John Crouch was a busy man last Saturday night (July 27, 2013) from the opening bout of the evening to main event of UFC on Fox 8 in Seattle, Washington.
The MMA Lab head coach was in the corner of Yaotzin Meza as he scored his first career UFC win as well as flyweight title challenger John Moraga, who came up short against Demetrious Johnson in the headlining fight on national television.
Needless to say, it was a night of major ups and downs.
Crouch opened up to MMAmania.com about his athlete's performances during a guest appearance on The Verbal Submission, talking the emotions of seeing Meza's first victory in the Octagon, the heart displayed by Moraga in defeat and the flaws in preparation for the flyweight title fight in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's start with Yaotzin Meza. People weren't quite giving him respect despite fighting at featherweight on short notice against the number two guy in the world. He overcame some adversity against John Albert and ended up pulling off the submission. What were your thoughts on that?
John Crouch: Yeah, he did great. He's one of our flagship members that really helped build this team and has been grinding away for years. It was very rewarding to see him get a win because he's worked so hard for guys like Benson and Varner and Efrain Escudero. He's in here every day doing the right stuff. It's a really happy moment for me.
It was his very first fight at 135 last night. He did a great job. I think he got a bit tired but it was a scrambly fight and you can get tired from those things. He set his goals 6-7 weeks out and hit the mark perfectly. I think it's the hardest the first time you make the cut so it'll be easier for him next time.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about the finish of that fight. Meza lands some leg kicks to open the round and Albert attacks with a triangle choke which looked to be locked in but Meza turns to the side and he just lets go, which allows Meza to jump on him, take his back and submit him. What did you see there?
John Crouch: John had a pretty good triangle and Yaddie turned to the side. When you turn to the side it changes the angle and it hurts your ankle. Depending on the length of the guy, sometimes you don't have to let go. It depends on the squeeze. I think he gassed himself out and let go but there wasn't a really good squeeze on the triangle at that point. When he let go, he either hurt his foot or didn't think he had it anymore but he certainly gave up the position.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What do you think of Meza's potential at 135 pounds?
John Crouch: I think once he gets settled in the division, he'll do pretty good. We took that Mendes fight at featherweight on eight days notice and Chad's a monster. You have your doubts coming into the second one and it's your first time cutting down to 135. UFC is a big deal and there's a lot of pressure, lot of press. I think all of those things together, he has what it takes to have a solid UFC career. That's what I'm hoping for because he's a great person, a really nice kid and a great teammate. Any career benefits he has, I'd be more than happy for.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's transition to the main event. How do you think Moraga handled everything jumping from opening up two Facebook preliminary fights to the main event for the title?
John Crouch: I don't think it affected him at all. I really don't. He's not the kind of guy that gets affected by that. We lost the fight but he wasn't frozen. He didn't not do what he was trying to do. He just ran into someone that was having a better night in my opinion.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What did you think about his display of heart in the fight? He was down three rounds yet landed that big right hand in the fourth when many others might have been broken from the onslaught of takedowns Johnson was throwing his way.
John Crouch: Yeah the kid's heart is not a question. We just ran into someone that was having a good night and DJ's a great opponent. I wasn't worried about Johnny quitting. He was in there the entire time trying as hard as he could. I wasn't worried about him. He's never going to stop trying. He may get beat, but he's not going to quit. I was proud of him and was hoping that shot would be a bit cleaner and maybe dazed DJ a bit more and gave us more of a shot but it's what it was. I was really proud of him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): How do you help him bounce back from a tough loss like that? Some guys handle it differently than others, and as you say, John is a little bit different.
John Crouch: He's gonna do great. He's gonna be sad and feel bad for a few weeks probably, but then he's going to use it to fuel his training and we're gonna work on his ground game a bit more. I thought he won the stand-up game and DJ thought the same thing. That's why he was going for those double legs and he did a great job of that. I think Johnny now will work on rounding out his game more. I think he realizes there's a few specific things we need to work on.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Did you have any specific corner strategy? I know the primary coach was going over striking strategy in between rounds. Was there anything you were focusing on?
John Crouch: Well Trevor Lally is from ACS and he's been Johnny's striking coach. John wanted it to be more of a stand-up fight so he was trying to get him to do what he wanted on the feet. Really I took a secondary role there last night, but I really wanted him to wrestle more aggressively because he's a good wrestler. People probably shake their head at me for saying that because he didn't do a good job wrestling last night. We didn't do a good job preparing him. I should take the blame on myself. We should have prepared better for DJ's double leg. I wanted him to be more aggressive in the wrestling department. We'll be better next time. You learn from your losses and a true competitor, they never quit. It won't get him down for long. This will be a stepping stool to a higher place for him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You mention using this loss as fuel. Do you think he still has what it takes to be a champion someday?
John Crouch: Oh absolutely. Absolutely. He's got the most important part. He's super mentally strong and he's got a big heart. You can't teach that stuff. You can teach all the other stuff. You can teach takedown defense and a rear naked choke, but it's hard to teach somebody to have heart and to not quit. He's got those things so we'll just build on that and he'll be back for sure.
You can follow John on Twitter @JCBJJ.