Seth Petruzelli’s last-minute promotion to the main event of EliteXC and CBS’ Saturday Night Fights this past weekend was not his opportunity at major exposure. In addition to fighting twice for the UFC, Petruzelli is also a veteran of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality show on Spike TV. He also fought in a well-publicized fight in Japing in 2004 for K-1 against former Chicago Bears offensive lineman Bob “The Beast” Sapp.
I initially felt that Petruzelli’s huge opportunities might be nothing more than a case of good timing. However, after conducting a full legth interview with him, it was easy to see that the guy is definitely not short on personality and that there’s probably a reason why he’s been put in front of lots of people on CBS, Spike TV, and the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.
Below is a full transcript of the interview Petruzelli conducted with FiveOuncesOfPain.com.
Sam Caplan: After the 104.1 interview, did anyone from ProElite or EliteXC contact you?
Seth Petruzelli: No, not at all. Honestly, when I woke up in the morning my words were jumbled and obviously my head was in a daze from drinking (laughs) the entire night. Reading the transcript, I actually now feel I worded it perfectly in what I wanted to say. I wanted to keep the fight standing and they offered a knockout bonus and I wanted to get the knockout bonus.
Sam Caplan: So all of the conspiracy theorists going around demanding an investigation and accusing you of having accepted a bribe are crazy?
Seth Petruzelli: Yeah, it’s pretty ridiculous. It’s always going to be crazy ass people after every fight, especially at this level, people are going to say all sorts of crazy stuff. But no, it’s been blown way out of proportion. (Laughs) I just wanted a knockout bonus and that’s pretty much it.
Sam Caplan: Regarding the knockout bonus, the bout agreement shows you were paid a total of $50,000 and that $35,000 of it was your guarantee and the remaining $15,000 was a win bonus. During the radio interview, you mentioned you received over six figures for the fight. What does the difference account for?
Seth Petruzelli: The knockout bonus was the additional money. And my sponsors — I added my sponsors in there too for it. So it was a knockout bonus plus my sponsorships that I got.
Sam Caplan: Would you have received a bonus had you submitted Kimbo?
Seth Petruzelli: Yes. There were submission bonuses, knockout bonuses, and a “Fight of the Night” bonus — just like the UFC does it. They just want an exciting fight no matter where it goes.
Sam Caplan: Did the submission bonus pay the same as the knockout bonus?
Seth Petruzelli: Yes. Every bonus is the same.
Sam Caplan: You’ve fought in the UFC and I’ve heard from fighters that have competed in the UFC that during rules meetings it’s not uncommon for a UFC official at the end to stress to the fighters that they expect to see exciting fights. When you were there did you ever hear anything like that prior to a fight card and at any point prior to your fight with Kimbo did EliteXC or ProElite give you a similar speech?
Seth Petruzelli: At the rules meetings, either Dana White, Joe Silva, or someone like that will come in and say “Hey, you guys are getting an opportunity, so make it exciting.” And that’s when he usually announces what the amounts are for the knockout and submission bonuses and that sort of thing. And actually that’s not even how it is with Elite. Elite never mentioned anything like that. UFC said that but Elite didn’t. They just mentioned the bonuses (and) they never said that you had to perform or anything like that.
Sam Caplan: What did you think of the whole Shamrock thing? You even felt compelled during the post-fight press conference to thank him. There are just a lot of questions about the nature in which he was medically disqualified.
Seth Petruzelli: The commission had to physically see him in person. He had to come in so they could examine him. It was legit. I mean, he had three or four stitches over his eye and they wouldn’t let him fight. He seemed pretty upset about it. I know that every night he was there he was seen training with two big ass guys so it’s not far-fetched that he got poked in the eye.
Sam Caplan: If you were in that spot and there was a six-figure payday at stake, and say you had gotten cut the day of the fight, would you have gone to the hospital or would have you not gotten the stitches and gotten it glued –
Seth Petruzelli: (Interrupts) Oh yeah, I would have glued it shut and probably not said a word. But then again, I don’t know. If I wouldn’t have said anything and then they saw it there they might have been more upset at the fact that you didn’t mention something and that you tried to sneak it by them. I guess you’re pretty much screwed either way at that point. You can’t blame him for what he did, I guess.
Sam Caplan: Do you think Ken would have beaten Kimbo?
Seth Petruzelli: Uhhh… my heart was pulling for him, let’s put it that way. I really wanted him to win.
Sam Caplan: But you don’t think he would have?
Seth Petruzelli: It would have been an extremely tough fight. If it would have got it to the ground and would have shot in on him and done what I know he could have done, he would have beat him easily, yes. If he would have traded him, he could have caught Kimbo. I mean, anybody can lose. It would have been a tough fight but I was really pulling for him.
Sam Caplan: What’s your contract status with EliteXC? If the UFC and Dana White wanted to do business with you again would they be able to promote your next fight?
Seth Petruzelli: No, I don’t even know if I would want to. EliteXC has taken care of me very well. I signed a four fight deal with Elite but obviously I am going to try and re-negotiate for more money and things like that. But outside of that they’ve taken care of me, they’ve been extremely nice, and they’ve just been great to work with. I have no reason to go anywhere else.
Sam Caplan: Has EliteXC given you any indication about what might be next for you? And do you have a preference at competing at light heavyweight or heavyweight?
Seth Petruzelli: The only thing that’s in my head right now is if I want to go back up to heavyweight or go up to light heavyweight. I could do both. That’s something I think I want to take my time with and figure out. I’ve been pretty much undefeated as a heavyweight and when I’ve dropped to 205 that’s where I’ve had my couple of losses. That’s something I’ve got to think about, for sure.
Sam Caplan: I believe EliteXC has an opening on Nov. 8 for a light heavyweight bout vs. Rafael Feijao. There has been talk of him competing for a title. I know you mentioned interest in fighting Tito Ortiz for the light heavyweight title but would you have any interest fighting Feijao for the title and coming back early next month?
Seth Petruzelli: It’s kind of short but I would have no problems doing it. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do for them. I don’t think they want me to fight until after the New Year, but we’ll see what happens. But I don’t see myself fighting again until the beginning of 2009.
Sam Caplan: Your fight vs. Kimbo wasn’t the first time you competed against a major media sensation. In 2004, you competed against Bob Sapp in a K-1 kickboxing match. How did you do in that fight and did that experience help you at all this past Saturday?
Seth Petruzelli: The thing about Bob Sapp was that he was hyped to all hell. Giant guy. Huge in Japan. And it’s funny because if it had been MMA, the fight would have actually ended the same way (as the Kimbo fight). I caught him the exact same way, right on the chin. I knocked him out in 29 seconds. If it had been MMA, I would have jumped on top of him and all out punched him but obviously it was K-1, so you get a standing eight count — which was actually more like a standing 15 count for him. And then the doctor stopped it like 10 seconds after that because I had a stinger in my arm and I couldn’t swing with my right hand whatsoever. So it was ruled a doctor’s stoppage, which was kind of crappy. But as far as the fanfare of that, it was almost the same type of thing.
Sam Caplan: Are there any similarities between Sapp and Kimbo?
Seth Petruzelli: (Laughs) Yeah, they’re two gigantic black guys (joking).
Sam Caplan: I guess I should have phrased that differently. I mean aside from that, Sapp seemed like a guy who never really wanted to fight and was just doing it for the money and never lived up to the hype. Do you feel like there’s any substance to Kimbo?
Seth Petruzelli: No, there is. Both Sapp and Kimbo are super-awesome guys. Sapp was the nicest guy in the world to talk to before and after. Kimbo was extremely humble and nice after so I see Kimbo bouncing back from this. I think that he wants to become a well-rounded fighter and I see him learning and trying to better himself. I don’t see him just trying to make his money and then quit. I think he’s in it for the long run.
Sam Caplan: In your post-fight interview you mentioned that you backed up at the opening of the fight because Kimbo came at you like a truck. Were you intimidated by his aura at all or did you have total confidence you were going to beat him?
Seth Petruzelli: I had total confidence. I said in a couple of other interviews that as soon as I saw him on the screen and talking about Ken Shamrock backing out and his feelings that he was going to fight me, I could see he was visibly nervous and disturbed so at that point I got a lot of confidence. Yeah, it’s always intimidating to see a giant guy rush at you like that but at no point was I scared to get hurt or anything like that. If anything it’s a worry of losing and disappointing people, not about getting hurt.
Sam Caplan: I also couldn’t help but notice that you were dancing to Kimbo’s music. Were you just trying to keep things light at that point or were you trying to get into Kimbo’s head?
Seth Petruzelli: It was a little bit of both. You know, I never listen to rap music. I’m more a classic rock type of person so I thought it would be funny for me to dance to that type of stuff and getting out there and having fun with it and riling the crowd up and getting into Kimbo’s head. So all of the above, pretty much. I was just trying to have a good time.
Sam Caplan: Can you talk about the aftermath? That was a pretty crazy scene around the cage with Kimbo’s crew. At any point were you concerned for your safety?
Seth Petruzelli: Oh yeah, 100 percent. Afterwards, and I didn’t know it at the time, but my wife had got threatened a few times. My corner had got threatened a few times. I had stuff thrown at me from the crowd. As soon as I had got done circling and screaming, the athletic commission told me I had to calm down because the crowd was getting crazy. So I calmed down and said listen, “You’ve got to get me out of here.” And I kind of started to get worried about my well-being at that point (laughs).
Sam Caplan: Did the threats against your wife and your corner come from Kimbo’s fans or his corner?
Seth Petruzelli: It was some of his posse that was around the cage. Not all of them were like that but there were a few that were talking some crap that I wasn’t very happy about.
Sam Caplan: (Laughs) Do you have any idea what they possibly could have been mad at you about aside from doing your job?
Seth Petruzelli: I have no idea. I heard this one kid, he kept saying “You cheated! You cheated! You cheated!” (Laughs) And I’m like, how the hell did I cheat!? I mean, what are you talking about!?
Sam Caplan: The Kimbo fight was your first fight in almost a year. You mentioned in the post-fight interview that you started a business while you were away. Can you tell us more about that?
Seth Petruzelli: I took a year off putting up a Smoothie King franchise with my wife here in Winter Springs (Florida). It’s doing all sorts of business. Things are going great. We’re opening our second Smoothie King is downtown Orlando within a few months. So I’ve got to think of life past fighting. It’s definitely a good investment and if anyone wants to meet me, I’m there all the time. I’ll make you a smoothie (laughs).
Sam Caplan: I assume the win has helped business?
Seth Petruzelli: Yeah, I’ve gotten notes dropped off at the place and all sorts of stuff. I’ve been there like 15 minutes since, just because I didn’t want to go in and see everybody yet but I’ve endless day of phone calls and all sorts of stuff.
Sam Caplan: When you walked away to start the business, did you think that maybe you might be walking away from MMA for good?
Seth Petruzelli: No, I always knew I would be back. I wanted to take a little break to get some investments started so that way when the money wasn’t coming in from fighting that I’d still have money. You can’t fight forever and you’ve got to live off what you do. But I always had plans to come back. Things have never been as big as they are now. Now it’s definitely going to be more of a full-time thing and not so much a part-time thing.