Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Interview: UFC Heavyweight Justin McCully

By William Davis III

After Frank Mir was injured, the UFC needed to find a heavyweight to take on Antoni Hardonk at the upcoming Ultimate Fight Night card. In stepped Justin McCully.

After taking a hiatus from Mixed Martial Arts, this will be Justin's third fight since his return. His last fight was a submission victory over Ruben “Warpath” Villareal and he looks to move forward against the very dangerous Hardonk.

McCully took time out of his training schedule to discuss his upcoming fight, his time off, and his start in combat sports.

William Davis: Thanks for the interview, Justin. Who have you been training with in preperation for your upcoming fight with Antoni Hardonk?

Justin McCully: In the short three and a half weeks we’ve had to prepare, I’ve been training with my team, Team Punishment. I’ve been working with our team captain Tito Ortiz, my brother Sean McCully, and an undefeated boxer named Jason Perello. A guy named Noodle, who wrestled in college. He’s a two time NCAA champion. I’ve also been working with Mark Rahmel, who used to play for the Seattle Seahawks. He has a pretty extensive Jiu Jitsu background.

Those five guys have been my main training partners. We’ve been banging it out at LA Boxing and at the Ultimate Training Center in Huntington Beach.

William Davis: Since you took this fight as a late replacement for the injured Frank Mir, do you feel like you’ve had enough time to prepare?

Justin McCully: Well, as a professional, you should always be ready. You should always be ready to take that call. But, I would have really liked a couple more weeks to prepare especially considering the opponent. Hardonk is an excellent fighter; he’s very well rounded. Most people haven’t seen his ground game, but he submitted Wes Sims.

I have a lot of respect for his game, so I’d like to have more time but when the big dance calls, you've got to go. I’ve been waiting ten years for the opportunity. It doesn’t matter how much time I’ve had to prepare, I’m going to fight.

William Davis: Do you have a specific gameplan for this fight?

Justin McCully: Not necessarily a specific gameplan. I think the Gracies said it best, you have to deal with the moment to moment reality of the situation in any fight that you’re in. Obviously Hardonk is a stand up fighter primarily but he likes to play on the ground. It looks like he likes to play from his back.

I’m looking to trade with him a little bit. I’m looking to test his chin. I’ve heard he was the Scandinavian Champion for the K-1 trials over there. I’ve been boxing and kickboxing my whole life. So, I’d like to trade with him a little bit. If that doesn’t go so well, obviously, I’m going to put him on the mat. Once I get him there, we’ll see how good his Jiu Jitsu really is.

William Davis: How did you get started in combat sports?

Justin McCully: My father had me and my brother boxing at a very young age. In my early teens, I started Tae Kwon Do and kickboxing. After I got done playing college football at OCC (Orange Coast College), I decided to try my hand in the MMA style.

I started training with Allan Goes. I graduated and received a black belt in his system. I trained extensively with the Carlson Gracie team. I was training with Vitor Belfort, Murilo Bustamante, and all those guys out there. Then I started to do more wrestling because the wrestlers started coming in and dominating with their ground and pound style that you would see guys like Mark Coleman using. I sought out some really good wrestlers and trained with them. I trained with Mark Coleman. I trained with Kevin Randleman. I trained with a lot of guys who are now considered legends, like Dan Henderson. I only trained with them sporadically, but enough to get a good base down.

I trained with Jesse Reed and Al Stanky for my boxing. They’re two Hall of Fame boxing coaches. I trained with John Carrillo, who was a world champion kickboxer and kickboxing trainer. Obviously, I’ve been with Team Punishment now, for the past five years after I left Antonio Inoki’s wing and broke off on my own. Tito Ortiz is, for the MMA game, one of the best wrestlers and ground and pound guys out there.

I’ve always tried to be well rounded and put all that together into my own style. I’ve taken what I could from everyone that I’ve learned from whether it be Don Frye or Bas Rutten. Whoever I was in the gym with, I’d take what I learned from them and put it together into a well rounded style.

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