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Interview: Casey Oxendine Explains Why Hip Show Is an Evolution in Combat Sports, Not a Freak Show


(Props: AXS TV)

You may know Casey Oxendine as the MMA: Inside the Cage co-host with the most hated-on goatee in sports media. (If that doesn’t ring a bell, maybe you remember the “referee KO’s cornerman after fight” video we posted a while back. Yep, that was him too.) A longtime crusader for MMA regulation and awareness both locally and globally, Casey has signed on as co-host and American promoter for Hip Show: Arena Combat, the Russian 2-on-2 fight league that will make its North American broadcast debut on AXS TV this Friday, March 14th.

Although Hip Show has been building a strong fanbase in Russia since 2012, not everybody is on board with team-based MMA on an obstacle course. When we first announced our sponsorship of the 3/14 broadcast, we were hit with numerous negative comments from readers who called Hip Show a “spectacle,” “freak-show crap,” and ”absolutely unacceptable to anyone who respects combat sports.” We called up Casey last week to discuss why team-fighting isn’t as crazy as it seems, the irony of MMA fans calling it a novelty act, and his current efforts to hold Hip Show events in the U.S.

Whether you think Hip Show looks badass or you think it’s a sign of the end-times, please tune in to AXS TV this Friday night at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT and give it a chance. (You can also follow the league on Twitter and Facebook.) Now on to the interview…

CAGEPOTATO: How did you and Cyrus Fees get this gig in the first place? Did you approach Hip Show to work on an English-language broadcast, or did they approach you?

CASEY OXENDINE: We saw Hip Show about a year ago, and we were like, “Wow, this is the craziest thing we’ve ever witnessed in our lives.” We started to get in contact with them because of our show MMA: Inside the Cage — we wanted to cover it, and to talk with them about exactly what we were seeing. They wanted to take this thing bigger than just Russia, where it’s been extremely popular. So through that course of action, we began repackaging a lot of their first-season footage into episodes and so forth to get it aired here in America, so that the English-speaking [market] could understand what was going on. From there, it evolved into what it is now.

We got in touch with [AXS TV Fights CEO] Andrew Simon — Cyrus had worked as a ring announcer for XFC on AXS TV — Andrew took a look at it and he’s like, “Man, this is really cool.” Then Andrew cleared it through Mark Cuban himself, which was really neat, and they said, “Go for it. We’re going to give you a two-hour special, let’s show the world what this is all about.”

What made you think that Hip Show had the potential to be more than just a novelty act?

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Interview: UFC 169′s Al Iaquinta Discusses His Journey From Wrestling to MMA, Training With the Serra-Longo Crew, And ‘The Ultimate Fighter’


(Iaquinta lands on Piotr Hallman during their bout at UFC Fight Night 30 in October. / Photo via Getty)

By Shawn W. Smith

Armed with a thick Long Island accent and a 5-1-1 pro record, Al Iaquinta joined the cast of the first live Ultimate Fighter in 2012. He stormed through the competition, defeating Jon Tuck, Myles Jury, Andy Ogle and Vinc Pichel en route to the finals, where he fell short to Michael Chiesa.

What many thought would be a difficult matchup for him in his next UFC appearance turned out to be his coming out party, as Iaquinta decisively beat on Ryan Couture for three rounds at UFC 164. A follow-up win over Piotr Hallman established him as one of the many lightweight prospects to watch heading into 2014. His wrestling base with heavy hands is not unlike his Serra-Longo teammate Chris Weidman, who Iaquinta looks up to for inspiration in the gym.

At UFC 169, for the third time in six months, Iaquinta will take to the cage. This time he will take on the debuting Kevin Lee. A submission expert by trade, Lee presents some interesting challenge to Iaquinta, whose two professional losses both came by submission.

CagePotato caught up with Iaquinta ahead of his bout at UFC 169 this Saturday to get his thoughts on Lee, The Ultimate Fighter experience, and much more.

CAGEPOTATO.COM: How was your training camp for this fight?

AL IAQUINTA: Training’s been going good, same as usual. I’m here with Ray Longo and Matt Serra and the team, just getting ready. I’m ready to go. I’m chomping at the bit to get in there.

Does the terrible weather we’ve had in the Northeast make things difficult? At 20 degrees below zero, it must be challenging to get up and into the gym.

Yeah, definitely. It makes things a little difficult, but I kind of like it, going through training camp in the snow. It reminds me of wrestling season. If you go out for a run you’re all bundled up and getting through the elements. It kind of makes me feel like I’m in a Rocky movie. I’m thinking of all the things I’m doing to get ready for this fight and if he’s not doing that, it’s a big disadvantage.

When you have these constant camps in succession, three in the past six months, does it make it difficult to improve your skills?

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Shinya Aoki on Survival, Rebounding From Defeat, And How PRIDE Changed His Life [Tokyo Dispatch #1]


(“I’m honored that anyone would watch me fight, but my goal isn’t to appeal to people.” Photo via MMAWeekly)

By Elias Cepeda

If it wasn’t for his cauliflower ear and your knowing how a person gets such a proud deformity, Shinya Aoki is the type of fighter you’d never suspect was, in fact, a fighter, just from looking at him or speaking with him outside of training or competition. To the untrained eye, Aoki looks like just another Tokyo hipster or backpack kid — slight in frame, stylish, with thick-framed glasses.

Sure, he’s got a gravely, action-hero voice but it delivers extremely humble words, for the most part. Shinya Aoki always appeared to be a mild-mannered, soft-spoken person from the interviews I’d seen of him over the years.

As he sits in a conference room in a Tokyo high-rise on this rainy late December afternoon, nothing I see on the surface changes that perception. For a half hour, Aoki is warm, engaging, quick with a smile and nervous laughter.

In just over one week’s time, however, Aoki will be in a ring, attempting to snap another man’s arm in half. The only reason he will not is because the opponent will smartly tap out before his limb breaks.

Like many great fighters, Shinya Aoki flips a switch, so to speak, from Clark Kent to a kind of malevolent Superman when it comes time to compete. Not only has the ordinarily calm and friendly Aoki not hesitated to break the bones and tear the ligaments of opponents, throughout his career, he also isn’t above standing over their prone bodies and flipping them the bird, as he did to Mizuto Hirota in 2009.

The submission wizard and MMA veteran of over forty professional fights, knows exactly when he makes that shift from civilian to ruthless warrior.

“From the moment I get in line to make my entrance [to the cage or ring],” he says. “That’s when it switches.”

Aoki’s psychology going into a fight is simple and logical. In fact, it is the mindset one could easily imagine would develop in any other skinny teenager who started doing martial arts. Aoki may have developed into one of the world’s best fighters, but when he steps onto the mat, all that is on his mind is survival.

“When I’m out in normal street clothes, I’m a regular person,” he explains. “When I get in the ring, I’ve got to turn on that animal instinct. I’ve got to become a survivor. That’s what switches in my head.”

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Interview: Duke Roufus Discusses GLORY, The Pettis Brothers, And the Chaotic Art of Striking


(Roufus [at far left] with Sergio Pettis, Anthony Pettis, Ben Askren, and Roufusport BJJ coach Daniel Wanderley. Photo via Dave Mandel/Sherdog.)

By Elias Cepeda

Duke Roufus had an illustrious career as a kickboxer before becoming even more well-known as an MMA coach. In recent years, his highly regarded Roufusport camp has produced such talents as UFC champion Anthony Pettis, his younger brother Sergio, and former Bellator champ Ben Askren. In advance of the Glory 13 event in Tokyo this Saturday that Roufus is doing color commentary for, CagePotato sat down with him to look back on the twists and turns of his career, and look towards the future of some of his biggest stars.

CAGEPOTATO.COM: What would you say your role with Glory is, Duke? We hear and see you doing color commentary during events but when you were in Chicago last fall, you also had a big presence in all sorts of other pre-event activities.

DUKE ROUFUS: Well, about ten years ago they had me do color commentary for K-1 on pay-per-view broadcasts. This was really a natural progression when they came back with Glory. My role is that of a color commentator but I’m also just a huge kickboxing enthusiast. I love the sport. I’m just as big a fan as a participant.

We’ve always heard Joe Rogan talk about “K-1 level striking” in certain UFC fighters — meaning that a particular guy had great striking, so much so that he could survive in K-1, which was recognized as the top kickboxing promotion in the world. Has Glory replaced K-1 in that role?

Yeah, for sure. K-1 just struggled internally. Japanese kickboxing and MMA have had some internal issues. The guys from Glory have really stepped up. They are also huge kickboxing enthusiasts. Now, all the best fighters are fighting for Glory. We also did something similar to what MMA did with unified rules, and we’ve tried to set that up for kickboxing. We want to make it a fan-friendly fight. The fans can really tune in and enjoy the fights. We created a rule set that makes it fun for the fan.

As an expert kickboxer and one who knows Muay Thai so well, don’t you think that the Glory rules could be better, though? You have many fighters who have trained and competed under full Muay Thai rules — using elbows, using the clinch, using sweeps — and now they get to this point and they’re not allowed to use these effective weapons.

Well, with those things allowed, the tournaments would have a different outcome, that’s for sure. There would be more cuts from elbows and so more guys wouldn’t be able to move on in the tournament. And clinching is how you defend not getting elbowed.

The uneducated fan boos when the clinch happens. Uneducated MMA fans do the same thing when Jiu Jitsu happens in a fight. I understand clinching and the art of it. I understand trips and dumps. Unfortunately here in America, people want to see big punches and big kicks. It can be difficult to understand Muay Thai. Even the scoring is a little difficult to follow. Kickboxing is very similar to boxing. That makes it easy to follow.

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Matt Brown Details Back Injury, Plan for Recovery and How Carlos Condit Is Still on his Mind


(Brown smashes up Jordan Mein at UFC on FOX 7 in April. / Photo via Getty)

By Elias Cepeda

Last week, UFC welterweight contender Matt Brown herniated two discs in his back and was forced to pull out of his scheduled fight against Carlos Condit this Saturday at UFC on Fox 9. As he explained to CagePotato, he initially hoped a cortisone shot would help him feel well enough to fight, but that didn’t pan out.

Now, he’s benched from most physical activity for a month other than his therapy exercises. The good news is that if rehab goes well, Brown could be back training full contact in two months.

“The prognosis for me is basically that for one month I’ve got nothing but rehab. There’s no bending over to pick anything up and I can’t have any impact in any shape or form. No running. Nothing like any of those types of things,” Brown says.

“After two months, assuming rehab goes well, I’ll get a second cortisone shot and should be able to go full contact again.”

If Brown does his physical therapy to a ‘T’, he says he’s told that he should be able to avoid surgery on his back. Despite being so badly hurt, Brown says that he couldn’t bring himself to pull out of the fight on his own.

“I knew in my heart I wanted to do it,” he says.

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UFC on FOX 9 Interview: Matt Brown Discusses His Tough Road to the Top, And How MMA Saved His Life


(“I’ve been at the bottom. When I lost three in a row I thought I was cut for sure. I have no fear of that. I can look at it and say there’s worse things in life that could happen.” / Photo via Getty)

By Shawn Smith

A real-life Rocky if there ever was one, Matt Brown is not your typical MMA fighter. He didn’t wrestle in college and he doesn’t have the polished good looks that will land him on posters. He turned to mixed martial arts as a way out of a lifestyle that was killing him, and it has been anything but a smooth ride to the top of the UFC welterweight division. Three straight losses in 2010 had many, including him, questioning whether or not he was a UFC-caliber fighter.

Now with six straight wins in the UFC, Brown will get the most challenging opponent of his career. On December 14th at UFC on FOX 9, he’ll take on former title contender Carlos Condit in what is sure to be an explosive bout. We recently spoke to Matt to get his thoughts on the fight that could launch him into title contention, how MMA saved his life, his experience on TUF, what he thought about Georges St. Pierre‘s controversial win over Johny Hendricks, and so much more. Enjoy.

CAGEPOTATO.COM: What was it about mixed martial arts that drew you to the sport?

MATT BROWN: The first time I saw it was Tank Abbott way back in one of the first UFC events. That got me kind of interested. The first one that really got me was Sakuraba vs. Royce Gracie in Pride. I thought “man, this is freaking amazing.” It was something I wanted to be a part of in some way.

The draw is mainly the intensity and the authenticity of the sport. The UFC says it best: It’s as real as it gets. That’s a rare thing in life and in sport.

I find it funny you say Sakuraba and Gracie because they were so grappling-based and you’re more of a knockout guy.

At that time with the knowledge I had of MMA, Royce was unstoppable. He was the epitome of a UFC fighter. He was this mysterious guy who came in and did all these things that no one had seen before. It was amazing. The fact that [his fight against Sakuraba] lasted an hour and a half, it was like watching a movie. I don’t know what it was about that fight, but even to this day it’s a pretty amazing fight to me.

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[EXCLUSIVE] Bellator Champ Pat Curran Is Making the Most of His Short Window of Opportunity


(“The goal was to make a good living doing this and I’m already there. I want to see how far I can take it.” Photo via Esther Lin/MMAFighting)

By Elias Cepeda

Of late, much of the big news that comes from Bellator has to do with contract clauses and disputes, lawsuits and high-profile cancellations. Because of that, one can imagine it being difficult for a marquee Bellator fighter like Pat Curran to focus on simply doing his job well.

However, the featherweight champion insists that he doesn’t keep up on other people’s news and stays focused on what matters — fighting. “I don’t like to think about it too much,” he tells CagePotato.

“As a fighter I have a very short career window and I have to make the most of where I’m at right now. I’m on a main stage with a major organization that gives me the opportunity to stay busy and make a pretty decent living.”

Having a tough opponent in front of you can help a fighter keep focused as well and Curran has exactly that this Saturday at Bellator 106 when he defends his belt against Bellator Season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus.

“He’s very talented and very well rounded,” Curran says of the challenger.

“He throws a lot of straight, long punches and follows up with kicks. He does a very good job mixing up striking with wrestling. He’s good at clinching with guys and wearing them out. I’m definitely not just expecting a striking fight like I had with ‘Pitbull’ [Patricio Freire]. I’m prepared for anything. If it becomes a striking match, I’m ready for it. If it goes to the ground, I’m ready to mix it up.”

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UFC 164 Interview: After First Octagon Defeat, Ryan Couture Looks to Prove That He Belongs


(Photo via Getty)

By Elias Cepeda

Ryan Couture was on a roll. The lightweight had won four straight fights against progressively stiff competition in Strikeforce, earning a shot inside the UFC.

His first test inside the Octagon would be a tough one – Ultimate Fighter winner Ross Pearson last April. Many speculated that the son of MMA legend Randy Couture would be in over his head but the younger Couture actually came out and fought effectively against Pearson.

For one round, that is. Couture managed to stay safe, close the distance and take away Pearson’s striking weapons with a conservative but winning clinch strategy in the opening stanza, but in the second round the Brit connected with a big shot and stopped Ryan.

“We started out well,” Couture tells CagePotato.

“We had a good game plan and it worked in the first round but then he caught me in the second. He did what he needed to do.”

Couture says that cornering his father in past UFC fights helped him get his bearing a little bit but that fighting in the world’s top MMA promotion himself definitely felt different. “Totally different,” he admits.

“I was lucky to have my dad bring me into his corners a couple times so that I got sort of used to the scenery and environment but it’s a different thing when you’re the one whose hands are getting wrapped, when you’re the one in the co-main event. It’s hard to explain. Plus, I had a different corner than usual. My grappling coach wasn’t able to be there and he’s a big part of my process and success.”

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[EXCLUSIVE] Matt Brown Reflects on Becoming The UFC’s Unlikeliest Welterweight Contender


(Can Matt Brown keep rolling through the division’s elite? / Photo via Getty)

By Elias Cepeda

Since the beginning of 2012, UFC welterweight Matt Brown has won six consecutive fights, all but one by KO/TKO within the first two rounds. His most recent was a startlingly fast and violent knockout of the previously red-hot Mike Pyle in under thirty seconds this past Saturday at UFC Fight Night 26.

All of a sudden, Brown is more than a tough and exciting fighter — he’s the owner of the most impressive win streak in the division outside of Georges St. Pierre and Johny Hendricks, who meet one another with GSP’s title on the line in November.

Brown has been calling out the champion and, well, now it makes sense. CagePotato spoke with the contender Sunday while he celebrated with family far away from the lights that shone on him kindly in Boston during his latest victory.

“It’s weird, man,” Brown muses while sitting with kids playing and shouting around him. “Obviously, I’m real happy with the result but I do feel a little unfulfilled. It wasn’t the type of fight I prepared for at all. But you take what you can get, right?”

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Interview: A Healthy, Thankful Joe Lauzon Readies to Battle at Home in Boston Saturday Night


(Lauzon still carries a little reminder from his most recent war against Jim Miller. / Photo via Getty)

By Elias Cepeda

“I’m definitely excited and equally scared,” Joe Lauzon says while driving through some nasty Boston traffic this past Wednesday. On Saturday, the Massachusetts lightweight will fight in front of his home town at the Boston Garden on the UFC Fight Night 26 main card — but that isn’t what has Lauzon excited and scared.

The 29-year-old just found out that he and his girlfriend are expecting their first child together, a boy. “Obviously I want everything to go smooth and have a healthy kid. There’s all kinds of stuff to be worried about,” he confesses.

That’s Joe the expecting father talking. Joe the fighter doesn’t expect a child to change anything at all for him.

“Having a kid doesn’t change anything for me, fight wise. There’s a little bit with timing — I don’t want to fight right before or after he is born, but other than that…I train really hard and I fight really hard. I don’t think having a kid will change any of that,” he says.

So don’t expect platitudes from Lauzon about how being a dad adds or takes away from his motivation, as has often been said by other fighters. Joe likes to scrap, always had, always will.

And, after a pretty long lay-off, Lauzon has a good, tough bout ahead of him Saturday against the underrated Michael Johnson. 2012 saw Lauzon raise his star with a win and two Fight of The Year candidates, but he has yet to fight in 2013, choosing to let old injuries heal and wait for a chance to fight in Boston.

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