Waachiim Spiritwolf just can't catch a break.
The first time he ever faced Marius Zaromskis, it was under the Strikeforce banner. It was a bout that was very highly anticipated, but the bout was called just six seconds into the first round after a severe eyepoke coming from his Lithuanian opponent.
The rematch occurred at Bellator 68 and Spiritwolf put forth a very strong effort. He even had "The Whitemare" on the ropes after clocking him with a big flurry of strikes late in the second round but couldn't quite secure the finish.
Spiritwolf seemingly had all the momentum in the fight, but instead the cageside physician put a stop to the bout, citing a small cut over the Native American's eye which wasn't even bleeding heavily.
The San Diego native was obviously devastated.
Now, Spiritwolf has been granted his much-deserved rematch...again. The trilogy fight is slated to go down at Bellator 72 in July. Before he steps into the cage, Spiritwolf spoke with MMAmania.com about the controversial finish to the last bout, what inspires him and how he pictures success against Zaromskis as the trilogy bout nears.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): We'll start with the most obvious question. Do you think there is some kind of crazy curse between you and Marius Zaromskis? The first fight had that super quick eye poke and then the second fight, you're making a big comeback and then BAM, they call the fight and give him the victory.
Waachiim Spiritwolf: Yeah, I definitely think there's some bad luck, but you know, it happens in all sports. There are times where adversity comes and for me, I was able to fight two hard rounds. I feel like I definitely won the fight and I'm looking forward to doing it again. Whether it's a curse or just bad luck for me, I'm definitely gonna bring it in the next fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Take me back to the night of the last fight against Zaromskis. You had him on the ropes and they randomly stop the fight. That had to be so frustrating especially because it didn't even seem like the cut was that bad.
Waachiim Spiritwolf: Oh yeah, it really wasn't bleeding too bad. That was the main thing. When you looked at it, I really wasn't concerned they were gonna stop the fight at all so I was completely shocked. I've had fights where I was bleeding a lot more than that and it wasn't a fault or an issue. For some reason, the doctor at New Jersey didn't want the fight to continue. I know the next time around, things will be different. I'll be fighting in Florida and I'm familiar with the Florida commission. I've fought there four times before. I've had a lot of good luck in Florida and had some of the biggest wins of my career in Florida. I'm looking forward to stopping Zaromskis.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How many stitches did you end up needing for that cut? That's usually a sign of how bad a cut is.
Waachiim Spiritwolf: Yeah, just about seven stitches. It took only seven stitches to close it up so it wasn't too bad at all. They just said it was deep for some reason but it healed up fast, within a week and I was fine. I really think it was just one of those days where something small like that stopped the fight. I've heard a lot of people say it was the worst stoppage they've ever heard of, so I'll let them voice their opinion but for me, as a fighter, I need to stay focused on what I do best and go in there, fight hard and focus on winning.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about what actually happened during the fight. You opened the fight, surprised a lot of people in that first round by shooting for takedowns, putting him in the clinch and really grinding the fight out a bit, at least in the beginning. Was that an attempt to catch him by surprise or was that your key strategy?
Waachiim Spiritwolf: Well the biggest issue for me was making sure Zaromskis was not comfortable. When he's comfortable, that's when you see the flying knees and the head kicks and the knockouts. My big thing was, whatever he wants to do, I want to make sure he's uncomfortable doing it. Whether it was pushing him against the fence or making it an ugly fight, for me, that's what it's about. I fight to finish and I was very happy with my performance. I scored some good takedowns and had some heavy hands on the feet against his heavy kicks. I'll gladly counter his kicks with heavy punches.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In that second round, you got a second wind and just took over in the latter lalf of the round. Can you talk about where that surge of energy came from?
Waachiim Spiritwolf: In every fight, I feel like there's a moment that turns the fight. He was throwing some heavy shots. He threw a heavy kick and I was able to block the kick, get in right away and counter with heavy strikes. I saw his knees buckle and right away my hand speed picked up and I went into "Beast Mode" where I focused entirely on finishing. I just went nuts, knocked him down, really hurt him. When he turned his back and ran away from me, I instinctually chased him down and dropped him. I really felt the fight was over right there. I just kept finishing the round hard.
Waachiim Spiritwolf: I had a good strategy coming into that fight and I feel like I trained for speed and performance and I was able to showcase that in the fight.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I'd like to hear about your mentality as a fighter. You're one of those "stand-and-bang" warriors. What is your mentality when you step into the cage?
Waachiim Spiritwolf: My mentality is just to fight the way I train. I train 365. I train every day, holidays, vacations. I love training. I love to train and I love to fight. When I'm in there, whatever happens in there for me, I'm gonna perform at my best. Some fighters, when the lights are on, they shrivel up. When a knee hits their face, they shrink up. For me, it's the opposite. When the lights are on, I get stronger. When the cameras are around, I get better and when adversity comes and I get hit and I'm bleeding, I become more of a Spiritwolf, more of a beast. It just is something that I've owned in my heart and I'm very fortunate to have a supporting cast in my family and my students.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Bellator seems to be working out pretty well for you. You had that amazing fight against Jaime Jara and of course, the terrific performance against Zaromskis the last time. Is there just something special about when you fight for Bellator?
Waachiim Spiritwolf: Yeah, Bellator has been a real blessing for me. They've really treated me well and I feel really comfortable fighting for them. I fought Jara last March and it was Fight of the Night and everybody loved it. I really think I put on a great performance against Zaromskis and I really feel like I'm getting a second wind in my career.
My training is going well. I'm healthy. All fighters will tell you there are moments where they have injuries or really bad stretches where things aren't going there way. I feel fortunate now. I feel like I'm on an upswing. I'm in really good shape and I'm healthy for the first time in a long time so I'm gonna ride this momentum and I'm gonna go in there against Zaromskis, put an end to this trilogy and move forward from there. I really love fighting for Bellator.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you feel like you've got the momentum heading into the trilogy fight against Zaromskis because of the way you finished that second round?
Waachiim Spiritwolf: , I really feel that fighting is very similar to all sports. Just like the LA Kings did in the NHL playoffs as the eighth seed. They were able to win the Stanley Cup and dominate. The Giants did the same thing in the NFL playoffs, beating the Packers and the Patriots for the Superbowl. It's all about getting hot at the right time. I'm hitting on all cylinders come fight time and feel I can put on a really good performance. I feel like I'm always in the fight and my good habits will pay off against Zaromskis.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What's your motivation heading into this fight? Is it revenge? Is it to right a wrong? Or is it something else?
Waachiim Spiritwolf: Honestly, I just want to take this fight individually. I don't expect the same Zaromskis to show up as last time. I expect a better Zaromskis, a more prepared Zaromskis. Maybe he overlooked me. Maybe he didn't I expect the best fighter to show up that day. I've been training like a madman, literally 2-3 days after that fight getting ready for the next rematch. Once they sent me the contract and it was official, I was so excited. I feel my training will pay off and my conditioning will pay off. My passion for the sport is gonna shine through in this trilogy match.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you have any prefight rituals before your fights?
Waachiim Spiritwolf: I am a very spiritual person. I've got the Native American background and I was raised very spiritually. I do a lot of things and I've been blessed to have some great influences in my life but unfortunately a lot of those people died tragically so I visit their graves. A previous football coach of mine really helped me with my life, helped me as a young man, taught me how to train and conduct myself as a professional so I transferred that to my marital arts career and helped me out. I visit friends, visit the gravestones and get the strength to persevere through everything.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you're visualizing success against Zaromskis for your upcoming rematch at Bellator 72, what do you see?
Waachiim Spiritwolf: The only thing I picture is my hand being raised and that feeling of euphoria that you get. In all of my wins, I've pictured that feeling and it carries me through everything the fight has to offer. You'll always see something you're not expecting. I'm a veteran of the sport and I've learned very quickly that if you go into the fight looking for one thing and it doesn't happen, you can panic. My main concern is to stay focused, overcome adversity and that's where my spiritual part comes through. I have a lot of faith and I will push to a victory. That's how I teach my students and that's what I live by. That's how I teach my son and maybe someday he'll be in the cage too.
Waachiim would like to thank his fight team at Spiritwolf MMA, his family, his management, Jason House at Iridium Sports and all his sponsors Gamma O, Rev Energy, GNC and if anyone wants to get ahold of him or would like to train with him, you can look him up on his website SpiritwolfMMA.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @SpiritwolfMMA.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
After how he finished the second bout, do you feel Spiritwolf will be able to defeat Zaromskis in the trilogy fight? Or is this match-up destined to be screwed up again?