Today is the big day. UFC 167 might just end up being the biggest card of the year. 20th anniversary celebrations, title fights, Chael Sonnen and one of the most stacked cards we've seen in a very long time. From top to bottom, this event appears to have the goods.
Among the myriad of intriguing match-ups is the middleweight clash of Ed Herman and Thales Leites. Both are coming off hard fought victories and are looking to take it to the next level. I recently sat down with ‘Short Fuse' who discussed his opponent, training in the old days with Team Quest and his good friend, Chris Leben. Here's what he had to say:
I've got to go out there and do what got me to where I'm at. I need to be Rowdy Roughnuts and just get in there and scrap. Obviously, I need to be technical too, but I also need to make it a dog fight. I feel like when I go into a fight mentally like that, I do well.
Thales is a very talented guy. He's been around for a long time and fought for the title. He's dangerous on the ground, but he fades as the rounds go on. He comes out pretty strong in the first round, but he's going to fade. He gets tired like that in all his fights, and then he wants to try to slow you down. I'm the opposite. I always try to turn it up and make it a dog fight. I try to make it a nasty, dirty brawl in there. I'm looking to finish him. I'm not sure which round, but I'm gonna finish him.
Old School vs New School Training
I started with Team Quest. Talk about rough...that's what we were all about. Basically, we would spar every single day with the little gloves, full on, 100%. These days, most times when you do rounds with the little gloves, you ease way back on the power. We'd beat the crap out of each other.
Me and Chris Leben were youngsters starting out and learning the game. Randy Couture and Matt Lindland invited us to come and train because we were tough kids. They told us as long as we made it to team practice two or three days a week, we were on the team. We showed up every day and got our butts kicked brutally by those guys.
Guys like Bas Rutten would come in and beat us up; Tim Sylvia, B.J. Penn. Evan Tanner would just kick me until my legs were purple and I was almost in tears, but I would come back the next day for more. We did some technique, for sure, don't get me wrong, but it was a lot of just beating the Hell out of each other.
The way things have changed since then, obviously people are smarter. I don't spar as much, but that also has something to do with getting older and my body not being able to handle it. I don't even have my young guys sparring every day. I make them wear head gear now, but we weren't required to back then.
There's just a lot of things, as I've gotten older...I listen to my body now. If I need to take a practice off, or some time off, I do that. Before, that was considered weakness. Back then it was, ‘I don't care if your arm is broken, you better show up to practice.'
Recovery is different now, too. There's isolation tanks and salt floats, massages, taking vitamins and supplements regularly. Even healthy eating and hydration is a science these days. There's just so many things that I've added on over the years, compared to back then.
Nobody ever told me what he tested positive for, but it's pretty obvious. If he goes up to 185 to fight me, tests positive for who knows what, and then he's immediately back down at 170. Hmmm...what was the question [laughs]? If he smoked a joint or something, wouldn't he just come out and say, ‘Yeah, I smoked a joint, big deal' ? It's way worse to test positive for a performance enhancer.
Obviously it's okay in Brazil, by the looks of this last show. These days, it seems like it's just a part of professional sports and that's sad. As long as they allow it, guys like Vitor Belfort, juiced out of their minds, will keep doing it. It's not fair, but it's part of the sport.
I think it's complete BS. Vitor is one of my favorite athletes of all time, and he's one of the reason I got involved in the sport, but look at the dude. He's more shredded and ripped at 205 than he ever was at 185. Most dudes that go up in weight are a little softer, but not Vitor. He was at like 0% body fat again. There's a reason he's only fighting in Brazil and it's not fair. I don't want to do that crap to keep up and I don't want the young guys coming up in the sport to think that they have to either.
You know, a lot of people are worried about Chris, but he's in a really good place right now. When he was in Hawaii, he didn't have the right people around him. He had people taking advantage of him. He didn't have the right training partners there, but he's at Alliance in San Diego now. He's been there for close to a year now. His last fight, he had just gotten out there, but now he's acclimated to the gym and training partners. I think you're going to see a new Chris Leben this next fight.
He's healthy now, and we're just going to see a better version of him. We all know he's had some issues in the past, but he's clean and sober now, for well over a year. He's got a really solid camp behind him, with a lot of talented guys and coaches that care about his wellbeing. I think he's going to come out and look great in this next fight. He's had some rough ones, though. All his fights, he bangs them out. His fights are always these brutal wars, and those do catch up with you. I love the dude like a brother, and I do worry about his health sometimes, but I do believe we're going to see a new, revived Chris Leben in this next fight. Then people will quit talking about him hanging up his gloves.
You can follow Ed via his Twitter account, @EdHermanUFC