This is a special guest feature by Duane Finley.
Most prospects in mixed martial arts earn their stripes fighting on the local circuit or regional promotions. With enough victories claimed and the right people impressed a young fighter will then get his chance to shine on a larger stage. For a short list of prospects who have cut their teeth in the sports biggest promotion, these up and comers are commonly referred to as rising stars that are said to carry the future of the very sport they compete in. While names like Jon Jones and Ryan Bader demand the spot light at every mention of their name, UFC welterweight Rick Story continues to grind his way towards contention on a quieter path. The Brave Legion fighter has won four straight bouts and somehow remained off of the mainstream radar but if you ask Story about his place on the short list of young rising stars he feels the attention he gets suits him perfectly.
After stumbling out of the gates in his UFC debut, Story has collected four consecutive wins. The first coming in a "Fight of the Night" performance against Brian Foster where Story pulled off an impressive submission finish as he forced Foster to tap out due to an arm triangle from the guard position. His next two victories would come by decision as he outlasted and out worked Jesse Lennox and Nick Osipczak both in hard fought victories that further solidified his toughness. After taking the close split decision against Osipczak the UFC decided it was time for a bigger test so they matched Story up with welterweight submission wiz Dustin Hazelett at UFC 117. Hazelett was coming off of a crushing knockout defeat at the hands of Paul "Semtex" Daley and needed to rebound in a big way if he was to keep his footing in the welterweight division. Unfortunately for "McLovin", he ran into a man on fire in Oakland and Story needed less than two full rounds to pound out the stoppage. In the aftermath of defeating Hazelett the UFC once again came to call with another stern challenge in undefeated NCAA wrestling standout Johny Hendricks. The two fighters will meet at The Ultimate Fighter 12 Finale and the only thing that stands between the young fighter and the next level is the undefeated former national wrestling champion. I caught up with Story as he moved his training to Sacramento and in this Bloody Elbow Exclusive he describes how his unbreakable focus is what will keep him on task all the way to the top of his division.
"Preparation is going great," Story stated. "My coach Scott White puts together the best game plan that I have ever seen and for me it works great. Our little trip down here to Sacramento from Brave Legion gets us going against people that are not around us everyday. It gives us different looks and it's a must in this portion of our training camp for me to come down and work a game plan that I have been working on for two months now. We have to keep mixing it up."
Story's name falls on a short list of current rising stars that are making waves throughout the UFC divisional rankings. While other prospects may garner a higher profile, the working class kid from the Pacific Northwest seemed less interested in receiving personal attention and chose to comment on how the sport has changed the world around him.
"It's obvious the UFC and mixed martial arts in general has become the fastest growing sport in the world. We are starting to take everything by storm and it's even to the point where older people, 60 to 70 year old people come up to me and ask about fights and contenders in weight classes. It can completely catch you off guard but it's great to be apart of. I'm working my ass to become world champion and to represent my camp and team."
More Rick Story in the full entry.
In his most recent outing Story overwhelmed Jorge Gurgel protégé Dustin Hazelett at UFC 117. It was Story's second finish in just four fights and in a previous interview Story had gone as far to issue an apology for not finishing his two previous affairs. I asked Rick to share his thoughts on the impressive stoppage victory in Oakland.
"Going into that fight with Hazelett I was completely focused and determined to finish that fight," Story stated. "After all of the hard work and training that I put in I just knew it was going to happen and the preparation has been the same for this fight coming up."
The bout in question will come against undefeated former two-time NCAA Division 1 wrestling champion Johny Hendricks. The former Oklahoma State standout has looked impressive in each of his four showings in the UFC and the victories on his resume include stoppage wins over Charlie Brenneman and fan favorite Amir Sadollah.
"I'm expecting a war. Hendricks is a tough guy," Story answered when asked to share his thoughts on his upcoming opponent. "He wrestled for Oklahoma State; a two-time national champion...this guy is a winner. He hasn't lost a fight yet so of course it's going to be a tough. He isn't going to want to lose. I'm going out to put a beating on him and put him in a place where he's never been before."
Both fighters have a strong wrestling background and each have shown knockout power in their hands. When I asked Story to predict where he sees this fight taking place his answer was short and to the point.
"I can see it going everywhere," Story replied. "I plan on finding his chin and that's as far as I'll go on that. It's going to be a fight and we'll leave it there."
The UFC welterweight division is one of the organization's most competitive weight classes. Champion Georges St. Pierre's title reign has hardly been threatened but the battle for contention and elite status has been a dog fight that has seen fighters rise and fall in the process.
"I think a victory over Hendricks will put me at least in the Top 10. It would have to," Story replied when asked where a victory at TUF 12 places him. "Riding a five fight win streak it wouldn't make sense not to fight anybody in the top five. A win will put me in the top tier of fighters in my division."
With the topic of the welterweight division on the table I asked Story for his thoughts on the upcoming title bout between GSP and the number one contender to the crown Josh Koscheck. The Vancouver Washington native remained on the fence for a minute before finally predicting that after a tough fight GSP will continue his title reign.
"I know for a fact Koscheck is training his ass off because I've witnessed it. GSP has been on top and hasn't shown any signs of slowing down or weakening up. It's going to be tough to beat GSP and if anybody was to do it at this point in time Josh Koscheck would be the man to do it but I think that GSP is going to pull this fight out," Story answered.
Story is obviously a product of a hard work and dedication and where physical "phenoms" like Jon Jones and Phil Davis are captivating the MMA community, he simply wants to continue down the trodden path and doesn't mind helping you get better in the process.
"Just expect a hard fight and I want to thank anyone who is tuning to watch me fight," Story stated as the interview came to a close. "Remember that if you ever want to train with me in the northwest we are in Vancouver Washington at Brave Legion Fitness & Sports. Make sure to check out our website at www.bravelegion.com"