This is a guest post by Stephie "Crooklyn" Daniels. Follow Crooklyn on Twitter @CrooklynMMA.
By the time Alan Belcher steps back into the octagon on May 5, against super tough Brazilian, Rousimar Palhares at UFC on Fox 3, he will have been away from the sport for the better part of a year, but "The Talent" says that it feels like he just dispatched Jason McDonald only yesterday. With a little under six weeks to go before their scheduled bout, Belcher has once again brought in Daniel Moraes, and has added another well known name in Brazilian jiu jitsu to his camp, Dean Lister. In a recent interview, Alan details his preparation for Palhares, and talks about a new personal challenge he has set for himself, competing in gi jiu jitsu tournaments.
SD: In a recent interview you did, you stated that you want to beat Rousimar by submission. Is it safe to assume that you'd like it to be a heel hook?
AB: [laughs] Oh, that would be so cool to get a foot lock or a heel hook or something like that. That'd be great, but you know, I think I'd just be very happy with a win. If I could chose a way to win, definitely, but I don't think I'm going to put myself in that situation, so that's probably not going to happen.
SD: Do you feel that you will be able to capitalize on your size advantage, and have you ever fought anyone as compact as Palhares?
AB: I actually have fought someone like that. Not in the UFC, it was before I got signed. They have their advantages and their weaknesses, just like I do. I feel comfortable though. I'd rather fight someone shorter and stockier than me, than someone taller.
SD: Many feel that you have a significant striking advantage. What do you think you'll be able to capitalize most with, kicks or punches?
AB: Kick and go is definitely going to be a part of my game. I definitely want to be kicking him, slowing down his legs, shooting in, and making him think twice. People say 'You don't want to kick too much, and give him your leg,' but I have a lot of different weapons. I can punch straight down the middle, hooks, uppercuts, knees elbows, and I can kick high and low. All those things can throw my opponent off, so I don't want to limit myself to any one thing. I'm developing some slick tactics and strategies, for sure.
SD: What do you think Rousimar's weaknesses are?
AB: Obviously his striking. He doesn't have a lot of range, because he's kind of short. He also gets a little bit frustrated sometimes. If it's not going the way he wants, he's always quick to try to talk to the referee, and that's a bad habit to get into. He's really strong and explosive, but not really technical. He's got some nasty leg locks and foot locks, but still, on the technical side of it, I just think don't think he's all around as good as me, ground or standing.
SD: You've been working with Duke Roufus for a while now, but have you brought in anyone special to your training camp this time around?
AB: I'm going to go up to Roufusport in the middle of April, about two or three weeks before the fight. I want to at least get in a solid two weeks with Ben Askren and Duke Roufus. Those two guys are really good friends, and my main reason to go up there.
I'm doing most of my camp here with Daniel Moraes, Davi Ramos and Dean Lister.
SD: When did you add Dean Lister to your camp?
AB: Yesterday, actually. He got here yesterday, and will be here for a few weeks. Dean Lister is an amazing guy. He's really technical and really strategic. It's really cool having him around. Just last night and today, we trained, and I've already learned a lot of cool stuff from him. He won't be going to Duke's with me, or be in my corner, but I just need a few weeks to pick his brain, and I think I'll be Palhares proof.
Daniel Moraes is a five time jiu jitsu champ, and I've had him in my last few camps. He's the one that I went to Brazil with, and he's going to be with me the whole time, so he's kind of coordinating everything with me. I've got three really good black belt world champions.
SD: You've had a fairly long layoff since your last fight, just shy of nine months. Do you foresee any issues with conditioning or ring rust at all?
AB: I've kept myself in shape this whole time. The reason for my layoff this time was because my little boy had just been born, and I didn't want to get right back in there. It went by so fast that I feel like I'm in another training camp right away. It doesn't even feel like a layoff. It feels like I'm right back in there on schedule. My life is just going so fast right now. It's fun, and I'm having a good time right now, but I don't even feel like I've had any real layoff.
SD: Do you have plans to fight again this year?
AB: I think one more time would work for me. Maybe August or September at the earliest, and then at the beginning of next year.
SD: Ideally, is two fights a year good for you, or would you like to shoot for three next year?
AB: There's really no reason for me to fight three times in a year. I don't really need the money. My life is going fast anyway, so I don't want to just to cram fights in. I want to take my time, and make sure that I give myself time to focus on my fights from the mental aspect. Physically, I'm training year round. Two times a year is plenty for me.
I love my family and my wife. Everything is great, and I have everything that I want. My fighting career is just a bonus, a personal challenge for me.
You know, I did the gi world championships a couple years ago, and I lost my first match. It was really close, but now that I'm a black belt, I would like to put together a real training camp for that, and go for it, just as another personal achievement. To win a match as a black belt in the Worlds, that would be great, and it would mean a lot to me. It may not mean much to anyone else, and they may not care, but it does to me. It's [Worlds] coming up after my fight, so I might be doing that.
SD: How important was your win over MacDonald, considering that he has a phenomenal ground game, and you were coming off a long layoff due to your eye injury?
AB: It was great. I was obviously nervous about coming back off that injury. It was awesome that I was challenged by such a good black belt.
SD: Where do you think that a win over Palhares puts you in the division?
AB: My personal opinion, is that it puts me up in the top two or three guys. There's always going to be someone that's kind of equal to you, and I think it puts me into that category, like the three number one contenders [laughs]. One thing I keep saying in my interviews, is that I know if I win, I won't go backwards.
Follow Alan via his Twitter @alanbelcherufc