NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Strikeforce comes to “Music City USA” this Saturday with “Strikeforce: Nashville“, featuring three title fights with huge names, including headliners Jake Shields and Dan Henderson. To some fans, getting a chance to see world class fighters such as Shields, Henderson, Mousasi, “King Mo”, Melendez, and Aoki, is what MMA is all about. And while those fighters are all fighting for Strikeforce gold, the preliminary card is filled with local guys trying to make their own mark on the MMA world.
Two such fighters are Nashville MMA‘s Dustin West (2-2), and out of Memphis, Team Vortex fighter, Andy Uhrich (5-1). These two guys will be battling it out in a welterweight bout with significant opportunities for each fighter should they prevail Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
Be sure to not blink, or get caught at the snack line dropping $20 for a large soda while these guys hit the cage, because this one will be a barn burner. Both fighters come out fast and aggressive and nobody from either camp believes this one will go to the judges.
Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com) caught up with Dustin West and Andy Uhrich prior to their upcoming Strikeforce bout to get their feelings about fighting on the big stage and how they match up with one another. The fight is this Saturday, but in this exclusive interview we got the guys to go toe-to-toe a few days early.
ProMMAnow.com: Dustin, after moving to Vegas to train with Mark Beecher, you recently moved back to Tennessee to train at Nashville MMA. NMMA is building a formidable fight team that you are a key member of. How do you think Ed Clay’s NMMA stacks up against other teams or training centers?
Dustin West: Yeah, I trained with Bobby Chiodini and Mark Beecher at IMFC in Las Vegas, for a while. They helped me a lot with things, like being on a good diet and how to really train like a professional. I was pretty much just winging it before that, but it was time for a change and I decided to move back to Tennessee. As far as Nashville MMA, it is definitely one of the toughest, yet most underrated gyms I’ve been to. People don’t realize what kind of things are going on in here. Between the WORLD CLASS jiu jitsu guys and Division 1 wrestlers…man, you can easily get manhandled in here on a daily basis. I was very impressed once I got here and started training. The size alone is enough to intimidate most people. Once you get into training and realize how serious the instructors take their jobs and how hard they’ll push you to be your very best, it motivates the hell out of you. It’s hard to get that feeling at other gyms in Vegas or anywhere really. So I’d say that NMMA can more than hold their own against any gym I’ve ever been to.
ProMMAnow.com: This fight has to be considered a “big shot” to fight for a major organization, how does it feel considering you moved back to Nashville recently, and now you have this opportunity?
Dustin West: Yeah, that’s actually the funny part. I went out to Vegas to train with the “best in MMA” and hope to get my “big shot”. Then I moved back to Nashville to find that Ed Clay was putting together a pretty damn impressive fight team. Luckily for me, my manager Jeff Hobbs had already been talking to Ed about the possibility of me joining. He allowed me join the team and then STRIKEFORCE comes to town. I never thought I’d be getting this opportunity in here, in Nashville. I’m definitely grateful.
ProMMAnow.com: OK Andy, you started training out of Min Kang’s garage about three years ago with Jacob Noe, and coach Kang. Could you have possibly believed that three years later you would be fighting as a professional in Tennessee at an organization as big as Strikeforce?
Andy Uhrich: Not back then, but now with all the hard work and sacrifice I’ve put in, I believe that this is just the beginning of many big fights.
ProMMAnow.com: Andy, that is definitely a humble beginning to a fight career. What was the turning point in your training where it clicked in your head that the sport wasn’t going to just give you an avenue to get into shape, but also to build a career?
Andy Uhrich: When I started running through all the top schools’ top fighters as an amateur and other schools’ coaches, promoters kept telling me I needed to turn pro because I was on another level, and they couldn’t find me any fights.
ProMMAnow.com: Dustin, the home crowd is always a good thing, and the last time I saw you fight, you had a whole group of fans in the stands called the “Hooligans”. What exactly is a “Hooligan” and where did they come from?
Dustin West: Man, a “Hooligan” is basically about 200 of my closest friends and family members that come to ALL my fights. They are fanatics. They can get a little rowdy sometimes (laughing). When I fight, the “Hooligans” usually put on a pretty good show themselves. Security usually has their hands full with those guys. Good people… but definitely vocal.
ProMMAnow.com: Yeah, they come out in force for sure… (laughs) What does it mean to you to fight in Nashville for a major organization such as Strikeforce in front of all your friends and family?
Dustin West: I don’t think I could have asked for a better scenario. I like traveling to fights, but nothing is better than a fight in your hometown. Especially for a huge organization like STRIKEFORCE. Now all that’s left to do is to show up and fight like I know I can.
ProMMAnow.com: Andy, speaking of “hooligans”, I know you came to Memphis from Nebraska, and after a knife incident where you got hurt, did you ever think about packing it up and heading back to Nebraska?
Andy Uhrich: That was a big turn in my life, coming from a small town to a big city, you never think something like that can happen to you. I thought about moving back home, but just decided that I needed to get some structure back in my life and get away from drinking at parties seven nights a week. I found out about Min’s training through my brother’s friend that I worked for, from then on is when my life changed a complete 180!
ProMMAnow.com: D. West, Uhrich is known as “Stunner” how much do you know about him other than that he fights out of Memphis at Team Vortex?
Dustin West: I don’t really know much about him at all, other than what you just said. I know he’s a pretty tough guy that won’t quit, but thats about it. I’m sure I’ll get to know him very well come April 17th.
ProMMAnow.com: Andy, What do you know about Nashville MMA’s Dustin West, and how do you feel about your match up with him for Strikeforce?
Andy Uhrich: All I know is his name and that he signed the contract to fight me! (laughs) I feel great about this match up, he is in his hometown and has all the pressure on him to perform, Im just coming to crash the party and take over Nashville.
ProMMAnow.com: Uhrich likes to stand, and plans to crash your party… are you concerned about his stand up or any other aspect of his game?
Dustin West: Like I said before, he’s a tough guy so I have to be ready for every part of his game, not just one. I try not to ever really worry about my opponent’s game plan. I focus on my training and getting all around better. We have a game plan ready and I’ll do my best to stick with it. If I worry too much about his game, it could take me out of mine.
ProMMAnow.com: West comes out fast in his fights, are you expecting him to set a fast pace, and are you concerned with his wrestling and take downs?
Andy Uhrich: (laughs) Fast pace? Wrestling? Takedowns? Oh let’s do it! (laughs)
ProMMAnow.com: (laughs) Alrighty… Dustin, you never seem to be too concerned or nervous about the crowds or lights when you step into the cage. Do you think that will change at all in a place as big as Bridgestone Arena in front of 12 or 13,000 fans?
Dustin West: I’m sure it’ll be a little crazy at times in the back and on the walk out to the cage. Once you get into the cage though and start punching and getting punched, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the Bridgestone Arena or a tiny little bar in Kentucky. Either way it’s time to fight and it’s gonna be fun to watch. I’m really looking forward to it!
That’s it folks! It’s going to be a good one. Keep it locked here at Pro MMA Now (www.prommanow.com) all this week for extended and exclusive live coverage of “Strikeforce: Nashville.”