Ovince St. Preux is ready for a Tennessee-style beatdown on Friday night (July 22, 2011).
The former Volunteer linebacker burst onto the scene after scoring three convincing decision victories in a matter of seven weeks at three separate Strikeforce events.
After taking a full seven months off to refine his skills, the 28-year-old rising light heavyweight prospect is back and raring to go against 9-1 Duke Roufus-trained prospect Joe Cason at the upcoming Strikeforce Challengers 17 event, which can be viewed at 10 p.m. ET on Showtime.
OSP was more than happy to discuss his upcoming fight, the major changes in his fight preparation and his unique submission repertoire in this exclusive interview with MMAmania.com.
The Knoxville native gives his thoughts on his upcoming opponent -- and much more -- after the jump.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ovince, you've got a huge fight coming up for Strikeforce Challengers 17 against Joe Cason. Can you talk about your opponent a bit, maybe what you've discovered about him? I know a lot of people don't know about him, but he's a really dangerous guy.
Ovince St. Preux: Yeah, he's definitely a dangerous guy. He definitely got the ability to finish a fight in the first round. Really big guy, from what I know, he comes from a wrestling background and at the same time he trains at one of the top gyms in the nation. He's got cannons in his hands so I'll definitely have to watch out for those.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah, one of those top gyms, which is Duke Roufus' gym. Are you concerned at all that he'll try anything really crazy?
Ovince St. Preux: Those guys at that gym do a lot of crazy techniques and stuff and it works. It kinda catches you off guard so I definitely won't allow that to happen.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The other thing about Joe, he's fought 10 times and in the nine fights that he's won were first round finishes, none lasting more than two and a half minutes. The one fight he lost went to the second round. Do you think the best plan of action to beat him would be to drag this fight out a little bit?
Ovince St. Preux: I don't know. It's one of those situations where if I think I have a chance, if there's an opportunity to finish a fighter in the first round, I'll definitely do that. If I feel like it's gonna be a long night, I'm definitely going to make sure I play my cards right. I don't like things going to the judges but if it does go to the judges, I want to make sure it's a unanimous decision.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You went on that ridiculous streak of three fights in seven weeks for Strikeforce and now you've had a little over seven months off. Do you feel refreshed now or do you wish you'd gotten in there a little bit earlier?
Ovince St. Preux: It can go either way with me. Sometimes I wish I would have gotten back in there earlier but other times I'm thinking, "since I've been off, I've learned a LOT" I've learned a lot of techniques and I've been to Renzo's camp, spent time at Team Quest in Temecula and even working with Trevor Wittman and stuff. It gave me a lot of tools to come back and work with so I'm definitely excited about that.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I was going to ask you about going down to Dan Henderson's camp. I know you've been doing that recently a bit. Obviously, I saw you were training with Virgil Swicker, the last guy to ever beat you. Do you guys get along pretty well?
Ovince St. Preux: Virgil is actually one of my best friends right now. The last time I went back there in February when I went to Team Quest, I actually stayed with Virgil and his family and they took really good care of me. Virgil was just like my brother. Anything I want I got and anything I've got, he can have. Virgil is one of those guys that it's kinda funny. You would never think a guy that you've fought you would develop that kind of friendship with but he's really like my brother. Working with him, he's constantly in the gym pushing me, "come on, let's go, let's go, let's go!" Working with him, Sokoudjou, big Dave Herman, Dan Henderson and even working with Jared Hamman and Vladimir Matyushenko when they came down definitely motivated me so I'm definitely feeling good.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've always thought that when you take a fight with no real break in between, you're only preparing for that fighter and you're not really getting a big chance to improve. With this lay-off, you've really taken those extra steps to learn. Can you kinda talk about what you've really focused on and worked on improving yourself in these last seven months?
Ovince St. Preux: It's one of those things with mixed martial arts, there's always room for improvement, no matter what. You could be the top fighter in the world but you're still gonna have some kind of hole in your game. With me still being new to this game, I'm always trying to look at every avenue I can improve upon. I think I consider myself to be an average fighter all across the board when it comes to kickboxing, wrestling and jiu-jitsu. At the same time, I'm picking up on different techniques and stuff. Even if you have a technique, there's still ways you can sharpen or modify a technique and that's what I've been doing. Throwing punches, what combinations generate more power with your punches. You learn about transitions, going from one shot to another. Even with submissions, you can set up each submission so many ways. I've been developing drastically and it feels really good.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Ok, let's talk about you in general. What do you think about this "OSP" nickname that Mauro Ranallo seems obsessed about?
Ovince St. Preux: It's one of those things where I knew that someone was going to take it and run with it. When you say my name, Ovince St. Preux, it's a pretty long name. If you say OSP, it's just shorter and sweet. Either way, with either name, it's not a common name but OSP it's just a phrase, like a catchphrase. I'm certainly not complaining about it. People call me OSP and I'm just going to take that and run with it. It's kinda funny. I actually made my twitter name OSP before anyone started calling me it. It was my initials and one things led to another. I guess it just caught on with everybody.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got a question about one of your favorite submissions, the calf slicer. That just seems like it's your trademark move at times. Obviously you finished a fight with it and then you went for it against Antwain Britt the first time you had a televised fight and I thought for sure you were going to get it. It's a unique submission and I was just wondering how you came along to fall in love with it so much and want to go for it in fights?
Ovince St. Preux: Typically, I just kind of see it and the only reason I see it is because it's right there. A lot of people don't see it. A lot of the time, like every time I go for it, it's typically in a position where if I go for it and don't get it, I won't be in a bad position. I wouldn't say it's my "go-to" move but it's one of my submissions that's there all the time and it's staring at me. If you've got a submission that's there all the time, I'll go for it. To be honest, I didn't know that not many people tried it but I guess I'll keep doing it. It helped put my name out there. I gave me Sports Illustrated 2009 Submission of the Year runner up so I can't complain about that either.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): There were a bunch of rumors swirling around about you potentially fighting Feijao and then you potentially fighting King Mo. Did those actually get close to happening or were those just rumors?
Ovince St. Preux: I think they were talked about but for the most part, they were just rumors. Typically, when a fighter finds out about a fight, the fighter is one of the first people to know about it. I was just working out one day and I got a phone call and I heard a voice say, "I heard you were fighting King Mo," and I was like, "uhhh, where did you hear that from?" and nobody ever told me about it. It was a reporter that called me and it was kinda funny because typically the fighter or the manager finds out first. Somebody must have said something and somebody must have got their information incorrect or something. It didn't happen obviously so you know.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The really big news, seven months is a long time in MMA and one of the biggest things that's happened has been the Zuffa purchase of Strikeforce. Do you expect any changes now that you're fighting under the umbrella of a different parent company?
Ovince St. Preux: Thus far they haven't made any changes. The only major change they've made that all the fighters in the UFC and Strikeforce are happy about is the insurance part. Other than that, they haven't made any major changes. I'm definitely happy with what's going on right now so I can't complain.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This fight with Joe Cason, if you're able to pull it out, I believe that would make you 5-0 in Strikeforce. Where do you feel you would rank in the Strikeforce light heavyweight division? Basically they've got the four former champions at the top and then there's a whole mystery below that.
Ovince St. Preux: I think if I do what I should next Friday, after this fight, I think I'd probably sit in the top eight to nine guys in that weight classes. I told everybody that I'm taking everything one day at a time so I'd be happy there.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What are your goals for the rest of the year? I know you took a big seven month break. Do you want to keep fighting and get back in there right away? What do you want to do for the rest of 2011?
Ovince St. Preux: I just want to keep doing what I'm doing, keep training hard. When a fight comes around, I'm there and whatever their plans are for me, I'm willing to take it and run with it. I can't just think, "oh, I'm wanna do this," you've got to do what they want to do, even if you don't always agree. I'm just gonna continue doing what I'm doing and continue climbing up the ladder.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Last question, how do you see this fight playing out with Joe Cason on Friday night?
Ovince St. Preux: Definitely with my hand raised at the end. That's what I'm looking forward to. Keeping the crowd in the fight and getting my hand raised in the end. That's all that matters.
Ovince would like to give a shoutout to his home gym Knoxville Martial Arts Academy and his head trainer Eric Turner as well as his management team Alchemist Management. Also, Team Quest, Dan Henderson and the all the guys that helped him prepare for his fight. Lastly, a shoutout to the Tennessee Volunteers and his fraternity Omega Psi Phi, the area code 239 and his Haitian people who have been some of his biggest supporters.
So Maniacs, what do you think?
Has OSP used his extra time off wisely? Or will the upstart Joe Cason surprise him on Friday night?