Next Friday (March 15, 2013), Las Vegas-based muay-thai promotion Lion Fight will put on their ninth event featuring a solid card of the world's best rising and established striking talents.
American Kevin Ross has competed in dozens of fights across multiple continents and at Lion Fight 9 the 32-year-old world champion is scheduled to fight Bernie Mendieta is his second bout under the Lion Fight banner.
Prior to his debut with the organization last January, "The Soul Assassin" was forced to sit on the sidelines for over one year due to a reconstructive knee surgery and was unable compete in the sport he loves most.
Ross wasn't entirely satisfied with his performance in his return to the ring in January; however, just one fight removed from surgery, he knows it is going to take some time to feel 100 percent again.
Just a few days prior to facing Mendieta, Ross spoke with Mike Bohn of MMAmania.com about his muay-thai career, returning to peak form after surgery, fighting mixed martial arts (MMA) and more.
Check it out:
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Tell me a little bit about yourself, how did you get into muay-thai?
Kevin Ross: I actually saw it on television, it was ESPN back in like 1994, I just fell in love with it immediately. I didn't get started until 2003.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): What made you decide to turn that corner and get competitive in sport?
Kevin Ross: Well, I'd always wanted to fight. When I was younger I was a little too busy partying and stuff to -- I knew I would have to give it all my attention. I'd rather do it all or none at all so that's really what took me so long to get around to doing it and like in 1999 I lost one of my best friends and I promised myself I would go after that dream of being a fighter, but you know, losing him kind of turned me even farther down that road of partying and stuff. Then just one day I just woke up and I'd had enough of it and decided to give it all to fighting and that's how it started.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Where did you get the nickname "The Soul Assassin"?
Kevin Ross: I got that in Mexico, which was my first professional fight. I had a crazy fight out there and some dude after the fight came up to me and said that should be my nickname just cause of way I fought.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): What's your favorite striking technique?
Kevin Ross: Elbows are my favorite technique to use. Most people probably think it's my hands cause I use them so much, but my favorite is the elbows.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): You returned to fighting last January after over one-year away from the sport due to a torn ACL. How hard was it to recover from that injury?
Kevin Ross: It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do, not just physically but mentally and all that kind of stuff too. Getting over all those hurdles and, you know, it was a constant struggle daily on whether or not I would be able to make it back or not. Especially the first few months, you know, just not knowing. I knew I would be able to walk again, but if I would be able to get back in the ring again or if I would be able to get back to the level I was at again, that was really the big one not knowing if I would make it back or not. Knowing how long the road back is, even then having to go through all that there was so many times where I just wanted to stop because I was healthy enough to get around and function, but you know, making it back to fighting is a whole other level.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): At what point in your recovery did you turn the corner and get your confidence back to where you knew you were going to be able to get back to 100 percent?
Kevin Ross: It was kind of a constant thing. I don't think there was ever an extended period of time where I didn't think I would be able to do it, it would just kind of pop up in my head here and there and the more time that went by the less it would happen, but even to this day sometimes my knee bothers me and kind of creeps up in my mind and just the doubts and stuff about it. It was a daily thing at the beginning, then it became a weekly thing then a monthly thing. Just every once in a while, you know?
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): You returned to fighting in your debut with Lion Fight last January and got a nice win by unanimous decision. How good did it feel to get back in the ring?
Kevin Ross: It felt so great man, that whole day was the most emotional day ever, just up and all different kind of emotions. Ups and downs, just it was crazy man and afterwords it was just the best feeling knowing that I made it back and made it back with a good performance and a win. That was great. Just getting back in the ring would have been a great experience in itself, but being able to put on a show and get back to where I was, you know, I felt rusty and stuff but for the most part I felt pretty good and it was the best feeling ever.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Were you happy with your performance in that fight considering the layoff?
Kevin Ross: Yeah, I mean I'm my own worst critic. Every time I watch my fights I hate them more and more cause I just pick out all the things I could do differently, but for the most part I'm pretty happy with it and I didn't hesitate as much and I let my kicks go, which was good, but there were some technical things I wish I would have done better, but for as long as I have been off, yeah pretty happy with how I performed.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): You're making a quick turnaround to fight Bernie Mendieta, what do you think about him as an opponent?
Kevin Ross: I don't know too much about him, there's not a lot of video on him. Justin [Greskiewicz] fought him, who is a friend of mine. So he gave me some insight. I know he's tough, comes to fight and tries to push the pace and make it exciting and that creates a fun match up for me so I'm looking forward to an exciting fight. I know he's no push over, but I don't know too much about him so it's hard to say.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Five of your last six wins have come by decision. Do you see yourself getting a finish in this one or do you not concern yourself with that type of thing?
Kevin Ross: I would definitely like to. I think my last fight I was just trying to get through it and I didn't want to do anything reckless. I kind of fought a safe fight, which is pretty rare for me, which I don't do, which was a nice change. There was also a lot of things I was working on technically which I wanted to adjust and that was part of the reason. I'm looking to get back to my old self in this one and as far as a finish, of course I would love one but I'm just going to go out there, fight and put on a show and see what happens.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Have you every thought about making the transition over to MMA?
Kevin Ross: Yeah. Years ago, but at this point no. A few years back, I actually have an MMA fight way back I think it was like 2007 or something. When I had that fight I didn't have any MMA training but there was a time when I was having a hard time getting fights and it was really sporadic. I was taking boxing fights and sanshou fights and just whatever I could to stay in the ring, so I was seriously considering switching over to MMA because a lot of the guys who train, especially in Vegas, there all MMA guys and they're always training for fights and stuff. I thought about it and I said I would do muay-thai one more year and see where it goes and this was going in to 2009, and 2009 was like when I had all those title fights and got the WBC belts and fights started picking up and the pay started getting better and, no, I have no desire to fight MMA. It's something I did because I want to stay active and I woud rather fight anything than not fight at all so, that was the only reason I was considering switching. But I just don't have the passion for it like I do muay-thai.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): And finally, all of combat sports suffered a huge loss with the passing or Ramon Dekkers. I just wanted to know if you had any thoughts on that?
Kevin Ross: Yeah, you know I mean, he was one of my biggest inspirations coming up. And even to this day -- it was such a huge blow man and it was so soon and so sudden man, it's kind of unbelievable to think that he's gone.
Mike Bohn (MMAmania.com): Yeah, very sad news. Anything else you want to get off your chest before I let you go? Anyone you want to thank or anything like that?
Kevin Ross: I just want to say thank you to my sponsors, K-Hero.org and thanks to all my fans.
You can follow Kevin on Twitter here, and be sure to tune in to Lion Fight 9, set to go down next Friday (March 15, 2013) at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on AXS TV from The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.