Photo of John Albert via Spike TV
John Albert didn't truly fall in love with mixed martial arts (MMA) until he got rocked in a sparring session.
The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 14 veteran took his licks in training and realized that even the worst case scenarios weren't that bad. He was actually invigorated by his mistake and that's the type of attitude it takes to be a top level fighter.
While things didn't go his way on TUF 14, Albert holds the distinction of being the only man on the show who faced the eventual winner, John Dodson, and didn't get knocked out. In fact, he more than held his own in losing a decision to "The Magician."
After destroying Dustin Pague on the show finale, Albert was offered a tremendous leap in competition in Ivan Menjivar, a man who's battled the likes of Georges St. Pierre and Urijah Faber in a career that's spanned over 10 years. He'll take on "The Pride of El Salvidor" this Wednesday night (February 15, 2012) at UFC on Fuel TV in Omaha, Nebraska.
"Prince" filled in much of his background in part one of our interview with him. In speaking with MMAmania.com for part two, the Victory Athletics fighter discussed his 2012 goals, facing a tremendous experience gap and why taking on a tough challenge like Ivan Menjivar is the perfect step for him at this point in his career.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got one more question about your history before we start delving into your upcoming fight with Ivan Menjivar. I saw something where you said, Getting rocked while sparring at Dennis Hallman's gym was what made you decide that MMA was for you. Can you tell the story of that particular sparring session?
John Albert: I think that's a good breaking point for anybody that really wants to get into this sport. I feel like there's a lot of people that get into MMA and don't really understand what it's about, what it takes to be a fighter, or maybe they're the tough guy at the gym and always winning and they never get hurt but then you see them in a real fight and they just get rocked. That's one thing that Dennis always promoted, learning what this sport is all about so when we'd spar, we'd spar hard. It was hard and I was still green in the game and still learning and I jumped right into it against one of the veteran pros and he just cracked me one. I just kept going. As soon as he hit me, I was like, "Man, that wasn't too bad. I can keep doing this!"
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about your ground game because I feel it's very underrated. I know that you originally got Dustin Pague to the ground because you dropped him but once you had him there, you put him in, I think Joe Rogan called it the "gift wrap" position where you tied up his arm. How confident are you in your ground game going into this fight with Ivan Menjivar?
John Albert: Against Ivan, I don't think I can submit him but I definitely don't think he could submit me. I think our ground games are pretty much on par. It could be one of those technical grappling matches and I won't be just laying on my back. If you've seen any of my fights, if I ever go to my back, I'm always attacking. Against Dodson, I was able to take Dodson down and I took his back. I've never fought someone that small before and there were things I had forgotten. I think it's there.
My coach, Dennis Hallman, he's lost five grappling matches ever in competition and he's never been submitted in his life. He's one of the best in the world. He doesn't get the recognition but he is and he trained under Matt Hume for several years and Hume's style of training is to train one move for several hours and then you become a master of every move so having me as my coach has helped me progress so much.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I know that Ivan Menjivar is an incredibly experienced opponent, but you were excited to be fighting him.You were pumped and it seems like you have this "take on the whole world mentality. Do you think that your innate confidence is something that can really help you against him?
John Albert: I think confidence is what has helped me progress through my career. Believing in myself, winning my fights and wanting this fight. I don't think I could go anywhere if I wanted to take my time, pick my opponents and not rise up to the challenge. I wouldn't be in the UFC if I was like that. If you fight the best guys and you beat the best guys, then you become the best guys. People will know your name, people will want to see you fight. When they asked about Menjivar, all I could think about was the opportunity. That's all this is. There's nothing bad that can happen from fighting Ivan Menjivar and doing well against him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you have to say to the people who are counting you out simply because of the big experience disadvantage you've got going into this fight?
John Albert: I think it's understandable. He's top 3-4 most experienced guys in my weight class if not the whole UFC in terms of who he's fought throughout his career. His record is pretty extensive and logistically, it's a numbers game. He appears to have a lot more experience against veteran guys but I don't feel his game has progressed. I came to this in an era where MMA has just blown up and it's progressed and I feel like I'm a progressive fighter.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That makes a lot of sense. Do you feel like your gym could go 2-0 in this battle because your mentor Dennis Hallman beat John Makdessi in his last fight and this is another Victory Athletics versus Tristar Gym showdown?
John Albert: I believe that anything is possible. I almost forgot that they both train at the same gym but I think Ivan is a tougher match-up for the fight. Makdess-Hallman was such a mismatched fight. I think me and Ivan is going to be a tough three round scrap.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you think there was any opponent you've had whether it was earlier in your career or on The Ultimate Fighter that could have helped you the most from your experience in preparation for this fight with Menjivar.
John Albert: I think Dodson. That was an awesome fight because I'd never been to a decision in any of my fights and I was fighting a world-ranked fighter and I came onto the show with no cardio, working full-time and that was a tough fight that could have gone all three rounds. He told me, I talked to him after the fight that I gave him a tough battle. I had no energy out there and I just kept pushing, kept punching and going for takedowns and he had the angles.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What are your goals for 2012? Are you the kind of guy that sets a bunch of goals? What are you hoping to accomplish by the end of this year?
John Albert: My goal is I want to get at least three or four fights. That's what I want to do is fight often. As soon as I fought Pague, the very next day or that night, Dennis called me and said, "Hey, be ready to fight." That's what I wanted. I was really excited when I got that call for Ivan. I want to keep fighting and keep fighting tough guys.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you're picturing the fight with Ivan Menjivar, picturing victory, what do you see?
John Albert: I always end my dreams with my hands being raised several times. I've played lots of scenarios. I've played the ground game scenario, the stand-up scenario and I just see myself winning at each aspect. I feel like I'm gonna be a lot for him to handle. He understands the fight and he knows he has to take his time and pace himself but I just don't think he's fought anybody like me and I want to put pressure on him that will throw him off.
John would like to thank his sponsor Venom, Dennis Hallman at Victory Athletics, Ali Crosbie at Vision Quest Sports and Fitness in Auburn and Cityside Muay Thai for progressing his stand-up game. You can follow him on Twitter @UFCPrinceAlbert.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will the hungry prospect be satisfied with a huge upset over Menjivar on Wednesday night? Do you think "Prince" Albert can make his mark in the UFC bantamweight division by the end of 2012?