This is number thirty-eight in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature UFC veteran and World Series of Fighting lightweight, John Gunderson. Gunderson has had 50 pro MMA fights and is 34-14-2. His next fight is scheduled to be against UFC veteran, Dany Lauzon, at WSoF 3, on June 14th. 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 Gunderson: I started boxing at 14 at a local boxing club in Bend, Oregon. I loved combat sports so much that, after the very first MMA show I watched, "Desert Brawl," I was hooked and started training.
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?
JG: My very first fight I was not prepared at all. I just wanted to get in there and see how it went.
JB: Before entering the UFC you had already been fighting professionally for eight years and had amassed a record of 29-9-2. What were the highlights of those years of your fighting career?
JG: Winning the Sport Fight lightweight title meant a lot because, at the time, I also had the only other Oregon show, Desert Brawl’s, belt. Also, stopping Crazy Horse in Oregon, when he was on a nice streak and coming off a big win in PRIDE. Then there was also competing in the IFL, after winning the lightweight spot on the Lions in a tryout that had a few hundred other guys trying out.
JB: You entered the UFC back at UFC 108 in January, 2010. What was that debut like for you and do you think fighting in organizations like the IFL prepared you for what to expect?
JG: My debut in the UFC was nerve-wracking because I was in no shape to take it on less than two weeks’ notice, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to get in there.
JB: After your loss to Yves Edwards, you were released by the UFC. You finished with a record of 1-2 in the promotion, all three fights having gone to decisions. How would you characterize your time in the UFC and what, if anything, would you have done differently?
JG: My career in the UFC went fast and I was disappointed. I flew out to Abu Dhabi and had my fight cancelled on the day of it. I took a fight a month later and won. Then I fought Yves two months later and was released. If I could go back I would have taken more time between fights to prepare and I would have thrown caution to the wind and fought more aggressively.
JB: Since leaving the UFC, you have gone 4-3 with various promotions and have beaten veterans of the sport like Justin Buchholz and Karo Parisyan. What have these last few years of fighting been like for you and how has your training been going?
JG: The last few years definitely have had their ups and downs. After so many fights, and so many gym wars, my body feels about sixty-five years old at times. This year, I switched my camp up to Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas, and I feel great.
JB: You are now part of the World Series of Fighting and you are scheduled to face another UFC veteran, Dany Lauzon, at WSOF 3 on June 14th? What do you think about the WSOF, this matchup with Lauzon, and what advantages do you think you'll have in the fight?
JG: I'm happy to be a part of WSOF. They’re throwing shows in Vegas so I can fight at home in front of friends and family. I think Dan will be another tough test. He's very underrated and very dangerous. But when I'm healthy, and I'm on, I'm a handful for any 155er out there. I don't care who it is. It's a fight and any fighter can win on any given night. That's the beauty of the lightweight division. Anybody can beat anyone in the top 50-75. You never know.
JB: Of all the other fighters out there at 155, who would you most like to fight someday and who are the ones that you admire or respect the most?
JG: I would love to fight anyone I've lost to, and the flip-side to that is I would rematch anyone I've beaten to give them that same opportunity. Most of all though, I’d like to fight the last guy I lost to, who I believe I overlooked and should have trained for.
JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?
JG: The only other thing I do besides fighting is soccer with my daughters 5-6 times a week. My daughters and my wife, Kristen, are my life and I have no idea where I would be if it was not for their love and support.
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?
JG: I enjoy being a fighter so much and believe, even if MMA were not around, I would be in some sort of combat! MMA is a way of life for me and I would not change it for anything. I want to thank JT Taylor for introducing me to this wonderful sport!
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