Bellator welterweight Dan Hornbuckle is ramping up the intensity.
Fueled by the desire to improve upon his past performance, "The Handler" has switched up his training camp. He heads into the Bellator season five welterweight tournament, choosing instead to workout back home alongside the people who helped push him into being one of most feared welterweights outside the UFC just two years ago.
At 6'2" and with a freakishly long reach, Hornbuckle is one of the most awkward welterweights on the planet with which to to deal. He backs up his ferocious and diverse striking attack with a very aggressive arsenal of submissions. He's a fighter equally capable of ending a fight with an insane head kick or a Kimura submission from his back.
This will be his third attempt at winning a Bellator welterweight tournament. And the Illinois native knows his time to truly make a great impact in the promotion is starting to run out. He will fight Luis Santos at Bellator 49 this Saturday night (Sept. 10, 2011).
Hornbuckle spoke about throwing out gameplans, avenging his last loss to Brent Weedman and the reason Ben Askren isn't his favorite person in the world in part three of this 32-part Bellator series during an appearance on Bloody Elbow radio.
Matt Bishop: You were supposed to fight Lyman Good at Bellator 44. He had to pull out and that was going to be a pretty big fight in terms of the Bellator welterweight division. What were you feeling when he had to pull out because I'm assuming that you had to be looking forward to that brawl?
Dan Hornbuckle: Oh man, extreme disappointment and not against Lyman. We have talked about it and he's more tore up about it than I am. That had "Fight of the Year" written all over it. We both know we're still going to be competing for a while and the locking of our horns is just going to be postponed for a little while.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Going in with your opponent, Luis Santos, this is a guy with a ton of experience. He has 49 wins, including one of his most recent at Bellator 45. How big of a role is his experience going to play into this?
Dan Hornbuckle: His experience will play a factor in it. It's not going to be easy to break a guy who's been in that many fights against a some pretty decent caliber guys along the way but none of those fights on his record have been against me so we're gonna put that to the test on the 10th.
Matt Bishop: In your opinion, as a fighter, he has a ton of fights -- 57 fights or whatever. Is there a difference between the levels of competition here? Would you put your 26 fights against his 57 in terms of the level of competition you've faced and the degree of difficulty?
Dan Hornbuckle: Yeah, that's another factor to consider: who has he's fought and what level of show and how he's gonna be able to handle that. There's been a lot of guys who have gone into the UFC with a great number of records and have done that well because of the pressure of the show that they weren't used to. That's gonna be a big consideration to factor in as well. Bellator is my house.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Coming into your debut with Bellator, you've been a finishing machine, but you've had a bit of a dust-up in your last couple fights and three of them have gone to a decision. What's your mind-set like differently coming into this tournament? Do you want to get right back on that finishing train?
Dan Hornbuckle: Oh yeah, man. No more judges, no more decisions and that's even at the cost of accepting me losing fights. I don't give a "bleep, bleep, bleep" how it goes down, I'm going down swinging. It's not going to the judges. No more of this decision crap. It's one of those things that in my training camp and style for the tournament, "Oh play it safe, get in there and finish and be done," and you also have to consider that you're running into really tough guys at this level now and they're all so well-experienced in everything, their jiu-jitsu, striking, judo. It's hard to finish some of these guys. Their heads are made of concrete and it's time to toughen up the weapons that I'm working with to bust through what their dealing with.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your last fight with Brent Weedman, which was just incredibly close and evenly matched, could have gone either way. Did that play a huge factor into that mindset coming in?
Dan Hornbuckle: I just know that from that point, and from when Brent's wife came to me and said, "You won that fight," I know I won it, but yeah, the mindset just leaves a really bad taste in your mouth that there's just no more, especially when you go back and look at what got you to where you were in your career was the finishing aspect and how you threw reckless abandon and then you changed your mindset to the criteria that all these top guys are going to, "Hey, fight safe and do just enough to win," well doing enough to win isn't enough in my opinion. You go out there and make sure you pick your opponent up off the ground and you tell him, "Good job and good luck," and console him on his loss. That's my mindset.
Matt Bishop: How hard is it to get over a loss like that?
Dan Hornbuckle: It's not hard. I'm already over it but that's also the motivation I'm using for my training and the rest of my career. It's a very important learning lesson that this point in my career is very pivotal and continue to build a name that I've created up to this point and now go back to that style that got you to that build-up point and go back to those finishing ways so that's exactly how I've got to overcome it and use that and know that you live to fight another day.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've talked about your training and I know you've worked with ATT in the past and you've also spent time working in Chicago and other areas of the midwest. Where have you really been working the most in the lead-up to these fights?
Dan Hornbuckle: Building up to this fight I stayed at home and brought in some really tough guys that I used to train with in the past. Just focusing on what it is that I've got to do to go back to finishing fights. I'm going to ramp up the intensity and nobody believes that because I've been more like a purple belt or blue belt of intensity in my fights and these are the guys that actually gave me the ranking of black belt of intensity. I brought them in and they've smacked me up some and told me what it is that I was doing wrong and how we can bring back that black belt of intensity.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you think it was that you were doing wrong the most that made you want to change things up a bit?
Dan Hornbuckle: I know it might be controversial but it's going in with a gameplan and just letting the gameplan play out in your mind. "This is what's gonna happen and this is how it's gonna go and this is how we've got to do it," Alright, no more gameplans. Throw them out. Be in the best shape you can. Outwork even the toughest opponent and just beat the snot out of 'em. That's what we were missing. "Okay, when he jabs, slip right and when he kicks you jab and move in." No way. No more of that crap. Go back to what "The Handler" does and that is handle his opponents.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had a tough fight with Ben Askren in the season two tournament finals and you had a chance to witness Jay Hieron first hand fighting on the same night at the start of the last season. How do you really feel that fight is gonna play out because a lot of people think the wrestling could be evenly matched and this could be a fight that Ben Askren is gonna be in a lot of trouble with?
Dan Hornbuckle: Well, first off when Ben and I competed against each other, it wasn't a fight, it was a competition. He turned it into a wrestling match so it wasn't a fight. A fight is when fists are flying and kicks are thrown and he implemented what he does best and that's wrestling. I had a loss that night but he didn't beat me. There's a huge difference. Hieron's wrestling, I just don't feel it. I do have to give Ben his credit with his caliber and pedigree of wrestling but I feel Hieron is athletic enough to counterbalance that and finish off "Ass-crack."
Matt Bishop: It's clear that you do not like Ben's fighting style. Obviously he's coming in and winning fights but do you think that guys should be a little more well-rounded before they step into the cage?
Dan Hornbuckle: I 100 percent agree with that. Okay, if you are one-dimensional, that's fine. And if you're winning fights, tha'ts fine, but start showing improvements in other areas. I'm not necessarily saying that you have to be world class at it out of the gate but at least show the fact that you're developing like Cole Konrad the other night. He's improving his striking skills. He's a national champion, two-time, three-time. He's improving in other aspects of the game and he was willing to take a risk and put his neck out there against a very lethal striker and he benefited from it so now he had a massive growth out of that. So yeah, before you go on to call yourself a complete mixed martial artist, you've got to add some other tools to the toolbox.
Matt Bishop: So you just want to see him show something else, anything and you would be happy?
Dan Hornbuckle: Basically, because I'd rather watch a wall dry after I painted it than watch him fight and i'm not the only one that's ever said that. It's okay, he takes them down and lays on 'em. Good for ya. That's the same as watching an NCAA match and that's exactly why these wrestlers have to come to the MMA world because they have no where else to go with it. That's why it ends at the NCAA and even if you get a shot at the Olympics, that's great, but you have to come back and start evolving yourself.
Matt Bishop: What should we expect when you step into the cage with Luis Santos on Saturday night?
Dan Hornbuckle: The black belt of intensity that got me this point of my career. That's what you should be ready for.
So, maniacs, will Hornbuckle be able to bring back that same fire that helped him become one of MMA's top welterweight prospects? Or will his lack of a gameplan come back and bite him against Luis Santos?
Be sure to check out these other interviews from our Bellator welterweight introductory series: