Chris Lozano can absolutely identify with the Cleveland curse.
Time and time again, fans of Cleveland sports have been subjected to disappointment. Whether it was The Drive, The Fumble, The Shot, The Decision, the 1997 World Series.
With all that, it wasn't a surprise when Chris Lozano, an undefeated welterweight prospect born and raised in Cleveland was bounced in the first round of the Bellator season four welterweight tournament when he drew former champion Lyman Good as his first opponent.
Lozano, though, has been a man possessed since then. The Strong Style Fight Team member took two fights outside of Bellator, destroying both men with first round finishes including earning the first submission victory of his career. Those wins earned him a berth in the Bellator season five welterweight tournament against Brent Weedman tonight (September 10, 2011) in the Bellator 49 main event.
The "Cleveland Assassin" tells MMAmania.com what first gave him his love for fighting, why Brent Weedman is his most dangerous opponent ever and what weaknesses in Weedman's game he feels he can take advantage of.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is your second tournament with Bellator. You lost in the first leg of the tournament to former champion Lyman good last time and you've mentioned that the old Chris Lozano died that night. Can you talk about the biggest differences in you between the Chris Lozano that fought against Lyman Good and the one that's coming into this tournament?
Chris Lozano: I feel that the biggest difference is my mentality, the way that I view everything that's happened to me, not just fighting, but everything. I realized that first opportunity was a little overwhelming because I was only six fights deep into my career and being on the main stage in the first event ever put on MTV2, I had a lot of pressure on me. Guys at Bellator were saying I should put on a show. They didn't tell me I had to but you kinda had that feeling like you've got to go out and there and put the balls to the wall.
Lyman kinda just countered me, he didn't attack much. I think I got worried about what kind of show we were putting on and I stopped fighting my fight and fought his fight instead. That fight taught me exactly how to handle all these big opportunities and how to be myself, what to eliminate from life and what to add, how to approach life and not take anything for granted. You can't take one opportunity for granted. When I say that the old Chris Lozano died that night, what happened was I went to my dressing room and I sulked a little bit but then I promised that I was gonna get better and I was gonna come back and win this tournament no matter what it took, no matter how hard it was. I was gonna make it happen. I have lived and breathed this every day since.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've mentioned that some guys just don't know what the hunger is to be the champion. They've been given everything. Can you elaborate on that?
Chris Lozano: I think there's two different types of people in this sport. I think there's guys that do this just to say that they did it and then there's the guys that do it because they want to be the best in the world. That's basically what it comes down to. Some are just looking for a paycheck and some are looking for more than that. Where the hunger comes from is different for everybody but it's usually a combination of three things, your upbringing, whether you had a tough life or not and what your motivation may be. In order to be a champion, you've got to have that hunger.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So where does your hunger come from?
Chris Lozano: I believe mine comes from growing up the hard way, not having much and always wanting more, always wishing we had more. I was always wanting to prove myself in other ways. It's become a way of expressing myself through my athletic ability. Sports was really my way of finding an outlet growing up and I think I've always wanted to be great because that's my way of expressing myself. I show who I am on the inside by showing what I put my heart and dedication into.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I heard you had a back injury before the Lyman Good fight. How did it effect you in your training and what was something that you felt was missing in the fight because of the injury?
Chris Lozano: I wasn't able to do anything explosive until about the last two weeks of my training. All of my sparring sessions were 30 percent. I couldn't really good crazy, not even in my grappling. If someone took me down, it was effortless because of my injury, I couldn't use my core to shrug people off and use my bottom half as quick as I usually could. I just told myself that I was going to fight through it. It was too much money, too big of an opportunity and I believed in myself so much that even being half the fighter that I usually am, I really believed I could win that tournament.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're facing Brent Weedman and you've said this is the most dangerous guy you've faced in your entire career. What do you feel makes him so much more dangerous especially compared to these tough guys you've competed against already?
Chris Lozano: His well-roundedness makes him the most dangerous opponent I've ever fought. He's not just well-rounded as a fighter but he's well-rounded as a person and mentally also. When he's in there, he knows how to flip the switch on and he knows how to hurt people, break them down. The only thing Lyman Good has that's better than Brent is that he's bigger. Brent Weedman can finish you a lot of different ways.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Does it make you disappointed or excited that you're getting such a difficult fight so early in the tournament again?
Chris Lozano: If you would have asked me this last time, I would have been upset about it like, "Damn! I can't catch a break!" but now that I've seen the growth that a high level opponent will give you as a person, as a mixed martial artist, I love it. I definitely plan on winning but win, lose or draw, it will definitely make me a better person, a better fighter. The loss to Lyman, I thought I was reaching my potential when I fought him and fighting him and losing to him and changing a few things, the fighter I am now shows that my ceiling has only gotten higher.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've mentioned that you don't see a lot of holes in Weedman's game, but I did hear you say that you think if there's anything that could be exploited, it's his ground game. How do you think you could take advantage of the weaknesses in Weedman's ground game?
Chris Lozano: I think if you're a physically stronger fighter than Brent, then you can overpower him. He may have finished Jay Hieron if he was a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger. He pounded Jay a couple times and he had him in a couple chokes that I think he would have finished if he was a bit stronger. A couple times he just had positions that he couldn't hold and the guy would just power out of it, the same thing with Dan Hornbuckle. That's one way. Another thing is that he's very tricky but his trickiness also gives his opponent an opportunity. He goes from Kimuras to armbars and if you know what's coming, you feel what's coming, you can explode out of it and take top position because he's dropping to his back going for an armbar. Just things like that, the risks he takes and the transitions he makes gives more opportunities than guys that just stay tight and want to work on you.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've noticed that you two seem to be the most cerebral fighters that I've seen. You break things down so well and you're very intelligent about the extreme technical aspects of this sport. He's talked about how you have been an obsession of his ever since the fight was announced. Do you believe that that's something you can take advantage of because you've grown so much since the last time he's seen you fight?
Chris Lozano: Oh absolutely. I'm actually banking on him looking at tapes of me because if he thinks he's going in there against the same guy that's fighting Lyman, he'd have been just as better off studying tape of Ben Askren or somebody else. I'm not the same fighter and if he's been looking at videos than he's making a mistake if he's thinking that's the guy he's fighting.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You talked about how you were almost babysit by martial arts movies growing up. Can you talk about the influence that they had on you?
Chris Lozano: Basically, I'd be at the house with my brother and he'd be watching me, babysitting and doing his own thing and the only thing I ever wanted, my mother would ask me, "What movies do you want?" and I'd always answer, "Karate movies, ninja movies." Every time, it was always the same answer. She'd bring three or four of them home, bootleg karate movies, bootleg ninja movies, something only a kid could watch and keep attention. That's all that I did up until I was eight or nine years old when the UFC came out. All the kids were running around or playing video games but I was glued, glued to the TV watching UFC 1 and telling myself, "that's what I was born for."
I started boxing because I wanted to punch like the guys in the movies and then I did taekwondo because I wanted to kick like the guys in the movies and then I tried kickboxing because I wanted to be like Jean-Claude Van Damme. I also wrestled because I wanted to be like my brothers. Those were my idols. Other kids look up to their father, astronauts, ballplayers but my idols were the fighters in my family, my brothers and the guys in these movies. I think that's a big part of who I am today.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is there any movie in particular that moved you more than anything else?
Chris Lozano: Bloodsport, absolutely. When Bellator picked me up, the guy that helped me out with my career, he said, "Joe Silva from the UFC is interested in you," but then Bellator came around and they had an offer for me to be in a tournament and the tournament reminded me of the Kumite. All these guys from around the world getting together, all great fighters and they're there to prove who's the best. I felt like a bird in the hand was better than two in the bush so I took the opportunity with Bellator. It reminded me of Bloodsport, earning the invite into the tournament based on my skills. I think that day I got the invite I was more excited than anything.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So how do see this fight with Brent Weedman playing out?
Chris Lozano: I know we're both great strikers so we'll stand for a bit, but at some point someone is going to get the upperhand and try to get the fight to the ground. Obviously I see myself winning or I wouldn't be a worthy opponent if I saw myself losing. I see myself finishing him. He's been choked out once and he's been stopped with a cut but I see myself TKO-ing him. The confidence I have going into this fight is through the roof.
Chris would like to thank Strong Style Martial Arts, Dom Fight Gear, Intimidation Fight Gear, Fresh Catch, Kodiak Cream, CombatCardboard.com, FPC cross-fit, John P. Lennon and Defiance Tattoo. You can follow him on Twitter @Cle_Assassin.
So what do you think Maniacs?
Will the new and improved Chris Lozano make an impact in this tournament? Or will Brent Weedman bounce him from the quarterfinals?
Be sure to check out these other interviews from our Bellator welterweight introductory series: