Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Kurt Angle interview excerpts

By Sam Caplan

Some of you may recall that I mentioned I had conducted a lengthy interview with Kurt Angle several weeks ago. I used the interview to write a feature on him that should be appearing on CBS Sportsline in the next few days. There's a lot of Angle's comments that won't make it into the piece so I thought I'd post excerpts from the full interview in Q/A format here.

Here's the first in which I asked Kurt some questions about Chuck Liddell:

Q: You mention Chuck Liddell. Do you think your takedowns are good enough to take down a guy with as good of a sprawl as Liddell?

KA: Yeah, I'm too quick. Chuck's a great striker, that's the only thing that concerns me. I don't think he can take my leg attack. Of course, he knows it's going to come but also in the Olympics and on the Olympic circuit, those guys knew. I had horses like (Mark) Coleman and Mark Kerr who cut from 250 to 220, make weight and go right up to 250 again. I weighed 208 and I was taking those guys down without a problem and they knew what my best shots were but they still couldn't stop me. Chuck Liddell's going to know that I'm going to attack his leg, it's just a matter of how quick I am. When I watch these guys, they're World Class fighters and I have all the respect in the World for them but I have yet to see a fighter with the quickness I have. To me, I'm not saying these guys are slow, but they're very methodical. Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell, you watch them, and if they ever leg attack, they're not very quick. The light heavyweight division, which in college would the 190 lbs. weight class, I was always quicker than any of the other 190 pounders. It was always a great weight class, but it was always a methodical weight class.

Q: Chuck Liddell was on the "Bubba the Love Sponge Show" recently and said for you to get in range for your takedown that you'd have to put yourself in a range to be hit. He went on to say he doesn't think you can handle getting hit. What's your reaction to that?

KA: My reaction to that, and I hope he understands this, he's a great striker. He's one of the best in the World; I've seen this guy strike on his heels. He's very unorthodox. When you throw a punch you want to put everything into it. Chuck doesn't have to. Chuck knows exactly where to hit the guy, straight in the jaw and he'll do it while he's back peddling. So he's very dangerous. But Chuck Liddell doesn't also realize that pro wrestling, I've been hit harder than you can ever imagine and it's not on purpose, it's accidental… He'll knock you square in the jaw, the nose, the forehead, whatever, the back of the head and then apologize later.
But I don't have a glass jaw. I've never been knocked out in my life. I've done a lot of fights, I wouldn't say mixed martial arts fights but it's going to be very difficult to knock me out, that's one thing I've always said. If Chuck Liddell doesn't knock me out in two minutes, he's going to have a hell of a fight on him because of my extraordinary conditioning.

That's what I've always told people, how I won the Olympics, I took everyone into overtime. I was so undersized, the best thing for me to do was wear them out. I turned these giants into mice. I plan on doing the same thing with mixed martial arts. I'm going to be careful, I'm not going to go in there and just get radical and start going toe-to-toe with Chuck Liddell -- that would be stupid for me. I also know to get in range to attack him, I don't necessarily have to get in punching range. He doesn't know me very well. He doesn't know that I can actually attack from eight feet away. And it could be shot to a punch combination back to a shot. Chuck, you know, is going to have to throw down on me and is obviously not allowed to hit the back of my head. I have a lot of respect for Chuck Liddell. Do I fear him? Hell, yeah. I'm scared to death of Chuck Liddell, as I am of Tito Ortiz or even Randy Couture.

But the one important thing is, Chuck, I've been watching him fight, and I watched Randy Couture fight him, and I thought Randy was a little bit too cautious and I thought Randy went on his feet a little too much with Chuck. But Randy was never a great leg attacker. Randy became an expert at mixed martial arts, not because he was a wrestler but because he learned all the disciplines. I look up to Randy Couture and I feel that he probably has made the best transition from wrestling to mixed martial arts than anybody that I know because he doesn't rely on his wrestling skills all that much, and that surprises me. Randy Couture in college was not very quick, he was a very methodical wrestler, slower; he kind of wore you down like he does in his fighting. He was a four-time All-American, he went to the Olympics. He wouldn't have made it as a freestyle wrestler as a leg attacker, so he went with Greco Roman. So, the one thing you don't want to do with Randy Couture is tie up with your upper body, because he's very good at taking people down from an upper body position and so am I. We're very well-versatile with leg attacking and upper body movement. One thing I can do is pummel with the best and get anybody I want in a bear hug. It could start from a leg attack and come right up into a bear hug.

I'm very cautious of guys like Chuck Liddell and what they can do with front punches. I know one thing's for sure, I'm going to have to put the pressure on him and not allow him to have a chance to get one of his best shots in and that means that I have to be on my toes the whole fight. It's not like I can just be on my toes the fight minute and say, "Okay, I'm fine now" because Chuck can knock you out anytime in the fight in any round. So every round to me with Chuck would be a new round and I would have to stick to my gameplan the entire fight.

Now, Tito Ortiz on the other hand, I look at him and I respect the heck out of him because of willingness to win and that he's just not a mixed martial arts expert but I see that guy and he knows how to fight dirty. You grab his wrist and you tie him up, and you have his wrist to keep him from punching you and he'll throw that punch and while you're holding his wrist he'll come up with a forearm right to the face, which is illegal, but the ref won't see it. I've seen him do it many times. Tito, he's an expert at dirty fighting. Not just Tito Ortiz, they're other people out there that know how to dirty fight in mixed martial arts. And I don't mean that in a disrespectful way, I mean that as a complement to Tito Ortiz.

I understand what Chuck's saying, but I'm not just going in there and be a wrestler. Chuck also has to watch out for my punches, he doesn't know what kind of power I have. The one thing I know is that I'm not going toe-to-toe with Chuck, I'm not stupid. He's proven himself time and time again.

When I look at all these fighters I look at them all differently. I don't one fighter that's the same and that's the way I'm going to study my opponents. If I have to fight those guys, I'm going to fight them all a different way.


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