May 19, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Gesias Cavalcante (left) fights Isaac Vallie-Flagg (right) during the lightweight bout of the Strikeforce World Grand Prix at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE
After an 11 month layoff due to injury, this past May 19, Isaac Vallie-Flagg re-entered the Strikeforce cage to take on veteran Pride fighter, Gesias Cavalcante. With no apparent signs of ring rust, Ike took the win in a split decision, and added the most significant victory to his resume to date. Many felt the decision should have been unanimous, but in Ike's own words, a win is a win. I had the chance to get an interview with Vallie-Flagg to get his thoughts on the decision, future plans and training life at Jackson's MMA.
Stephie Daniels: You fought a really tough fight with JZ, but many felt that it shouldn't have been a split, and that you won decisively. Do you feel the same?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: Yeah, I felt like I got a unanimous decision. I felt like I won round two and clearly won round three. We were giving him the first round just based on the takedown and the control that he had on the ground, but I think two and three were mine, for sure.
Stephie Daniels: Is it frustrating to put that much hard work into training camp and the fight itself only to have the judges sort of give you the business?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: Yes and no, because a win is a win, right? I didn't get to knock him out, so a decision is decision, I guess. That being said, there is a little bit of frustration that I didn't get the unanimous, because I think that when somebody looks at a unanimous decision over a guy like JZ, that looks a little better than a split, especially with a guy as tough as him.
Stephie Daniels: After coming from a year layoff, what was training camp like, and was it tough to make the cut back down to 155, considering your last fight was at 170?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: I felt great. You know, I took this fight extremely seriously and I started dieting as soon as I found out I had the fight. I knew that part of the gameplan was going to be to push JZ, so I didn't want to have a hard cut. I think it showed not only in my appearance, but in my conditioning in the fight.
Stephie Daniels: When the term "deep waters" gets thrown around, is this something that you specifically had in your gameplan?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: I live there. I love being there. Greg always talks about, 'We live where other people suffer.' I love being in a fight like that. I love being deep in the third round and I'm watching the other guy wilt, and I know that my cardio is good enough to where I'm just getting stronger. I wish I could have finished him in the third round, but obviously the dude is super tough, and that wasn't going to happen.
Stephie Daniels: Is this a big moral victory for you to beat a guy that carries a reputation of being a killer in the cage (or ring)?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: It felt so good. After the fight, I just kept walking around and looking at Greg and smiling. Every now and then I'd say, 'Hey, I just beat JZ Cavalcante.' The guy was killing people a few years ago. Morally and confidence-wise, that was a huge victory for me. I think some people are finally going to start to take notice of me now.
Stephie Daniels: Do you feel you get overlooked because you're 34 years old, and many feel that this may be past the point of your prime? Maybe it's because Strikeforce doesn't have the stability right now to provide a guarantee to fans that it and the athletes will still be around in a year?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: I think I am definitely overlooked because of that. It's fine with me. I feel, even for my age and stuff like that, I feel great. As far as the organization, I'm happy with where things are progressing in my career. If people overlook me because of those things, especially guys that I'm fighting, they're in for a rude awakening.
I feel great for my age, and I haven't taken a whole lot of damage, so it's easy for me to continue on. I'm just as hungry as I was at 23 or 24. In life in general, I've always been a late bloomer. I feel like now, things are starting to come together for me, physically and otherwise. My body hurts sometimes, but that's because I train three times a day, not because I'm old. By no means do I feel old.
Stephie Daniels: You didn't take much damage in the fight. Did you ask to get on the July card or make it known that you want to get back in there as soon as you can?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: I'd like to fight as soon as possible. I don't think I'll be on the July card, but I want to stay as active as I can. I was healthy after the fight, except for a little cut under the eye. I'm completely healthy and I'm back in the gym training for whatever is next. I want to stay as active as possible, and some of that is due to my age, because I want to fight as much as I can, until my body won't let me anymore.
Stephie Daniels: If you could point out a guy in Strikeforce, and say, 'I'd like to fight you', not necessarily because you have beef, but because you'd like to test your skills against his, who would it be?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: I think there's a lot of good match-ups for me. It's just hard because of the way things are matched, I guess. I'd like to fight a guy like Matt Ricehouse or Joe Duarte. I can actually think of a bunch of guys at 55 that I'd like to fight. Whether it's going to happen or not is another thing. I've just got to wait to hear back from Sean Shelby.
Stephie Daniels: Do you want to stay at 155 or are you eyeing a move down or up in weight?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: I like 155. I feel like it's a good weight for me. I'm not a huge 55er, but I'm a small 170. I entertained the notion of 45 until I get down to 160, then I'm like, 'There' no way I can make 45.'
Stephie Daniels: Jackson's MMA seems like such a tight knit group of guys. What has your experience been like with them?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: I would have to agree with that. The guys are not only good training partners, but good friends. I'm not just saying that to sound like, 'Oh yeah, we're buddies' or whatever. I call Cub Swanson and Clay Guida with life problems, too. They're good friends of mine. I think that in the gym, we're all looking out for each other, and we all want to see each other get better. It really is a family environment.
Stephie Daniels: In your life, has there been anything specific that has defined the fighter you've become?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: I did a lot of stupid stuff when I was younger, and ended up paying some pretty heavy consequences for that. I think that kind of shaped me into the person that I am now. Not only do I never want to back to that, but I really want to succeed in life. It shows in the way I work out and train every day, and in the way I treat people. The stuff that I did when I was younger is definitely a motivating factor for me these days, with everything.
Stephie Daniels: You're 34 years old, and have voiced a desire to fight as long as you can. With guys like Randy Couture and Dan Henderson fighting into their 40's, is that a goal you have set for yourself, as well?
Isaac Vallie-Flagg: Yeah. Those guys are kind of personal heroes, because they did fight when they were a little bit older, and I'll fight as long as I possibly can. I love the sport, and I plan on doing it until I think my body doesn't want me to do it anymore, but that's a ways down the road.
I've been lucky that I haven't taken a whole lot of shots to the head, and I don't abuse my body. I take good care of it, and I do a lot of stuff to keep myself healthy. Other than hurting my arm last year, I've been really lucky not to have any other physical consequences from my career.
Follow Isaac via his Twitter, @IkeVallieFlagg