Nam Phan hasn't had it easy in the UFC.
The 10-year mixed martial arts (MMA) veteran was the only member of Josh Koscheck's team to advance to the semifinals of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 12. Because of his experience advantage, he didn't fight a fellow castmate on the show's finale; instead, the promotion fed him to former WEC title challenger and multiple time "Fight of the Night" winner, Leonard Garcia, in his Octagon debut.
Despite winning all three rounds according to Fightmetric, outlanding Garcia in every round and having the only submission attempt and guard pass of the fight, Phan would drop a controversial split decision in what many considered the robbery of the year.
His reward for losing? Having to face former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown, a man who destroyed Leonard Garcia in 2009. Phan put up a hell of a fight, even clearly winning the second round, but he would drop another decision to the ex-champ.
Instead of sending him his walking papers, the UFC brass decided to book a rematch with Garcia and, after shuffling up the UFC 136 main card, Phan found himself on the pay-per-view (PPV) portion of the main card. He'll get an opportunity to get that win back in front of hundreds of thousands (if not more) paying customers tonight (Oct. 8, 2011).
Think he's ready? The opinionated Phan spoke with MMAmania.com earlier this week during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission, explaining his reasons why fighting "Bad Boy" is like defusing a time bomb, fighting with your back against the wall. And he has some very harsh words for "The Lawman," Steven Seagal.
Check that all out and more after the jump:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were originally on the undercard and then the Mike Russow / Dave Herman fight gets scrapped then Bam! you're on the main card of a big UFC pay-per-view. How does that feel to get that big bump to such an important slot?
Nam Phan: Yeah it feels pretty good. I did an interview with someone else earlier this week and they asked me, "What do I do before a fight?" and I just tell them I try to relax when I can because I'm not a main event type fighter, I'm not gonna be a part of the main event. I was on the Facebook fights and now I'm on that main card which is pretty cool.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You originally were stepping in for this fight as an injury replacement, I think you stepped in for Josh Grispi to take on Matt Grice with a little over a month notice and now Matt Grice backs out and Leonard Garcia comes in so it's injury replacement versus injury replacement. This is a fight that's really important to you because of the whole controversy the last time around. Can you talk about the importance of this bout for you?
Nam Phan: Oh yeah, big time. I feel like, it's almost like my back's against the fence and I don't think it should be. I felt like I beat Leonard the first time. I should be 1-1 but I'm 0-2 and the UFC doesn't really like guys that have 0-3 records. I feel like I'm on my last pitch here and I've got to hit a home run.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Was it any extra motivation? You originally had Matt Grice but does it light a fire under you even more because it's Leonard Garcia, a guy you definitely thought you had a victory against the last time?
Nam Phan: I didn't think it would but the more I started training in my camp for Leonard Garcia instead of Matt Grice, it kinda did give me more motivation. (laughs)
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I fully agree with that. Your last fight against Leonard, you were landing a considerably higher percentage of strikes, you landed the better significant strikes but it just seems like the judges always seem to notice the guy that's throwing the wild strikes and being so crazy aggressive. What do you think about Leonard's style and the way he fights and how you can possibly offset that?
Nam Phan: Before we fight, there's a pre-conference. I'll ask the judges and referees, "Hey, this time, if I hit the guy, do I get points for hitting the guy? Because the last time I did that I lost. I want to make sure the rules are still the same for the last 10+ years of mixed martial arts because if they got changed, I'd like to get notified because I want to win."
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): And you definitely deserve a win. Even your last fight, Mike Brown put on a gutsy performance to pull off the victory but you came back hard in that second round and really took the fight to the former champion. I know you didn't get the win, but did it give you any confidence that you were able to have such a close, tough fight against a guy that used to stand at the top of the division?
Nam Phan: Yeah, I know MIke Brown is not what he was a few years ago, he's no stepping stone either. For me, to win a round against him, I thought I did well against him and delivered more points in the third round as well. It just gives me, let's me know I can hang with these guys. We're hanging out there with the big dogs now.
Nam Phan: Oh yeah, it's definitely a very awesome experience. I get to meet him in person and from my experience when I got to meet him, he seemed like a very down to Earth guy, a gentleman and with the media or in front of the camera, he does a good job, puts on a show just like Koscheck. You guys need to meet Koscheck or Chael Sonnen in person, they're totally different guys. They're very down to Earth guys so I'm very excited to be on the same card as Chael Sonnen.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): From watching your style of fighting, it's obvious that the body punch is really important in your arsenal of attack. Can you talk about the importance of going to the body with your punches and mixing things up?
Nam Phan: Oh yeah definitely, Mixing things up in mixed martial arts is definitely a factor and it's not just the body punch. You try to strike and mix in takedowns to work the ground, not to be so one dimensional. The same thing works with striking. You don't always want to go for the head shots. A lot of guys in MMA, they only go for the head knockout, they headhunt, get head hungry but I think it's easier to get the knockout with the head strike when you go to the body and keep them guessing whether you're going to go to the body or to the head.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah and we've seen some really nice body strikes finish fights recently. You had Rashad Evans finish Tito and we had Mike Easton stop Byron Bloodworth witha knee at UFC on Versus 6. Why do you think, though, that it's such an underutilized technique? It just seems like a lot of guys ignore the body and just focus on the head.
Nam Phan: I think it's because the body shot is a lot of muscle in the midsection and it's a very technical, you have to be pretty technical to finish someone with a midsection technique. With a head shot, you see people that don't have any technique knock guys out just by closing their eyes and throwing a haymaker that lands on the chin. I think that's what more fighters are going for, more of a lucky shot almost.
Gerry Rodriguez: You talked about having your back against the wall and having to hit one out of the park. How frustrating is it to know that if things don't go your way on Saturday that you're looking at a possible pink slip. Does it piss you off in a sense that you should have got that decision the first time around with Leonard Garcia?
Nam Phan: Yeah, it is what it is and I can't do anything about it. I try not to dwell on it and stress on it but you know, I figured, "What the heck, if I'm gonna get cut, I'm either gonna lose big or I'm gonna win big. I'm gonna knock this guy out or he's gonna knock me out. I want to go out with a bang, that's it."
Gerry Rodriguez: So in a sense, you're going through this with no pressure on your shoulders? Take us through your mentality for this fight.
Nam Phan: My mentality right now, I'm not feeling pressure at all. I'm not even thinking about, "Hey I'm gonna get cut." I'm just thinking if I am gonna lose, I'm gonna lose big and if I'm gonna win big. I'm gonna go out there and just act like a freaking terrorist on the Fourth of July. I'm just gonna throw bombs and fireworks. I'm not greedy, I'll take any kind of finish. I feel like with Leonard Garcia, for some dang reason he gets the decision, they love to give him the decision and I feel like I'm trying to defuse a time bomb here. If I don't defuse it within 15 minutes, the bomb blows up and says, "Dude, you lost." It's almost like I've got to finish the guy.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What is your opinion on Stevan Seagal? I've seen you've got some pretty strong feelings on him.
Nam Phan: Great question, that's an awesome question. I think that guy's a freaking fraud man. What the heck is that? Oh God that guy pisses me off! That's my opinion. Did he teach martial arts at all? Even if he weight lifts or does sports, plays football or something, if a guy comes in a couple hours before your game or your match, you know it doesn't make a difference. This guy is saying, "I came into the back room and I taught him to kick and that made all the difference," as if Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva didn't know how to do a front kick before meeting him. I remember watching Lyoto fighting Randy Couture and he knocks Randy Couture out with a front kick and he goes, "I'd like to thank Steven Seagal and my dad." I was like, if I was Lyoto dad, I'd freakin slap him. Like, what the heck dude, "I taught you karate since you were a little freakin' kid. I raised you, I fed you, I gave you clothes on your back and you thank this guy before me?!?! I should disown you!" Oh my God!
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Are there any action stars that you are cool with, like Jackie Chan, Van Damme, Bruce Lee?
Nam Phan: Of course, I like Donnie Yen. Everybody loves Donnie Yen right?
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In a perfect world, how would you like the fight to finish against Leonard Garcia?
Nam Phan: Oh man. Either a submission or a knockout, the sooner the better. Just get in, get out and go home. Please, please, if we go to the judges, I might just pull out a grenade and kill myself. That's it, I lost. (laughs).
Nam would like to thank his boxing coach Art James, his strength and conditioning coach, and everyone from the Orange County mixed martial arts team for their support
So what do you think, Maniacs? Will Phan earn his revenge tonight? Will he rise to the occasion with all the pressure to keep his job?
To listen to the complete audio of our interview with Nam Phan, please click here.