Ivan Salaverry is a name that longtime fans of mixed martial arts (MMA) should recognize.
For the newer, more casual fans, the name might be familiar to you because UFC commentator Joe Rogan references the Pankration fighter every time someone gets put in his patented crucifix from side control.
At the ripe old age of 37, Salaverry walked away from the sport of MMA after being physically dominated by Rousimar Palhares at UFC 84. He wanted to focus on his family and his teaching.
Nearly three years later, the veteran fighter is back again, stepping in for an injured Phil Baroni to face Matt Ewin on the main card of this Saturday's (May 21, 2011) BAMMA 6 event in London, England.
So what exactly prompted the grappling wizard to come out of retirement?
MMAmania.com caught up with Ivan's manager and wrestling coach, John Flavin, to get all the latest on the crucifix king.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): First thing's first, how did Ivan feel knowing he'll be facing an opponent in Matt Ewin that was away from the sport almost exactly as long as he was?
John Flavin: I think things like that are always positives. Definitely every fighter, we spent a lot of time researching our opponent, watching videos and everything like that. We definitely did our homework and when you find out that the guy's been retired for about the same amount of time, that never hurts. I guess from that aspect, as far as the research we did, finding out he's kinda in the same boat, it's good. (Ivan) likes to know that, after being retired for three years, your first opponent wasn't a national champion right away for example. It's definitely a positive thing and it's a big factor in a fighter's confidence.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What prompted Ivan's decision to come out of retirement?
John Flavin: I'm gonna quote Ivan directly here, he thought he would retire and everything would be peach but in Ivan's words, "sometimes the cage calls you." You just really kind of miss it, that't the bottom line. It wasn't just the cage itself but also the training, the work he put into it. He literally missed all the excitement of being in the cage. You feel alive so that was a huge part of it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How exactly did this process play out?
John Flavin: Everything just kinda came together. BAMMA reached out and they were looking for someone to fill this ticket and it was just kind of a perfect equation where they reached out, Ivan was feeling the desire to come back and it was literally a perfect storm.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Now when Ivan originally announced his retirement, he said he wanted to work on his school, teaching, his gym. How has he spent the last three years?
John Flavin: He's been focusing on his gym and his kids. He's got two little wonderful boys that he loves to death. His gym has been going great. He's definitely emerged as one of the premier gyms in the northwest. He's got fighters that fight at the local casinos and they've done very well. His grappling team in the last two years has had four first place trophies. He's done well. That's why I think people love Ivan. He's not one of those gym owners that slaps their name on the front of the gym and hopes that people come. He's literally there every day.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What's Ivan's physical condition like? Has he been staying in shape these past three years? Some fighters can't stay in shape in the month they take off between training camps.
John Flavin: He looks good. He looks good because when they were trying to put this ticket together, he kinda knew for a little bit. Even though we didn't hammer out the official contract until three or four weeks before the fight, we kinda had an idea that he would possibly get a fight so he looks good. He feels strong. He's going hard in the gym but he's going smart. He feels good and no injuries so he looks great.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you expect his first weight cut in three years to be tough?
John Flavin: There's definitely a weight cut, everybody fighting has some sort of weight cut but it's not like he's got to lose 20 pounds on the last day or two, not even close. He's definitely within reaching distance of the weight cut.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Has Ivan mentioned how long he'd like to be back? At 40 years old, this is definitely a young man's game.
John Flavin: That's a good point. Your body changes as you age and I think a smart fighter adjusts to those changes. You change your game a little bit, your shots, you choose your shots differently. You choose your kicks more wisely. If you want to continue as you add on these years, it's like Randy Couture, he's 48 and while his last fight didn't go great, but the guys who fight into their forties, they fight smart. Some of the younger guys get out there and they've got all this energy and adrenaline and it's balls to the wall all the time. You have to fight more intellectually now.
What do you think, Maniacs? Can Salaverry make a successful comeback? Or has the sport passed him by in the three years he was away?