Tuesday, September 2, 2014
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TUF 12 Finale conference call with Brookins, Johnson, Bonnar, Pokrajac – transcript

Salil Gulati:           Hey, everybody, welcome to the ultimate finale conference call.  We’ve had a great season with Team GSP versus Team Koscheck.  And there are two men left standing, fighting for a six-figure contract on Saturday night at the Pearl.  Jonathan Brookins and Michael Johnson are on the line, and they’ll be answering any questions you have about when that’s – semifinals episode as well as our upcoming bout on Saturday night.

So I’m going to turn it over to the operator now who can give you all the instructions you need to ask questions.  And then, after – at the 2:30 mark, or around there, I’m going – we’re going to have Igor and Stephen up on the call, so it’s going to be Jonathan and Michael first, and then Igor and Stephan in the second shift.

Operator:               If you would like to ask a question, press star one on your telephone keypad.

Your first question comes from Neil Davidson with “The Canadian Press.”

Neil Davidson:      Thank you.  Congratulations to both of you for making the final.  In the last – in the episode that aired last night, the show made a point of having the Koscheck team complain about the coaching they got and talking about how good the coaching that the St. Pierre team got.  Was that a theme that you noticed during the filming of the show?

Jonathan, if you want to go first?

Jonathan Brookins:     Yes, during the filming, it became apparent fairly quick that we were getting a different set of coaches, a different look, so to speak, than the other – than the other team.

I think what was starting to happen is like we were starting to kind of be – you know you’re kind of locked up, and we were beginning to kind of be (cultured) from these people from all over the world.  And it became kind of like, you almost didn’t want to brag to the other team, you almost kind of had something to brag about.

What these guys would kind of start to notice real fast that like they’re getting the same guys from you know one school, and there’s no variety.  And so you can kind of tell kind of quick that we were getting a better coaching staff than the other team.

Neil Davidson:      And Michael, your thoughts?

Michael Johnson:  I absolutely feel the same way.  You know I knew coming in that Georges was going to bring in all the great coaches that made him great, and I think the main thing that separated our coaching staff from their coaching staff was Georges actually trained with us every day.

You know and I got a feeling that Koscheck didn’t do that.  You know he was more of, “Let me sit on the sideline and try to kill these guys through the sixth week,” as opposed to helping these guys win.

Neil Davidson:      And if I could just have a quick follow-up, could each of you tell us how you’ve been training for this finale, if you – where you have been training?

Jonathan Brookins:     Yes, I just stayed – I stayed in Florida.  I didn’t really – I didn’t get to leave anywhere.  I didn’t – I’m not going – I made the choice to kind of just stay where I was at, and I just kind of focused on the things that – the same things that I always focused on out of the Gracie Barra school in Orlando.

Neil Davidson:      And Michael?

Michael Johnson:  I definitely had to do some things at home, you know like always (inaudible), and then I actually found myself getting a couple weeks – you know two and a half, three weeks to go down to Greg Jackson’s and to get some training down there and just sparring with those guys, like all the – Diego Sanchez, Carlos Condit and Clay Guida – Donald Cerrone, you know – and you know try some other (sort) of condition and things, and I think it’s really helped me a lot as a fighter and got me well prepared for this fight.

Neil Davidson:      OK, thank you, and good luck to both of you.

Michael Johnson:  Thank you.

Jonathan Brookins:     Thank you.

Operator:               Your next question comes from Jamie Penick with the “MMA Torch.”

Jamie Penick:        Hi, guys, how you doing today?

Male:                     Good, how are you?

Jamie Penick:        Good.  Good, first question for Jonathan, you fought at 145 in the past, and obviously you’ve fought Jose Aldo in the WEC in one of his early WEC fights.  Do you feel lightweight suits you better at this point, and are you looking to continue on after this fight in the lightweight division?  Or are you looking at a drop back down now that 145 is in the UFC?

Jonathan Brookins:     I definitely – you know I definitely always got a big spot in my heart for the 145.  It’ll always be there.  I don’t put on too much weight.  And I feel actually great at 155.  I like it as well.

But you know it’s crazy, you know because I think each guys bring a different set of skill sets.  You know when I go into fight at 145, I kind of look at them slightly different than I look at the 155ers, and the ’55ers are always – definitely bring a lot more strength to the table.

So I’ve kind of got to make sure that like I prepare you know for that.  But I like both weight classes equally, but I think you know I have a big, big spot in my heart for 145 as well.

Jamie Penick:        All right, and just one for Michael.  What did you gain the most out of working with Georges St. Pierre for the five weeks that you were in the house?

Michael Johnson:  What I gained the most is definitely incorporating my wrestling in with my striking and being more effective with that.  Like he’s a real good avid fan of you know the shoebox, and he’s one of the best shoeboxers in the world, and I really took like a fish to water with that asset that he was able to bring.  So you know I was just always in tune on what he had to say, and you know how he carried himself as well, inside and outside of the cage.

But the most – the main thing I took was his shoeboxing skills and how he set his takedown with the striking and you know everything else.

Jamie Penick:        Jonathan, if you could quick answer that as well.  What did you gain most out of working with GSP and the guys that he brought in?

Jonathan Brookins:     I think the biggest thing that I took from it was just my mental outlook towards sighting.  You know everything that I learned is going to – you know on the physical front, you know I realized after the show is going to take me years to kind of perfect and to really kind of understand, because that’s how long it kind of takes, but – you know but the way that I perceive the sport, the way I go about it, was changed completely by that set of coaches, and I was really thankful for that.

Jamie Penick:        All right, thanks, guys.  Good luck on Saturday.

Jonathan Brookins:     All right, thank you.

Michael Johnson:  Thank you.

Operator:               Your next question comes from Gerald Hanks with “College Gentleman” magazine.

Gerald Hanks:       Hello.  Excuse me – how are you gentlemen doing this afternoon?

Male:                     Good, how are you?

Gerald Hanks:       All right.  First question is for Jonathan.  Actually, I understand that you – I know that you’re originally from Florida, but I understand that you actually fought and trained in Houston for a short time, is that right?

Jonathan Brookins:     Yes.

Gerald Hanks:       You might know a fighter by the name of Mike Bronzoulis?

Jonathan Brookins:     Oh yes, Bronzoulis, yes.

Gerald Hanks:       Yes, actually I interviewed him for the magazine a while back.  Where did you train in Houston?

Jonathan Brookins:     I trained at the Metro Fight Club at the time when Mike Bronzoulis was there, and Lee King and a bunch of – Carlos Prater and a bunch of other people.

Gerald Hanks:       OK, and (like I said), that was fairly early in your career, like right – (like I said), right before the Jose Aldo fight.

Jonathan Brookins:     Yes.

Gerald Hanks:       So what do you think was – based on – from your training with Gracie Barra in Orlando and with Saul Soliz at Metro Fight Club, what do you think was the biggest factor that kind of led you from those early days to the success you’re having now?

Jonathan Brookins:     I think at the Metro Fight Club, it was a very like hard-knock training.  We did a lot of – a lot of sparring and things, which was great, you know it was good to get tough, and I felt really tough.  But the technical aspect wasn’t there, you know?  We never got in the (gi).  We never really just sat down and really focused on Jiu Jitsu.  I mean, Jiu Jitsu is kind of like the biggest asset to my career so far to date.

I think that was just the biggest change is that I was learning kind of how to fight, so I’m so thankful for everything I learned from the Metro Fight Club, but I needed to kind of sit down and kind of harness a new technique.  And yes, going to the Gracie Barra kind of allowed me that.

Gerald Hanks:       OK, and some more questions for Michael.  What do you – from – basically from your early career to now, what do you think was the biggest factor in terms of the success that you’ve had up to now?

Michael Johnson:  I think the biggest factor is actually my last loss that I had.  You know I took at a point to where I was like, you know what?  This isn’t going to happen again.  So I continued to be more hungry.  I determined myself.  I made a lot more sacrifices.  And you know I started taking my training a lot more serious and actually focus in on my goal at hand, rather than letting other things you know stop me from doing what I had to do or you know any distractions.

So at that point, I was able to you know really stay in the gym and you know really get my weight up and get stronger and make everything in better in my game, you know from Jiu Jitsu to wrestling and striking.  So that definitely helped me out up to my point right now.

Gerald Hanks:       OK, well good luck to both of you gentlemen.

Male:                     Thank you very much.

Operator:               Next question comes from Brian Hemminger with Verbal Submission.

Brian Hemminger: Hello, thank you.  My first question is for Michael.  You’re a guy – you tried out for the “Ultimate Fighter” a couple times before, right?

Michael Johnson:  Yes.

Brian Hemminger: Can you just explain a little bit about – were you ever worried that maybe this wasn’t going to happen for you?  And now that you’ve made it this far, just what are your feelings having succeeded or at least gotten to this point?

Michael Johnson:  Well, yes, I tried out for season eight and season nine.  Season eight, I thought I had a really good shot at it, and they called me out to Vegas for the second callbacks, and I was feeling real good about it, and then I got disappointed.

Season nine, I came back and I didn’t make the callbacks.  And you know what?  In the back of my mind, I was like, you know maybe I’m not going to make this.  But at the same time, I was like, OK, well, if I won’t make it in the “Ultimate Fighter,” my goal is to still make it in the UFC.  So I’m still going to train harder and continue to win fights.

And when this season tryouts came up, you know I had a week to raise the money and actually get out there, and it was just a different attitude, you know.  It was more of a laidback, nonchalant, like, “Hey, you guys, I’m still going to try out here no matter what, but I mean, I’m going to be persistent.  I’m going to keep trying out until you guys pick me.”

So I think it was almost like a blessing in disguise that I didn’t make the season eight and season nine, because season 12, you know I’m in the finale with a great fighter, Jonathan Brookins.  I had one of the – you know the best coach, one of the best fighters in the world, GSP.  So I mean, the timing couldn’t be any more perfect, and especially now since the sport is just growing so much and everybody’s really familiar with the “Ultimate Fighter.”  So I’m definitely happy with the outcome that’s been going on.

Brian Hemminger: All right, thanks.

And one other one I had for you.  You were criticized a little bit by some of the guys in the house about being a little one-dimensional with your wrestling.  What have you really worked on to round out your game since the show ended?

Michael Johnson:  I really didn’t consider myself a one-dimensional fighter.  You know I guess people just looked at me like, “Oh, well, he’s just going to wrestle you down.”  And not that many people noticed that I was setting up all my takedowns with strikes, and you know it’s really not my problem if these guys don’t have a takedown defense, and they just say I’m a one-dimensional fighter because I’d rather take them down.  You know that’s almost saying like Georges St. Pierre’s a one-dimensional fighter because he takes his guys down and he (ground pounds) them.

Other than that, you know it was still things I had to work on.  You know I worked on my Jiu Jitsu a lot.  And I also got more technical in my strikes.  So with all that said, you know that’s all coming into play that hopefully people don’t look at me as a one-dimensional fighter anymore.

Brian Hemminger: All right, thank you very much, and good luck to you both.

Male:                     Thank you very much.

Operator:               Your next question comes from Mike Penprase with Springfield, Missouri, “News-Leader.”

Mike Penprase:      Good afternoon, gentlemen.  Appreciate the opportunity.  Of course with Michael being from Springfield, I guess my first question is for him.

What – now you’ve had some time to review your last fight with Nam Phan.  What did you take away from that?  That was a split decision.  I’m sure you would have wanted to – a more decisive victory.  But what did you take away from that bout as far as training for the finale?

Michael Johnson:  For me, watching that fight – me and Nam, I actually took away you know just pressure.  You know pressure really (kills) a fighter in a fight.  And you’ll be able to you know get that victory if you can keep it going.  And you know I did get the split decision, but in my eyes, I thought it was a unanimous decision, and one judge just thought the other way.

But – and at that point, I also took that you know at this level of the fights we are, you know there’s no slouches.  Every guy’s a tough guy, and I hit Nam with some pretty big shots, and you know he just kept coming and kept in the fight.  And you know I really – I really enjoyed that he did that.  So if anything, I just took back, don’t take anything for granted, you know?  Everybody’s a tough guy at this level, and you’ve just got to keep it going.

Mike Penprase:      Right, OK.

Jonathan, what’s your feeling as far as watching that last fight of Michael’s?  Anything planned for going into the finale?

Jonathan Brookins:     Well, was it – was watching his fight or my last fight?

Mike Penprase:      Both.  Both.  Any changes in tactics or strategy that you foresee?

Jonathan Brookins:     I mean, yes, I mean, there’s that growth that we both went through from then until now.  So you know you’re just going to bring as much – as much fresh stuff to the table as you can.  You know it was nice to be able to look back at those fights and kind of have that you know – that sense of who we were, but you know I don’t think we’ll be the same fighters you know come Saturday.

Mike Penprase:      OK, all right, thanks very much.

Jonathan Brookins:     No problem.

Mike Penprase:      Yes.

Operator:               Your next question comes from Elliot Olshansky with UltimateFighter.com.

Elliot Olshansky:   Hi, guys, how you doing this afternoon?

Jonathan Brookins:     What up, Elliot?

Elliot Olshansky:   What’s going on, Jon?

Hey, Michael, going back to the very start of the season, you were – you know after the preliminary fights, you were number one on both Georges’ list and on Josh’s and – going into team selection, and you know Georges had to pull that little trick on Josh to get you on his team.

Looking back through that, through the season, and the way things are going and – you know somewhat we’ve already talked about what – the difference in the teams’ training.  Do you think you would be in the same position that you’re in now if Georges’ trick hadn’t worked and you had wound up on Josh’s team?

Michael Johnson:  Good question.  You know what?  It’s pretty hard to say.  I know – I know the type of fighter I am, and just you know my determination probably would have still worked out and gotten me to this point I am now.  But as far as me being well prepared and coach-wise and knowing the things that I know, because I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve used all those in my fights to win to get up this point.

And now, looking back on the season, and seeing how Koscheck ran his team and me kind of having a sense in the back of my mind that his team was going to be (ran) like that, I don’t think I would have been well coached and well prepared, you know.  I think I would have been – came into my fights, I think I would have been tired and worn out from all his training, and I wouldn’t have been as ready for these fights as I was to get the training I did on GSP’s team.

Elliot Olshansky:   And also, you had – you had corned Kyle Watson for his fight against Jonathan in the semifinals.  Did that experience of watching Jonathan fight from an opposing position helps – trying to help somebody else beat him, you know teach you anything in terms of how you can – things that you can do for Saturday?

Michael Johnson:  Yes, it taught me a little.  You know the – at the same time, you know – you know I’ve trained with Jonathan for six weeks.  He knows my strengths, I’ve known his strengths.  And besides that, you know I saw him fight three times prior to him fighting Watson.  And I think I kind of did that.  I don’t really necessarily say everybody else in the house did it.  Jonathan probably as well did it.

But you know you’re in this team, you’re in this competition.  When you’re watching these guys fighting, you need to be also cheering them on, because they’re your teammates, but you also need to be kind of scouting them out and seeing how you can beat them, because later on down the line, you’re going to eventually fight them.

Me cornering Watson against Jonathan, I definitely saw some things that I thought that I could capitalize on.  And Watson didn’t, maybe just because of his wrestling.  But I definitely took some things from being able to corner Watson against him.

Elliot Olshansky:   All right, those are my questions.  Thanks a lot, guys.

Male:                     All right, thank you.

Operator:               Your next question comes from Damon Martin with MMAWeekly.com.

Damon Martin:      Hey, guys, first question’s for Jonathan.  And I’ll pose the same question to Michael.  You guys trained together for so long, you know six weeks on the show and watched each other.  How much do you think that helped or hurt you going into this – into this finale?  First to Jonathan.

Jonathan Brookins:     Helped or hurt as far as us training together?

Damon Martin:      Yes, for so long, obviously spending so much time training and sparring.  I mean, as you go into the finale, is it – is it harder to prepare for a guy that you spent so much time with just a few months ago?  Or does it help?

Jonathan Brookins:     You know it’s – I don’t know, you know?  You can’t really say.  It definitely doesn’t hurt, the fact that you know him that well.  But I can’t say that it helps any as well.  It might have helped a little bit more if we were fighting the week after the semifinal fights.  But since you had so much time since we left the house, you know you’re not really fighting that same guy that you even knew, you know?  Because that’s just how time goes.  You change.

But you know I think it’s – like I say before, it’s like you’re not going in there blind, you know not completely.  I mean, you know the person.  If it was somebody that you had never experienced, never put your hands on, it probably wouldn’t be as helpful as knowing the person.

Damon Martin:      OK, and same question to you, Michael.  How much does it help or hurt that you did spend so much time training with Jonathan?

Michael Johnson:  You know, like he said, it’s kind of almost like a double-headed sword.  He was one of my main training partners on our team.  Actually, I loved working with Jonathan.  We competed a lot in the training room.  You know he even – he actually made me a better fighter during the course of that season.

And it definitely helps, because you know just, like he was saying, like I do know some of his strengths.  You know I know to watch out for certain things.  But also you know in my heart, because, just like he was saying, he’s not going to be that same fighter come Saturday night, and neither am I.  So it’s going to be real exciting to see what new things we’re going to bring to the table.

And I think it’s going to put up for a really good fight.  I’m real excited for it.

Damon Martin:      Awesome.  And back to Jonathan, you kind of touched on already the – you know going back to featherweight.  Now that the WC guys are coming over, and obviously I think it’s also you know of note that there’s going to be over 70 lightweights once the two divisions combine.  What’s going to be the biggest decision for you as far as going back to featherweight?  Is this just a personal choice, or are you going to kind of look at everything?

Jonathan Brookins:     I’m going to look at everything.  I’m just going to go by the fights where they need me.  You know if there’s a good fight at ’45, and they call me up and say, “Hey, we need you here,” I’ll be there.  If there’s a good fight at ’55, and they say, “We need you there,” I’ll be there.  So it’s nice to be able to go both weight classes and whatnot, and I enjoy competing at both of them.

Damon Martin:      Yes, and we have seen so many guys drop from past “Ultimate Fighter” seasons.  I mean for you personally, so you don’t have a problem doing both.  You wouldn’t definitely say you’re absolutely going to be a featherweight.

Michael Johnson:  Yes, no, I wouldn’t say that, like I’m definitely going featherweight after this, but – you know because I like competing with the 155ers.  And I feel that only gives me an edge you know when I go back down to fight the 145-pounders.

Damon Martin:      OK, and last question for Jonathan.  You know you have been on a similar stage, you know having been in the WEC, Bellator, you know you’ve kind of been on that stage.  We’ve seen the UFC jitters, so to speak, has affected some people.  Do you feel like that’s going to help you, just mentally?

And you just seem like a very you know kind of cool, calm person as you head into the cage.  Does that kind of – do you feel like that’s going to help you as you head in Saturday night?  Because obviously there’s always that pressure of you know the spotlight, so to speak.

Jonathan Brookins:     Yes, I mean, the spotlight thing’s always there, though.  You know it’ll probably feel just as – just as nuts as all the other times.  So no, I wouldn’t say it gives me any more of an edge.

Damon Martin:      OK, thanks a lot, guys.

Jonathan Brookins:     Thank you.

Operator:               Your next question comes from Neil Davidson with “The Canadian Press.”

Neil Davidson:      Yes, thank you.

Jonathan, can you take us back to the Jose Aldo fight?  What are your memories of that?  And what happened to you?  That was your one fight in the WEC, I understand.  What happened to you in the organization after that?

Jonathan Brookins:     Yes, I remember the fight.  I was training in Houston at the time, and I just felt really prepared, you know, and I felt like – I felt like you know that it was a great fight for me.  I felt like I had great chances, and I was really excited about it.

But there was just some things going on in the fight that I – that I wasn’t prepared for, so ultimately he taught me some incredible lessons in the sport.  And I was – I ended up – you know immediately after the loss, it didn’t take me long to come to the conclusion that I was thankful for the things that he introduced me to, because I was glad that it was somebody like that that introduced me to these tactics in the sport.

After that – no, they – immediately after I fought Aldo, they downsized the company and took away all the heavier weight classes from 155 and up.  So I just became a part of the expandable crew that got downsized because of the fact that I had only one fight in the WEC and one loss.  They were getting rid of – they were doing, I guess, some spring cleaning, so to speak, and I just happened to be in that group that got – that got cut.

Neil Davidson:      OK, thank you.

Jonathan Brookins:     No problem.

Operator:               And your next question comes from (Carlos Medina) with (OKla Star Bonner).

(Carlos Medina):   Yes, hi, Jonathan, I was – I wanted to ask you, what was your overall experience like in the house there?

Jonathan Brookins:     The overall experience was …

(Carlos Medina):   Hello?

Jonathan Brookins:     … And kind of almost surreal, because it was just like, what the heck am I going through?  I mean, time is passing so slow.  But at the end, you know it’s just something that you just couldn’t be more thankful that you did.

I mean, and that was kind of like the motivation.  While you’re there, you’re knowing that you’re doing something that is way bigger than you can kind of see at the moment, because the time is going so slow, there’s lights and cameras in my face all the time, and you kind of hate it.  But you know it’s for the greater good, so the experience in the house, it was just kind of – it was just kind of weird, you know?

It was – it was – you knew you were working for something, but at the time, it just kind of sucked.  So kind of a catch-22, what was helping you was kind of hurting you, and what was – you know what was kind of boring to you was actually what was really helping you.  So it was – it was just a crazy experience.

And I ended up – you know I look back as something I really enjoyed, because I got to meet you know some really, really great people.  I got to interact with some great people.  I got to go through things that you know I never would have got to experience if it wasn’t for that opportunity.  So it’s something that ultimately, at the end of the day, I was just – you know like I use the word a lot, but I just – I was incredibly thankful for.

(Carlos Medina):   What will you remember most about it, or what’s the – what’s the thing you’ll take the most or learn the most?

Jonathan Brookins:     I think I just will remember the most is the training, you know the training aspects of it.  I think that that was a really cool thing to be able to train all the time like that, seven days a week, and just the way – just the way we had to prepare.

I mean, it was just so much, but you know the fights in the house were just kind of like – were always kind of very surreal.  It was just a really weird experience to go fight and there was no fans there.  And just you know the whole experience in the whole was just – was a very memorable thing.

And I’m still kind of basking in it a little bit.  It’s still – you know it’ll probably be something that I remember quite intensely for a couple years.

(Carlos Medina):   Thank you.

Operator:               There are no further questions at this time.

Salil Gulati:           OK, sorry about that.  I was on mute.

Operator, do we now have Stephan and Igor on the line yet?

Operator:               Stephan is on the line.

Salil Gulati:           OK, Jonathan and Michael, thank you for your time.  I will see you guys out in Vegas tomorrow, and best of luck on Saturday.

I’ll guess I’ll try and get Igor now.  Stephan, do you mind holding tight for a couple minutes.

Stephan Bonnar:   All right.

Male:                     Wait, we are – do you want us to hang on?

Salil Gulati:           No, you guys are good.  Thanks for your time, and I’ll see you guys tomorrow at the weigh-ins.  Appreciate it.

Male:                     Thank you very much.

Salil Gulati:           Thanks, guys.

Male:                     All right, see you (peace Mike).

Salil Gulati:           Give me one sec, Operator.

(Audio Gap)

Operator:               Mr. Gulati, we do have (Igor) on the line.

Salil Gulati:           Perfect, all right, well, then we can turn it over to these two gentlemen.  There will be, in the next co-feature, Stephan Bonnar and Igor Pokrajac.

And if you want to give the directions again.

Operator:               Again, to ask a question, press star one.

Male:                     Hello?

Operator:               OK, your first question comes from Jamie Penick with “MMA Torch.”

Jamie Penick:        Hey, guys, how you doing?

Male:                     Hi.

Jamie Penick:        Got a question for Stephan.  Stephan, you had a bit of a rough return to action in – from 2009 until early this year after your injury in ’07.  But I think your fight with – your rematch with Krzysztof at UFC 116 was the best you’ve looked in quite some time.  What did you change between the two fights with Krzysztof that brought that performance about?

Stephan Bonnar:   Between the first and second fight with him?

Jamie Penick:        yes.

Stephan Bonnar:   Just got more settled into my team.  I mean, the first fight wasn’t that bad.  I just got a slow start.  But (inaudible) told me that the judges gave me the second round.  It was even going into the third.  I felt great going into the third.

I remember when we first clinched up at the beginning of the fight.  He felt so strong.  And then in the second round, we clinched up again (and started laying) knees, and I was like, “Wow, he’s moving some of it,” and I was just thinking, “I’ve got to pour it on him in the third.”

And then the head butt happened.  And I didn’t care so much about that.  I just wanted to finish the fight.  I felt really good, and I never got that opportunity.  So had I gotten that opportunity, you might be saying, “Wow, you looked great in both those fights.”  But since that fight, the main difference was, before that fight, I just had about a month with my new standup coach and his team, One Kick’s Gym, and you know just was getting my feet wet.

And since that fight, I went right back and really got more settled in and (get) with my rhythm, and – oh, and (Mike Sislevich) has been helping me a lot, too.

Jamie Penick:        Now, this is your first fight on an “Ultimate Fighter” finale since your fight with Forrest Griffin at the very first one.  I know you’ve talked about this being a full circle fight for you.  What does it mean to be back on the “Ultimate Fighter” stage here on Saturday night?

Stephan Bonnar:   I don’t know.  I’m like – you know just hoping it’s magical.  I’m going to try my best to make it a magical moment like I did last time, but I’ve got a good feeling about it, and you know hopefully I’m not wrong.  But I’ve got a good feeling that I’ll deliver a good performance.

And you know I’m (inaudible) there that reminds me of 2005 when I was here fighting on the finale.  And it’s a good feeling, a good aura (inaudible) entertaining fight, I’ll tell you that.

Jamie Penick:        Thanks, good luck, guys, on Saturday.

Stephan Bonnar:   All right, thank you.

Operator:               Your next question comes from Elliot Olshansky with UltimateFighter.com.

Elliot Olshansky:   (How’s it going)?  Stephan, I just wanted to you know ask – you know how much – you know weeks you know do you do in the post and the “Aftermath” show every week throughout the season and getting – you know and the – and the last season as well?

How much you know do you think that the “Ultimate Fighter” you know – you know informs how you know your approach to the UFC in terms of you know how you identify yourself in the company?

Stephan Bonnar:   I didn’t quite kind of grasp (inaudible) that question.  (Inaudible)?

Elliot Olshansky:   Sure, most of – you know in addition to your fights this year, the big thing a lot of people have seen from you is – this year is hosting the “Aftermath,” both for season 11 and this season, and you know you had two fights with somebody from season eight.  How much do you feel that your identity with – you know in the UFC, in addition to the first season finale, is tied up in the “Ultimate Fighter”?

Stephan Bonnar:   OK, my identity – it’s great to be a part of it, you know?  Like I’m (inaudible) really helped the UFC, and it also helped Spike, and you know they’ve given me a lot of opportunity to do work for (inaudible), and I’m really thankful for that.

(For) that, I mean, I love fighting.  A lot of guys that worked there, I was good friends with, and I even (inaudible) my (dogs) fight.  And it’s just fun to be a part of it still.  And you know I’m a fan more than anything.  So I’m always going to watch the show.  And now I get to – you know after the show go pick these guys’ brains about everything that goes on in the house.

You see, now I know (inaudible) you know they won’t shoot everything that goes on.  I want to uncover all the other stories and stuff people don’t see.  And Spike gives me that opportunity every week to go on there and pick the guys – talk to the coaches and it’s just a blast.  It isn’t even like a job, you know it’s not work for me, it’s fun.  And I’m thankful they let me do it.  Hopefully they’ll call me back for next year.

Elliot Olshansky:   Sounds good, thanks a lot.

Stephan Bonnar:   You’re welcome.

Operator:               Your next question comes from Gareth Davies with the “Daily Telegraph.”

Gareth Davies:      Hello, can I ask Stephan a question, please?

Stephan Bonnar:   Hello, Mr. Davies?

Gareth Davies:      Yes, Mr. Bonnar, I hope you’re staying off the muffins at the moment, but there’s two questions I wanted to ask you.  One was, in an article this week, Kevin Iole from Yahoo.com said in spite of your six and six record, and going back in your last 12 fights in the UFC, the things you’ve achieved in the octagon within the UFC should merit you one day being included in the Hall of Fame.

What do you make of his comments?  And I would like to add my agreement to him that one day you will be a Hall of Famer.

Stephan Bonnar:   Wow, (Kevin) said that – nice guy.  I’m sorry, I’m a little nervous.  I’m actually talking to you (speaker) through this, and the guys (inaudible) (deal).

So, well, I’m just honored that he said stuff like that.  I never – it never really – you know I never really thought about it, like being in the Hall of Fame, but you know if Kevin Iole said I’ve got a good chance of it, then that makes me smile.  So thank you, Kevin, for the kind words.  And you know …

Gareth Davies:      The wider question here, though, Stephan, is that in the UFC, it’s about how you fight, not necessarily what the result is, often.  And you know does your record actually matter?  Is it about the way you fight rather than winning at the end of it?

Stephan Bonnar:   Yes, I mean, to me it is.  It’s like, look at my losses.  It’s not like I went and I got smashed, you know.  I lost a couple close ones to Forrest.  (Wouldn’t drop) another (inaudible) Rashad, had a – you know first fight back after a long layoff when I wasn’t 100 percent, dropped one to Jones, who’s you know a pretty decent fighter.  Got a cut from (Acheda) and got a cut from Soszynski, a head butt, you know that (inaudible), too.

So I mean, it could be deceiving when you look at it.  It’s not like I went and got submitted and knocked out six times.  You know I mean I was in all those fights.

Gareth Davies:      And finally, can I ask, you often say that you’re – you know being in training camp for you is like being locked in jail.  It’s often locked up in jail.  It’s often like – how hard have you pushed yourself ahead of this contest against Mr. Pokrajac who, as we know, likes to take the fight to the ground?  And how are you going to combat him?

Stephan Bonnar:   You know, I only know how to fight one way, is just to go for it.  And then training’s the same thing, you know?  I mean, I can’t not train hard.  It’s just not in my nature.  And I’m the kind of guy, I need to do everything right.  I need to get my rest, and eat right and lay off the sex and (inaudible) myself.

I’m not like just so physically gifted that I can go and rely on my athleticism, you know?  No, I’ve got to really shore up my technique and do everything right, have no vices, and I do.  And that’s really my only hope of making it in the UFC, you know?  So if I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here.

Gareth Davies:      Well I wish you all the best, and I’m flying out on Saturday afternoon to be there.  Cheers.

Stephan Bonnar:   Oh, cheers.  I hope to see you, Gareth.

Gareth Davies:      Cheers.

Stephan Bonnar:   Cheers.

Operator:               Again, if you would like to ask a question, press star one.

Stephan Bonnar:   I always feel like I should take a drink after I say “cheers.”

Operator:               There are no further questions at this time.

Stephan Bonnar:   All right, so that’s it?

Salil Gulati:           All right, well, thanks for joining, everybody.  And we look forward to the card on Saturday night.

Igor Pokrajac:        All right, thanks a lot.  Talk to you later.

Stephan Bonnar:   Bye-bye.

Salil Gulati:           Bye.

Operator:               Thank you for participating in today’s conference call.  You may now disconnect.

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