WEC veteran Dave Jansen was all prepped and ready to roll in the Bellator season seven lightweight tournament finals last year. He had made weight, was hitting mitts on fight night backstage, and then he was told his bout against Marcin Held was off.
Apparently, the Indiana Gaming Commission didn't take kindly to a 20 year old wanting to fight in its casino and it had barred Jansen's opponent from entry, which cancelled the bout on just an hour or two's notice.
Now with a couple extra months to prepare, Jansen has done everything imaginable to make sure he's ready for Held and his now infamous leg lock attack. He's worked with one of the top Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belts in the northwest who specializes in joint locks and he's done a few more obscure tactics like spending time in a sensory deprivation tank, working with honey bees and adding significant massage time to his post-workout routine.
The Sports Lab fighter will finally get his opportunity to earn that title shot when he takes on Held in the main event of Bellator 93 on Thursday night (March 21, 2013).
Jansen spoke to MMAmania.com during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission where he talked about the crazy night in Indiana, how the extra rest has affected him and how he thinks he'd match up against the champion Michael Chandler in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's start with the last time we saw you. You were preparing to fight at Bellator 84 in the tournament final against Marcin Held and then you find out the Indiana gaming commission won't let Held into the venue because he's not 21 years old yet and your fight is off. Can you take me through that whole ordeal from your perspective?
Dave Jansen: Yeah, it kinda caught me off guard. I was backstage hitting mitts with my boxing coach Andy Metzger and was as ready as I've ever been and Sam Kaplan came back and acted surprised that no one had told me yet and then he told me. I tried to take it as best as I could and I put myself though a workout right away to get that adrenaline out. I hit mitts more furiously after hearing that and then I tried to just watch the rest of the show.
It was a big letdown though. I had a lot of friends tuning in back home and they got the local bars to show the fight so I had a bunch of people sitting back home with no idea what was going on because they didn't really announce the cancellation to the rest of the viewers. I would have really liked to have gotten it all wrapped up that night but I'm just making the most of my extra time, working a lot of leg lock defense and feeling really good. I'll be even more prepared in the long run.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Held has some nasty leg locks and he's finished fights with toe holds, knee bars, heel hooks and inverted heel hooks, but when you think about it, leg locks are usually a pretty low percentage move in MMA. There are only a select few specialists. Do you think as long as you shut down those leg locks of Held that you'll have the advantage everywhere else?
Dave Jansen: Yeah I think so. I'm not gonna count out his other submissions. I know he's well versed in triangles and armbars and things like that. I think a lot of guys, they get caught in leg locks and that's not something they're used to seeing in practice and they panic a bit. I went out of my way and I'm working with one of the best black belts in the northwest specifically at leg locks. I've been going to his gym a couple times a week and picking his brain as much as possible and doing my best to recognize the danger before it happens. He's been really helpful and hopefully I can bring him out to corner me as well. I'd buy him a ticket just so I could work those defenses leading up to the fight as well.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had the great quarterfinal performance with the finish, but in the semifinals against Ricardo Tirloni, despite the great start where you rocked him early, he seemed to be adapting to your style and responding well in the final two rounds. There was some controversy with that decision because there was a large contingent saying Tirloni won. What was your opinion on how everything went down in the semifinals?
Dave Jansen: Well, I'm confident I won the fight. I watched it seven or eight times and he kind of had the momentum going in his favor in the second round, he didn't beat me up. He didn't hurt me at any time. I did slow down a bit. I don't know why but I didn't push the pace like I did to open the first round but I watched the exchanges and it seemed like every time he hit me, I hit him as well. I did an okay job of avoiding his strikes and I got every takedown. I got every knockdown so I don't see any controversy in that. It's not like it was a one-sided affair. It was a close fight. I've moved on but I don't think Tirloni has because he was still complaining about it heading into his last fight. He should have moved on and focused on his next opponent.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've talked to several fighters who made it to the finals of the tournament and they usually say that by the third fight, they're so worn down physically from the two prior fights, the three weight cuts back to back to back and not having any breaks that it takes a toll on them. How were you feeling physically heading into the original Held fight and was it almost a relief it ended up being delayed because now you get to heal those nagging aches and pains?
Dave Jansen: I think it actually is an advantage for me. I felt like I fought that night in a way. Even though the fight was cancelled, I did everything but fight. I started my warm up and the adrenaline and the dump, I still had that feeling so in a way, it kind of feels like we already fought and this is the rematch.
Not only did I hit mitts before I found out the fight was cancelled but afterwards I tried to work out that frustration and did some jump squats and jumped rope like a maniac to get it out of my system. Leading up to that fight, I was visualizing winning in every manner I could imagine and spending all my money on nutritious food and gas to get to different training sessions.
I'm definitely just trying to make every moment count. This is my seventh year in the sport. I got a late start at 26 years old but yeah I'm ready. I'm ready to keep the ball moving and get this one out of the way and get my first title shot.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So how does it feel to finally have this fight finally booked and nearly about to happen because unlike most Bellator tournament fights, you've been training for Marcin Held now for over three months?
Dave Jansen: I'm excited. I've got a lot of support here in Portland and I've got some friends in California who are going to make the trip so we'll have familiar faces in the audience. I'm really looking forward to it. I've just been working so hard on my hands, the leg lock defense, grappling in general and I'm ready to make a statement and I'm just trying to hit what I'm aiming at these days. I'm not trying to punch with all my power on every shot. That shouldn't be the goal. I learned my lesson from the Tirloni fight. I knocked him down without really trying in the first round and after that, I kept trying to push my punches and knock him down again instead of just snapping them like I did when I knocked him down in the first place. I need to relax.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): The end goal of this fight is to earn a shot at Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler. What did you think of his title defense to open the season and the prospects of potentially facing him?
Dave Jansen: He looked great. He wrapped up that rear naked choke and it was just a brutal trachea crush. There was no escape from that. I will be a HUGE underdog, no doubt about it, but I'm going to find a way to win. That's what I do. Sometimes I think my best role is the underdog. I've won a lot of fights that everyone said I was supposed to lose so that's nothing new for me.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you think about this fight against Held, how do you picture victory in your head?
Dave Jansen: I picture victory by picking my shots, being fast with my hands instead of trying for one big punch. I want to hit what I'm aiming at and not get suckered into my game. If I do go to the ground, just be conscious of his leg attacks and the sweeps he employs. I need to drop my hips when I need to and use my wrestling to keep the fight where I want it. I see myself knocking him out or getting a TKO for sure. If he gets really desperate in getting it to the ground and takes a bad shot to get there, I can grab his neck and choke him one way or another. I will be looking to knock him out for sure, though.
Dave would like to thank Phil Claud, Andy Metzger, Onnit Labs, Future Legend, All Pro Science, Budo Mart America, Heads High Barbership and Float On Sensory Depravataion as well as Paradigm Sports Management. He'd also like to thank his training partners out of Sports Lab. You can follow him on twitter @DaveJansen155.