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Georgia on his Mind: MMAmania interview exclusive with UFC 139's Brian Bowles

There is much riding on former WEC champion Brian Bowles' upcoming UFC 139 fight against fellow former champion Urijah Faber this Saturday night (November 19, 2011).

His legacy, redemption, even his reputation.

With his knack for finishing opponents, Bowles immediately became a force in the WEC, submitting and punching his way to a title fight against the seemingly unbeatable Miguel Torres.

In less than a round, he'd shocked the world, dethroned the champion with a first round knockout and forced commentator Frank Mir to rethink the meaning of his life. Unfortunately for Bowles, the good times couldn't last as he was usurped in his next fight against current champion Dominick Cruz, taking some flack in the process for admitting to the cageside physician that he had a broken hand which forced a doctor stoppage.

Since recovering from the busted appendage, the Georgia resident has scored two solid victories to get back in contention. He's out to prove he's more than the man who couldn't come out for the third round  against Cruz last February.

Bowles spoke with about fighting friends, competing in hostile territory and what chinks he sees in Dominick Cruz's armor in this exclusive interview.

Brian Hemminger ( First thing's first, I know you didn't end up breaking your hand but it was something you were really worried about after the Mizugaki fight. How's your hand feeling right now?

Brian Bowles: I'm good. It was all swelled up right after the fight. I went to the doc and pretty much by the time I got to the doc, I knew it wasn't broke. I got it X-rayed, it wasn't and a couple days later the swelling was gone. He said that I had a tendon out of place or whatever and he told me to take a week or two off and I did. Now it's perfectly fine.

Brian Hemminger ( Is that a concern for you to get over mentally because you have broke it in the past and that was something you were talking to your corner about during the fight or do you just try to get over it and throw punches as hard as ever?

Brian Bowles: You don't want to damage yourself permanently or possibly endanger yourself, knock your bone through your skin or something like that. You definitely want to limit the use of it once it's broke, switch gears, go to wrestling or do whatever else you've got to do. I mean, you can't just keep cracking somebody as hard as you can once it's broke.

Brian Hemminger ( You're scheduled to fight Urijah Faber on Saturday night. Is there any kind of resentment at all because of his five round fight with Mike Brown where he broke both hands and kept fighting? That actually caused some fans to question your toughness after the Cruz fight which was pretty unfair. Is that something you think about at all, like this is an opportunity to redeem yourself?

Brian Bowles: Well, there was more to that fight than just a broken hand. I went into the fight with a pretty bad rib injury and I probably shouldn't have been fighting. When I went out there, my gameplan was to kinda try and keep it standing and within 15 seconds I broke my hand. I couldn't grapple, I wasn't in shape because I couldn't train right, I couldn't clinch because of my ribs would keep popping so I was kinda screwed. I was left out there, I couldn't punch and all I had left was a little jab. I couldn't wrestle, couldn't punch with my right hand so basically I was just stuck out there with nothing but a jab and just getting beat on for no reason. So no, not really. I have no resentment towards Faber for anything.

Brian Hemminger ( Yeah, because I know that you actually went out in 2008, you actually trained with him and you stayed with Faber for a while when he was fighting at 145 pounds. Can you tell me about that experience?

Brian Bowles: Yeah, I was about to fight Will Robeiro and I like to bounce around sometimes for my training camps and I knew that he had a lot of good guys and they train hard so a couple of my buddies had been talking to him out there. They asked him if I can come out and train and he said, "Sure, come on out," and I went out there. I stayed like 10 days or so, had some good training and it was towards the end of his camp with Brown and then a few weeks later I fought Robeiro. There's not really too much to say about it other than it was some good training, good guys and I enjoyed myself.

Brian Hemminger ( You hold a win over Miguel Torres and Faber was basically the other face of the WEC in the last few years of its existence. Those two guys, they were hands down the most popular so would it be really special for you to be the only guy to get a victory over both of them?

Brian Bowles: Yeah, just to get a win over either one of those guys is not easy and to get a win over both of them would be something special I think. Like you were saying, they were both the faces of the WEC back in the day and they're two really tough guys. Wins don't come easy in the WEC, especially when you're fighting guys like Faber and Torres.

Brian Hemminger ( Can you tell me about going into hostile territory here? Going into San Jose, that's not too far from Faber's home base of Sacramento. They've got it set up with Dan Henderson fighting in the home state of his gym, Cung Le fighting in his hometown, so it's this whole "us versus them" mentality on the main card. Is that something you're ready for?

Brian Bowles: Oh man, I totally expect to get booed. I would be disappointed if I didn't get booed, you know what I mean? It's not like I'm expecting them to boo me, they're just booing whoever he's fighting, no matter who would be walking out, they'll be booing. It's not personal to me. That type of stuff has never bothered me so it's just gonna be a fight. I know what's going on. I know where I'm at so it doesn't really matter.

Brian Hemminger ( I know a year or two ago, you said Urijah was one of your favorite fighters to watch, so is it different at all fighting a guy that you're a fan of?

Brian Bowles: What I meant by that, I don't watch fighters and have a favorite fighter. Some fighters I watch and I don't even even watch, I don't even care, but when he fights, I know him, I consider him a friend and I like the way he fights. He just goes for it and he's an exciting fighter. There's not a lot of laying around or stalling. He's a fighter I would watch because he puts on exciting fights.

Brian Hemminger ( Well you say you consider him a friend. Is this a fight you would have taken if a shot at the title wouldn't have been on the line?

Brian Bowles: Yeah, I think me and him are both at the top of the weight class. We're buddies but we're not like best friends. I think it takes a lot more than just being friends to not fight each other. We both have dreams that we want to personally accomplish in this sport and you've got to set stuff like that aside to be able to achieve what you want to achieve in this sport.

Brian Hemminger ( I've noticed that you're very realistic when you discuss how a fight will play out. Do you think being honest with yourself is more important than some of these guys who try to psych themselves up and even try to convince themselves of things they aren't actually capable of doing?

Brian Bowles: You know, I can't say. What works for me might not work for somebody else but that's what works for me and that's the mentality I try to put myself in and a lot of people ask, "What does it take to be a champion?" well there's a million different recipes. That's something that I found that works for me and that's how I keep myself grounded.

Brian Hemminger ( Dominick Cruz, he actually said that he thinks Faber is gonna win and that Faber's wrestling will be the biggest factor. Is that one of your biggest concerns? What do you think about Cruz picking Faber?

Brian Bowles: Well everybody has their opinions. I don't really worry about it. Faber's wrestling is definitely gonna be a factor. If I'm gonna let him take me down and lay on top of me, he's gonna win the fight. I've known that from day one so I've been training to not get taken down and to get up once I'm on the bottom just like he's worried that I'm gonna hit him and knock him out, I'm worried about the wrestling. it's just a part of the game. That's what he's good at and I've got to avoid what he's good at and then do what I'm good at. That's just part of going into a fight and knowing who you're fighting. 

Brian Hemminger ( Just last weekend, Renan Barao jumped up into that list of top contenders. What did you think of his performance against Brad Pickett?

Brian Bowles: I didn't actually get to watch it, one of my buddies was fighting at a local show but I know what happen. He caught him with a knee and took his back and got him with a rear naked. I didn't get to watch but I hear from Dixie people, other people in my weight class and what they think about it. Some people are like, "Eh, I'm not sold yet," and other people are like, "He's pretty good," so I don't know. Two more fights or whatever. I've definitely got my eye on him now. He's definitely good, obviously he's beaten a lot of people so now I'm gonna have to pay more attention to him. 

Brian Hemminger ( With the opportunity to have a title shot, can you talk to me about your motivation? Is it to redeem yourself against Cruz? Can you tell me what it would mean to get a victory?

Brian Bowles: I just take all the fights as they come. I get asked a lot, "With this fight being so much more important, what's my mindset going into this fight?" but like, it seems like every time I go into a fight, that's a common question. All fights are the same to me. They're all important. You've got to win them all. No one fight is more important than the other because if I lost any of my fights before this, I'd be back to the bottom instead of fighting as number one contender. I don't really feel like I need something motivate me for a fight. I like fighting. This is what I do and I do it because I enjoy it. That's what motivates me. I don't need a certain opponent to motivate me to do stuff.

Brian Hemminger ( Your last fight, you've been a finishing machine in your MMA career and you went to a decision for the first time against Mizugaki. Were you disappointed with the outcome of that or is Mizugaki just tough as nails?

Brian Bowles: Yeah, he's really hard to finish. I think he's only been finished one time when Faber got ahold of his neck but I was definitely wanting to get the finish. I'm a little bit disappointed that I didn't get the finish but like I was saying earlier, you should just be glad you get a win in the UFC and not look down on the fact you didn't get a finish. Just getting a win is enough I think.

Brian Hemminger ( Did you take anything away from the fact that Mizugaki is one of your common opponents with you and Faber as well as Cruz, but how would you compare your performance against them as opposed to Faber's?

Brian Bowles: No, not really. I feel like the Faber vs. Mizugaki fight was pretty quick and he just took his back and got the choke in really quick. I was on Mizugaki's back almost the whole fight, I was just unable to get the choke and going into the Cruz fight, I didn't really have a fair chance. I did watch the Faber vs. Cruz fight and I felt like I seen some things that Faber opened up on Cruz that I think people could use, just like anybody. If you see a champ for a while, everyone will say, "Oh, he's unbeatable, he's unbeatable," and then somebody beats him and they figure out the recipe on how to beat him and that's how it goes. All it takes is one little weakness and then somebody is able to put it all together. I've seen a few weaknesses in his game and I think everybody exposes a little bit every time he fights.

Brian Hemminger ( How are you visualizing success against Faber on Saturday?

Brian Bowles: You know what, this is honestly one of the toughest fights of my career. I think it's gonna be a high speed fight. I feel like I can win the exchanges and it's probably gonna be a decision.

Brian would like to thank Tapout and Revgear. Check out to see him preparing for Faber. You can also follow him on twitter @Brian_Bowles.

So what do you think, Maniacs?

Does Bowles have what it takes to prevent a Cruz-Faber trilogy fight? Is he strong enough to become champion again?

Sound off!

Special thanks to Tim Burke for contributing questions to this interview

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