Polar Express: Interview with Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad

Cole Konrad is keeping his fingers crossed this week.

His opponent, Eric Prindle, has been a walking voodoo curse. "The American Soldier's" original heavyweight tournament final ended in a no contest, he had a fight delayed due to illness and then he ended up being gifted the heavyweight tournament final when Thiago Santos failed to make weight.

Konrad was so eager to get a fight after only competing once in 2011 that he accepted a title fight on two week's notice. Unfortunately, Prindle again was sidelined after hurting his hand in training.

Now, finally, "The Polar Bear" will get an opportunity to defend his Bellator heavyweight title for the first time this Friday night (May 25, 2012) as he'll battle Prindle in the main event of Bellator 70, the Bellator sixth season finale.

The former NCAA Division I wrestling champion spoke with me during a guest appearance on Bloody Elbow Radio where he talked about Prindle's bad luck, wanting to keep active as a fighter and even his heavyweight physique.

Check it out:

Matt Bishop: This has been an up and down situation for you with not knowing what the situation with the last tournament was going to be and then the fiasco that was the Prindle-Santos fight if you can even call it that. Finally, here you are just a few days out from defending your title. How are you feeling?

Cole Konrad: I'm feeling great, man. It's been too long since I've been in there and I'm just looking forward to that, getting in there and getting after it.

Matt Bishop: You fought so many times in 2010 and you only fought once last year and you're probably realistically only going to fight twice this year. You've mentioned it's been so long since you've been in there, so what you have been doing in your off time to stay sharp?

Cole Konrad: Obviously training. Some of the guys in my camp have had several fights between my last fight and this upcoming one so I've been doing through training camps with them and working on the skills I need to work on. To be honest, the hardest part is to stay motivated when there isn't an upcoming fight in sight but fortunately, the saga that was Prindle-Santos kind of kept me on my toes the whole time because I was expected to come and then it got pushed back and then I was expected again so I was constantly working towards something that was coming right around the corner. It actually worked in my favor to help me keep training hard but it's been a long time.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): That time off and eagerness to come back, Is that part of the reason why you decided to take your title fight within two weeks of Prindle not ending up having to fight in the finals?

Cole Konrad: Absolutely. As rare as I'd been getting fights there, I didn't know when the next offer would come. They could have offered me a fight on two days' notice and I would have taken it. That's just how it was. I was training so it wasn't completely out of the blue but obviously, you'd like to have a full camp going into a fight but I took that fight on short notice because as rare as I was getting fights offered, I had to take it. I have to make a living too.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): With Brock Lesnar not training as part of Team Deathclutch, is Deathclutch still there in it's same capacity? What's the atmosphere like there? Are you more gravitated towards some other gyms in the area?

Well we do still have Deathclutch. I wouldn't say we still have the same core group of guys but we more train at Greg Nelson's gym in the cities here because a lot of us outside of Brock were located in the cities here so it just made sense to stay down here. We've brought most of Deathclutch Gym down here. The Deathclutch group is still here but we don't train up at Deathclutch as often. We do still go up for closed practices and all that but just not as often.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Eric Prindle used to train at Deathclutch. He would come up to work with Brock and you guys every so often. Did you get a chance to spar with him, roll around with him and get a feel for his game much?

Cole Konrad: Yes, absolutely. We were all training together for a pretty good stretch there. Yeah, he knows my game and I know his game so it'll be kind of an interesting thing. I think there's no secret as to how the fight's gonna go. I'm gonna go in for the takedown and he's gonna try to knock me out on the way in. If he knocks me out he wins and if I take him down, I'll probably win.

I think it'll be a faster paced and shorter fight than people are used to seeing out of me. I think part of it is confidence and the other part is we know each other and know how the fight's going to go for the most part. You never know exactly how the fight's gonna go obviously but we have a pretty good feel for each other, we know what each other is going to bring to the table and we're going to go for it from the get-go. I'll be very shocked if it goes beyond a round or two.

Matt Bishop: In all of your off-time, what have you been doing to keep your wrestling sharp?

Cole Konrad: Well I'm wrestling all the time. I help coach a high school team and I still work out at the university with their heavyweight and he's no slouch, just won the heavyweight title this year. I'm constantly working with those guys, pretty elite level guys so we're constantly staying sharp through that. Coaching alone, doesn't do much for you from the wrestling standpoint but I'm constantly thinking wrestling, working on wrestling technique and helping kids develop. If you think about it all the time, your wrestling doesn't get lackluster.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Prindle just seems cursed over the last 4-5 months. Something always seems to go wrong whether it was a no contest or an illness, or an opponent missing weight or an injury. Are you just going to like put yourself in a padded room during fight week?

Cole Konrad: (laughs) Yeah I'll probably wear a helmet on the plane, maybe my elbow pads and knee pads.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): And if you take him down, please don't stand back up and kick him in the balls.

Cole Konrad: (laughs) Hey, I feel sorry for the guy. I can't imagine what that felt like. It must have been pretty bad.

Matt Bishop: You've been mentioning wanting to get fights and assuming you win against Prindle, there's no heavyweight tournament going on right now, would you be okay taking another non-title superfight just to get in there later this year or would you rather wait until the next tournament was over?

Cole Konrad: I would fight every weekend if they let me. I don't care who it is or what it's for. I don't care if it's a superfight or not. I'd be content taking any fight I possibly could. So yes, I would.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In your last fight against Paul Buentello, you surprised a lot of people by standing and trading with him for almost the whole fight, even rocking him at one point. Is there any temptation at all to want to stand and trade with Prindle or do you just realize that the ground is by far your easiest path to victory?

Cole Konrad: Well, the ground is my easiest path to victory but the other thing with Buentello is I had nothing to lose with Buentello. There was no title on the line, nothing special about it other than I was fighting a guy who was known for his stand-up so I figured it would be a good opportunity to work on my stand-up to see where I'm at. This is a title fight. I'm completely in the business of winning so I'm not going to jeopardize my title for some silly little reason just to pad my ego in the stand-up.

I'm gonna come out there and do what I've got to do to win as quickly as I can do it. I'm not looking to stand and exchange with him for long periods of time. Why play into his hand? Why give him an advantage in an area? I'm gonna try to impose my will as much as I can and make him uncomfortable working my game. The playing around when you're fighting other guys and it doesn't matter, that's fine to work on your skills, but when the title's on the line, things like that, you've got to get in and get out and get the job done. The Buentello fight was more for fun to work on my stand-up

Matt Bishop: Question here from our listeners: Is there a respectable way to ask about Cole's diet during training? Much like Roy Nelson, I'm amazed that someone that goes through MMA cross training and keep their size and I have to assume it's gotta be almost a workout to eat that many calories in a day. Can you talk about that?

Cole Konrad: (laughs) Well I start with a case of Dunkin' Donuts. This is key, followed by a gallon of chocolate milk....no man. I've always been fat. That's part of it. It's not cool. I wouldn't be fat if I had my way I guess but I've always trained at a high level and worked hard and followed pretty strict diets. Obviously, it's my definite weakness and I don't have a great answer to the question other than that I must really "F" up in some area.

For the most part, I eat fairly decent. I don't drink soda. I don't really have sweets or anything like that. It's pretty much just chicken and rice or things like that. Probably too big of portions or I eat too late at night or something, I don't know but diet is definitely my weak spot. There's no denying that. It's not something I'm proud about but at the same time, I'm performing and I'm not gonna fret for it for no reason.

Matt Bishop: When you envision this fight in your head, what do you see and how do you see this fight going down?

Cole Konrad: I see an early takedown and an early submission in my mind. I think he throws a haymaker over the back of my head as I'm shooting in. I think I'm gonna shoot, he's gonna go for the knockout and I hope I'm fast enough that he misses (laughs). I'm hoping to go straight through his punch, get the takedown and end it. That's how I've envisioned it over and over again in my head. We'll see how it goes down.

You can follow Cole Konrad on Twitter @ColeKonradMMA.

So what do you think, Maniacs?

Will Konrad do his thing on Friday night against Prindle? Could another bad-luck scenario play out to cancel the fight? Is the situation ripe for an upset?

Sound off!

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