This is number forty-one in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 competitor, Jimmy Quinlan. Quinlan is a very experienced wrestler and grappler, who is also a police officer. Though he did not have much professional MMA experience going into TUF, he advanced to the quarterfinals on the show. In his UFC debut at the TUF 17 Finale a couple weeks ago, he lost to Dylan Andrews. As has become the custom with TUF fighters who do not win in their debut, Quinlan was subsequently released by the UFC. Nevertheless, he plans to continue fighting as a professional and he may be dropping to welterweight as well. So you should plan on seeing Quinlan competing in the UFC again someday. 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?
Jimmy Quinlan: I started wrestling when I was about nine years old. It became more than just a hobby my sophomore year of high school. At the postseason tournament, I had a great run (for someone who was pretty bad), and almost placed at the state tournament. This little bit of success was like a drug, addicting me to the sport, and I started training year-round at that point.
JB: You are extremely accomplished in wrestling and BJJ. What has enabled you to be so successful on the ground and what has been the highlight of each sport?
JQ: The only thing that allowed me to be successful on the ground was never giving up. I was really bad for a long time, including not winning a match for the first year and a half that I wrestled. Each little bit of success prompted me to get more. I always wanted to get better. I started wrestling in the off-seasons year-round. I wrestled on the weekends. I went for extra runs during the season. I always found an excuse to wrestle or do BJJ rather than making an excuse not to. The highlight of wrestling was definitely winning the conference championship my senior year of college. I had placed 4th, 3rd, and 2nd, in the first three years I wrestled, and I finally won that championship in my last attempt. There were a ton of factors that made it such a special moment, but it was something I did as an individual but was able to share with my entire team due to the circumstances. It was truly a special moment for a lot of us. In BJJ, my best achievement, I would say, was winning the Brown Belt Gi Pan-Am Jiu-Jitsu Championships without giving up a single point.
JB: How did you come to decide that you wanted to start competing in MMA, and how did you manage that transition while you were still working?
JQ: I decided I wanted to start competing in MMA when I graduated from College, as the NCAA doesn't allow you to be a professional athlete. I managed the transition by training on my days off and doing whatever I could to workout on the days I had work. I eventually switched to a part-time status at my job to focus more on MMA.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, and how prepared do you feel you were at the time?
JQ: I felt way over-prepared for my first professional fight. I had been training for years before it, and I was competing at a high level in both wrestling and BJJ. I went out, picked my opponent up, slammed him, and after a little ground and pound, secured a submission for the win.
JB: You were a part of Team Sonnen on the recently concluded and very well-received, 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter. How would you characterize your experience with training, fighting, and living while filming TUF, and what else happened that we may not have seen on the television show?
JQ: The experience on TUF was an awesome one. Being on Chael's team, and interacting with him and his coaches, was truly an honor. Chael is such a high quality human being and really put a lot of effort into making sure everyone, whether you were on Team Sonnen or Team Jones, got the most out of the experience. There weren't many other big things that happened on the show that were not shown really. There were a ton of little stories about guys hanging out and having fun, but the producers did a great job of capturing the most important storylines of the season.
JB: You recently made your official UFC debut on the TUF 17 Finale. How did fighting in the UFC for the first time impact you, and what did you learn from that loss that you can use moving forward?
JQ: The fact that I was fighting in the UFC didn't impact me too much. I knew I just had to go out there and take care of business, just as I did at the local level. And my being on the undercard helped to take some of the impact of my first UFC fight away. I didn't learn much in this loss. To be honest, it was a little bit of a bad loss for me. I know I just need more experience in the fight game as a whole. I learned that I can't attempt to weather the storm in a turtled position like that. I got to move more when I get clipped with a shot to avoid having a referee come in and stop the fight like that.
JB: Ideally, what's next for you in your fighting career and are there any fights out there that you'd like to have at some point?
JQ: I think I’m just going to take a little time to get back to enjoying training without the pressure of a fight coming up, working on my striking and general MMA game. There are lots of guys training for fights, and I really enjoy being there for friends and teammates, helping them prepare for their fights. There are no particular fights I’m looking for at the moment, but after taking a little time off to improve, I'm sure I will be hungry to fight again soon!
JB: In addition to all the talented fighters and coaches that you worked with on TUF 17, you currently train, or have trained, with a number of the top New England fighters, including many UFC and/or TUF veterans. Just a few that I'm aware of include Chuck O'Neil, Joe Lauzon, Tom Lawlor, Dany Lauzon, and Joe Proctor. What has their experience done for you, and who are some of the other individuals who have helped you evolve as a fighter?
JQ: I've had the good fortune to train with all these guys for their fights. John Howard was another one I trained with years ago that fought for the UFC. Their experience helped me prepare for this level of fighting. I have done countless rounds with Tom Lawlor, as we are in the same weight class, and it was awesome working beside him for this past fight, as he was fighting the week before me in Sweden. Having the experience of training with Joe Lauzon, and having him out with me for the fight, I cannot put a value on though. He is one of the best fighters to ever fight in the UFC, and having done it fifteen or so times, he knows the ins and outs of everything behind the scenes at the UFC and was great to have out there helping me the week of the fight. I felt very confident having these guys behind me for the fight.
JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?
JQ: Outside of training, I mostly enjoy playing video games. I also have a family house, on a lake in New Hampshire, where I love hanging out in the summer on the boat. Nate Ryan, my coach from Mass BJJ in Acton, MA, has probably been my biggest influence and supporter over my years of training BJJ and MMA.
JB: Last question, Jimmy, 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?
JQ: Being a fighter just means I get the opportunity to go out and compete and do something I love. I get to train full-time and teach, and that is something fighting helped me to do.
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