In fact, Lister suffered some memory loss about the bout.

"I got hit pretty hard in my jaw. Somehow I kept fighting. I'm glad I did that, but it wasn't really my true self after that. I was not a very strategic fighter, I wasn't listening to my corner. I didn't really have a game plan after I got hit that hard. I was just fighting on instinct at that point."

Lister does remember absorbing three "really hard" knees to the face and getting knocked down some five times. "Because once you get hit that hard, even a regular shot can put you down because your brain's so rattled."

Lister (9-5) can take some small consolation from the fact that he expects Marquardt to be the next 185-pound title-holder. Marquardt (25-6-2) is widely expected to challenge Anderson Silva for the title in the next few months.

Lister, who had easily beaten Marquardt in a prior jiu-jitsu match, is usually totally in control in the ring.

A black belt in jiu-jitsu, the 30-year-old Lister can tie you up in knots. And most times, he is anticipating three or four knots ahead. Usually it happens without thinking - thanks to countless hours of training.

"Your body will actually move by itself," Lister said.

Some 10 years ago, there were just four such black belts in North America. Now he reckons there's a couple of hundred although he says it's rare to find a "true black belt."

"Brazilian jiu-jitsu is just so complex, it takes so long to learn, that a lot of people get frustrated," he said.

Some find the prospect of two men grappling on the ground like watching paint dry. But Lister's goal is to make the ground game exciting.

"My victories, all but one, are by submission. I've only won one fight by decision," he notes. "So I really take chances and go for it."

But for a while, his personal life was also tangled and he admits it affected his game.

"And I'm not trying to act like I'm the only one," he added quickly. "Now I see why a lot of guys just drop out of fighting and you don't even hear from them again. It's the decisions you make outside the ring."

This one involved a Brazilian model and a marriage that didn't work out. Lister now says he fell in love too fast.

"I got really into her. It just took all my focus away and, I tell you, almost ruined my life."

It certainly didn't help his fighting.

"My bad day in the office, I get beat up in front of everyone," he explained.

He now sees it as a test that he survived, taking pride today in the friends and families around him.

"I've moved on with my life and I'm a better, much stronger person and fighter because of it."

The son of a U.S. marine, Lister was "pretty much raised all around the world." Growing up in Venezuela and Panama, it wasn't easy being small, being new, looking different and not speaking Spanish.

He garnered attention - not always for the good. But it made him tougher.

"And it gave me the desire to really want to be able to defend myself. It just happened to be something I'm talented at doing."

San Diego is home now. He graduated from San Diego State with a degree in sociology and an emphasis on social problems.

In San Diego, he heads up the MMA and grappling divisions at The Boxing Club, a growing gym with seven locations.

Material things don't interest Lister much. He likes to load up on experiences. Just back from England and France, he enjoys travelling and speaks Portuguese and Spanish and is working on his French.

"I pretty much consider myself a student of the world, wherever I travel. I think life is just about experiences and making yourself better."

Lister is 6-1 and walks around at 205 pounds, cutting down to 185 to fight as a middleweight. Lethal in the ring, he is compact and elegant outside it.

Many fans know him from his role as a coach on Tito Ortiz's team on Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter reality TV show.

"You can get some oddball things happen sometimes," he said of the notoriety. "People really take care of me wherever I go."

Lister has worked with Ortiz for four years, helping him with jiu-jitsu while Ortiz shares his wrestling skills and work ethic. The two were unable to hook up prior to Ortiz's December loss to Chuck Liddell, however.

Lister's resume includes stints in both Pride and King of The Cage. But he swears allegiance to the UFC these days, saying the circuit looks after its fighters and he feels comfortable there.

Lister's next challenge is the Abu Dhabi Combat Club world championship, in May in Trenton, N.J. He's the reigning world champion in the submission wrestling event and is slated to take on Brazilian Roger Gracie in a so-called "superfight."

Abu Dhabi is considered the Olympics of submission wrestling, according to Lister.

He expects his next UFC bout to be in October.


No comments: