Matt “The Law” Lindland is a former Olympian who has worked his way to a 27-6 record during a mixed martial arts career that began in training sessions with Randy Couture and Dan Henderson. He makes his Strikeforce debut this weekend against highly-touted submission wizard Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. We caught up with Matt to talk about his storied career, the difficulties of being a fight promoter and his preparations for the Souza bout.
Heavy.com: You worked with both Randy Couture and Dan Henderson, and you saw both PRIDE and the UFC up close and personal during the glory years of PRIDE. Which promotion put on the best shows?
Matt Lindland: Without a question, the best show was PRIDE. And there’s never been anything like that. If you’ve ever been to a PRIDE show, you wouldn’t even have to ask that question. The PRIDE fights were an experience.
Heavy.com: Was it the theatrical nature of it, or was it the actual fights? Or was it just the overall experience?
Matt Lindland: It was definitely a combination of everything. The fights were always phenomenal. But even more than that, it was the experience and the venues. Some of those venues that Dan fought in had sixty-thousand people in them. You just can’t compare that to a thirteen-thousand seat arena.
Heavy.com: Who treated the fighters the best?
Matt Lindland: It’s hard to say, because I never fought for PRIDE. But it’s definitely nice to get paid in cash at the end of the fight.
Heavy.com: Yeah, that can’t be bad.
Matt Lindland: Not at all.
Heavy.com: Where do you think things went wrong with your relationship with the UFC?
Matt Lindland: I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know if things did go wrong or if it just didn’t work out.
Heavy.com: I’m not sure things went wrong either, but what do you think happened?
Matt Lindland: It’s an interesting query. At the time I was released, I was coming off three straight wins. I had more wins than anyone in that organization at the time. So yeah, it’s kind of interesting to release a guy after that.
Heavy.com: That (releasing guys on a winning streak) doesn’t seem to happen often, at least these days.
Matt Lindland: No, it doesn’t.
Heavy.com: How did you feel when Randy Couture coached Vitor Belfort against you in Affliction?
Matt Lindland: Was Randy in his corner? I don’t remember if he was in Vitor’s corner or not, so I couldn’t tell you.
Heavy.com: Why did you choose to go with Strikeforce?
Matt Lindland: I was offered the best deal there. They gave me the most competitive terms and the best financial deal. At the end of the day, it was the best offer on the table.
Heavy.com: Did you have any talks with the UFC during that period?
Matt Lindland: I did talk to the UFC. I’ve got guys that I manage that fight for that company.
Heavy.com: Was there any talk of making a comeback to the UFC, though?
Matt Lindland: Well, I mentioned that I’d like to see an offer and there wasn’t anything on the table, so that wasn’t really an option.
Heavy.com: Will Team Quest be feeding more fighters to Strikeforce?
Matt Lindland: You know, I couldn’t tell you where everybody’s going to go. The individuals have to make those decisions. Those are all based on the terms and the finances of those terms.
Heavy.com: Who are some of your top rising prospects there?
Matt Lindland: Yeah, we’ve got a ton of talented guys. I think Zac George is looking at a couple of offers right now. Nathan Coy, who is our SportFight champion with wins over Rick Story and Michael Pierce. He’s got wins over those two guys who are currently fighting in the UFC, so it would be nice to see him get a shot with one of the bigger organizations.
Heavy.com: You mentioned SportFight. How did the creation of that promotion come about?
Matt Lindland: It was probably back when Dan and Randy and I were kind of cleaning house. We were cleaning house on big shows, and everyone thought that anyone coming out of Team Quest would kind of be that caliber of a fighter, even if they were just getting started. It was hard to get our guys matched up with other fighters. So we put a promotion together to bring guys in to fight our athletes, to give our fighters another venue to showcase their talents in the beginning of their careers.
Heavy.com: Is it tough to survive as a small promotion?
Matt Lindland: Oh yeah. Promoting is tough. It’s a tough business, for sure. There’s definitely nothing easy about it. I think people look at it and go, “wow, look at all those people in those venues.” They forget to subtract all the expenses that go into promoting a show.
Heavy.com: The local MMA scene in Houston has exploded over the past year. It seems like new promotions are born and die on a weekly basis. Is it the same way in Oregon?
Matt Lindland: Kind of. We’ve been around for ten years or so, and we’re still doing events. Chael (Sonnen) has an amateur show up here that has been running events even longer than SportFight. But yeah, there are a lot of guys that come and go.
Heavy.com: Speaking of Chael, what’s it like having Yushin Okami training with him at Team Quest?
Matt Lindland: Oh, it’s great having Yushin up here. He’s for sure one of the top five middleweights in the world. He and Chael are two of the top talented guys in that division. Being able to have both of them in my training camp is phenomenal.
Heavy.com: How did that come about?
Matt Lindland: After Yushin’s fight with Chael, we talked to Yushin and his corner guys. They said he wanted to make a trip over here. We’ve had a lot of different Japanese guys come into the camp. Specifically Caol Uno, who trains with Yushin in his camp. Yushin didn’t really have a bunch of big guys in his camp, you know? I mean, he’s a pretty big Japanese guy, and most of the Japanese guys are pretty small. They have a ton of talented guys, but I don’t think he has anyone who can really push him. He’s probably the biggest guy in his gym.
Heavy.com: Have you talked to Dan about the fact that both of you are in Strikeforce now? You’ve never been in the same promotion. Would the two of you ever fight each other?
Matt Lindland: That hasn’t even come up in conversation. I think there are plenty of guys for us each to fight in the organization. The deepest weight class in Strikeforce is obviously middleweight. There are plenty of guys to fight there. And I think is even looking at possibly fighting at light heavyweight and getting a shot at Mousasi. And I think he’s always had a desire to fight Fedor Emelianenko. I think there are plenty of fights for both Dan and I in the organization without us having to fight each other.
Heavy.com: What did you learn from Neil Melanson that you can use in your fight against Jacare?
Matt Lindland: I just got an opportunity to work out with him when I was down at Randy’s gym. I thought he was a good trainer with a lot of different techniques. He has a different take on things than you traditionally see. When he came up here for Randy’s fight, I got a chance to work with him some more at our gym. He was a pleasure to work with. I try to pick up stuff from everybody that I get a chance to work with. I have a lot of talented guys that come up to my gym, you know? So you can pick up one or two things and put it in your style. It’s always a huge advantage.
Heavy.com: What kind of problems do you see Jacare presenting for you?
Matt Lindland: Well, I don’t really foresee too many problems in this fight. I think we know where his strengths are. He’s a submission guy, and I think he would like to see the fight go to the ground with him on top looking for a submission. I don’t want to give him that opportunity.