Canadian planning to entertain in preliminary action
Fighting on the preliminary portion of the Strikeforce: Barnett vs. Kharitonov event in Cincinnati, Ohio, the 21-year-old Canadian prospect gets a stiff test right out of the gate. Mein will square off with former title challenger Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos, fighting for the first time since losing to then-welterweight champion Nick Diaz back in January. A fierce striker, Santos is a dangerous match-up for the debuting Mein, and the Lethbridge, Alberta native wouldn’t have it any other way.
“At first, my dad was in talks with Strikeforce,” explained Mein, appearing last week as a guest on Heavy MMA’s The Next Big Thing podcast. Mein father, Lee, is a well-known and well-respected figure in Canadian combat sports, and serves as his son’s head trainer and manager, as well as being a promoter and fighter himself.
“They had Kazuo Misaki for me as a first opponent, but he pulled out. Then they started looking more for me, and Cyborg came up. We were excited to get that fight because we know how exciting he is, and how tough of a guy he is. I love the challenge and I’m very, very excited to be fighting for their organization.”
The Strikeforce welterweight division is currently in a state of flux. With Diaz leaving for the UFC, the 170 pound title remains vacant, and there are a host of fighters vying for the chance to claim the gold. While netting a win over “Cyborg” would surely paint him into the title picture, Mein isn’t concerning himself what comes next; he’s solely focused on the task at hand.
“I’m thinking of it more as beating him for who he is; not really thinking about what’s after this fight. I know how hard a fight it’s going to be, and how much he’s going to challenge and test me, so I’m focused on just beating him. I’ve been putting my mind more towards that, rather than what he’s done and what my future holds in Strikeforce.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with the organization or what the (state) of the division is. There’s so many tough guys in the welterweight division I’d like to fight, so right now it’s just get a win over Evangelista and have a good time when I’m there.”
Speaking with Mein and hearing the confidence and realism contained in every answer he gives, it’s easy to forget that he’s still just a kid. At the same time, the Canadian Martial Arts Centre product is also battle-tested; Saturday’s contest will be the 30th professional fight and his sixth in the last 12 months.
“It all started with lots and lots of grappling tournaments, lots of kickboxing tournaments, lots of sport jiu-jitsu tournaments, which was basically MMA but in tournament form when I was really young. That’s when MMA wasn’t popular; it was just starting to get going. I had some amateur fights—I think I had six or seven amateur fights—just around Canada; Saskatchewan, Alberta.
“I had my first professional fight when I was 16-years-old and I lost that fight, but then I just kept going from there,” continued Mein. That initial contest took place in his father’s organization, Alberta-based Rumble on the Cage, against another relative newcomer who would make a quick climb to the big leagues, UFC welterweight contender Rory MacDonald. “I kept improving, kept traveling all over, training with different people. Now in the last year, I’ve gotten to showcase my skills against top guys around the world, and it’s starting to pay off for me.”
After going 3-4 in his first seven professional bouts—all contested before he celebrated his 18th birthday—Mein has amassed an impressive 19-3 record, his only setbacks being a submission loss at TKO 32 in Montreal, Quebec and decisions to TriStar product Mike Ricci and fellow Strikeforce competitor Jason High.
Mein has put together a five fight winning streak since losing to High, generating a great deal of buzz and building a name for himself with victories over Joe Riggs, Josh Burkman and Marius Zaromskis.
“The whole notability with the last few guys that I’ve fought has given me more credibility. I’ve had lots of fights in the past that were just as tough, but no one knows who they are, so they don’t really look at you. But now that I’ve been able to fight more of these top guys where people know who they are, people are starting to notice me a little more.”
People have definitely taken notice.
The second generation fighter is considered one of the top prospects in the welterweight division, and has built a loyal following throughout Canada for his entertaining style, one that is predicated on beating his opponent’s at their own game.
“I love competing against these guys because I know how great of athletes they are, and what great mixed martial artists they are. I love being in there with those guys, and whatever their game is, I love stepping up to the challenge and trying to better them at it.”
Like many of the young athletes entering the sport today, Mein has trained all aspects of MMA from the outset. As a result, he’s comfortable wherever the fight may go, and ready to prove that against “Cyborg” on Saturday night.
“My goal for the fight is to beat him up for the entire 15 minutes, keep punishing him the whole time. Let him know that I’m in his face the entire time; not let up.
“I want to see where I’m at. Right now with training, I feel that I’m in great shape, so I guess we’ll find out for that 15 minutes how hard I can go. I want to test myself to see where I’m at or if I need to step it up another notch.
“But I don’t really know exactly where it will go. But to be honest, I love it when it can go anywhere. I want just an entertaining fight. My goal for this fight—my game plan—is just to make sure I’m in his face, beating him up the whole time.”
Mein has already has his coming out part in his home and native land; five straight wins including a main event victory over Zaromskis in June confirmed him as a legitimate talent in Canada.
If he can extend his unbeaten streak to six and add another former title challenger to his growing list of vanquished opponents, you’ll start hearing more from Mein south of the border too.