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PRO MMA exclusive – UFC’s Jake O’Brien: Overcoming adversity and looking to be a force at 205

Jake O’Brien is a UFC veteran that is 11-2 overall and 4-2 in the Octagon. He has been the underdog on a number of occasions, including the first time he stood face to face with Pride and UFC veteran Heath Herring (28-14 MMA, 2-3 UFC) at UFN 8. Jake surprised most fans, but not himself when he earned a unanimous decision victory against the heavyweight contender.

Jake’s path would not get any easier as he next faced former UFC Heavyweight Champion Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski (14-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) at UFC 82 after coming back from a serious neck injury that sidelined him for over a year. O’Brien would go on to lose the fight versus Arlovski and faced additional insult to injury by being released from the UFC.

The injury to his neck caused “stingers” which are nerve injuries that shoot pain down from the neck to the arm, or down the spinal column. This pain can last for seconds to hours, or even up to days. The neck injury resulted in a very serious career threatening surgery that kept Jake from competing or training for nearly 15 months.

Instead of giving up fighting all together, Jake battled through an intensive rehab program and earned his position back with the UFC by stepping in to face up and coming heavyweight sensation, Cain Velasquez (5-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) at UFN 14. After losing by TKO to Velasquez, O’Brien made the decision to drop to 205 and earned his first victory at light heavyweight with a decision over Christian Wellisch.

Jake is now comfortable in his new division and is looking to make it two in a row at UFC 100 when he faces the ultra hyped and undefeated Jon “Bones” Jones (8-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC). O’Brien recently took some time out of his busy schedule to talk with PRO MMA (promma.info):

PRO MMA: We’ll be seeing you and Jon Jones go at it at UFC 100 in July. After seeing Jones’s victory over Bonnar, did you think it was a possibility that you might be facing him next?
Jake O’Brien: After that fight I had a feeling they might put us together. We’re both young, I had a feeling that it would be a good chance it would be me and him, so I’ve actually been thinking about it and I’m pretty excited about it.

PRO MMA: How do you feel about all the hype surrounding Jon Jones following his dominating victory over Stephan Bonnar? He threw Bonnar all over the Octagon, and connected with a variety of strikes. How do you think you will match up against him?
Jake O’Brien: Well he kind of just threw Bonnar around you know; there’s no way he’s going to do that to me, my wrestling is a lot better than Bonnar’s is. I think that’s whats going to give Jones trouble, is someone thats got a lot better wrestling.

PRO MMA: You dropped from HW to the 205 division and won your first fight at Light Heavyweight against Christian Wellisch. How hard is it to make that drop down to 205 for each fight?
Jake O’Brien: Usually I’m walking around right around 230, low 230′s, so it’s pretty tough, but honestly after the first time, I’ve already done it once, and had no issues. Now I can pretty much eat whatever I want, then once I get a little closer and start dieting, actually here in a few weeks, it should be easier the second time around.

PRO MMA: Did your release from the UFC following the Arlovski loss result in you dropping to 205, or were the events unrelated?
Jake O’Brien: No, actually they cut me after the Arlovski fight, but needed someone to fight Cain Velasquez so they re-signed me for that fight. After that fight I decided to cut to 205.

PRO MMA: How much pressure does that add to you as a fighter knowing that the UFC can cut you at just about any time.
Jake O’Brien: Yeah, in the UFC you can get cut at anytime. The first time I got cut I had only lost once. [I lost] just once in the UFC after Arlovski and I got cut. You have to perform at your best at all times.

PRO MMA: The UFC Light Heavyweight is stacked and has the best 205′ers in the world. If you could fight anybody in the division in a main event, who would it be?
Jake O’Brien: There’s no one in particular, just anybody. Anybody that’s ranked above me that I need to beat to move up.

PRO MMA: How do you feel about the media when it comes to MMA? There are a lot of blog sites, and MMA sites out there now days. Do you ever get on the forums and answer any threads with your name on them?
Jake O’Brien: I read them a lot but I’ve never posted. I read them every once and awhile.

PRO MMA: You came in as a huge underdog against Heath Herring and Andrei Arlovski. Do you like the underdog role?
Jake O’Brien: Being an underdog is nice, there is not as much pressure. Nobody expects you to win, so it’s always nice to be the underdog.

PRO MMA: Tell us a little about your severe injury to your neck. The injury was career threatening and kept you away over a year. How do you come back from a severe injury like that to fight again?
Jake O’Brien: Yeah, it was pretty bad. I was out about 15 months between fights. I had the surgery, and it took me out for awhile. I used to get “stingers” all the time. Mine was similar to Nate Quarry’s except in the neck instead of the back.

PRO MMA: Is the move to 205 permanent, or could we see you back in the mix at Heavyweight?
Jake O’Brien: I’d like to stay at 205. There are guys I’d fight at HW if they asked.

PRO MMA: Do you watch the UFC pay per views when they come on?
Jake O’Brien: I watch them all. I was a fan first, so I still watch them.

PRO MMA: Do you like to study your opponents on video to get your gameplan set coming in to fight them?
Jake O’Brien: Yeah I like to watch all their fights to get a good idea of what they can bring. Jon Jones don’t have a lot to watch other than his UFC fights.

PRO MMA: What do you like to do when you’re not training? Do you see yourself getting the UFC video game and playing that?
Jake O’Brien: I have some time… I train all the time, but do normal stuff, like hang out with friends and watch fights and stuff, nothing too special. I don’t play video games much, but I’m going to play that one.

PRO MMA: Are there any shout outs you’d like to give or any sponsors you’d like to thank?
Jake O’Brien: I’d like to thank Ken Pavia and MMA Agents!

By:  Denny Hodge

3 comments

  1. Very cool! Good chat Denny. the Pav!

  2. i think Jake O’Brien is one of the most underrated fighters in MMA. I’ve been following this dude for a long time and i think 2009 will be huge for him.

  3. I went to school with Jake. He’s an awesome guy. Thank you for the article.

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