You may not remember John Albert from season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter.
He was very quiet on the show, was labeled "tentative" in the premiere by UFC President Dana White and never found himself the focal point of any drama that could capture the audience's attention. He was an afterthought once he'd been eliminated by John Dodson in the quarterfinal round.
But that's not the end of the story.
"Prince" Albert exploded out of the gate in his UFC debut against the heavily favored Dustin Pague, crushing his opponent inside the first 70 seconds of round one and even getting some national exposure when his fight was broadcast on the Spike TV portion later that night.
With his impressive victory, the Victory Athletics fighter was rewarded with a tremendous opportunity as he was asked to take on experienced veteran Ivan Menjivar at the inaugural UFC on Fuel TV event. Albert accepted and he'll be fighting on the main card this Wednesday night (February 15, 2012) against "The Pride of El Salvador."
The Washington-based warrior spoke with MMAmania.com about earning a spot on the main card, breaking his stigma of being tentative and shared his enthusiasm for guns in part one of this two-part interview.
Check it out.
John Albert: I was worried about not having a big name, so I never got into it. I heard everyone before they got onto the show started opening up a twitter account but I was like, "Nobody's gonna know me," and I was gonna wait until after the show and I downgraded my phone from a smart phone to a regular phone and I kept delaying it. I'm really enjoying it now though. People are saying so many good things to you, it makes it hard to stop.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Well don't get yourself surrounded by "yes-men," John.
John Albert: (laughs) I won't, I promise.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Alright, well word came out today, I was doing some research on the UFC on Fuel card and your fight with Ivan Menjivar is one of the six fights on the main card. How does that feel?
John Albert: What?!?!? When did this happen? (laughs).
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You didn't even know?
John Albert: No one told me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): They've got the four fights on Facebook and their doing six fights on Fuel. It was one of the six main card fights. I saw it on UFC.com and everything.
John Albert: Oh wow. Well I guess that's pretty exciting because I was already telling everyone to go watch me on Facebook. (laughs) That feels really good that they want to put me on the main card. I don't know, It's so exciting. I can really feel my heart pumping right now. It's pretty amazing. I can't believe they bumped me up. I know I did what I could at the last event.
Dana [White] gave this awesome speech in the back and he's like, "You guys worked hard to be here and you want to do anything you can to get on the main card," and I was thinking, "Man, I'm gonna do whatever I can to be on the main card when I fight Pague," and I ended up making it on the televised portion right before the finale with Bisping and Miller. I was like, "Yeah, I made it!" and that was my goal this time, just do what I had to do on the prelims to get that quick clip of me on the main card so people can see me again and now I'm just one of them on there. It's pretty exciting.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Good for you. Speaking of that last fight, I watched your post-fight interview immediately following your victory over Dustin Pague and you were just on Cloud 9. How long did that emotional high last and how long did it take for you to get back down to Earth?
John Albert: It took a good 24 hours. For the first 30 minutes or an hour after the fight, you couldn't shut me up. I wasn't trying to downgrade Pague or anything but my coach was even like, "Hey man, shut up. You won, dude. You're excited," and people are walking past me and I'm screaming, "I can't believe I hit him that hard!" and I didn't mean to be a jerk but it kind of feels like I was being on almost because I was so elated with it. It was everything that I wanted. I worked so hard for it and it finally happened.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That was actually something that I thought was kind of strange because you were this crazy finisher before you got on the show and then you got this reputation on TUF 14 for being tentative in both of your fights, but then you went out and you were wild and crazy again in your fight with Dustin Pague. What was the big difference for you?
John Albert: I came into the show knowing they were going to pick some of the best 135-ers out there and I got into my own head. My fight to get into the house, I was thinking, "This guy is gonna be good, he has to be. They're not just going to throw scrubs in there the first time," and I was expecting him to be really good and then he wasn't that good compared to me, but it took a feeling out process before I went after it.
When I fought Dodson, I knew who he was and that he was tough so I was trying to conserve my energy but I gassed out anyways. I was frustrated and when I fought Pague, I was like, "I've got to let it all on the line." Chris Lytle is a huge inspiration for me. What he did in the cage, he just laid it all out there. The worst thing that can happen is you lose. Obviously, I don't want to lose but I'd rather go out at 100 percent and put on the best show possible than be looking like I was tentative and not going out there and fighting to finish.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've been working with a new muay thai coach if I'm not mistaken, Saohin Srisuk. How has he been able to help harness your striking?
John Albert: Well, he brought back my kickboxing. In my last fight, I threw the one kick in there. I've always been a kicker, but not a real strong kicker, just more of a defensive kicker to keep people away and I just worked real hard on my boxing to just stay in the pocket, hit hard and not be afraid to throw. Now what he's doing is get me to use both boxing and Muay Thai. He's a boxing world champ and a muay thai world champ so he brings both aspects of the game. He doesn't say, "Just do muay thai," which would be ridiculous. You can't just have one style of striking so we work on the inside game and we work on the outside game with the kicking and movement and it's just bringing back some of the game I'd missed. I love kicking and my boxing is very effective, but I just want to bring back my kicks.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You were working throughout the beginning of your MMA career but now you're training full time. What are the biggest differences for you now that you're training full-time compared to part-time?
John Albert: Well one of the things is learning to treat your body correctly. When you train full-time, you've got time to eat your six meals a day, proper meals and you're working out more throughout the day and getting your cardio and strength and technique that you need whereas when I was working, I'd get the one meal during the whole shift. I'd have to work, get a lunch break and then go back to work. That was it and I could feel how poor I felt whenever I had to cut weight. It would be like a crash diet because I couldn't eat multiple times a day and I felt weak. Now, my last fight when I fought Pague, after my water-shed, I still felt like I could fight. I was just so full of energy and I felt good. It was just how I was able to treat my body and train like a professional.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know that when you were training part time, you worked as an electrician and I saw something about how, you said the temptation of food is pretty bad, that you'd be an overweight electrician if you weren't in MMA, right?
John Albert: Oh yeah. I was a fat kid growing up. I grew up really poor, not extremely poor or anything but it was kind of a grind every day. I had to live off the free school lunches and all the money that my mom got form my dad's child support went to the rent. It was a lot of hard work on my mom's part so we would always eat cheap, unhealthy stuff. Fruit isn't cheap, but pizza is. That was the kind of food I grew up on, just cheap unhealthy food and unfortunately, I love it. I could eat pizza and McDonald's ever day. Food is one of my favorite things and that's what makes fighting so hard, the food. I love fighting that much though, that I can keep the food out of it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So what's your guilty pleasure going to be if you had your choice at the after party?
John Albert: Oh man. Honestly, after my last fight, me and my fiance went out every single night to dinner. I went out to every single restaurant. I love being served and I love the fast food. I don't think I cooked dinner for a month until I had to get back and ready for this fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I saw that you're a bit of a gun enthusiast. I was wondering where that all came about because I haven't seen you discuss it anywhere other than a brief mention or two on twitter.
John Albert: Oh that's funny. My dad was a game warden so growing up, he taught me how to hunt, fish and shoot as much as I could. He was in Reno while I lived in Washington, but every summer we'd go down there and that's all we'd do. He put me through munitions training so I understand how the gun works and how to fix the gun if there's a problem in the field, use safety and I just fell in love with guns and when I grew up, I purchased my own guns. I've got everything I need. I've got my shotgun, my handgun, my hunting rifle and I plan on getting more. It's a good pastime for me to just relax, go out and shoot and get away from the world.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So you were probably a bit disappointed when the UFC put a ban on all the gun and ammo sponsors, right?
John Albert: (laughs) Yeah, that was definitely too bad. I was looking forward to that, going to The Gun Store in Vegas like, "Man I hope I fight in Vegas again so I can get The Gun Store to sponsor me," but it's no big deal. Sponsors are sponsors. I'll get whoever I can take.
Stay tuned tomorrow night for the conclusion of our interview with John "Prince" Albert as he discusses his upcoming fight with Ivan Menjivar, his training with Dennis Hallman and why getting "rocked" while sparring was the final straw that pushed him into wanting to be a fighter.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Do you wish Albert had been given an opportunity to showcase more of his personality while on the show? Do you think he has what it takes to beat Ivan Menjivar next Wednesday?