This is number forty-five in Jack Brown’s series of interviews with MMA fighters and personalities, and for this particular interview, we’re pleased to feature veteran heavyweight, Eric Prindle. Prindle was the Bellator season 5 heavyweight tournament champion. He is also a U.S. Army veteran. Currently, Prindle is a free agent, but the talented heavyweight hopes to be fighting again soon. 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?
Eric Prindle: My first experience with martial arts was with Aikido when I was thirteen. Then I did kickboxing and Muay Thai at the same time. I had several fights, but due to my weight, I was actually fighting guys that were 18-20 years old. I boxed for the army for several years. I boxed around the world. I went to the CISM, which are the world military games. Basically, my job, some of my time in the army, was to actually get to the Olympics as a super heavyweight boxer.
JB: What do you recall about your first professional MMA fight, a loss by north-south choke in 2008, and how prepared do you feel you were at time?
EP: I fought Jimmy Ambriz. It was fun. It was new, doing MMA for sport. I was definitely out of shape, and pretty much green. It sounds funny, but I'm glad I was on the losing end because it made me pay attention that much more to the ground game and how important it is.
JB: After that loss, you went on to win all of your fights up until your recent losses in Bellator. What was that undefeated run like for you?
EP: It was good. Of course I want to win, but when I go into a fight, I want to work on all the sTUFf I did in camp. I want to make my coaches and family and everybody proud of me. I want to basically have the best fight possible and have an exciting fight for the fans. That way, hopefully, as long as I can do this, people will want to see me fight and the monetary part comes with that.
JB: You debuted in Bellator at Bellator 40 in 2011 and won via TKO. How did the promotion differ from the others that you had fought for and how satisfying was winning in your debut?
EP: Bellator was really awesome. All the people that worked for Bellator, they showed us around. If we wanted to go get some food or watch a movie, they actually seemed like they cared about us, which was pretty cool. I still talk to all the people that work there, with Bellator, the drivers and all that. As far as the promotion, it was really professional. I like the tournament. It was just a new experience. They were way more professional. You could tell they put way more into their fighters and into their promotion.
That fight was an awesome experience. It was really good because I fought a good friend of mine, Josh Burns, who is a phenomenal stand-up guy and a good wrestler. We had a war. We were basically rock 'em, sock 'em robots. We went back and forth, and beat each other up. I cut him and the ref stopped it, which I was really upset about at the time. But, you know, fighter safety comes first. I just wanted to have a good fight and a good finish. But like I said, fighter safety is the most important thing.
JB: You fought for both a tournament championship and the heavyweight championship in Bellator. How did those championship fights compare to your other fights?
EP: I'll be honest with you, in my fight against Cole Konrad, mentally I had some stuff going on and I had a broken ankle. I was basically mentally not prepared, and I went in there and it showed. It definitely bugs me because when I'm training now, I think back to then and I push that much harder. I lift weights harder. I do strength training as hard as I can. Sometimes I get done working out and I get in my car and I pass out. That's how hard I'm training now. I want to get in the best physical shape I can right now. I want to be able to fight like a 135-pounder, full-on for every round. That's what I want to be able to do as a big guy. If I can do that, I can definitely have a good run going in Bellator.
JB: You and Thiago Santos will always be linked to the groin kicks that each of you landed to end your two fights with each other. What exactly was the story between the two of you and those groin kicks?
EP: If you know about Vale Tudo, that's basically no rules, they can do groin kicks and stomp on heads while people are down. So as far as him, I think he was in the heat of the moment and just saw an opening and took it. I understand, but at the time it hurt. Actually, a doctor told me I was going to have to have surgery, but I went and got a second opinion and that doctor said just wait and see how my testicle heals up with the contusion that happened. Thank God I just waited.
As far as my kick with him, I honestly just tried to land an axe kick to his solar plexus. I missed. I was a little bit further away because, fighting him before and seeing him fight, I was worried about him kicking my knee, my lead leg. So I was a couple inches further back than I should have been. And then when I threw the axe kick, I came up short and landed in the groin. Five inches higher and it would have landed in the solar plexus and it probably would have been a short night for me. Landing a devastating kick like that, especially with as much power as I have in my legs and my hands, it would have been a good night. But I made a mistake and I definitely won't be throwing that kick again. And I learned my lesson.
But I don't know how a more deliberate kick earns a "No Contest," but throwing an axe kick, which is a harder kick to pinpoint, gets a "Disqualification," basically a loss. I don't understand the ruling. I think that should be finalized. But like I said, it is what it is. I respect Bellator and the referee that judged me in that fight. I understand that he had a job to do. It definitely gives me a point to look back to when I'm into a fight and I get ready to throw an inside leg kick. I think I'll make sure and hit him in the best place versus hitting him and getting disqualified again.
JB: Where are you currently training in Arizona and who has been working with you?
EP: I've been training a couple places. The Lab has been my main gym here. My home gym is CSW, Combat Submission Wrestling, in California, with Erik Paulson. That's my main gym, but he understands that I can't travel there all the time. So I've been training out here at The Lab and the Fight Ready gym. Also, there's a new gym, the UFC Gym. I've been training there with Shannon Ritch. I've been doing a lot of sparring with Gooch and a couple other guys at The Lab. Joe Riggs is there. Henderson's there. So there are some real good guys and some real good coaches to learn from. I'm just doing a lot of strength training, getting strong again, and getting ready to fight.
JB: Erik Paulson’s always seemed like a fascinating guy. Do you have any Erik Paulson stories?
EP: One time I was rolling with him, and he's so phenomenal, like an encyclopedia of MMA and the ground game, he probably tapped me out like fifteen times in a minute. And I'm 6' 5", 300 pounds, and I'm strong. He'll act like he's going for an armbar and then he'll get a wristlock. I wish I could know an eighth of what he knows. I'd be the world champion right now. He's a phenomenal guy. I love him. He's a great dude.
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?
EP: Right now I'm kind of fielding offers. Bellator hopefully will let me fight since they have that heavyweight four-man tournament coming up. I'm not in it. I wanted to be in it, but hopefully they'll let me be an alternate or something. Hopefully I'll get an offer that works well and is worth the risk. Hopefully I'll get out there and fight soon.
JB: What else do you enjoy outside of training and fighting, and who are the individuals who have supported you most in life?
EP: My family, my wife and kids, I enjoy hanging out with them and they support me so much. Jason Weiss, he's a friend of mine that's a defense attorney, that's been helping me out, doing some of the legal stuff, fielding offers. Bob Caldwell, he's a good friend of mine. There are so many. I don't want to take forever and name them all, but I appreciate everybody that's been helping me out. Hopefully, one day I can help you guys like you helped me.
JB: Last question, Eric, 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?
EP: It means everything to me to be a fighter. It keeps me level-headed. I was in the army and combat, and when I don't train I can feel that something's off. This is with everybody that has PTSD or whatever happened to you when you were younger or if you were in combat. If you really train hard physically, I think that will really help level you out and keep you level-headed and let you go on with life without taking medication and doing some of the stuff that people do when they have PTSD really bad. So to me it means everything. Plus, right now, I'm supporting my family with it. I'm a combat vet and I just need to do everything I can to make my family have a good life and be here as long as possible for them.
Lastly, I just wanted to say thank you to my sponsors - Subway, Born to Bleed Fight Apparel, American Muscle, PowerBlock, The Burn Machine, Hidden Rhythm Acupuncture, and Clearwater Medical Center, and Patino Diet. Thanks to Patino Diet, though I had been walking around at over 300 lbs., I've been dropping fat steadily, and I'm at about 289 right now. The Patino Diet allows me to eat a lot of food. That way my muscles can recover, but at the same time I can drop weight, which is huge for a big guy. To make 265 is pretty hard for me, but it's definitely getting easier now. And I think you can tell by my fight progression as far as being physically fit. I know that the next time I fight, I'm going to be pretty cut. I was going to have a fight against Brett Rogers, and I was definitely in the best shape of my life getting ready for that fight. The last day of sparring I got injured and ended up having to have surgery. So that was a bummer and I apologize to Brett Rogers and Bellator for that.
Thank you so much for reading and please follow @EricPrindleMMA and @Jackjohnbrown on Twitter.
Visit Facebook for links to all of Jack’s past interviews and blogs.
Thank you to @KirikJenness for @theUG.
Related MMA gear from the UG Store