The primary focus for UFC 92 is on the “big three” bouts featuring Forrest Girffin defending his UFC light heavyweight title vs. Rashad Evans; Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira defending his interim UFC heavyweight title vs. Frank Mir; and Wanderlei Silva and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson fighting for the third time.
However, there’s an overlooked match that is scheduled to be televised on this weekend’s pay-per-view with plenty of history behind it, as former Junior College wrestling standout Mike Massenzio will seek revenge against amateur wrestling rival C.B. Dollaway.
Massenzio lost to Dollaway at the Junior College National Championships several years ago and spent the next year of his life preparing for redemption. Unfortunately, Dollaway never advanced to the finals and Massenzio’s opportunity for revenge was lost.
But fate has strange way of working as Massenzio will finally get a chance to avenge his previous loss. However, instead of taking place on a mat, Massenzio and Dollaway are set to have their rematch inside the Octagon in a televised main card attraction this Saturday at UFC 92.
FiveOuncesOfPain.com was granted exclusive access to Massenzio courtesy of RotoExperts.com just days before he was scheduled to leave for Vegas in anticipation of the fight and the transcription of our conversation is now available.
Sam Caplan: You made quick work against Drew McFedries in your UFC debut this past September at UFC Fight Night 15. Did you experience any nervousness coming into the fight?
Mike Massenzio: Obviously when you’re involved in any type of fight there is going to be some nerves. If you’re not nervous before a fight then there’s something wrong. But I’ve been competing my whole entire life having wrestled since I was four years old so the crowd really didn’t bother me at all. I just wanted to make sure I went out there and gave it everything I could and came out on top.
Sam Caplan: Prior to the UFC, you had competed once for the IFL but had primarily fought on regional shows. What was the UFC experience like in comparison to the regional fights you had been involved with? I assume there was a noticeable difference.
Mike Massenzio: Oh, without a doubt. I experienced the difference days before I had even fought when I had gotten to the hotel. Things were just done so professionally. It’s the biggest and best stage in the world and it’s just an honor to even be fighting there. It was very surreal. It was almost like a dream. It was a world of difference.
Sam Caplan: I assume like most professional athletes, you believe in your abilities. But were even you surprised you were able to finish a solid vet like McFedries in just 1:28?
Mike Massenzio: Any fight I go into I prepare the same way whether a guy is 1-10 or 10-1 or 20-0. I go in there as if they are a world champion. I go in there knowing they are going to try and tear my head off and that they’re going to try and beat me. I know I have to give it everything I can.
I planned for the long haul; I planned as if it was going to be a war. It was just that my goal was to try and get the job done as quick as possible and go out there apply pressure and not stop coming at him. Just come at him full blast. That’s what I did and the outcome was in my favor.
Sam Caplan: Your next opponent, C.B. Dollaway, beat you in the JUCO finals and you trained like a madman for a shot at redemption the following year but you never got that chance. Was it a coincidence that you were offered this fight, or was it something your camp campaigned for?
Mike Massenzio: Honestly it’s just karma. Things happen for a reason. I don’t lose very often and when he beat me he was the better man on that day and I don’t take anything away from him because he’s a great competitor. But I trained every day of my life with him in my mind and I wanted to beat him. When I didn’t get that chance, I thought that my shot was gone. But once I saw him fighting in the UFC, I even said to my managers, “You know, I’d love to fight this guy again. I would love to get this guy one more time.” And then when I got the phone call, it just seems like everything happens for a reason.
Sam Caplan: Is there any personal animosity towards him or is this simply a professional rivalry?
Mike Massenzio: Oh no, it’s nothing personal. The guy is a great athlete and I have nothing against him. All I know is that he beat me and it’s not fun to lose. I don’t like losing and I know that I could have beaten him. I feel like I am the better man but that on that day he was better than me. No one likes to lose and I just want to get my revenge. I just want redemption.
Sam Caplan: Dollaway actually gets paid by his camp to train and word has it that Team Bombsquad has a similar arrangement with its fighters. I wanted to know if that’s true and if so, what’s that like for a fighter to have that security?
Mike Massenzio: They help me out as much as they can. They do what they can to help me out. It’s just that I’m able to train full-time. Bombsquad is my management team and I also own my own mixed martial arts academy, Ironhorse Mixed Martial Arts in Garfield, New Jersey. It’s just a great thing to be able to train full-time. In order to be the best in this sport you have to do it full-time.
You have to train full-time because there are just so many aspects to this game. The sport has evolved and you really have to put 100 percent into it. That includes hours and hours and hours of training. I put an unlimited amount of time into training so that I can be the best I can possibly be.
Sam Caplan: You just mentioned that it’s a must to train full-time in order to be a lasting success in this industry. However, due to the financial constraints for a fighter starting at the entry level of the UFC, the pay really isn’t good enough for a guy to have the luxury to quit his job and focus solely on training. As a pro fighter trying to work your way up the ranks, would it even be possible to consider training full-time if it wasn’t for the help of Bombsquad or your sponsors?
Mike Massenzio: Before I even took Bombsquad on as my management company I was still training full-time. It’s about how bad you want it. If you want to get there and you want to get there fast, you’ve got to sacrifice. When I first started doing this I had nowhere to live. I had nothing. I quit my job and knew that I was going to struggle.
I wanted to be the best and money is great; I want to be a millionaire but my dream is that I want to be the UFC world champion. And I know in my heart I know that I would do anything to get there. I lived off of nothing for pretty much the good part of my career. I lived in a small little basement apartment where sometimes the electric wasn’t working and I didn’t even have enough money to put food in my mouth. I just had the dream of becoming a world champion in my head and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from getting to this.
Sam Caplan: Now that you’re fighting for the UFC, how much more interest are you getting from sponsors?
Mike Massenzio: A lot more. Sponsors aren’t going to just mess with anyone, they want the best guys. I knew that coming into the sport a couple of years ago and now that I’m in the big show, I’m doing well and people want to help out more.
Sam Caplan: For this upcoming fight, are there any sponsors you’d like to thank?
Mike Massenzio: I pretty much just want to thank everyone; from sponsors, to Bombsquad, to everyone at my camp. Edson Carvalho from Team Edson Carvalho Jiu-Jitsu; Barry Porter from Faceoff Boxing; Hector from RotoExperts.com; and just anyone who believes in me.
Sam Caplan: Sources have told us that the UFC approached your camp several times about being on TUF, most notably TUF 7. Why did you choose to break into the UFC the old fashioned way as opposed to doing it through reality TV?
Mike Massenzio: Personally, I felt I was doing well in my career and I didn’t feel I had to use the show in order to (get into the UFC). I felt that I would be able to get in there (on my own). I also had fought three times in a row right before the season was casting and I had a couple of injuries I wanted to take care of. The biggest thing is that I didn’t want to go into that show and be a little bit injured and not have a good performance and never get a shot again.
Sam Caplan: If you were on TUF 7, do you feel like you would have won?
Mike Massenzio: Yeah, without a doubt. I feel like I could have won the show. C.B. was in there and I would have ended up seeing him a lot earlier and I feel I could have done very well. In my heart, I know that I could have beaten a lot of those guys and I feel that I could have made a lot of noise on that show.