("What part of ‘No, I am not interested in becoming a Jehovah’s Witness *or* accepting your complementary copies of "The Watchtower"’ do you not understand?" PicProps: Strikeforce)
Since the UFC and Strikeforce are set to go head-to-head tonight with dueling shows, we feel it’s only right to pass along another fairly fascinating story courtesy of Old Dad’s ongoing “My First Fight” series over on MMAFighting. This particular gem involves Matt Lindland, who at 40 years old faces a must-win against Robbie Lawler in Strikeforce tonight and prior to that was a royal pain in the UFC’s ass from about 2000-05.
The following story is an example of what we might call “classic Lindland behavior.” It also could serve as a good litmus test for any aspiring fighters out there who may be questioning if they have what it takes to make it in MMA. The test is this: When confronted by a man who tries to crush your dreams, how do you respond? Do you A) Nod sheepishly and slink away? Or B) Offer to fight that man for all the money you have in your wallet? If you answered B, you sir, are a fighter. You may also be Matt Lindland.
Picture it: Nebraska, 1996. A wide-eyed, 26-year-old, probably infinitely more hairy Matt Lindland is coaching college wrestling in Lincoln and dreaming of breaking into the burgeoning no holds barred fighting scene. Only problem is, he doesn’t really know how to get started, so when he happens upon former Iowa wrestler Royce “The Farmer” Alger (who is about to make his debut at UFC 13) at a local watering hole, he takes the opportunity to ask him for some pointers. Being a wrestler, you can imagine Alger giving Lindland his best Clint Eastwood stare and then telling him, “Don’t bother, kid.”
"He was like ‘Oh, you can’t do this. You wouldn’t be any good at it,’" Lindland remembers. "I kind of said, ‘Okay, but I think I want to give it a shot.’ You know, thanks for the non-advice. But then he just kept going on and on about how Greco guys couldn’t do this. I was just looking at him like, are you drunk or something? It was a weird conversation.”
Finally, after tolerating all he could handle of the obvious disrespect, Linland makes Alger a simple offer: “I told him, ‘I would fight you right here, right now,’” he says.
Alger scoffs at this notion, telling Lindland that as a self-respecting professional he only fights for money these days. Big mistake. Lindland naturally, responds by saying "No problem," pulling out his wallet and slapping all his cash on the bar. “I went in there and laid it all down on the counter,” he says. “He just kind of laughed and walked away."
In other words: Point taken.
A few months later, Lindland got the opportunity to make his actual MMA debut as part of a 32-man tournament in a now defunct organization somewhere in Alabama. The only training he did for the event was to compete in a wrestling tourney at heavyweight. The rest, he thought, would come naturally. "I figured boxing was just punching people," he says. "I’d punched people before."
We bet he had. Anyway, Lindland ended up forcing his first-ever opponent into a stoppage in such quick fashion that the dude got up complaining that the fight shouldn’t have been called off so fast. How do you think Lindland responded to that? “I told him to go back to his corner and we’d start over," he says. And so they did. And Lindland won again.
When that happens it’s a pretty good indication that you might be a fighter. You may also be Matt Lindland. Alger, as you know, went on to go 0-2 in the UFC (3-2 overall) conceding an arm bar loss to Enson Inoue at UFC 13 and knockout to Eugene Jackson at UFC 21.