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When Good Friends Trade Bad Intentions

(Let’s hope that when Evan Dunham fights a friend, he stops after he hears the first crack.)

by Cage Potato contributor Matt Kaplan

The potential UFC 115 lightweight match-up between Evan Dunham and Tyson Griffin – both from the Xtreme Couture camp – has MMA’s spirited fan base once again weighing in on the topic of teammate vs. teammate.

As expected, reactions range from the pragmatic (‘It’s their job to fight.’) to the more provisional (‘No way, unless it’s for a title or a title shot.’). Neither a title shot nor top-contender status is on the line for Dunham vs. Griffin, but UFC brass has nonetheless matched two training partners against one another, just like it has said it would.

As the debate over teammate vs. teammate continues to spiral off into its natural oblivion, I reached out to a few fighters – including Dunham and Dan Lauzon, who is set to face former training partner Efrain Escudero at UFC 114 – to get their thoughts about having to stand across the cage from a guy they usually have in their corner.

Evan Dunham
“Tyson [Griffin]’s a great guy, a great training partner, and a friend of mine, but we’re both in a business where we’re both trying to get as far as we can in the rankings. To hear that was a little disappointing, but I took it as a compliment because I have a lot of respect for Tyson, and to be paired up with him is bittersweet. I want to fight tough guys, but to fight your training partner is tough.

“I talked with him on the phone before either one of us signed, and we came to the conclusion that it is what it is, and we’ll be training partners and friends afterwards. So we’ll get in there and get paid for beating each other up – instead of just doing it in practice.

“This really hasn’t caused any problems at all because before we signed I told Tyson I’d be willing to go somewhere else and do my camp at a different camp. He’s been at Xtreme [Couture] longer, and he kinda helped bring me in, so I volunteered to get training somewhere else. But when the fight’s over, that next Monday, I plan on being right back at Randy’s.”

Dan Lauzon
“Facing Efrain [Escudero] is going to be a little awkward, fighting my former training partner. I did three hard training camps with him. Two of the times it was me and him both getting ready for fights in RITC, the other was getting Drew Fickett ready for his fight with Kurt Pelligrino.

“We know so much about each other’s game. I feel my game has changed so much since we trained together and I feel his game has stepped up, in a sense he’s gotten so much better at everything he does, but he still has that strong wrestling base.

“For some people it may be hard to punch a friend, for me, this is a sport, I train with my own brother on a regular basis and have no problem punching him in the mouth, so I won’t have a problem punching Efrain. It’s just going to be a little awkward, but I want to win and I know he wants to win. I know he’s not going to be pulling any punches and neither will I.”

Jake Shields
“There’s no real threat of me and Nick [Diaz] fighting each other [for the Strikeforce welterweight championship]. We’ve been friends for eight, nine years, and we always help each other prepare for a fight. There are always other people out there. There would be no reason for us to fight – (laughs) unless they want to give us some ridiculous amount of money.”

Mike Pyle
“You can’t turn it down. You can’t go and have yourself a nice six-fight win streak, and now you have to give it up because your boy has the title.”

Wilson Gouveia
“Honestly, I don’t want to fight a teammate. That’s common sense, but that’s what I do for a living. My training partners, my friends, that’s what we do. If we have to fight, then we have to fight. It’s no choice. We work for a company, and if this company tells us to do this, we gotta do it. That’s how we make our money and pay our bills.”

Jim Miller
“It’s a weird thing. I can’t imagine training with someone every day and then having to go fight him. But someone I only train with once or twice a week – like Frankie [Edgar] – everybody talks about that: ‘When do you want to avenge your loss to Frankie?’ We train together once or twice a week, he’s a great training partner, he’s a friend of mine, but if it has to happen, we prefer it to come down to that; we’re one and two in the division, and it has to happen. I have no problem with that. We’ll mix it up, we’ll put on a show, and then we’ll go and have a beer together afterward.”

Gray Maynard
“I’ve got a boss, of course, and he tells us, ‘Hey, this is it,’ and you just kinda have to agree, you know? Do I want to? No. Do I have to as of now? No, and I’m glad.

“If it ever had to happen, hopefully it would be for a championship. I’ve been training since I was three, and [Tyson Griffin]’s also being going at it for a long time. Obviously [a championship] is our goal, and who am I to say, ‘Hey, man, let’s not do it’? It’s our goal. If we had to do it, of course, but I’d like to put it off for as long as I can.

“We take trips, we hang out, he knows my dad and mom, stuff like that, and you just get to the point where you’re really close. I get nervous as hell every time he scraps; I want him to win so bad. Jay Heiron, [Mike] Pyle, all those guys. I want them to win so bad.”

Matt Lindland
“I don’t think that’s something either [Dan Henderson or I] are anticipating or looking forward to, but I don’t want to rule out anything. I think it would have to be worth our while for both of us to do it, and I just don’t know if anyone really wants to see that fight. If that was something the fans were dying to see, and we could each make a lot of money doing it, that would have to be something we’d discuss.”


So there you have it, a definitively inconclusive sample of reactions to the idea of teammate vs. teammate. With Griffin vs. Dunham signed and set for delivery in a few short months, the hypothetical ‘What if?’ has finally become an actual ‘Now what?’ Let the fantasy teammate vs. teammate matchmaking begin.

Cagepotato Comments

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mma samurai- March 2, 2010 at 2:13 am
The bottom line is this; friend or no friend how many people would pass on a title shot regardless of who's holding it? If you would pass on the belt just because your buddy is the champ then get the hell out of the sport. The belt is around his waist and his waist alone. Does he loan it out to you on the weekends? Are you just content to ride off his success until he loses the belt then say "I want a title shot"? I'm not saying it's easy but it's a reality of the business. Everyone trains with everyone anymore. So more than likely at some point in your career you'll have to face a current or former training partner. That's just the nature of the business. All those butt buddy WW's at AKA need to read this article and step up. You punch your boy in the face in training and slap on that armbar on a daily basis. At least if you do it for the UFC you're getting a paycheck to go with it.
MK- March 1, 2010 at 2:29 pm
Shields absolutely plans on going to 170: “I think I’ll end up dropping back down, and if it weren’t for my good friend Nick Diaz holding the belt below, I’d like to try and hold both [the welterweight and middleweight] belts at once.”
ghostboner- March 1, 2010 at 2:14 pm
Got to agree with steampunk on this one. It seemed pretty clear that if there was a title, title shot, or huge amount of cash on the line these guys all indicated that they would fight their pals.
However, I definitely think GSP had a point with his statement. When it is just a grappling match it is one thing, but when it is time to get brutal, or if a sub is applied and someone decides not to tap and it is time to break a limb it could be a difficult choice to make. If you knew the dudes wife and kids could you knowingly crank a heel hook and tear his knee apart?
That Guy- March 1, 2010 at 12:00 pm
Best answer I ever heard on this subject came from Rampage when asked about fighting Tito. I'm paraphrasing but it was something like, "If there was a chance to make a lot of money together I wouldn't be a friend if I turned it down."
ReX13- March 1, 2010 at 10:50 am

Wait, when does the week end? Also, i didn't recieve an English-language ballot, and the format is rather hard to follow...**confused**
steampunk22- March 1, 2010 at 10:46 am

My vote for comment of the week. Nice on man lol
PurplePickle- March 1, 2010 at 10:27 am
They should start some kind of team based fight league, that would solve all of this bickering about fighting your bro. Yeah and take it international too. I bet it would be a huge success.

skeletor- March 1, 2010 at 10:24 am
Fitch v Koscheck, that's the fight that needs to happen. Both these guys claim to be the number one cntender, both have gotten handled by the champ, and both have nowhere to go in the division but up. There skills are pretty similar with Kos holding a slight edge in the striking game. Plus with Kos being a huge d-bag and Fitch dry humping his way to decision wins, anytime I can watch either of them lose is a good night for me. And this is the only way to garuntee that will happen. I used to lump Swick into this exact equation but he's all but taken himself out of the title picture on his own.
Lysol- March 1, 2010 at 10:21 am
Da Spied Her Says:
Mon, 03/01/2010 - 09:13
I was in the Army, and my sergeant told me to shoot my friend. So I did, because it's my job and I do what I'm told to do.


If you are what I think you are...

You are very brave and courageous to be using the interwebz all by yourself. A lot of hateful, sick people will put you down, saying that you aren't qualified for this ability. Well, let me tell you, you most certainly are. Keep on fighting the system, and God bless you for inspiring us all.

If you are not what I think you are...

You should try to not sound like a complete fucking retard when you post on here.
DazedNConfused- March 1, 2010 at 10:17 am
Its just part of the fight business. As camps get bigger and bigger, and more talented people all start training in similiar headquarters your eventually going to have to fight someone you like. When your making some pretty good money (most of the time) then I would say you should probably do so. Maybe dont throw that extra punch when the KO is already apparent but enough of this "I WILL NEVER FIGHT HIM" shit. Seriously?
steampunk22- March 1, 2010 at 9:51 am

We agree that the bigger fighters have more bargaining chips, and thats why it hasn't, and most likely wont, happen. Plus its a lot easier to turn down fights when you're making 100k+ between events instead of 10k+.
steampunk22- March 1, 2010 at 9:49 am
^^We've already talked about Silva vs. Machida, ad infinitum. What I'm saying is, this isn't necessarily indicative of things to come. And I meant Silva and Machida more as an example of name recognition.

Throwing two smaller name fighters, who are friends, against each other is do-able by the UFC because these guys can't argue. Throwing two big name fighters, who are friends, is a little different because they have a little more control, they are more likely in a position to turn DOWN fights, etc.

My point is that I don't think this is sign that the times they are a changin'. The likelihood if two big name fighters, who are good friends/training partners or whatever, is still pretty low.

The little guys have nothing to bargain with, need the check, simple as that. Evan Dunham was only paid out 18k (granted he got a SOTN as well) for his last fight in Jan. and his next fight is going to be at UFC 115 at the end of June, almost six months away. Check is a check for some of these guys. I don't think we should jump all over it saying that so and so is going to fight so and so.

We've already had most of those talks, and I don't think anything is different now, in all honesty.

But that the fuck do I know? lol :)
Deathb4tapout- March 1, 2010 at 9:48 am
What Da Spied meant to say was

Da Spied Her Says:
I was in the Gay porn business, and my Director told me to blow my brother. So I did, because it's my job and I do what I'm told to do.
Phattousai- March 1, 2010 at 9:43 am
Fedor Vs. Jerry Millen. I would pay to see it and it would be slightly more competitive that Sims/Sylvia would have been.
ReX13- March 1, 2010 at 9:23 am
steampunk22 says
"We're not exactly talking about Silva vs. Machida here."

Isn't that exactly what we're talking about? You're right, i don't think this is a riveting plotline to anyone; Dunham v/s Griffinjust isn't that big. On the other hand, Silva has said repeatedly he won't fight Machida. I'm very interested to see how that would play out, but i suspect that Silva would take his ball and go home if White tried to push him into a match.
honkey_kong- March 1, 2010 at 9:20 am
GSP has a good quote on this. Something along the lines of "when its time to through elbows from the top and try to cut someone open, how can i go for that 100% when its a friend." Also, it divides up the training camp and puts other fighters and coaches in akward positions.

As a fan I don't give two shits about what these guys think of each other, but I can definitely understand why they wouldn't want to do it. I just hope they don't expect any favors. This is a business and if they don't wanna take big fights they're gonna lose out on the career advancement and money that goes along with taking the fight.
TheGreenBlurr- March 1, 2010 at 9:19 am
and the sergeant gets charged for murder and not you.
ReX13- March 1, 2010 at 9:18 am
Da Spied Her>> FAIL. On multiple levels. As a member of the armed forces, i cordially invite you to perform an impossible act of reproduction on your own person.
steampunk22- March 1, 2010 at 9:17 am
For one, teammate vs teammate 'fantasy' matchmaking wasn't exactly waiting around for this before it could be talked about. Its hypothetical so it doesn't matter.

Two, are you being sarcastic? How is that inconclusive? Seems like everyone pretty much agrees they don't want to, but they will.

Also, Shields comment is moot because he fights at middleweight not at welterweight, with neither him nor Diaz both expressing any desire to change classes again.

Thirdly, I will be a LOT more interested when its two fighters that actually have some sway in the organization and are in a position to protest the matchup, not two fighters who have to take what they are given no matter what because if they don't fight, no one gives a shit

. We're not exactly talking about Silva vs. Machida here.

My two cents. Pre morning coffee. ;)
Da Spied Her- March 1, 2010 at 9:13 am
I was in the Army, and my sergeant told me to shoot my friend. So I did, because it's my job and I do what I'm told to do.