Sunday, March 25, 2007

Interview: Travis Lutter

By Holli Yargo Hearne

Fresh off a disappointing weight-cutting effort that prevented him from a title shot, Travis Lutter, the Ultimate Fighter 4 middleweight champion, took time out of his busy schedule to chat with me. This mixed martial artist with a background in wrestling and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu had a lot to say about TUF 4, his recent loss to UFC middleweight champion, and what’s in store for his future.

Holli Yargo Hearne: So, I wanted to start with your background in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. How long did you train in that?

Travis Lutter: I [have] been training since ’98.

HYH: How old were you?

TL: Uh, I guess I was about 24 or something like that when I started.

HYH: Did you have any martial arts training prior to that?

TL: I wrestled in high school and college.

HYH: What did you study in college?

TL: I was a Criminal Justice major.

HYH: When did you decide to transition from BJJ to MMA?

TL: I was wrestling in college at the time and I became academically ineligible. I was partying a lot. I got kicked off the wrestling team. I saw what it [BJJ] was and decided I wanted to learn it and I just kind of took it from there.

HYH: What did that transition involve?

TL: I moved to Texas after a few years and I was kind of looking at it and stuff like that and that’s when my training really started. I moved here in August of 1998. You know, I started training in Jiu Jitsu. You know, just kind of got into it; opened my own school and all that stuff and then eventually started training in MMA.

HYH: Where did you train at first for MMA?

TL: I trained with Carlos Machado.

HYH: It’s my understanding that you are affiliated with the infamous Lion’s Den. How did you get involved with the Lion’s Den?

TL: Yeah. I was just invited over there one day; over to Guy Metzger’s Lion’s Den. They invited me to come back. And I just kept kind of coming back. I would help them with some Jiu Jitsu and they would help me with some wrestling, things like that. I was making the transition from being a basic wrestler to MMA and using my Jiu Jitsu and stuff like that. So it was a good time. It worked well for us for a few years.

HYH: I was looking at your record online and I was noticing that you have quite an impressive history of fights.

TL: Yeah, I haven’t had too many boring ones.

HYH: Most of them – 7 out of 9 – of your wins were by submission. Most of those were in the first round. How much of that do you attribute to your background in Jiu Jitsu?

TL: Yeah, the Jiu Jitsu and the wrestling because if I can get the fight to where I want it to be then it’s usually I’m going to come out on top. The wrestling gives me the advantage over a lot of guys where I can take them down and control where the fight is going to be fought. That’s a big advantage in MMA.

HYH: Is there a particular fight that stands out for you?

TL: Um, just my losses I guess. I don’t think about the ones you win. You got to think about the ones you lose. Um, the one I just lost; the one that’s freshest in my mind. The mistakes I made and things like that, and what I should of, could have done, to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

HYH: Let’s talk about that since that’s the obvious topic of conversation and it is so new.

TL: Right.

HYH: How frustrating and disappointing was that for you not to make weight?

TL: That was huge. It’s hard to describe. I just came in too heavy. You try to come into these fights as big and as strong as possible and I was too heavy. Like I just did my body fat today and my lean body mass right now is about 184 pounds. I’m just a little bit heavy right now. I’ve got to trim my body back to make the weight class again. You know, I’m a little too heavy.

HYH: So what do you think went wrong with the cut for that fight?

TL: You know, I just came in purely too heavy. I thought I could make it from 208 pounds and still make weight. I was wrong. I was simply too heavy. I quit sweating at 189 pounds and there was just no more water to come off at that point. That was four hours before the weigh-ins. When you’re cutting as much weight as a guy like me cuts, it makes it difficult. I have pretty much decided to come in closer to weight rather than try to cut so much. And you know, it was a painful cut, too. That’s part of it too. I don’t want to go through the pain of doing a cut like that again. I really just want to get my weight down more reasonable to make my cuts easier.

HYH: Did you start heavier than you usually do when you start cutting weight?

TL: Yes, I was about 5 pounds heavier than I was before the Patrick Cote fight.

HYH: Walk me through the fight because it looked to me like you were winning.

TL: Yeah, I was winning right up until I got submitted. We went out there and circled. There was a little bit of advancing between him and I as far as me trying to set up my shot and him not wanting me to take him down and I took him down and I’m in his guard and I pass his guard and I end up mounting him and I really thought Herb was going to stop the fight. That’s why I kept trying to pound him instead of trying to set up the submission. I thought I’d have him hurt. I really thought Herb would stop the fight but he didn’t, unfortunately. I really think I was a punch away from winning that fight. I got knocked over and I took him down again. In the second round, I’m taking him down, doing my thing, thinking well, I didn’t get him the first round; no big deal. I’ll kick his ass in this round and I just got caught. It’s one of those things. That’s the thing that makes MMA exciting. Not always the best guy wins. I really think I was the best guy that night but I just didn’t happen to win. If Anderson and I fight again, I’ll beat him. Hopefully I’ll get my chance.

HYH: Is there any talk about that?

TL: You know no one’s really talking about that. UFC is running so many shows and things like that. We’ll just have to wait and see how things are going to play out. I’ve heard a rumor that Nathan Marquardt is going to get the next shot at him (Silva). If he beats Nathan then maybe I’ll get a shot. I know Rich is in the mix and Nathan is in the mix. You got Mike Swick. He’s up there too as far as a potential candidate to fight Anderson. But I’m the only guy who’s ever done that to Anderson Silva. If you look at his losses, he’s got some losses but he’s never gotten that kicked the way he did in the first round like I did to him. I like Anderson. I’m not talking shit. I’m just telling it how it is. I really believe if we fought again, I’d beat him.

HYH: Let’s go back to TUF 4. Talk about your experience. How did you get involved with that?

TL: They called me up and said, “Hey, you want to be on TUF 4?” And I said, “Ummmm, yeah. Why not?” They said, “Well you got to go down there to Vegas. We’ll fly you out. And you’ll interview and things like that and take a few tests. If you pass the test and you do good in your interview then you’ll be on the show.” I was asked to be on the show after I went out and did the interview and fortunately made it through the house situation unscathed, won my fights and [there are] a lot of tough guys in the house. You know, Jorge Rivera is a guy who’s got a win over me; he got beat by Patrick Cote. There were just a lot of tough guys in the house so I feel real fortunate to get through everybody there.

HYH: Were you hoping to fight Jorge Rivera again?

TL: You know, Jorge and me are friends. I really, really like Jorge and if I never get a chance to avenge that loss, I don’t feel that bad about it. I didn’t know him that well before the house so like if you were to ask me that before we were in the house I would have said, “Yeah, I’d love to.” But now, no, not really. I really like him and he’s a good guy.

HYH: What did you feel was the hardest part of doing that show?

TL: The house was terrible. That was a terrible experience. Being shut off from the world. No TV, no Internet, no radio, no newspaper, no books. You know when you think about that, information is such an important part of being a human being. You know, learning new things everyday, having new experiences and when all of your experiences are controlled, and the only input your getting is just training, it makes for kind of a boring life. Especially when they are controlling the training. You’re like yeah, it’s great for the first week. You’re training with 15, well not even 15, you’re training with 7 other guys on your team then a couple of coaches. But then after the first week you’re like I’m ready to do something else. You know, I’m sick of being in the house; I’m sick of coming in here and losing those freedoms and not having the input, the experiences, the new experiences in your life was really, really difficult for me and I didn’t like that part. I would never want to do it again. You know, am I glad that I did it? Yeah, I’m very happy that I got to be a part of the show and do everything like that but it was one of the most painful six weeks of my life.

HYH: So really, no books or anything, huh?

TL: No books. The only book you get is the Bible. And, I’m not a real religious kind of guy but about halfway through Jorge had a Bible and I go, “Hey, man, can I read that?” I ended up reading about two thirds of it. I’m a big reader, you know, and so I just sat there and read the Bible. You know, it’s like I don’t have to agree with everything I’m reading just as long as I get something.

HYH: When I was watching the show, it seemed like you did a lot of your training on your own, especially when you were preparing for your last fight.

TL: You know what happened? The show didn’t talk about this much but I tore my pec the day after my first fight. Like if I was to show you my pec today, you can see that the pec is torn. And, I went to the doctor and all this other stuff. I only fought from exactly the halfway point of the show and from then on I only grappled three times before my next fight. I never sparred once and I never wrestled once. There were certain lifting things I could do that didn’t hurt my pec and I could run. You know and we’re hiding this from the other team. So as the time went down I wasn’t training as much with my team because I couldn’t. I was hurt and they didn’t talk about that at all. You know, it made for better TV showing everybody as leaving me. And that wasn’t true.

HYH: Did you feel like there were cliques in the house?

TL: You know, there were kind of controlled cliques, you know, in that you have the other team inside the house. We’d go to train at 8:30 in the morning. When we’d get back at 11, they had already left to go to their training session. They wouldn’t be back to the house until 1:30 or 2:00. So, by then, there’s nothing to do in the house so a lot of the times I’d be sleeping when I’d get back then we’d leave at either 3:30 or 4:30 for a weigh-in, an announcement, or a fight. We’d have to leave the house at 3:30 and if we didn’t have anything then we’d stay until 4:30. So then if we all left to be at the fight announcement, we’d still take different vehicles. So, clearly, some days they’re waking you up from your nap then you’d take separate vans to go to the training center and do whatever had to be done…a fight or fight announcement, etc. Then we’d stay and train and the other team would go home and then they could come back and they wouldn’t get back to the house until 9:00 at night. I literally didn’t see the other team that much, especially if I didn’t want to. You could literally go days without talking to people on the other team. You know, you didn’t get that close to them. You know, like a few of the guys I still talk to. You know, I still talk to Matt [Sera] since we both won. There are different things we talk about associated with contractual stuff. From the other team, I talk to Din Thomas and Scott; I really like Scott, Scott Smith. And that’s it. I don’t talk to anybody else from the other team. But I haven’t talked to that many guys on my team, either.

HYH: So, honestly, what is your opinion of Shonie Carter? [Travis and I both laugh]

TL: Shonie is, uh, Shonie’s Shonie. He’s harmless but yet he’s a pain in the ass. He does a lot of things because he wants to be on TV. You know, like this was a dream job for Shonie, you know, to sit around and be strange and piss people off. Shonie and me didn’t have any problems and stuff like that. He’s goofy as hell and I wish him the best.

HYH: So, what’s next for you? Are you training right now?

TL: Yeah. I run a school, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu school. And, we’ve got guys fighting, a couple of guys fighting, in the Art of War. We have three, well, four guys fighting in the Art of War. We constantly have guys training to fight. We’ve got a guy training to fight in the King of the Cage Championship in May. So, I’m constantly training myself because I’m their work-out partner like they’re my work-out partners. So, we’re always training. I think I fight again in July in the UFC is what they’re telling me. You know, hopefully.

HYH: Do you know whom you’re fighting?

TL: I have no idea.

HYH: How long out do they tell you who your opponent will be?

TL: You know, I don’t know how long they’re going to take to tell me whom I’m fighting. I called Joe Sullivan actually this week but I haven’t heard from him so I guess I’ll send him another phone call probably next week if he doesn’t make contact with me. But I know they are crazy busy with as many shows as they’re doing so I don’t know. We’ll see how long before a fight they’re going to give me.

HYH: Well, Travis, I want to thank you so much for giving me some of your time. I really appreciate it.

TL: No problem. Anytime.

HYH: Hopefully, we’ll see you fighting in July and I’ll talk to you again, then.

TL: Okay. Thank you


No comments: