This is number thirty-nine in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature UFC veteran bantamweight and The Ultimate Season 14 competitor, John Albert. Albert’s most recent fight, at UFC on FOX 5, was against top-ten ranked, Scott Jorgensen, and it was awarded “Fight of the Night!” Please enjoy the conversation below.
Jack Brown: What was your first experience with martial arts/combat sports, and how did it become more than just a hobby for you?
John Albert: I was first introduced into mixed martial arts at a friend’s house where I would regularly watch the PPVs. But my initial introduction to martial arts was, of course, through Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Jean Claude Van Damme, Chuck Norris, and Steven Seagal. My friend was doing amateur mixed martial arts. We were workout buddies, and he asked me if I could help him with his wrestling. He said that he would teach me stand up. I said, “Sure.” We started training in his garage for two weeks. Then he brought me down to Victory Athletics, with Dennis Hallman, where I got my first true mixed martial arts training, and I simply fell in love with it there.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, a TKO win in Desert Brawl, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?
JA: I remember feeling very confident because I already had like fifteen amateur fights and knew that I was more than ready to step up as a pro. But the fight was a blur. It seemed to go by so fast that I hardly remember it. The more I have progressed as a fighter, the more I start remembering what I have done in a fight.
JB: Before becoming involved with the UFC, you were 6-1 and fighting for local promotions. What was that part of your career like for you and what were the highlights?
JA: Well it was just exciting to me to be a professional athlete. I didn’t have any true aspirations of making it in the UFC. I had dreams of maybe the WEC at the time, but never thought I would ever be good enough. So fighting locally was more than good enough for me and I was very content and happy just to fight and compete on a professional level. Every win back then was a highlight because they all happened so fast. Ha-ha.
JB: Your first loss came via submission in 2010. How did that loss affect you at the time and what did you learn from it?
JA: Well the frustrating thing was that I didn’t get submitted. I did quit in the fight, but it was an injury and I could not continue. The fight was scheduled at 145 lbs. Well each week the guy would call and say we had to go up in weight. The day of, I had to weigh in at 165lbs so I kept my pants on, and had a hot dog and a large soda, weighed in, and I was still barely over 150. But the weight didn’t deter me. I was very confident in my skills. So I went out there, started out-striking the guy, and when he took me down, I slapped on a quick triangle. And that is when I learned to not go to the ground with someone who’s cutting weight and is much bigger than you. He picked me up like a ragdoll. Ha-ha. I swept his legs from underneath him, and he folded me up like an accordion and I dislocated my rib. I was just lying there on the mat, almost paralyzed, and he jumped on me and tried for a guillotine. I was defending it with one hand, while holding my rib, and I just couldn’t take the pain anymore and had to tap. So what I learned is that if you want to make a real career out of sport fighting, don’t be afraid to choose your fights intelligently to help prolong your career. Nowadays, records matter, and back then I just wanted to fight and it cost me my first loss.
JB: You entered the UFC through season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter and were part of Team Bisping. What was your experience like both being on the show and then later when you watched the edited version on television?
JA: Well I wasn't too surprised with how they portrayed me because I didn’t get a lot of face time and because that’s not why I wanted to be on the show. I wanted to fight and win and that’s it. But I did see how they affected the way other people in the house looked. Overall, everyone was super amazing. We all had a great time, for the most part. We were very professional and had our laughs and fun. Bisping was probably the funniest person I’ve ever met. The s--- that just rolled off his tongue was unreal. He definitely said what was on his mind. But it was an extended vacation for me. I was the only one in the house who had a full-time job and who never had a full training camp or even trained full-time. So I enjoyed being able to train every day, twice a day, with free food and rest. It was exactly the opportunity I was looking for.
JB: Your official debut in the UFC was at the TUF 14 finale, when you got a TKO win over Dustin Pague. How much did you enjoy that debut and how different was it from your previous fights?
JA: Well, it was my very first fight that I truly had a full camp for and prepared like a true professional athlete. I had the best weight cut ever. It was the best professional performance of my career. I went in there with no fear, knowing I had to and wanted to give it my all, and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t know if I should cry or scream and shout. So I did little bit of both after my win. It was the best feeling of my life.
JB: You lost your next three fights in the UFC after your debut win, but a couple of them you still won bonuses for, including Fight of the Night against Scott Jorgensen at UFC on FOX 5. How do you regard your overall career in the UFC thus far?
JA: Personally, I am split 50/50. I’m very disappointed in my losses, and disappointed that I didn’t get to finish the fight with Perez because of a wrong stoppage. But, I am very happy and proud of myself for competing against the top fighters, at my weight, in the world, and not only doing well, but beating them for the most part. I gave it my absolute all in my fights, but had some brain fart moments where a little bit of my inexperience, or overzealousness to finish a fight, cost me some losses. Do I feel I can beat all three of those guys I lost to 9 out of 10 times? Absolutely, but anyone at any time can win a fight, and all of them capitalized on my mistakes and proved why they are still considered some of the best in the world.
JB: What's next for you in your fighting career and who are some of the fighters out there that you'd like to be matched up with?
JA: I would love to fight Takeya Mizugaki, Brad Pickett, Urijah Faber, or Eddie Wineland, guys that really just bring a fight and put on a show. But I mostly want to compete with the best in the world, in every fight. I don’t want gimme fights or warm-up fights. I want to fight the guys that will make people remember me because of those fights.
JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?
JA: I love hunting, fishing, camping, shooting. I’m a gun advocate who loves to plink around. I love eating. Ha-ha. Eating good food at restaurants is a passion of mine, but definitely not cooking it, just eating it. And playing video games is a passion. I’ve been a huge gamer and comic nerd my whole life really. My biggest supporters would have to be my pops, my wife, my brothers, and my mom. They all have supported me one way or another.
JB: Last question, John, and thanks for taking the time to do this. What does it mean to you to be a fighter and how much do you enjoy it?
JA: Well, I started out training and competing in this sport because I loved everything about it. I just feel so fortunate to be able to live my dream. On a day to day basis, doing what I love is an unexplainable feeling. I enjoy waking up every morning and knowing that all I have to do for work that day is train and get better. There’s no better feeling for me.
Thanks for giving me the opportunity to shed a little light on myself.
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