Despite being one of the UFC's best young lightweight prospects, Tim Means has been competing in mixed martial arts for a long time.
It just took him a while to get his act together.
Having gone 16-1-1 in his last 18 fights, with only three of those bouts going to decision, "The Dirty Bird" is ready to prove he's for real in the crowded UFC 155 pound division.
Like many fighters, Means was affected by the cancellation of UFC 151, as he was expected to face fellow prospect Abel Trujillo on the preliminary card. Now, he'll have to wait three months, but he'll finally get his opportunity at UFC on Fox 5 in Seattle.
Means spoke with MMAmania.com during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission about the consequences of having his fight postponed, the turning point of his career and even the prison sentence that made him reevaluate his life in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What was your initial reaction to the cancellation of UFC 151? That had to affect you as bad as anyone.
Tim Means: I guess I thought about the last eight weeks I put in. I wasn't gonna get paid for them. I put in a lot of work and wasn't gonna get anything to show for it. Speaking on the phone with my manager, we tried to get everything put in place. I would have hated to be Joe Silva and Dana White that day. They had to go through so much crap. We just tried to sit back, wait for the smoke to clear and wait for the fight to get rescheduled.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Do you have any sponsors that pay you by the month or are they reliant on you wearing their logos into the cage and displaying them on your banner for the fight?
Tim Means: After talking to my manager, we had some sponsors that were pretty sympathetic like Hayabusa, American Ethanol so we'll see what happens. If not, all my bills are due so I'll probably have to do some sidejobs, I know people in construction over here so I'll survive.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I spoke with some fighters like Charlie Brenneman, Jeff Hougland and Darren Cruickshank the day UFC 151 was cancelled and they were pretty riled up about it. Looking at your twitter feed, you actually stayed pretty positive about the whole thing. Why is that?
Tim Means: I hate to constantly bring up my prison stuff, but getting locked in a cell just makes you patient. You get on people's schedules and if they're ready to talk to you, they'll talk to you. I've been through a lot of ups and downs in my young life. This is just one more speed bump, one more hurdle that I have to get over and it just shows me not to spend all my money like I had done. I probably shouldn't have gone on that vacation and it just opens my eyes to pay more attention to my finances down the road.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): In terms of your training, have you had to scale everything down. You had to be getting close to peaking when the event was cancelled.
Tim Means: Yeah, everything in practice was starting to peak at the right moment. Things were coming in for me so I just had to pull back on the reigns. I am just gonna keep going hard, maintain my weight and regardless of what happens, I still have my contract in the UFC so life is good.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): At 6'2, you're one of the tallest and lankiest fighters in the UFC lightweight division. Now most people expect guys to lose some power when they're so stretched out like that but watching your last fight against Justin Salas, you were downright ferocious, finishing him in 66 seconds. What I want to know is, do you feel like you have some special wiring or something that allows you to pack so much power into a long lanky frame?
Tim Means: Yeah, i call it skinny fury (laughs). I'm just a wiry guy. I know how to use my body weight. I know how to use my reach and I've been blessed with KO power in both hands. It just happens for me. I'm happy to be one of those skinny guys that can hit hard.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You brought this up earlier, you've had an extreme amount of life experience already at just 28 years old. You fought five times from 2004-2005, holding a 3-2 record but then disappeared for four years, not coming back until 2009. The long break was due to being incarcerated and you've just turned your entire career around since that period of your life. Can you talk about the "rebirth" or Tim Means?
Tim Means: Yeah, I had a lot of time to sit and dwell. Some of the most athletic and talented people I've run into were in prison. Whether it was drawing, basketball or whatever, you name it. It was just something where I realized I had a talent and I was wasting it. I didn't have another way of feeding myself. I didn't feel like waiting for my second or third chance since plenty of people don't get another chance at life at all. I was blessed to be sitting there watching UFC and mixed martial arts blow up the way it did.
I hit it hard and I was fortunate enough to know Tom and Arlene Vaughn, who are loyal individuals and they helped guide me through the right steps to mature as a fighter and as a person. I got back in the gym and started finding out how to train, how to cut weight and it started working out for me. On top of regular MMA, I did some boxing matches, did some pro muay thai and I really started to love the whole aspect of it. The UFC happened to call and it was the right time.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've spoken with a lot of fighters and they've said that they've channeled some of their inner demons into their training. Is that something that you did as well?
Tim Means: Oh yeah. The worst thing for me in jail was being told when to go to bed. I couldn't get up in the middle of the night and open up my own refrigerator. It was the small little details like that. I didn't want to have to go through this another 10 years or have to keep coming back. When I got out, I started training MMA, got to compete in Hawaii, Canada, Florida and now that's the life that I really enjoy. I started on getting my own house, have a couple dogs, my daughters and I needed a way to feed all of us and mixed martial arts was the profession I chose. When I first got out of prison, I was digging ditches and mixing concrete and I've got to say, fighting is so much more enjoyable.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You've mentioned that your fight against Ricky Musgrave was the turning point of your career, a grueling battle where you scored a TKO with about seven seconds left. What was it about that fight that made it seem like everything changed for you?
Tim Means: For that fight, I was just starting to figure out how to cut weight really. I'm not a guy that backs out of fights. I had multiple injuries heading into that fight but I had bills to pay and I couldn't say no. Going in, he leg kicked the fire out of me and he aggravated a leg injury I had already hurt about a week earlier in practice. To know that I could get through that and take the punishment that I had taken and still pull out the victory showed a lot that I could come through adversity and go a long ways. It proved a lot to myself mentally and I just hit the ground running after that fight and things were really falling into place.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Where do you think you stand right now in the UFC's lightweight division right now? You're 2-0, have a unique build and people are starting to talk about you.
Tim Means: I feel I'm top 10, top 15 for sure. I just have to keep proving it. I hate to take away from some of these guys that have put a lot of time in the game, but they're in the spots I want to take. I don't want to mention no names or nothing. I don't want to be that guy, but I look forward to fighting each and every one of 'em. There's a lot of good athletes in the 155 pound division but I think I'm the top of the food chain and I've got to prove it.
Tim would like to thank his team Power MMA and Fitness, Fit NHB in Albuquerque, Donald Sanchez, Tom and Arlene Vaughn, JJ, Hayabusa, Elite Pro Series and American Ethanol. You can follow Tim Means on Twitter @MeansTim.
So what do you think, Maniacs?
Is Means a guy on your radar in the UFC's crowded lightweight division? Do you feel he'll make the best of this three month delay before his fight against Abel Trujillo?
To listen to the complete audio of our conversation with Tim Means, click here (interview starts at the 9:00 mark).