For former finalist of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 8, Phillipe Nover, Saturday night (Nov. 26, 2011) will be the culmination of a near unparalleled amount of hard work and adjustment.
Once compared to the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva by UFC President Dana White in a fit of regrettable hyperbole, Nover suffered a multitude of physical issues and then found himself on the outside looking in after suffering his third straight loss inside the Octagon.
After taking 19 months off to make drastic changes and allow his body to heal, Nover returned to mixed martial arts (MMA) competition this past August, scoring his first victory in over four years at Hoosier Fight Club in Indiana.
He'll finally make his return to televised MMA this Saturday night at Bellator 59 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Nover spoke with MMAmania.com during a recent guest appearance on The Verbal Submission, discussing getting rid of distractions, why he took so long to return and what he expects against Marcin Held in part one of this two-part interview.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You took a little over a year off and you mentioned that there's no distractions this time around now that you're back. What was your biggest distraction before?
Phillipe Nover: Wow, I definitely had some distractions before in my life. I would say definitely not having the right frame of mind. One thing, I was in a really bad relationship. I thought it was a good relationship but the person I was with, a woman can drain you, man and if you're making her a priority in your life and it's ok to make a woman a priority in life as long as there's some reciprocation going on, but not to get into so many details but there was no reciprocation going on and it wasn't a good relationship. It was actually a drain and there was a lot of negativity that surrounded me when I thought it was all positive things going on, so that was definitely the major issue. I was focusing on that instead of focusing on my training and that was definitely one thing that changed and is completely changed now.
The second thing is I changed my team up and my training partners. Because I'm such a loyal person and I just come from that type of background especially with the traditional arts, it's difficult cutting ties between your original trainers and stuff, who I still respect to this day but just getting to the new level, getting to a professional level, you need to train with professional people. All my training partners and sparring partners who are professionals, I train at Edge Wrestling with Dave Branch, John Cholish, my trainers Dave Esposito, Brandon Kinney and Jeff Marsh, all these guys do this stuff pretty much for a living. My training partners and sparring partners range now from Frankie Edgar all the way to Charlie Brenneman. Guys just come into Renzo's, I train at Renzo's now. I'm now including John Danaher in my corner. Just changing up completely with my training strategy-wise for my fighting. I think before, I had an approach which was definitely lacking in my fight career and now it's a lot better. I look at fighting now completely different from how I ever looked at it.
The third thing that happened is I had to take some time off because I had neck surgery. I didn't really publicize this. I don't know for sure when the injury came first but I know I had a herniated disk and it was really bad. I definitely fought with the herniated disk a few times, that was during the UFC and it just kept getting worse and worse. Finally, I ended up getting an MRI after fighting Rob Emerson and I saw, the doctor told me that my neck is really bad. I waited about six months or more, maybe eight months before I got the surgery because I was debating. I wanted to do all kinds of things like traction therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, all kinds of stuff I tried. I really had a fear of going under the knife. Finally, I met a doctor, his name was Dr. Shapiro over in Long Island and he put an artificial disk in my neck and it's unbelievable. It's actually healed up. You can YouTube this, I have a video diary of my recovery and it's crazy. Just to get neck surgery and to come back stronger than ever, it's like I have a brand new neck. Those are the three major things that I had changed in my life which is helping me focus again and I just feel like my MMA career can take off even further than it's ever bene.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I appreciate the candor there. When you decided that you were returning to fighting, what you first did was you took your first professional kickboxing fight, a Muay Thai bout. Can you tell me the thought process that went into the decision to try kickboxing before coming back into MMA?
Phillipe Nover: The first thought in my mind, I got the neck surgery on February 8th of this year so it took a few months to heal and I really wasn't training as much wrestling and jiu-jitsu and getting my neck tugged on but I was still training my Muay Thai so by the time I fought, it was June 10th. I decided my first fight back should be, I wanted to fight in New York, that was another thing too, just to wipe the rust off and have my friends and my family easily travel to New York City, this is my place. I train at Church Street Boxing which is under my coach Jason Strout and this is also a partnership of a show that he runs. It was a real comfortable atmosphere. It was real homely and I fought another MMA fighter actually in a Muay Thai fight. (laughs) He had a few Muay Thai fights and it was my first one. It was really just a way to wipe the rust off. Win or lose, I thought it wouldn't affect my MMA career and you're still putting gloves on and punching people in the head so it definitely worked out. I wound up winning via TKO in the first round so it was a good way to get me back in the picture and then build up back into an MMA fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'm very interested in what led up to your signing with Bellator. I know you took a fight at Hoosier Fight Club and you got a win. Did Bellator approach you around the same time they talked to Kurt Pellegrino because you guys train around the same area? What went into that?
Phillipe Nover: Well, after the fight with Jake Murphy in the Hoosier Fight Club, I was talking to my manager and we somehow got a contract with Bellator. I don't know how it worked out but we got in contract with each other and we started working some numbers around and they made some offers and we just managed it right. I think this is huge for me. I'm really looking forward to my first fight in Bellator. This is pretty much, I think talent pool-wise, I think we have some huge studs at the 155 division. That fight this past Saturday was crazy. I spar with Eddie Alvarez too and these guys are amazing. It's a stacked division, I think even comparable to the UFC so if I ever want to get back to the UFC, I have to have hopes of making it pretty far in Bellator. This is a great opportunity for me to get back into the scene and I'm hoping to do well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're taking on Marcin Held, a really dangerous submission fighter from Europe. Have you been preparing your leg lock defense because that guy has some vicious heel hooks.
Phillipe Nover: (laughs) I definitely have. I've been preparing with an emphasis on my lower extremity defense. He does go for kneebars, ankles, he loves getting locked up in there and he will definitely pop ankles and knees. He's done it before and I've watched tape on him. He's a young kid, but man, he beats the crap out of adults so I'm preparing myself completely for this fight as much as I can. I'm reviewing all my good defenses and I know he'll probably try to lock up one of my ankles so we'll see what happens.
What do you think, Maniacs?
Do you agree that Nover's made the necessary adjustments to finally be able to live up to the prospect status that was given to him? Or has that time come and gone already?
Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Phillipe Nover as he prepares for his major promotional return this Saturday night. We discuss the Bellator contract, his nursing career and unrealistic expectations. To listen to the complete audio of the interview, click here.