Know your Bellator: Interview with Bellator heavyweight finalist Eric Prindle

Photo of Eric Prindle via Bellator.

Eric Prindle is as big as they come as far as heavyweight mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters are concerned.

The U.S. army veteran stands 6'5" and has to cut more than 20 pounds to make the 265-pound heavyweight division limit, packing quite a wallop in his strikes.

Drawing from a vast striking background while boxing for the armed forces, Prindle has developed quickly after transitioning to MMA mainly because of the fact that he's not afraid to branch out with his training. "The American Soldier" calls Prescott, Ariz., his home, but he's traveled to the great north to train alongside Brock Lesnar at the DeathClutch gym, too.

Prindle has made his name while competing in the season five Bellator heavyweight tournament, notably knocking out the previously undefeated Ron Sparks in just 40 seconds in the semifinals just one month ago.

He's set to take on fearsome Brazilian Thiago Santos in the tournament finals at Bellator 59 tonight (Nov. 26, 2011), but beforehand, he spoke with me during an appearance on Bloody Elbow Radio about his history, why fighting friends is okay, as well as sharing a hard-hitting tale about the reason he lives like each day like it's his last.

Check it out:

Matt Bishop: You're coming off a big first round knockout of Ron Sparks at Bellator 56. How are you feeling?

Eric Prindle: I'm doing okay. I can't complain, I'm alive. I got to see my family and kids so I'm loving life.

Matt Bishop: That's two fights in a month now for you in this tournament. I know you've had short turnarounds in the past but these are against two very tough guys. How's your body feeling going though such a grind?

Eric Prindle: Oh, I'm doing good. I love it. I think you get more and more in shape so it's not such a big haul. After you fight, a lot of guys get lazy and get out of shape but there's no time to get back out of shape. I've just had to be smart with my training unlike when I was younger. I'm trying to keep learning and I'm around a bunch of good guys and good teachers so I love life.

Matt Bishop: You knocked out Ron Sparks in 40 seconds on Saturday night and he was undefeated before that. Was that a situation going in where you knew that the first guy to connect clean could go out?

Eric Prindle: I think any heavyweight fight, if you connect good, it could be the end. When you've got a lot of weight behind your punch, it's basically where you hit the guy. I've hit guys in boxing hard as heck and didn't knock 'em out and I've hit guys just right with a jab and knocked 'em out. Really, it matters where the punch is and how fast it's coming in. Honestly, I didn't think I hurt him and that's why I kept punching after that. I thought he was gonna go for my knee or something.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You showcased some compassion after that fight as well. You went from killer mode to being really concerned about his safety at the drop of a hat. It was a very quick turnaround where the second that fight was over, you were checking to make sure he was okay. I thought that was a really good thing for the sport of MMA.

Eric Prindle: Oh, thank you. For me, it's like this stuff, I've been in combat and all that sort of stuff so even though this is a job and I try to force myself to look at it like they're trying to take money from my family, that way I can get some intensity, spitting vinegar somewhat in the game. I think everybody now, with the economy the way it is, everybody's hurting. I wish America wasn't like that but hopefully things will get better and everybody will be happy like in the 50s. Those were the good 'ol days. 

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got to ask, you mentioned the combat experience. I want to delve into more of what makes Eric Prindle tick. I know you had a history in the armed forces and you were an amateur boxer with over 100 fights. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience in fighting before you transitioned to MMA?

Eric Prindle: Yeah, well when I was young, I think around 13 years old, I started kickboxing. I was doing Muay Thai and AKA kickboxing. Basically, there was no one at my weight at my age so I was ending up fighting 18, 20, 25 year olds and I won all my fights kickboxing, usually knockout and I think I had 10 fights, got out of that, started doing the women thing. I was chasing women, started doing power lifting, got into the army.

Basically, I went to my unit, did well, got top sniper and all that sort of stuff. The army does boxing smokers and the commander said to me, "Hey, if you can win this, beat this other unit, I'll give you four days off." That's a big deal when you're a private in that kind of thing and I won the boxing smoker, won 101st airborne division title, they sent me to All-Army and I won that five years in a row. I went to Armed Forces and won that. I even went to CISM which is a world military games and basically boxed all around the world. I fought in Russia, you name it, I fought there. I went back into the regular army and went into World Class Athletic Program, WCAP and we trained at the Olympic training center in Colorado Springs. Bobby Lashley was in WCAP and a bunch of kinda well-known athletes were there.

I got hurt, got released from the army as 100 percent permanent total which allows me to work or do whatever I can and I was at a friend's house and we were watching some heavyweights fight and I was kinda talking smack about it and my friend owned a gym. I went to the gym the next day and sparred the heavyweights and pretty much whooped their butts standing up and loved it ever since. I love every part of MMA and I love the camaraderie, I missed that from the army, just being able to trust your friends and it's pretty much like family.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Wonderful and to bring it back to your current run here, I want to talk about your upcoming fight with Thiago Santos. You went out and you beat Ron Sparks in 40 seconds and he goes out and he beats Neil Grove in 38. What did you think of his performance?

Eric Prindle: I think it was good. He's a little wild standing up. Obviously, he's good on the ground. I think stand up-wise, he's a little wild and it's definitely gonna be a good fight when me and him get in the cage and I can't wait to do it. I'll tell you what, I'm coming with the knowledge in my head that if I win this, my life's gonna be better for my family and that's a dangerous thing. We'll see what happens on that date and I'm gonna give everything I can to do the best job.

Matt Bishop: What are some of the things that you feel you need to improve on for your fight with Santos and hopefully Cole Konrad

Eric Prindle: I'm trying to improve every aspect of MMA. From the cardio, to the ground, everything. As an MMA fighter, you need to evolve and keep learning, keep trying to get better. If you're not, win, lose or draw, you're not gonna grow as a human being. I'm just training with Busted Knuckle. A friend of mine, Chris Mack, we trained together when we were kids and he has a couple world titles. I train with him in my kickboxing. I train with Erik Paulson as well. I train with a bunch of guys and I go to different camps if they'll have me, trying to get the best work I can. One thing I pulled from the army is you need to practice how you fight. It doesn't matter, down to the smallest details, visualizing, doing everything you can in that fight. For me, it's winning every exchange, whatever it is, whether it's on the ground or stand-up, I definitely want to try to win every exchange and if you can do that, more than likely you're gonna come out on top.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So that Erik Paulson, is that the same Paulson that works at Death Clutch with Brock Lesnar?

Eric Prindle: I train with Brock Lesnar, Cole Konrad. I was in their camp for a while. The last time when he went and fought Cain Velasquez, I actually got called to go back to Iraq so I couldn't go to their camp but I've trained with all the guys from there. I think they're a bunch of great, awesome guys and if they want me back, I'll definitely come. I think, in my opinion, that's the best heavyweight camp you can get. All those guys are walking around 300 pounds and they're definitely gonna make my wrestling better. That's basically what I look for, who the training partners are gonna be and who the coaches are gonna be. I think if you do that, you're gonna be very prepared for your fight.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What are your thoughts on potentially fighting a guy in Cole Konrad that you've worked with and trained with? Does it give you any hesitation moving forward?

Eric Prindle: No, I fought Josh Burns and he was a really good friend of mine. For me, it's not anything mean or anything. I know Cole is one of the best MMA heavyweights in the world so I want to fight him and I want to try to beat him. It doesn't matter. I want to beat the best Cole Konrad I can and it's like I would be doing him a dishonor if I didn't come 100 percent and try to beat him. I think, for me, it's not anything about aggression or any of that. It's kinda like a chess match and we're doing our job and trying to win and make money and keep going forward.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mentioned fighting your friend Josh Burns and Thiago Santos also had to fight him in an alternate bout so you both actually share a common opponent. Is there anything also that you saw in his fight against Josh Burns that might be able to help you out?

Eric Prindle: Definitely. I saw he was phenomenal on the ground. Josh Burns made a little mistake. Santos was hitting him behind the head and he kinda looked at the ref, which is kind of a mistake but maybe I would have done that too. You never know until you're in that situation but it didn't look like Santos wanted to stand up with him. Josh Burns is one of the best guys, his hand speed, he has great power so I definitely know Santos is not gonna want to stand up with me from that fight. Who knows, though? Maybe he's been working on it and he's gonna test that. We'll see when our fight comes and like I said, I'm gonna do the best and I'm gonna have the best trainers I can possibly get and the best training partners. I'll do everything I can do be in the best shape to come in there and fight.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): They've mentioned this a couple times during the broadcast of your fights, do you really cut down from 300 pounds to make the 265 pound limit?

Eric Prindle: My first fight with Josh Burns I was. I was over 300 pounds and I've been trying to keep off the weight. I've been basically trying to trim off all my body fat. I've been sticking around about 284-285 and I can't get lower than that but I think that's not too bad of a cut especially when you're a large guy, you have more weight to drop so it doesn't effect you as much as these little guys that cut 30 pounds. That's phenomenal. They're machines.

Matt Bishop: We'll wrap this up with one question from the listeners. What keeps Eric Prindle so humble?

Eric Prindle: What keeps Eric Prindle so humble? Probably going around the world and seeing what can happen and being in situations where the next day might not be, might not wake up. Tomorrow isn't just given to us, it might not be there so every day I try to live like the next day I'm gonna die because you never know. I lost my brother not too long ago. It's kinda funny, he woke up, he died at work but he woke up, he took his keychain off and he'd had that for probably 6-8 years, took it off, gave it to his kids. My brother wasn't a real emotional guy but that day he kissed his son and went to work and died a couple hours later.

We never know when we're gonna die, when we're not gonna be here so I try to always keep that in mind. Even though I'm injured a bit and I've been through some stuff, someone always has it worse so I just try to keep that in mind and I hope I never act like some people act and I don't think I will. Some stuff changes you and you change as a person and keep growing. If I die, hopefully I'll go to heaven and basically I'm making up for a lot of mistakes when I was younger. We'll see if I make it up.

Eric would like to thank Busted Knuckle, all his gyms he trains at, his sponsors and Subway for helping him keep the weight off.

So what do you think, Maniacs?

Will Prindle's boxing be the key to victory tonight? Were you stunned like I was at the sheer brutal honesty in each of his responses? 

Speak up!

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