Photo via Strikeforce
Matt Lindland takes his coaching role very seriously.
You'd have to if you've helped prepare two men to challenge UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva in the last year.
A former UFC middleweight title challenger himself, Lindland, now in a state of semi-retirement from fighting, has had more opportunities to focus on teaching and advising others.
We discussed his role as a promoter for Sportfight and an adviser for Takedown Fight Media in part one of our interview posted yesterday. Today, in part two of our exclusive interview with MMAmania.com, Lindland talks Yushin Okami, Chael Sonnen and "keeping it real" in MMA.Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know you've been coaching for nearly 20 years now.
Matt Lindland: I started my coaching career in 1993 at Westland high school. One of my first coaching students I ever had, his name was Chael Sonnen and I started teaching him in 1993.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah that was one of the things I wanted to ask you about. Since you've gone to this next stage of everything, have you had more time to get involved with your coaching? More one on one drilling and teaching?
Matt Lindland: Yeah I have. I let go of a couple guys because I wanted to take a more hands on approach. Before I was more the man behind the scenes and now I've been working with guys individually more. I've been putting a lot of time in with Ryan Healy, who's in the main event for our show on Saturday. I don't just work with our guys too, I'm in charge of the kids program. Just tonight for example, I've got a private practice with Ryan Healy, then I'm running a team practice then after that I'll coach wrestling for an hour and then submission grappling class for beginners after that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah, and I thought it was pretty impressive what Chael Sonnen was able to do in the last fight especially after the long layoff and in listening to him during the conference call, he sounded pretty under the weather.
Matt Lindland: Yeah, actually he was. We didn't really want to let on to that but fortunately the fight went the way it did. I don't know if anybody else picked up on that but even walking into the ring he was pretty pale and feeling under the weather.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're a really opinionated guy, do you think that rubs off on a couple members of your gym? Guys like Pat Healy, Chael Sonnen, those guys can be brutally honest at times.
Matt Lindland: Oh, I think the problem is that people aren't used to seeing guys that are honest. Honesty, integrity, real people is not the norm. That's not the norm. Men of character is kinda going the way of the dinosaur. When you see somebody that speaks boldly, you see a man that has confidence, doesn't have fear, guys like Chael that are honest, forthcoming, those are the guys that we're talking about. We're not talking about guys that are scared of saying the wrong thing because of the ramifications. Telling what's true or what's right doesn't necessarily mean it's always what's popular. Counter-cultere is counter for a reason. It's not popular culture, it's counter-culture and right now, being honest, being men of character is being counter-culture to what's going on in our society these days.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you think Chael could be possibly hindering his chances at that next shot at Anderson Silva by talking about him so much and seemingly making him angry?
Matt Lindland: I don't know. I don't know but I think what people want to see is people want to see real. I've knocked people that say, "I really like such and such fighter," and I say, "Oh, do you know him? Do you know him personally?" They say, "No, but I've seen his interviews." I'm like, "You know this gentleman is an entertainer, right? Those interviews are his character," but what's so refreshing about what Chael's doing is that's not a character. That's who he is, that's who he really is and it's so unique in our culture today, it's so counter to what everybody else is doing, people think that that's the act. No, that's real. That's who we really are. That's the kind of man he is, not some character. Those are the kind of guys I'm proud to work with. I'm excited to coach guys like Chael and guys like Pat Healy that aren't afraid to speak their minds and be real.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): It seems like, you've talked about it before with the way Anderson and those guys are acting lately, he's pulled this before when Dan Henderson beat Bisping, he said Hendo didn't deserve the rematch and when Marquardt beat Maia he was saying he didn't deserve the rematch. He put off a rematch with Yushin Okami for a really long time, do you think he's just got something against rematches?
Matt Lindland: You know who deserves the match is if it's what the fans want to see. That's who's paying the bills. Who's spending the money on pay-per-views, who's buying the tickets, who's buying the T-shirts and the whatevers? Those are the guys who get to determine who fights who. It's the fans. You know I hear over and over and over, "Well, Dana decides," or, "This guy doesn't want to fight this guy," you know what? The fans decide. That's who's paying the bills. That's who we're fighting for.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah and that's who Chael's been appealing to and that's why everybody is so excited to see that fight.
Matt Lindland: That's what we're in business for. We're delivering an entertainment product to the fans of this sport and that's who determines who fights who. I wasn't disappointed when Georges St. Pierre got hurt and he's not gonna fight Carlos Condit. It didn't disappoint me a bit. I get to see the fight that I wanted, the fans wanted to see, Nick Diaz versus B.J. Penn. That's the fight people want to see. That's the fight I'll pay money for.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got a question or two about Yushin Okami as well.
Matt Lindland: What a guy. When you talk about a man of character and integrity, that's why I've worked with him ever since he fought Chael. He's been coached at our gym, trained by me, right after he lost that fight to Chael, they contacted me and said, "How can we get out there, how can we work with you?" I just said, "Show up. Get on a plane, get to Oregon and we'll take care of ya. If you come here, we'll put you up," and I'm sure you saw some of the stuff where he's staying at Chael's mom's house, staying with one of our other coaches and we took him in, made him part of the family, made him part of the team and that's a guy that I want to work with.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Has he taken the loss to Anderson Silva well?
Matt Lindland: No, absolutely not. Absolutely not he did not take that loss well. He took that loss very hard. He was very disappointed. He was disappointed that he didn't go out and execute his gameplan and as far as me training a guy, I've been able to work with Yushin when he didn't have a fight coming up and I've been able to work with him in preparation for a fight in the fight camp scenario and I'm telling you it's a lot more fun to get to work with Yushin when we're teaching him, we're learning, we're not so focused on one opponent, one gameplan, get him prepared for this opportunity because he's still got a lot to learn.
He's still got a lot of things to work on and learn about the sport and especially about the wrestling aspect of it. He's willing to learn. He's willing to put the time in. He just needs to get back over here when he doesn't have a fight coming up and we can continue to build some of those skills and develop some of the basic fundamentals that he continues to need to work on because everybody, it doesn't matter where you're at in your career, you've always got to focus on the fundamentals. We would love to have Yushin back over here but no, he did not take the loss well, he was very disappointed, very upset with his performance and he wants another opportunity to get back in there and prove that he can work his way right back up to the top.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): If I may ask, you mentioned he didn't follow the gameplan, what was the gameplan for his fight against Silva?
Matt Lindland: He was the one that said he didn't follow the gameplan. He was disappointed that he didn't. I did not say that he did not follow the gameplan. He said it. Well, it wasn't to stand on the outside against Anderson Silva I can tell you that. Fair enough? I'm training with an athlete that's gonna beat Anderson. His name's Chael Sonnen so some of the aspects of that gameplan that Yushin felt like he did not execute properly, I perceive Chael taking the ball and running with it and going ahead and executing that gameplan and finishing Mr. Silva before the end of the third round.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah I've heard you mention that before. It hit me mid-question that you might not want to reveal that Okami gameplan because Chael and Yushin might have similarities in that department.
Matt Lindland: Yeah, well it's no big secret that Anderson's a fantastic striker, probably one of the best in the world but you know what? Chael's a fantastic wrestler and I'll say it right now that in MMA, he's the best wrestler we have in this sport because he uses it well for MMA. I could put Chael in the US open in wrestling for Greco or freestyle. He's been a national Olympic alternate in that sport. I don't know if he'd place top eight right now in wrestling unless we stopped MMA training and started training just as a wrestler but we're not planning on doing that. What he's done, and what we've been able to do at Team Quest is take his skill-set and we've been able to formulate a strategy and a style around what skills he already possesses and that's his wrestling background and use that to make it the most efficient style that he can make for who he is.
Matt would like you to check out Sportfight.tv, tickets are on sale to his Sportfight 30 event (taking place tonight) at ticketswest.com, you can check out his writing at CoachMattLindland.com and if you need any athletic apparel, go to DirtyBoxer.com. You can follow him @MattLindland on twitter.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Do you agree with Lindland that Chael Sonnen is a "man of character?" Will Anderson Silva grant him his much-anticipated rematch?