When Ian Loveland's UFC sting ended, the next stage of his career was just beginning.
Re-energized, "The Barn Owl" went to Tachi Palace where he claimed the promotion's bantamweight title with a ferocious first round knockout. He then defended his belt in just 38 seconds with another violent first round KO.
After losing a close decision to top prospect Kyoji Horiguchi on New Year's Eve in Japan, the Oregon native decided it was time to focus on healing some serious nagging injuries.
To do that, Loveland had to have surgery on both his ankle and his hand, which expect to leave the 29-year old out of commission for the rest of 2013.
Wanting to stay involved in mixed martial arts while he rehabs, Loveland took a huge responsibility in accepting the head MMA coaching position at his gym SportsLab in Portland, Oregon.
Loveland spoke to MMAmania.com about his injuries, taking the head coaching job and how the new perspective could potentially impact his fighting career in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's start with your last fight. You went to Japan and had a really tough battle against Kyoji Horiguchi. You wound up losing a decision. What did you think of the outcome?
Ian Loveland: It was a close fight. I think Horiguchi won it but it was one of the tougher battles I've been in in my career. I don't feel like I got ripped off or anything.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I asked your trainer when your next fight was and he told me that you had ankle surgery and you've also got hand surgery coming up which is going to take you out of competition for over a year. Did those injuries happen during the fight or were they the nagging type that you're just finally getting taken care of now?
Ian Loveland: Well, they both have been problems ongoing. The ankle happened when I was training for my second fight in the UFC against Joseph Benavidez and I was just trying to live with it and get by the best I can. It just wasn't working out so I had to get that taken care of. WIth my hand, that's been a recurring thing off and on for the last six months and it just got worse in terms of gripping things so hopefully that gets fixed.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You had a pair of brutal knockout victories in your two fights before going to Japan. Did they make it worse considering how hard you were throwing your fists?
Ian Loveland: I think it honestly had more to do with training and everything. When I first started fighting, I wasn't as smart with handwrapping before hitting pads, the bag or sparring and stuff. I got caught up in the overtime and just wasn't taking proper care of myself. I learned my lesson though.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So since you're out of combat for a year, you ended up accepting the job of head MMA coach at SportsLab. How did that come about?
Ian Loveland: Well, I told Phil what I was gonna do with taking a year off and I wanted to stay involved. I had training partners and I didn't want to just go back to a normal life for a year and come back without having been there. Phil offered me that role and I'm really excited about it. That's a real honor.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you started already?
Ian Loveland: Yeah, I'm doing it right now. I took a few weeks to recover after my fight in Japan, hung out and healed up the damage and then I started going in and working with the guys. We have all cornered each other for years, worked with each other so now they get all my attention now and I'm putting a lot of focus into this to do the best I can for 'em.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Was there any person in particular that you base your coaching style off? Anyone that's helped you along the way at some point or another throughout your career who inspired you?
Ian Loveland: I've had the good fortune to work with a lot of great coaches over the years. The guys I'm working at right now like Andy Metzger, Phil Claud and them, I'm learning from everybody right now. I'm looking to take it to the next level with my coaching like I was with my fighting. I want to win fights with all my guys right now and put everything I've got into it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Have you made any plans for what's going to go on in the gym once you're ready to get back into fighting or is that looking too far into the future?
Ian Loveland: I haven't given it too much thought right now. My main focus is the guys with big fights coming up. We'll look at my recovery and my rehab and once I feel I'm ready to get back into fighting, I'll take a step back. Right now though my focus is 100% on coaching.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Speaking of those upcoming fights, no pressure or anything, but you've got Tyson Nam with a huge fight at World Series of Fighting later this month, Pat Healy making his UFC debut against Jim Miller and also the Bellator lightweight finals for Dave Jansen taking on Marcin Held. This is pretty much sink or swim for you.
Ian Loveland: Yeah, I'm jumping right into the fire feet first. It's really exciting and it's a great place to be right now. I'm so pumped for it. There's so much stuff coming up and I'm not going to have a boring minute from now all the way into the foreseeable future.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Is there anything that you want to take from this coaching experience into your fighting career once you're ready to step into the cage again?
Ian Loveland: Well, I'm taking more time to really pay attention to what the guys that are really successful have been doing. I'm kinda seeing the things they do and I'm spending a lot more time observing. I'm also learning my lessons from the guys I'm coaching which will help me in the long run. It's different when you're trying to break down an opponent for someone else rather than yourself. It takes away some of the selfishness of being a fighter and helps you analyzing things a lot easier too.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Has this experience made you think hard about wanting to go into coaching once your fighting career is actually over?
Ian Loveland: For sure. I don't want to end up working at a gas station or something like that. I want to stay involved in the sport. I like being around it and I definitely don't see myself leaving the MMA world behind.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Last question, how is the sponsor situation affecting you? Do you have any sponsors that are helping you out while you're on this coaching hiatus or are they primarily just the fight night type?
Ian Loveland: I never really picked up any sponsors that went farther than one fight deals so no sponsors for me right now. I've got a really good sponsor in my wife though. (laughs)
You can follow Ian on twitter @IanLovelandMMA.