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Lentz 'quietly' moving up UFC ladder Print E-mail
Written by Tony Nguyen   
Monday, 03 January 2011 07:37

Nik Lentz was kind enough to step away from playing StarCraft and sit down with mnmmanews.com and chat about his fight style, UFC fans wanting to burn his house down. Lentz is coming off a controversial win against perennial top contender Tyson Griffin and is riding a five-fight UFC unbeaten streak. To top that off, Lentz has not lost an MMA fight in almost four years, moving his record to 20 wins, 3 losses and 2 draws professionally. Lentz is quietly moving up the UFC’s ultra competitive lightweight division. He also talks about training with the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy, his “boring” Andre Winner fight, being thrown around like a little girl, and why he hates when people come to the academy and use the word "jits."

Congrats on your recent win against Tyson Griffin at UFC 123. Some say it was controversial. How did you see the fight play out?

LENTZ: In the first round, Tyson did no damage and surprised me by trying to out-grapple me and tried to slam me but got reversed instantly, and if you want to slam me go ahead, I’m going to reverse you anyways. I felt like I hurt him to the body and I knew that my guillotines weren’t going to submit him, but I was trying to suck the energy out of him. I did more and won the first two rounds and lost the last one. Hey, I don’t make the rules. I wish we could fight until someone wins, but I won the first two rounds. I give him the third round; he only won the first minute and a half of the third round because he dropped me. So, if you drop someone, you should win the round, he dropped me, caught me to the chin. After that, I scrambled, got back to my feet and I really out-worked him for the entire fight. After the fight, if you watch, he’s bent over and hurt, gasping and I’m raising my hands.

Nik, why are you labeled in some circles of UFC fans as a “boring” UFC fighter after your Spike televised victory over Andre Winner at UFC 118?

LENTZ: I guess it all stems from the one fight. Most fans are only aware of what happens on television. So I had the one fight, and you know, as far as training, it didn’t go well. I went in there and I had some problems getting him down, and you know, the fight was 'boring.' There is no other way to describe it — the fight was boring, and then certain fans have nothing but that one small sample of my

career in that one fight. Whereas, many of my other fights in my career have been too exciting. I was too willing to mix it up, and I got hurt by guys that I shouldn’t. So I think that what it is, they see one sample and I have no excuse for it, it was boring and I wasn’t happy with it at all, but at the same time, I still beat someone who was very talented and truthfully he wasn’t trying to win the fight. You add that combination and it’s what made the fight so boring. If someone pushed me against the cage like that, I would be going crazy to get away, and all he wanted to do is to sit there and think about what he wanted to say afterwards.


If that wasn’t the game plan, what would you have done differently?

LENTZ: The part I did wrong is that after I pushed him against the cage, I couldn’t get him down and I was waiting for him to open up and he never did.  By the time it processed in my head he wasn’t going to do anything, it was too late and the fight was almost over. They blamed me for it being boring which is acceptable, I deserve it. It wasn’t exciting and I should have done better. But all my other fights have been quite exciting, but haven’t been televised.

Did it bother you that so many people were complaining and criticizing you after the Winner fight?

LENTZ: It did at first. It was so overwhelming, like people were saying stuff like they wished my house would burn down, and stories that they got people together to watch MMA for the first time and it’s my fault that I ruined their life. But now I got used to it. It made my skin really thick and I learned a ton from it. I’m a better fighter for it.

What don’t people who are in MMA realize about being a professional athlete and fighter?

LENTS: I have to be smart, it’s a business. People don’t always understand the pressure there is in fighting. Imagine if most people went into work and if you don’t have a good day, you only get paid half your salary. If that was the case, maybe they would understand that sometimes it’s hard to pull that trigger. You've got to win and stay on the right path. In the UFC, there is a pattern for some younger guys, they come in, win a few, lose a few, and then after a couple years they are deemed 'ready.' I am looking to skip the losing part. If you get too worried about what fans think, you could get caught and lose, but at the other point, you really don’t want to cut out trying to be an exciting fighter, because exciting fighters get bigger paychecks

You were fighting in local venues and shows and decided to start training with Greg Nelson and the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy. Can you talk about that transition?

LENTZ: I went and fought in Hawaii on a relatively short notice and it was a bigger promotion, and at that stage, it was the biggest fight in my career. I went out there and wasn’t prepared. I lost due to a cut, but I was so unprepared for his level of striking. He put it to me and I finally got him down, and maybe somehow I could have won the fight, but it was very embarrassing and horrible. At the time I thought I was somewhere as a fighter and I wasn’t. It was proven that I was not where I thought I was. At that point I could have sat down and continued what I was doing and continued my path, but I knew that I had to make a change.  I thought, 'Where do the best people train?'

So you just walked up and joined the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy?

LENTZ: I had known about the Academy and it was where Sherk trained. Some people say it’s hard to train there and get in there, but it’s the opposite. Once I got there, they were professional and nice to me, and once I took some classes and showed I belonged, I was able to train with the pros. When I trained with Sherk the first time, he massacred me and it was bad. He threw me around like a little girl. I was like 'Man, I was a (Division I) wrestler and he was throwing me around and I couldn’t figure out how this was possible. I couldn’t hang. At that point, I knew this is where I have to train and now at this point I can hang with him, and when you are around good, successful people that are do the right things, it makes you a better person and fighter. One thing we do very well at the Academy is that we train as a whole, we have excellent diets, and we work and push through when you get tired. You’re going to get tired if you fight hard and it’s the person that pushes through it more and handles it better that will win.

How did you even get into MMA?

LENTZ: In college I wrestled at the (University of Minnesota). I decided to try fighting since the wrestling thing wasn’t going the way that I wanted it to. I wasn’t as successful right away as I thought I would be early on. I was having issues with the coaches, not personal. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on how to train and do things and it set me back. I was cutting too much weight and really how I trained now as a fighter is completely different. Different people are different, and the way they were coaching it just broke me down and wore me out. I am a better fighter than I ever was a wrestler.

How is MMA different now as a former wrestler and how does that transition work in your favor as an MMA fighter?

LENTZ: We have accomplished, highly accomplished, wrestlers come to our school, but MMA is so different than wrestling. I train like a professional the same way people go to work as a pro, and I don’t get taken down. Wrestlers beat their head against the wall about being aggressive and tough. Now that I have taken a step back, I can see it. They have the 'I’m going to double-leg you' and they are only thinking one thing. They are thinking, double-leg or takedown. I see that and it’s a big disconnect when you are young and I just run away and wear them out and then I get the takedown. As you get older and naturally stronger and step away from the wrestling world, they have great techniques and it works, but they kind of beat their heads against the wall about being so aggressive to go hard and do it the right way.

Some say you are a nerd or do nerdy things outside of fighting. Why is that?

LENTZ: I don’t watch fights or any of that stuff. What I find fun is playing StarCraft and if I’m not playing StarCraft, I’m watching Star Trek or Japanese Anime, and if I’m not doing that, I’m doing something else that might be considered dorky. It gives me something to do. When I come home from training as an athlete, I can’t come home and play basketball or soccer. I’m tired. If I could come home and do those things as a hobby, then I’m not training hard enough. So when I come home, I find things to do that use my brain and that I find interesting.

The Carny nickname … does it stem for you being a carnivore or Carnegie hall?

LENTZ: Nick Thompson gave me the nickname. It was because we were in Japan and I was really good at the carnival circus type games. So it’s not like carnie like carnivore, but it came from “carny” like at a circus, not a carnival.

What advice would you give someone if they asked you what they needed to do to be a successful MMA fighter?

LENTZ: Use your brain, step back and analyze things from a different way and to really think. It doesn’t matter how many sprints you did in the morning conditioning, how tough you are, or how far you ran with a barbell over your head in the winter time. You know all that matters is how you can be more effective as opposed to being tough and aggressive, which are all great things. Step back and figure out how and why you do things, and how it makes you better.

My last question is probably the most controversial. Why do you hate when someone comes to the Academy and tells you that he/she has great JITS?

LENTZ: Inevitably someone will come to the gym every couple weeks and say they want to train with the fighters, and the last time someone came in and was questioned by the front desk guy, they said 'I’m really good, and my wrestling is really good, even though I have never wrestled and I’m really good. And my JITS is really good.' So, it’s almost a sure sign if they say that they are good at JITS, it’s a sure sign that they have no idea what they are doing or talking about.

• To find out more interesting fun facts about Nik Lentz and his upcoming fight announcements, go to www.niklentz.com or follow him on twitter at twitter.com/TheCarnyProject

• To find out more about my articles or what I will be cover next, follow my twitter at twitter.com/tonynguyenmma