While the main event at UFC 168 casts an enormous shadow over the remainder of the card as fight fans anticipate the biggest rematch in UFC history, one of the many great tilts flying under the radar leading up to December 28th pits welterweight sluggers Siyar Bahadurzada against the resurgent John “Doomsday” Howard. The bout is set to kick off the preliminary broadcast on FOX Sports 1 with a bang as these two gunslingers go head-to-head in what many in the MMA community consider a shoe-in for Fight of the Night honors.
ProMMANow caught up with “Doomsday” Howard this week to get the Bostonian’s thoughts on the match up with Bahadurzada, how he sees the fight unfolding, his view on the current welterweight landscape and much more.
*Questions from Jason in bold
*John’s response are italicized
We are just under two weeks away from your bout with Siyar, how has your training camp been thus far and how are you feeling going into this fight?
“I feel great man, I’m in unbelievable shape, I feel strong and I am ready. He has no idea what he is in for, I’m taking this guy seriously and this is my second fight back in the UFC, so I have been training real hard and I can’t wait.”
What kind of changes have you made in training specifically for Siyar and are you still working with former boxing champion Vinny Pazienza?
“I’ve been working my boxing with Vinny Pazienza a little bit, but I’ve working my Muay Thai and striking obviously because Bahadurzada is a good striker. Ive been working on grappling and a lot on my cardio. I’ve been really bringing my cardio to the next level, I want to push the pace on this kid because he is tough, but he doesn’t have as good of a gas tank as me and I don’t think he is as athletic as me. So I am going to use that to my advantage and beat him to the punch every single time.”
Speaking of Muay Thai, I am wondering if you have ever considered stepping back into the professional kickboxing realm now that several promotions are gaining momentum in the U.S.?
“I’ve considered it man, but at heart I’m an MMA fighter, I love this sport. If I had an opportunity to go back into Muay Thai I would because it is one of my favorite things to do, especially as a striker, but I’m a MMA fighter man., my Muay Thai style is working so I’m gonna stay with it. Muay Thai is where the money is at though, so if I can go back to it I definitely will.”
Can you give me an idea of the changes you have made to your cardio program for this camp?
“A lot of strength and conditioning man, explosiveness and fast twitch/fast response stuff. I don’t know if you have ever heard of the workout called ‘Fight Gone Bad,’ but it’s like a cross fit workout and there are different forms of it. I work with Scott Rehm who is pretty good and it pretty much puts me through the worst case scenario, so if I find myself in the worst case scenario in a fight I’m good.”
In previous discussions you have mentioned that you prefer to fight at middleweight because you feel comfortable at that weight and that you carry more power. A lot of people talk about the “man strength” that many believe develops in our 30’s, you are turning 31 in a few months and I am wondering if you have noticed a change in strength?
“Yea I feel that old man strength now, I’m really dense so it’s working out, I won’t be as strong as I was at 185 but I’ll definitely have the same effect. By the time I cut I’ll be a solid 170 and by the time I step in the cage I’ll be probably be around 190 or possibly over that knowing the way I am. So I think the old man strength is there but now I have the cardio behind it because I’m going back to 170, it’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.”
As for your opponent in Bahadurzada, what weaknesses in his game will you be looking to exploit on fight night?
“He swings for the fences man, he doesn’t really throw straight punches, he’s like me; we swing hard on our hooks. I think I can expose him with better technique, I think my technique is a lot more clean and I think that showed in my Uriah Hall fight. So I’m going to expose him with technique, his technique is not really all there but he is a gamer, when he connects it could be lights out, but I’m looking to be a lot more technical and clean with my striking and hopefully that beats him.”
Siyar is coming off a lopsided defeat at the hands of Dong Hyun Kim, do you think he will be fighting with a sense of urgency to make a statement against you?
“He might be, I think he is going to try and make a statement, but I hope he does man because it makes for a better fight. I like guys who come forward because I come forward and that makes for a great fight for me, so I hope so. Even though I beat Uriah Hall, I still have something to prove; not only am I back, but I am here to stay and one day I could be a title holder for the organization. So I’m not going in there all high and mighty, I’m just as hungry as he is.”
Since Kim was able to dominate Siyar in the grappling department, will you be looking to use your wrestling to your advantage in this fight?
“It’s a possibility, but he goes for takedowns too, so don’t be surprised if he tries to take me to the ground. You know me man, I’d rather not shoot for the takedown and test the stand up life, if it goes to the ground this is an MMA fight and I will be prepared to go there but I highly doubt it will.”
Most experts and hardcore fight fans see this matchup playing out as an absolute war and prime candidate for Fight of the Night, is there any reason they should think otherwise?
“No. Anybody who know how I fight and how he fights knows this is going to be a slugfest. You’ve got two strikers who bomb and go for it, so thats exactly what everyone should expect, it’s gonna get ugly. I’m preparing for a war and that’s how I’m training, I’m pretty sure I’m going to the hospital after this fight and he is too. Thats the sport man, thats what I look forward too; I’m not thinking about the after party or thinking about chicks, i’m thinking about that hospital ride because I know I’m going to have some bruises and i’m just going to enjoy the moment when I’m in the cage for fifteen minutes.”
How confident are you that Siyar and yourself will engage in that type of brawl and snatch a fight bonus?
“I’m really confident man. We BANG dude, I know I have been saying this since day one, I stand and bang, I don’t care who you are. I’ve stood with some of the best guys in the world, getting my ass whooped and I still come back with heavy leather. So thats what it is man and he is the same way, I’ve seen that guy get banged on and then come back, it’s awesome. I’m really excited and I’m looking forward to it man, this is going to be one of those fights to watch, it should be a main card fight but this is gonna start the night just right.”
That leads into my next question perfectly, do you think the UFC matchmakers purposely put this fight at the beginning of the preliminary broadcast on FOX Sports 1? Or do you feel it is just luck of the draw?
“I think it’s purposely done, they have a great card but what they want is a great start to a great card, you want people in their seats. It’s a really smart business decision, they know what they are doing and they have been doing it for over 20 years, they want the right fight to get the night started and then continue with a great card.”
Is there any added pressure knowing that the executives at the UFC expect to you fight with a style that may put you at an added risk to lose or get hurt?
“Not at all man, that’s like telling somebody to do what they love. It’s like if you love video games and somebody offers you money to do what you love, there’s no pressure. Get paid to do what I love? Yeah, there is no pressure.(Laughs)”
Does an impressive victory over Siyar propel you back to being a welterweight staple and potential contender in 2014?
“I think an impressive win could definitely boost me into the top tier level and it would be awesome. With GSP taking a break, the welterweight division is going to be the one to watch over the next few years, it’s going to get crazy. But just like everyone else, I’m chasing that title and a big win over Siyar would definitely put me back in the mix of things.”
What is your take on the situation with St. Pierre? I feel like he has been nothing but incredible ambassador for the sport and the most of controversy is unwarranted, how do you view his decision to step away from MMA?
“My thing is man, people don’t understand that what we do is REALLY hard. Cutting weight and dieting is hard on your body, so I don’t blame him, you’ve got to do what’s good for your body and if your body says don’t do it, then don’t. Trainers will tell you all the time, ‘listen to your body,’ so that’s about it, I agree with GSP. Looking at it as a fighter, do what you gotta do man, you’ve had your time and do what is best for your body, don’t do what other people want you to do. If he goes out there and gets killed or gets badly hurt, guess what? His life is ruined because of entertainers, you can’t do that and all the people talking trash about it, you go out and do it, you go out there and fight for twenty five minutes with some of the best guys in the world and see how you feel. So I’m happy for him man, good for him, go be healthy bro and hopefully if he comes back he will feel stronger and better.”
Another recent shakeup at welterweight was the vertebrae injury that forced Matt Brown out of the fight with Carlos Condit. Would you have taken the fight with Condit?
“You know I would’ve man, Matt Brown and I had a great fight, it was a fifteen minute war and he beat by one point I believe. It was a fight man and he has been knocking and finishing guys and I’m proud because that should show the world that if I took him to a decision and he’s been knocking guys out left and right, I’m on that same level. I definitely would have stepped in for Matt.”
Back to the fight with Siyar. How important is it for you to go out there and make a big statement against Bahadurzada?
“It’s really important for me to make a statement but here’s the thing, I’ve matured as a fighter and I’m not going to overdo it, I’m going to let it happen. If I’m going to knock him out, then I’ll knock him out, of course I’m going to fight my heart out like I always do, but since I’ve matured I understand that all I can do is control my performance. My performance will be one-hundred percent and I should be able to finish him, if not it will be one hell of a war. Like everybody say’s, their expecting Fight Of The Night and that means two fighters go out there and bang. I’m going to go out there and do my best and more than likely I should get the result that I want.”
In conclusion, how do you see the fight going on how does it end?
“I think it will be a second round knockout with me on top and getting my hand raised. Hopefully I can get Fight Of The Night and Knockout Of The Night. Here comes the Doom!”
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