Joe Henle only ever wanted an opportunity to showcase his talents.
But after his stint on The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) season 11 ended, he wasn't invited back to compete on the show's finale for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).
Shunned by the UFC, Henle soldiered on, gaining experience all over the west coast and racking up wins. He's since scored four victories and a draw and "Leonidas" was delighted to be offered contract with a promotion earlier this year when he signed with Canada's Maximum Fighting Championship.
Henle will step into the cage tomorrow night (August 10, 2012) when he takes on submission specialist Luke Harris in the co-main event of MFC 34, which will air live on AXS TV (former HDNET). He spoke with MMAmania.com during a special guest appearance on The Verbal Submission about finally having a fighting home, earning a shot to fight for the MFC title and his passion for donuts in this exclusive interview.
Check it out:
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): You're still undefeated and you're making your MFC debut. What was it like to get offered a deal with Maximum Fighting Championships after having some trouble finding fights on the local level?
Joe Henle: It was a good deal for us to get our MFC contract. It's hard for lower level fighters and something people don't understand is that without a contract, you're really just hoping you can find a fight. I'm not one of those guys that just fights because I like to fight. I've got to get paid. I'm not speaking UFC level dollars, but at the same time, I'm not gonna fight a tough opponent for 1000 dollars. I've got to pay my bills. MFC isn't quite the top of the heap, although I'm appreciative of what Mark and those guys are paying, but what they're doing for us in terms of marketability, exposure on TV and the opportunity to grow, that's entirely worth the risk of fighting someone dangerous like Luke Harris. I'm excited to step up in competition for fights like that and I'm really looking forward to it.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): As you mentioned, this is an opportunity to get back on television. I don't think you've been on TV since The Ultimate Fighter. How does it feel to get some exposure nationally?
Joe Henle: It's good, it's exciting. It's nice to be able to have that on the resume. Again, one of the things that fighters really need are sponsors and it's hard for sponsors to find value if you're not on the national or international stage being on television. The fact that we're back on TV, hopefully we're getting back there sponsorship-wise. Hell, if anyone's looking to sponsor a fighter, hello, what's up? This is my shoutout to you. It could make it more lucrative for us and help me pay my bills which is always pleasant.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Mark Pavelich told us that if you win against Luke Harris, you'll get a title shot for the MFC middleweight title in October.
Joe Henle: Nice, I heard a rumor of that. I'd heard whispers. To be honest, Luke Harris is my world right now. Anything beyond him is just smoke in the air right now. That's like saying I'm gonna buy a lottery ticket because I know I'm gonna win the lottery. You really have no control over that. The only thing I have control over right now is me and Mr. Luke Harris. That's my world.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): Let's talk about Luke Harris. He lost the first fight of his career and he's been on an absolute tear. He's undefeated in his last 10 fights and all of his wins have been by first round submission. What do you make of that?
Joe Henle: He's very skilled. He's one of those guys that's been judo since he was in the womb, threw the doctor for slapping him. It's just one of those things where he's very talented and I'm sure he works very hard. He owns and operates the Hayabusa training center so he's not hurting. If you look at anybody that's undefeated, even myself included, there's always fights on that record where those are fights where you 100 percent should have won. I've got those, he's got those, we've all got those. It doesn't mean much until you step into the ring against someone you're caliber. He's the caliber of opponent that I want to be fighting.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): He's never left round and only ever gone into the fourth minute of a fight even once. Do you think if you can drag this fight into the second and third round that you'll have an easier time?
Joe Henle: I don't think he's the kind of person that's gonna cower and fall apart after the six minute mark. He's a good dude and that's not gonna make me stop trying to make him look forever different. We're gonna fight the fight and I'm gonna do my best to smash him and he'll do the best to choke me out or break an arm and that's what we're gonna do.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): He's obviously a fighter who's at home on the ground but looking at your record, most of your wins have come by way of your wrestling skills and submissions as well. is there going to be any hesitancy to take the fight to the ground against this guy?
Joe Henle: I'm not afraid. I respect his ground game. Even against guys that you're supposed to beat, you don't submit nine straight guys in the first round based off of a fluke. Guys don't just fall in front of you and let you choke them. He's got skills but my base is wrestling and jiu-jitsu and I'm not saying I'm uncatchable or anything, but it's been a while either in a fight or a tournament since I've been caught. I'm definitely not afraid to take it to the ground. I'm just gonna go with the flow of the fight and take advantage of positions. It'll be my challenge to stay a step ahead of him.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What are you really passionate about? This doesn't have to involve anything with fighting.
Joe Henle: Really passionate about? I can't lie. I love food. I'm a big donut fiend. I'm also really passionate about sports. I've always been an athlete. Every since I can remember, I've been involved with something. I love coaching too. I'm a wrestling coach over here. I love being at wrestling tournaments on the weekends and the meets during the week.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): I've got to hear more about the donuts. Is that your ideal post-fight food?
Joe Henle: Yeah I'm a donut dude. That sounds terrible but I'm a donut guy. That sounds terrible but when I was having my "cheat meal," it was donuts. There's a donut shop right across the street form my house called Star Donuts and another called Rolling Pin. It's sad, I can reel off all the names of these donut shops because I like being there so much.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): What specific donuts? Are you a glazed guy, powdered, jelly-filled, cream-filled?
Joe Henle: Oh I got you. I got this. There's two donuts that I truly prefer and my girlfriend is laughing at me right now because I'm walking around like I'm giving this really profound speech but I'm talking about donuts. I'm doing hand gestures. My favorite donut is a raised donut but it's got sprinkles on it. You know how you get the pink frosted donuts but it's kind of thick and cakey? It's a little heavy and sits on you. I'm not a huge fan of that. I love raised though. It's almost like a glazed but it's a little thicker and it's got the frosting and the sprinkles. That's one for me for sure. The other is, it's almost like a bar but it's got chocolate chips inside of it and it's got chocolate frosting and chocolate chips on top and the inside is like half bread, it's like a twist. It's amazing.
I've got to have them. Especially the ones from Star Donuts. I asked the guy one time because I was feeling terrible about myself after a donut. I asked him why they taste so much better than other place's donuts. I've been to another place in town that had a peanut butter and jelly donut and I went there all excited but after I tried it, I was like, "Man this tastes like crap. I wasted my cheat meal on this donut that I don't like." When I asked the Star Donuts guy what made their donuts so good, he said, "I think we use more lard." That's just it. A kick to the liver. But then I kept eating the donut because it's so tasty.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): This is another "out there" question, but what are you afraid of? It doesn't have to concern MMA.
Joe Henle: Spiders. I'm not a spider dude. They scare the shit out of me. I can't lie. There's this show on TV called "Ridiculousness" and they show clips of people falling. They had one on this show where there was this spider and I swear to god it was as big as my hand and it was on the wall and this guy walks up to it with a bucket and he's like, "I'm about to get the spider" and the spider jumps off the wall into the bucket, the guy throws the bucket, I jump and scream because just the thought of a spider bigger than my hand jumping off the wall at me, I probably would pass out. I would probably be done. Spiders creep me out, man.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): So would that translate to MMA or something, having to fight Anderson "The Spider" Silva or Kendall "Da Spyda' grove?
Joe Henle: They've only got four limbs, so that's cool. Anything more than four limbs, then I'll look at you awkwardly and we won't talk.
Brian Hemminger (MMAmania.com): When you look at this upcoming fight against Luke Harris, how do you picture victory?
Joe Henle: To be honest, man, I don't. I think I'm gonna lose. Luke is such a tough guy and my training camp has not gone great. I feel terrible. Luke's a beast and it's gonna be a terrible fight. It's gonna be rough. No man, I'm just kidding. How do you answer that question? Any time you ever ask that question you're gonna hear, "Oh man, training camp went great. I feel 100 percent. You're gonna see the best me you've ever seen!"
To be honest, I don't care I beat him. I can lump up his face, I can take his neck, I can break an arm. I don't care. I just want to go out and have a good time. Fighting is fun. I don't care. I'll hit anybody as hard as I can if the money is right. I don't have to hate Luke Harris in order to fight him. He's just somebody that's in the way and I'll be smiling while trying to cut his face open with an elbow. It's gonna be a lot of fun.
Joe would like to thank Street Soldier (@StrSoldier), Tri-Coasta, GoSuperLife.com, The Ali'i Group who does his screen printing and Adidas and all his training partners at the Reign Training Center and Knuckleheads Boxing. You can follow Joseph Henle on Twitter @LeonidasMMA.
To listen to the complete audio of our conversation with Joseph Henle, click here (interview begins at the 1:01:00 mark).