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The return of Kalib Starnes – PRO MMA exclusive

by:  Jack Bratcher

The Ultimate Fighter season 3 and UFC veteran, Kalib Starnes will be making his return to the ring on November 15th when he faces Kala “Kolohe” Hose at Destiny MMA’s:  Pier Fighter 1 in Hawaii.

We last saw Kalib at UFC 83 where he fought Nate Quarry to a memorable three round decision.  Only, it was memorable for certain reasons most people would not consider beneficial.

I was very interested to see how Kalib had been dealing with life outside the UFC and all of the negative press.

It’s always easy for a person to keep focused on the positive things when life is sunshine and roses.

True character is forged and tested when you are faced with hardships or when you have a daughter and you’re making a good living as a fighter in the most prestigious organization in the world and suddenly your boss acts like you have the plague and you become the focus of ridicule from all your peers.

In essence, Kalib Starnes is a champion, plain and simple.  Maybe he’s not wearing an MMA championship belt at the moment but he’s the champion of a higher calling.  He’s a champion of life.  He’s a champion to his daughter who will look to her father for advice one day on how to face life’s challenges.

With recent seasons of The Ultimate Fighter showcasing the “talents” of fruit-pissers and sushi-lovers it would not surprise me at all if Mr. White gives Kalib Starnes a call after a couple more of his fights asking him to return to the UFC.

Kalib came from the reality series when it seemed to still focus more on being a mixed martial artist rather than who could come up with the most outrageous antics to help draw ratings.

Even if the UFC never comes calling again, that’s ok.  This guy is going to be just fine.  Whaterver you do do not count him out.  This is the return of Kalib Starnes:

PRO MMA: Thank you Kalib for taking the time to speak with us. I was looking over your record and noticed your first pro fight was back in 1998 and then you didn’t fight again until 2003 so I was wondering what you were doing during that time?
KALIB: Actually, I had two fights in 1996 and for some reason they don’t have them on Sherdog’s Fight Finder. They took place in a UFC-style open weight tournament match in Canada. In the first fight I wore a gi and and won with a rear naked choke and in the second fight I took the gi off and ended up winning by arm lock in round one. Then I took a little time off and came back in 1998 and fought and then after that I took some time off because of injuries and life in general. I had a daughter that was born and I was working a lot. I had a herniated disk that took me about two years to get through. I still kept teaching and doing what I could during that time.

PRO MMA: We last saw you in the cage back in April at UFC 83 what have you been up to since then?
KALIB: I had to take about three and a half months off, I had a broken bone in my foot. My metatarsal broke length wise so it was a good three, three-and-a-half months before I could walk or do anything on it. Shortly afterward I got back in the gym and started a strength and conditioning program and tried to work on where I felt I was weak and work on some things I felt maybe I had been neglecting in my last few training camps. I began looking around trying to find a reasonable fight and then getting ready for this next bout. Also I’ve been spending a lot of time with my daughter and taking some courses.

PRO MMA: I’m really glad to see you getting back into the ring and you’ve got yourself a formidable opponent in Kala Hose. How did this fight get put together?
KALIB: My manager, Joyce Valdes put the fight together. It’s a newer promotion. They’ve had only one show so far, but with Elite and Icon falling by the side they could be the new up and coming promotion in Hawaii. They seem well organized and the money is comparable to what the UFC is paying.

PRO MMA: What is your opinion of Kala Hose and how do you see yourself matching up with him?
KALIB: I just know from the fights I’ve seen. He’s in his twenties so he’s still developing quite a bit. I see his jiu-jitsu and wrestling improving. He seems like a very heavy-handed athlete. It seems that he likes to box more thank kickbox. He’s won the majority of his fights by knockout. He took a lot of abuse early in the Phil Baroni fight and came back from that. I think he got wobbled in his last one with Rolando Dominique and came back and knocked him out early in the second round. I think he’s a very tough guy you know. They’re all tough, man. That’s the problem. If they were all a bunch of sissies it would be a lot easier huh? Anybody could do it.

PRO MMA: Are you the type of fighter that likes to study video on your opponents?
KALIB: You watch whatever tape you can find just to get an idea but I see it more as just seeing what level of athleticism they have and what they generally like to do. You can’t really tell too much from tape. I mean watch tape when Nate Quarry fought Pete Sell and then watch tape when he fought me. Or watch Chris Leben fight Anderson Silva and then watch him fight Michael Bisping. You can’t really always get too much from watching video tape. Watch Steven Segal’s movies and then actually fight him.

PRO MMA: Have you studied any video on Kala Hose and if so did you see any holes you may want to exploit?
KALIB: I just see a really strong, heavy-handed guy. There’s lots of ways to win fights, I don’t really know how the fight is gonna go.

PRO MMA: How did your training go for this fight? Did you have a good camp?
KALIB: Yeah, my traning went really well. I have a lot of good people around me and I feel good. I’m the strongest I’ve ever been. I never really focused as much on strength and conditioning as much as I did this time and I”ve been doing a lot of power lifting and heavy circuits. That seems to have helped me quite a bit.

PRO MMA: Do you feel like you are a 100% going into this fight mentally and physically?
KALIB: Yeah.

PRO MMA: Do you still live in Canada and is that where you do all of your training? Where do you train and who are your coaches? Who are some of your training partners that helped you get ready for this fight?
KALIB: Yeah, actually most of the last couple of years I spent in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida but right now I’m back living in Vancouver. I’m training at a gym called Suitela and my main drilling partner there is Andrew Pedersen. I’ve got a great strength and conditioning coach named Andrew Crowe. I’ve been working with him a lot. We get in there a good four days a week. He’s helped me a lot and he’s the best I have ever worked with or have ever seen anyone work with. The powerlifting and isometrics we’ve been doing have helped a lot. Grappling in a way is like one long isometric contraction. You are changing positions and so on but virtually every submission hold for example is like an isometric contraction, so we’ve been doing a lot more of that. And powerlifting has helped me tremendously with takedowns. I’ve doubled my strength in the dead lift and a lot of those base exercises like the squat and feeling a lot stronger than I have ever been.

PRO MMA: As far as your actual fighting techniques, where do you see your strengths at right now; more striking, on the ground, or more balanced?
KALIB: I learned a lot boxing over the last couple of years. I know it’s difficult for people to see when you watch the last fight to see how much I’ve improved in that area. But I learned a lot boxing with Howard Davis Jr., his son, and those gentlemen down there in Ft. Lauderdale. It’s different though, the sport of boxing and striking in mixed martial arts. There’s a big difference….with the smaller gloves…the defense is all different. For example, a Floyd Mayweather style or Winky Wright style doesn’t lend itself very well to MMA. And once you add in kicks and knees, clinches and takedowns and everything else it’s a lot different. So trying to take there what I learned in boxing and adapt it more for how I’m gonnna use it in the ring. I think I feel fairly well rounded with my hands and my wrestling and jiu jitsu have improved over the last few months.

PRO MMA: What is your relationship with Dana White and the UFC at this point? Would you ever fight for them again?
KALIB: I’ve got nothing negative to say about Dana White or the UFC. It’s just an organization that’s out there trying to maximize profits and his job is to get as much money for that organization as he can. His agenda is the opposite of the fighter’s agenda. The fighter’s agenda is to make as much money for themselves as they can. You see? It doesn’t really gel. One guy wants to make the company money and the other guy wants to make the employees’ money. The other thing I would say about it is, as far as him and I, we never really had much of a relationship. He was always personable and friendly to me but I never spoke to him much privately. He was good with me about sponsorships and so on. After my wins he was very supportive coming through financially. And after I lost, especially after I lost my last fight, he wanted to distance himself from me as far as possible. In my opinion it’s just like public relations; I was the sinking ship …not just sinking, I was on fire and sinking (laughs)…and he wanted to distance himself from me as far as possible. It was a lot easier to join in with everybody else and attack me than it was to stand there beside me and say “he had a bad fight tonight.” It’s not like I hadn’t proven myself to be a decent fighter in there before. And to say I didn’t belong in the organization? Well, I had fought for that organization in some capacity seven times leading up to that bout. He had taken me on through their whole television series and decided I was one of the guys he would keep in there. I had fought all top guys like Yushin Okami; that guy’s no duck and then Chris Leben, Nate Quarry, and Alan Belcher, they are all good fighters you know. He put me in there against good, top competition and he had a completely different personality after I fought Chris Leben than he did after I fought my last fight. So I think it’s just PR work and don’t think it’s anything personal and I might fight for that organization again one day you never know. That’s just the way it is. People have short memories right?

PRO MMA: Were there any fights still on your contract when you left?
KALIB: I think you need a whole team of lawyers to read and understand that contract. I’ll send you a copy of it if you have a truck to carry it around in. The way I understood it was I had three fights a year and they had an option to renew it every year and in 2008 I had one fight so I’m assuming there would be two fights left on that contract for 2008, you know, but I’m not an attorney. For all I know I have to give them all the money I make from here on out. I think they have the rights to my image and my life story, my future children.

PRO MMA: Are you going to be in their video game?
KALIB: I don’t know. I was scanned for the game. If I make it in the video game that will be something huh? My character will have maximum speed and the strategy of running backward for fifteen minutes.

PRO MMA: You have some great wins under your belt such as Chris Leben and Jason MacDonald but it seems after your fight with Nate Quarry a lot of people forget about how much you accomplished prior to that fight. I know that must be aggravating. Could you talk a little bit about that and how things have been for you in that regard since the Quarry fight.
KALIB: Honestly I’ve never understood how people have identified themselves with sports teams. You know how it is when people feel an affinity for their local city’s hockey, football, or baseball team you know? They identify with them and feel a sense of accomplishment or validation when the team they root for wins and they feel negative feelings when the team loses or they focus all their blame on some member of the team and attack their character and so on when their team’s leaving. It’s like blind patriotism. I don’t know. What do you think? I get a lot of positive emails but I also get hate mail still up to this date. People really obsess about it. It just became like a running joke really, you know. Like a running joke…that’s funny, you know…did you get it?

PRO MMA: We knew something was wrong in that fight we just didn’t know what. We later found out you had a broken foot right?
KALIB: It wasn’t just breaking my foot. What happened is I came out to try and box and work off the jab and circle and stay out of exchanges and I had been working to do that for months….so what he did well was he faded, if you know what fading is in boxing, he would lean back just out of range of my punches. So whenever I would come in to work off the jab or throw anything he would fade back and he would come back with two or three heavy hooks and follow that up with leg kicks and he did that really well. And I was able to move and avoid most of those shots early on and as the fight progressed he started getting through more and more and it was difficult once I decided to switch it up and start to kick at about two minutes into the second round, I threw a low right roundhouse kick and broke my foot and it made me hesitant and I knew something was wrong with it. I started to move and try to take him down a half a dozen times in that fight and just wasn’t able to get him down. I got him down once but I wasn’t able to keep him down. And yeah, it was just a bad fight for me. I’m the type of guy I always like to try and get position. I try to dominate position on the ground or in the clinch and fight like that. I never thought and still don’t think it’s intelligent to stand there and just exchange with people because they’re tough man and they hit hard and their heads are hard. It just doesn’t make sense. I just wasn’t able to carry my gameplan through. I didn’t adapt well. And as the fight progressed it just turned into a circus act in the last round. And the crowd turned on me after the first round. I look back at the first round and there’s no way you can tell me I lost that first round as a 10-6 round. And the guy who scored me 10-6′s and 10-7′s all those rounds, that’s ridiculous. I wasn’t knocked down, I wasn’t taken down. He hardly landed any shots and you know I was trying to land shots too in the first round.  By the third round the crowd hated me so much it was just a solid chorus of “boos.” It was just a terrible fight man.

PRO MMA: If you could relive the fight back with Nate Quarry would you do anything differently?
KALIB: No I wouldn’t do anything different. I would just run backward for fifteen minutes and just try to make everyone boo me and then heckle me for the rest of my life. That would be my gameplan going in again if I had to do it all over again. Honestly, for me it was a learning experience. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. I like that. I mean, I learn from that. You can learn a lot from things like that. You should try it some time. One time head into the ring and try to get booed by 30,000 people for fifteen minutes. You should see what that’s like.

PRO MMA: Have you spoke with Nate Quarry since your fight with him? Do you have any animosity toward him with the way things went down?
KALIB: No I haven’t spoken to Nate Quarry since the fight. I don’t know Nate Quarry personally. He might be a great guy. I’ve never really sat down and spoken with him or trained with him or anything else. I’ve won fights too and had people covering up and backing away but I didn’t go out of my way to mock them. I don’t think it’s cool to mock people. I was pretty much beaten at that point, he wasn’t gonna lose that fight from there but he really enjoyed it. And then he enjoyed all the attention he got afterward, It seemed he really liked that and he continued to mock me afterward and attack my character. He took a lot of things that happened there out of context.  For example, his corner man came over and made a point of yelling at me and calling me names and attacking my performance right after the bout and we had a little bit of a verbal altercation and the camera focused on me and what I said but didn’t focus on anything he said to me.  My comments were retaliatory and his corner man knows that and I’m sure Nate knew that. But then afterward he said something like I didn’t want to fight in the ring but then I wanted to fight after the match was over. He just made some comments that were….I’ll just let him explain his own comments. I just thought they were kind of petty and there were things I really didn’t enjoy that he said. But I don’t know him. Like I said, maybe he’s a great guy. Also, I know how people can act sometimes…with emotions…I’m sure he was frustrated at the time.

PRO MMA: Before I let you go do you have anything you would like to say to your fans or any final thoughts you would like to share or any shout outs?
KALIB: I just want to let people know I will be fighting on the 15th of November against Kala Hose and hopefully we can get that fight out there and get people access to it so they can watch it. That’s it and it’s a lot of hard work coming back after a performance like that under all the criticism and so on and to fight again and I’ll be back in the ring on the 15th.

PRO MMA: Thanks so much Kalib for taking time out of your schedule to speak to us. I wish you the best of luck.
KALIB: Thank you, take care.

Visit www.kalibstarnes.net to watch highlight video and to see some great photos of Kalib with his daughter.

Be sure to check back with us here at PRO MMA (http://promma.info) as we will bring you the results of Kalib’s fight on November 15th and we will have exclusive photos and coverage from the event.

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