For Jason South, age is just a number.
The former furniture mover didn't even know what Brazilian jiu-jitsu was about six years ago, but he started up when he was 29 and immediately began an obsession. It didn't take long before he was winning grappling tournaments and earning medals at the Pan Ams.
Now, at 34 years old, he holds a spotless 8-0 record in mixed martial arts (MMA) and is coming off by far, the most impressive victory of his young career, halting the previously unbeaten prospect Tim Ruberg at a regional event in his native Utah.
South wows his trainers daily with his work ethic, which is one of the reasons he's developed so quickly as a fighter despite never having a background in any martial art growing up.
Now, he's trying to achieve his new goal, which is to fight in the UFC. The undefeated middleweight spoke with MMAmania.com about his impressive recent victory over Ruberg, his initiation into the sport and his big UFC dream in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Your last victory was a big proving ground for you as your opponent was 8-0 and you went out there and you stopped him in the second round. Did you feel like that sort of cemented your status as one of the top guys to keep an eye on?
Jason South: Definitely, I was hoping that that fight would sort of push me forward to where I wanted to be. He was 9-0 as an amateur and 8-0 as a pro and he was on that MMA scouting list so I knew it was gonna be a big win for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Yeah that win was huge. I couldn't find it online so tell me about it, was he tougher than you expected?
Jason South: Not at all. He was exactly as tough as I expected (laughs). He was a college wrestlers, I knew his wrestling was good. I only saw one video on him and he's really good at wearing guys out so I was ready for it. He gave me pretty much what I knew he would do. He was tough as hell. He ran over me pretty good in the first round with his wrestling and he kept throwing me down to the ground but I'm very comfortable on the ground.
My jiu-jitsu is really solid and I got off on him a bit at the end of the first round and in the second round, i came out and got my game going a little bit more and he kept getting on my back and I kept standing up with him on my back and I knew that was frustrating for him. He was telling me afterwards, "I've never been on anybody's back and not been able to flatten them out." I just kept standing up and I even walked him over to my corner one of the times and my corner gave me advice. He has a lot of rear nakeds and he wasn't able to do it to me. He shot on me once and I locked him up and was able to finish a guillotine off, choked him unconscious.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That's really impressive. I heard you were featured on Inside MMA with that finish so that must have been really cool.
Jason South: Yeah, that was cool. I didn't even know until a couple days later myself. National attention, that was awesome.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With that victory, that definitely put you on the map, so now how close do you think you are to getting a shot with a big time organization like Bellator or Strikeforce or UFC?
Jason South: I really want to make it to the UFC, I really do. That's where I want to go. I know I'm starting to get on guy's radars and I'm just hoping I can make the right connection whether it be through another fight or however the hell they get connections, i don't really know (laughs). I've seen some guys in the UFC with a 5-2 record, I don't know how that happens. You've got to be in the right place at the right time or have the right connections. I'm hoping that connection comes real soon.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Tell me a little bit about your fighting style in the cage. I know you've got a strong grappling background and I assumed that I'd be watching you just take guys down and submit them right away but you're more of a scrapper, wearing guys down with striking and then the submissions come on the ground.
Jason South: I've actually only had three fights where I've taken guys to the ground. They usually just ended up there. I'm not one-dimensional at all. I'm not just a guy that can grapple only. I feel comfortable everywhere. I love striking. I'd like to get a big knockout under my belt but I'm not gonna pass up on a submission to do that. I like submitting people and that's just the finish that falls into my hands the most often.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I want to delve into your history a bit. I heard you were a furniture mover.
Jason South: Yeah, my in-laws had a moving company and my father-in-law died 12 years ago so I took over running it and we had 18-wheelers and a warehouse and we covered a lot of the western United States and it was a pretty decent business for a while but then the economy went down. When that fuel approached $5 a gallon, it got tough. It was an expensive side cost and it took away every profit we had and slowly just took us out. This last Christmas, I could have kept going but I came to the conclusion that I was tired of doing something that I really hate doing and I want to do something that I really love doing so we closed it down after Christmas and I'm hoping I get the opportunity to do what I love to do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What was your athletic history before switching over to mixed martial arts?
Jason South: That's the thing, I never did anything. I never wrestled in high school, I never did anything at all. I didn't even know what jiu-jitsu was until I was 29 so I'm 34 right now and I just picked it up really well. I thought jiu-jitsu was like karate. I used to laugh at it and then I started watching fights all the time, I was watching UFC where Matt Hughes and Royce Gracie fought and they showed all of Royce's old fights and I saw him choking everybody out that was 100 pounds heavier than him and I was like, "I've got to learn this!"
I went to what is now my jiu-jitsu school and my first night there, I was a solid 215 pounds and there was a 135 pound kid that was choking me and armbarring me every 15 seconds it felt like. I was like, "If this kid can do this, what can I do?" I fell in love with it and have been glued to it since then.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like because you got this late start, you don't have the wear and tear on your body like a lot of the other fighters are who are at your age?
Jason South: Yeah, yeah, that's kind of what I preach to people when they're looking at me. They're like, "Oh, you're 34?" That's what I say to them. I tried out for The Ultimate Fighter twice and they've kind of given me shit about my age and that's the thing, I don't have the wear and tear. I've only been doing this for five years. I don't have 10 years of abuse on me so I don't feel old. I feel great.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you ever had moments where you doubted yourself?
Jason South: There are times in training where you get mentally beat up, but I want it to happen in training so it doesn't happen in the cage. I say this all the time, you tap a thousand times while you train so you don't have to tap when it counts. I put myself into bad spots all the time just so I can work my way out of it while I'm training. Sometimes I get out of it, sometimes I don't. I have a lot of heart. I don't have any quit in me. I just like to get keep going and going and going. If I face someone that's physically better than me, i want to break him mentally because I just won't quit coming at him. I try not to have any holes in my game. I train at five different places so I get exposure to what people are doing. I try to keep myself grounded and humbled and beat up a lot so I do well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): And you've been looking great in the cage, the results speak for themselves. What are your goals for the rest of 2012? How many more fights would you want to take?
Jason South: Whatever it is that comes along, my main goal is to get my foot in the door to the UFC. If it takes a fight or two or three more to get in the UFC, then that's what I'm gonna do. I'm ready to step up in competition. I'm ready. I'm ready for it all. I'm excited. I've gone through a lot of dry spells here in Utah with not being able to get fights, guys signing to fight me and then they don't. I've been training hard for a long time. I feel good about stepping up to different competition. I still feel like I've got what it takes to do it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What's it going to take for you to get to the UFC?
Jason South: I'm evolved and I'm trying to get things down, like what direction I need to be going whether it's my manager making the right phone call or word of mouth or my record. Whatever it takes. I don't care. Whatever it takes for me to get noticed, I'll do it.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Will age be a factor in Jason South achieving his dream? Could you see him making it to the UFC one day with his current track record?