This is number twenty-three in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re honored to feature Olympic wrestler and MMA fighter, Matt Lindland. Lindland was able to successfully transition from a dominant wrestler to a dominant MMA fighter. He fought a who’s who of fighters across multiple weight classes in multiple organizations. He has wins over Phil Baroni, Pat Miletich, Jeremy Horn, and Carlos Newton. He also founded the legendary Team Quest. Please enjoy our conversation below.
Jack Brown: What made you decide to start wrestling when you were young, and what enabled you to progress to such a high level?
Matt Lindland: I have talked about this a few times and recently wrote a blog on this topic.
JB: You had an amazing wrestling career that included winning a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. Were the Olympics in 2000 the high point of your years of wrestling or were there other achievements in wrestling that equaled or surpassed that for you?
ML: Thank you. I put a lot of time and effort into my training. In wrestling, the Olympics are every four years, and in between are the world championships. The world championships are actually tougher tournaments because every country can send an athlete, unlike the Olympics where each country has to qualify someone in the weight for that country. In 2001, I made the world team, up a weight class from where I competed at the Olympics, and won a silver medal that year. My wrestling career was never really about winning titles and medals. It was more about the journey.
JB: Your first professional MMA fight was back in 1997. What do you recall about that TKO victory in the World Fighting Federation?
ML: There is actually a lot I recall from that fight and the whole experience. The most significant thing was the fact that I earned a TKO and the opponent complained about the stoppage. So I sent him back to his corner and told the referee to restart the bout. I too was disappointed the bout was stopped by TKO and wanted to get more ring experience in. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, but I was having fun and wanted to keep doing it. I also realized then that fighting would distract me from my wrestling goals, so I put it on hold until after the Olympics.
JB: You founded Team Quest and trained with and coached numerous fellow legends of MMA there. How would you characterize the development of Team Quest over its first ten years?
ML: The early days of training there were like experiments. We would try things out and see what worked. We also sought out many of the best trainers that are still in the business today, guys like John Hackelman, Liborio, Rico, Matt Hume, to name a few. We brought in guys that had intimate knowledge of combat in areas that I did not possess yet. It was an opportunity to coach many good fighters, and even some great fighters, and of course a lot of great wrestlers as well.
JB: You were an undefeated 7-0 as a professional MMA fighter before your first loss, at UFC 37 in 2002, in a championship fight against Murilo Bustamante. How did that loss affect you at the time and what did you learn from that fight?
ML: You learn from every fight. The biggest lesson I learned from that fight was that with some illnesses you might not want to try and tough them out. As an elite competitor, you always think your mind can overcome all ailments. Sometimes it’s also important to trust medical experts. You live and learn, and it was an experience that I can share with my students now.
JB: You had an excellent record of 9-3 during your time in the UFC. What were your most memorable and most satisfying UFC fights?
ML: All my fights were satisfying. It was more about the journey, the experiences and the training. Those are what I recall as my best memories. That was a time when the sport was simple and pure, before money, fame, and power got involved. A little bit of fame and a little bit of money can really change some people. I like to focus on the friends I made and relationships I built while training and experiencing the sport of MMA.
JB: You fought for several organizations after your time fighting in the UFC had ended. What was the highlight of fighting in the IFL, Affliction, Strikeforce, and other promotions, and do you have any regrets about never having returned to the UFC?
ML: Outside of the UFC, I got the opportunity to fight many of the greatest fighters: Carlos Newton, Mike Van Arsdale, Jeremy Horn, Fedor. What is there to regret? I have always lived my life as a free man. No one has ever controlled me or told me how to behave. Everyone questions the decisions we make, but we can only make a decision based on the available information at the time of the decision.
JB: You have had the opportunity to get to know, or to closely observe, so many MMA fighters over the years. Who are a few that stood out the most and who you truly admired?
ML: Being a fighter is just a job. It’s not who you are. I can’t say that there are any fighters out there that I admire. There are some people out there that happen to be fighters that I admire. It’s about building friendships and relationships.
JB: Last question, Matt, and it has been an honor. You have achieved so much in both wrestling and MMA, yet you are still a relatively young man at the age of 42. What plans or goals do you have for the future?
ML: I have a lot of goals and aspirations. I was recently selected as the head coach for the 2013 Greco-Roman world team. Having the ability to teach, share, and give back to wrestlers and aspiring fighters has always been a passion of mine. I started a blog where I write and give away content, and I plan to offer more content, including videos, www.coachmattlindland.com. I’m also continuing with my gym and expanding the business, www.tqmma.com. I want to see every child spend some time learning martial arts. And I’m also developing my underwear company, www.dirtyboxer.com.
Thank you so much for reading and please follow @mattlindland and @jackjohnbrown on Twitter. You can also check out jackjohnbrownmma on Facebook for all of Jack’s past interviews and blogs.
Special thanks to @KirikJenness for @theUG
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