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'McLovin' it: Dustin Hazelett UFC 91 interview exclusive with

Dustin "McLovin" Hazelett (11-4) has been steadily climbing the ranks in the UFC since his Octagon debut back in October 2006.

The newly awarded Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Jorge Gurgel has gone 4-2 for the promotion and looked impressive in his wins over Jonathan Goulet (22-9) and Josh Burkman (18-8), and even in his loss to Josh Koscheck (11-3), where the submission master showed significantly improved standup skills.

But it was his most recent win over Burkman that earned him the most attention. As the first man to actually finish Burkman since Jon Fitch did it way back at Ultimate Fight Night 4 in April 2006, Hazelett took home both the "Submission of the Night" and "Fight of the Night" honors, along with $40,000 in bonus bucks.

At just 22 years old, Hazelett is looking to make another splash this Saturday at UFC 91: "Couture vs. Lesnar," where he’ll take on Tamdan "The Barn Cat" McCrory (9-1), who is also 22 years old.

And with the Amir Sadollah/Nick Catone fight being recently cancelled because of Sadollah’s leg infection, this bout has been declared the swing bout of the night, which means it should be aired along with the rest of the main card. The action kicks off from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas at 10 p.m. ET on pay-per-view (PPV).

We recently caught up with "McLovin" to ask him about those bonuses, find out what surprises he has in store for "The Barn Cat," and to see where he thinks he falls in the crowded UFC welterweight division.

Let’s do this.

Adam Wagner ( You recently defeated Josh Burkman via armbar at the TUF 7 Finale in June in what turned out to be a really exciting fight. While Burkman’s been a little inconsistent in the win/loss column, he’s still fought a ton of really high caliber fighters and holds wins over Forrest Petz, Josh Neer and Drew Fickett. That had to feel good to get that win.

Dustin Hazelett: Oh, yeah, definitely. That was a huge win for me, especially not just beating him, but actually being able to submit him. Because he’s a tough guy, and he very rarely gets finished.

Adam Wagner ( How did you feel about your performance, weighing the good and the bad — things that went as you expected vs. things that might not have gone as you thought that they would have?

Dustin Hazelett: Well, in the second round, I got kinda tired, and for some reason, I just stood there and let him punch me a lot. So that didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked.

But other than that, the fight went really well. I was a little disappointed in myself. When watching the tape, I see a lot of areas where I could have done so much better. But you know, that’s always the case. So I just plan to learn from that and hopefully not make the same mistakes again.

Adam Wagner ( That fight got you both the "Submission of the Night" and the "Fight of the Night" bonuses, didn’t it?

Dustin Hazelett: Yeah, that was nice.

Adam Wagner ( That had to have been not only financially a huge bonus, but also just for the honor of getting both of those, that had to be huge?

Dustin Hazelett: Oh yeah, that was real big for me. I had never gotten the "Fight of the Night" bonus before. So that was really good, especially any time you can get any one of the bonuses, let alone two of them together, that’s a big achievement there.

Adam Wagner ( With the injury to Amir Sadollah forcing him to pull out of his fight with Nick Catone, your next fight is now going to be on the televised portion of the UFC 91 card. Is that correct?

Dustin Hazelett: I am the swing bout now. So there’s a really good chance that it will get aired, but you know how those swing bouts go.

Adam Wagner ( Well that still has to be some great news for you, with the opportunity to get on the televised portion.

Dustin Hazelett: Yeah, that was great for me. I got really excited when I heard that. Especially with this card — it’s a huge card and, they’re expecting to get mass buys on pay-per-view. So to have the ability to be aired now is huge for me, in terms of getting my name out there and showing what I’m capable of.

Adam Wagner ( Does that also get you more excited about the fight and about performing well in front of all the viewers at home?

Dustin Hazelett: Yeah a little. I mean, I was already highly motivated. But now, this is like the icing on the cake. It’s not like I wasn’t going to try hard or wasn’t motivated before. But this is kinda like putting the candles on the cake — it’s that little extra special bit.

Adam Wagner ( Both you and Tamdan McCrory are young fighters and both lanky fighters for your division. It seems like an interesting matchup. I’ve actually been hoping to see this matchup happen for a while now. Is this something you’ve also been hoping for?

Dustin Hazelett: Uh, no. I really didn’t know a whole lot about him before this fight was presented to me as a potential opponent. Once I started researching him and looking at his record, I realized how tough he was. Now I’m really excited about the fight, but I’m not one who likes to call out opponents or one who likes to pick his opponents. I just go with whoever (manager) Monte (Cox) and the UFC decide is best for me to fight, that’s who I fight. I don’t like to call out fights or anything like that. But I agree with you, I think this is going to be a really good matchup.

Adam Wagner ( I was reading McCrory’s stats and saw him listed at 6’4." I knew he was tall, but I didn’t realize he was that tall.

Dustin Hazelett: Yes, that is correct.

Adam Wagner ( Well this has gotta be one of the few fights where you’re going to be facing someone who is taller than you, I would imagine, just because, at 6’1", you’re fairly tall for someone in the 170-pound weight division.

Dustin Hazelett: Yeah, this is going to be a rarity fighting someone who’s taller than me. But I think it’s going to be a good fight. It’ll be good experience. He’s one of those fighters who can make any fight a tough fight because of his style.

Adam Wagner ( What problems do you anticipate that somebody like him can bring to the table?

Dustin Hazelett: Well, he’s very strong. A lot of people don’t realize that because of his build — because he’s tall and skinny. But he’s got a lot of leverage, he uses it well. He’s very strong and aggressive and very well conditioned. He’s not one to gas out or slow down much. So that can be a problem for anybody. And he has a very well-rounded skill set. So you combine his conditioning, endurance and aggression with his well-rounded skill set, and it could prove to be tough. But I think I have the tools to beat him.

Adam Wagner ( With each fight, your striking seems to get better and better. Is that something that you’ve continued to work on specifically for this fight?

Dustin Hazelett: Yeah, definitely. I’ve been working a lot on my standup. I’ve been working a lot with Dorian Price (of The Ultimate Fighter: Team Hughes vs. Team Serra season), who’s been helping me out a lot, teaching me a lot of stuff. And he’s also built a lot like Tamdan, but a much better striker. So it’s very invaluable for this fight camp.

Adam Wagner ( Have you been training with Team Jorge Gurgel for this fight?

Dustin Hazelett: Yes, I’m still in Cincinnati at the JGMMA Academy.

Adam Wagner ( Other than Dorian, have you brought in any new coaches or training partners for this fight?

Dustin Hazelett: No, like I said, Dorian’s helping me with my standup now. Other than that, I’ve got all the same coaches.

Adam Wagner ( From a conditioning standpoint, have you factored in any new practices in order to prepare you for this fight, given that McCrory’s gas tank tends to run a little high?

Dustin Hazelett: I’m not really doing a lot of different stuff, I’m just really pushing myself at the stuff I’ve been doing. I think the methods of conditioning I’ve been doing have been very effective. But I realize that in the past my conditioning has been sort of weaker than my opponents, but you know, most of my opponents have been known for their conditioning too.

But that’s something I’ve definitely been focusing a lot on, because I think that’s (McCrory’s) best chance to win this fight is to take it into deep water and to keep pushing the action. So I’ve focused a lot on my conditioning. My conditioning is better than it’s ever been by far. So I don’t think that advantage is going to be there, like he’s hoping it will.

Adam Wagner ( While you’ve made huge strides with each fight — you looked great in your fight against Koscheck and now with wins over Burkman and Jonathan Goulet — you’re also in probably the most stacked division in the UFC. Where do you think a win will put you in that division, in terms of hanging with those top contenders, whether it’s Thiago Alves or Karo Parisyan, or Jon Fitch or Josh Koscheck or Diego Sanchez? With a win here do you see yourself right in the mix of things there?

Dustin Hazelett: Um … I don’t know, not necessarily. Like you said, the division’s so stacked, it’s hard to break through that barrier to the top. So basically what I’m doing is I’m not focusing on trying to get to the top the quickest. I’m focusing on bettering myself. I’m not worried about trying to climb to the top the fastest. I’m working on getting myself better in all areas so that I’ll be prepared to be there when I’m there, and I’ll deserve to be there.

I think I have what it takes to be a champion some day. I don’t think that I’m there yet, but I’m working very hard to get there. So if I keep working on getting better, and I get better, and I get better, then I will be there. I’m not worrying about "Will this fight put me there?" I’m just focusing on getting better and getting better, and I know that if I continue to progress, then I will get to the top.

Adam Wagner ( This will be your seventh fight in the UFC. How many fights do you have remaining on your contract after this one?

Dustin Hazelett: I think I have one more on my contract. I’m not sure. I don’t really worry too much about the contract, because as long as you keep fighting hard and doing good, they’ll keep bringing you back. So I’m not too worried about getting cut or anything like that. The contract’s not a huge issue for me.

Adam Wagner ( Well with a 4-2 record in the UFC, I’d imagine that you’re going to be in the UFC for a long time to come.

Dustin Hazelett: Thanks, I hope so (laughs).

Adam Wagner ( Well Dustin, I really appreciate you taking the time to talk to us. I’d like to give you an opportunity to thank any sponsors or if you have any parting words for the fans.

Dustin Hazelett: I’d just like to say thanks to my fans for the support. I’d like to thank everybody at the JGMMA Academy for helping me out so much in getting me ready for this fight.

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