Spirited away: Interview with Bellator 72 welterweight Waachiim Spiritwolf (Part one)

Waachiim Spiritwolf gets ready to slam Marius Zaromskis to the ground in their second bout at Bellator 68 this past May. Spiritwolf will battle Zaromskis for the third time tomorrow night. Photo via via Bellator

For welterweight Waachiim Spiritwolf, tomorrow night's (July 20, 2012) bout against Marius Zaromskis cannot come soon enough.

The Native American was on the verge of defeating Zaromskis back at Bellator 68 this past May, having rocked the Lithuanian on the feet and nearly finished him on the ground, but a fluke cut forced a stop to the fight at the end of the second round, and a questionable stoppage at that as he barely needed any stitches to close it afterwards.

When he got the call that he'd be getting a third crack at Zaromskis (the first fight ended via no contest due to eye poke in the first six seconds), he was ecstatic.

Now, after having regrouped and with a ton of confidence, Spiritwolf is hoping to right the wrongs from the last two fights as he takes on Zaromskis on the Bellator 72 main card in Tampa, Florida.

Spiritwolf spoke with MMAmania.com about his past, his present and revealed a little bit more about the man behind the ferocious fighting style in part one of this exclusive interview.

Check it out:

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This fight against Zaromskis is coming up. I'm wondering what's your excitement level and how does it feel to finally have a chance to get some closure for this thing?

Waachiim Spiritwolf: Oh man, I'm so excited for this fight. For me, it's going to be round three. The first two rounds I think went my way. I was able to control most of the fight and I ended the second round almost finishing Zaromskis. For me, this is just going to be round three, going in there looking to finish him from the bell. I'm very excited for this fight and my 100 percent focus is going in there and finishing him. I'm going to do everything I can to finish him standing, on the ground, wherever it goes. I'm looking to put a punctuation mark on this trilogy and definitely make it a memorable trilogy for all the fans.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Definitely. Now, going more into your background here, I want to start with your sports background. You played some football and what I want to know is did you have any other combat sport experience before you got into MMA?

Waachiim Spiritwolf: Wrestling was my first martial art. It's considered a martial art today, but back then I just wrestled in high school and I did well. A lot of my family also wrestled and did well. It was pretty natural for me. For me, I wrestled in high school and played football. I took that to definitely be my springboard into MMA.

Wrestling is extremely difficult and it really pushes you. Wrestlers are really known for their determination. To take someone down that doesn't want to be taken down, it's extremely tiring and mentally exhausting. It takes a lot of determination to be a good wrestler and I would go from playing football which was high impact. I was team captain playing inside linebacker going all over the field to wrestling so my body was pretty beat up. I enjoyed it.

I'm 36 years old right now and my body feels 26. I've really taken care of my body and minimalized the injuries, the impacts as much as possible and I really love fighting and competing. For me, I always feel like I'm fight ready but I did use my experiences in those prior sports to help.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What was the exact thing that got you to enter MMA? Did you have a friend? Did you watch an event? Did you see a poster and think, "I want to do this!" How did it happen?

Waachiim Spiritwolf: Yeah, I was actually considering playing college football up at Colorado for the Buffaloes or the Rams and I had some friends on the team up there and I was gonna play college football and it ended up falling through. I ended up starting jiu-jitsu with my good friend Dean Lister who's now obviously the world Abu Dhabi champion. He was one of the best grapplers on Earth and for me, I think he's the best grappler on Earth, period.

I've been training with him since the very beginning. We saw the first UFC together. We sat down in my apartment. We were young men and we saw the first UFCs with Royce Gracie and the Ken Shamrocks and the Dan Severns and that was really exciting for us. I never thought I would get into it but Dean got into it first and then I got into it.

For me, that's where it all started and Dean Lister is still a good friend of mine. We've been friends since junior high school when we were 13-14 years old. I just trained with Dean the other day. He's the godfather of my son, he's a very close friend of mine and I respect what he does both as a person and as an athlete in this sport.

I helped him get ready for his Pride fights back in the day and also for his UFC fights. He's always been lights out so for me, if it wasn't for Dean Lister, i wouldn't be in the sport so I've got a lot of respect and love for Dean.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Once you started fighting, was there a specific moment where you realized this was what you wanted to do for a living, that this was your calling?

Waachiim Spiritwolf: Yeah, I think there was. Getting Dean Lister ready for his first fight at Pride. At the time, Pride was doing huge events with 50-80,000 people and back in the day, the UFC wasn't quite as big as them. That was where everybody wanted to go. Dean had won Abu Dhabi and he was making his way to MMA. He was in King of the Cage and I saw how successful he was and I would go to train with him and Dean would tell me, "Hey, you're good enough to go pro. You're good enough to do really well."

I really respected his opinion so I told him, "When you're ready for your next fight, book a fight for me." Within my first fight, I had the championship and for me, the rest is history. I go into every fight with the same sense of urgency. I'm a very proud Native American and I see myself representing myself and my people and it gives me a lot of pride whenever I train and whenever I fight.

Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're a proud Native American as well. I heard you like to give back. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Waachiim Spiritwolf: I try to inspire the youth. I just spoke to the youth last Wednesday bout nutrition and staying away from the drugs and alcohol. As a youth, if you don't have something positive to look at, you'll find something negative so I do my best to be a mentor and give them a sense of direction. Hopefully I can continue to do that and give back to the community.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the exciting conclusion of our interview with Spiritwolf as we talk about his motivation, who inspires him and much, much more.

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