Brandon Girtz on Melvin Guillard: 'I'm going to knock his ass out or submit him'
If Brandon Girtz is to be believed, you're probably not going to have to use the extra-time function on your DVR for Bellator 140.
The Grudge Training Center fighter has his first Bellator main event on Friday night, when he meets the debuting Melvin Guillard at Pechanga Casino in Temecula, Calif.
But Girtz isn't expecting this bout to go the distance.
"I'm going to knock his ass out or I'm going to submit him," Girtz told MMAFighting.com. "This fight might not go that long. It's not like it's any big secret what Melvin likes to do."
The controversial Guillard (30-14-2, 2 NC), of course, is one of the sport's most notorious kill-or-be-killed competitors, as likely to get submitted as he is to knock his opponent cold. The prospects for an exciting fight either way are a big reason why he keeps getting contract offers as he's bounced from the UFC to World Series of Fighting and now Bellator in the span of 18 months.
Girtz (11-4), suspects as he's being set up as the B-side of the main event, the warm body to give the name fighter a big splash in his company debut. And as far as he's concerned, that's exactly how he wants it.
"I've been around the game long enough by now to know how it's played," said Girtz, who is 4-2 in a Bellator run which dates back to 2012. "Melvin's the one with the name in the business. He's the one with all the pressure and expectations. I don't care what anyone else's reasons and motivations are for putting together or accepting the fight. I just know this is the opportunity I've been waiting for and I'm going to make the most of it."
And it's not as if Girtz's opportunity has come out of nowhere. A former Division 2 wrestling All-American at Minnesota State in Mankato, Girtz wasn't an MMA fan, per se, but started training in the sport because some of his teammates had taken it up and he decided to give it a shot.
While he cleaned up on the local scene -- all of his first eight career fights were held in Minnesota, with the only loss along the way coming to Alvin Robinson -- he eventually realized he was going to have to leave his comfort zone and travel to an elite camp if he was going to make an impact in the sport.
So Girtz packed his bags and headed to Denver.
"It's been like night and day since I've been to Grudge," said Girtz. "It's hard to even explain, because it's not like there's just one area I've improved. You're training with guys who have been there before in the biggest fights and biggest events and know how to get the job done. I guess the best way I could put this is, this is where I learned to become a professional."
The results speak for themselves, as Girtz has won three out of his past four bouts, with all three victories coming by way of first-round finish.
Girtz has scored seven of his 11 career victories via submission. Guillard, of course, is notoriously susceptible to being choked out, with submission losses killing his momentum every time he seemed ready to break through to the next level in his UFC stint.
It's yet another aspect of the matchup which hasn't gone unnoticed by Girtz.
"I respect Melvin's power, but I'm not afraid to go toe-to-toe with him," Gritz said. "But if we go to the ground, that's where I know I've got the advantage. There's a long list of guys from Joe Lauzon to Jim Miller who have choked Melvin out, and that's a list I wouldn't mind becoming a part of."
Viral KO video spurs state investigation into unsanctioned MMA events in California
For two months, MMA Fighting has conducted dozens of interviews with fighters, managers, promoters, coaches and others connected to unsanctioned mixed martial arts shows in California, particularly Xplode Fight Series. Below is the first piece in a three-part special report.
The viral video of a violent knockout has spurred the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) to launch an investigation into unsanctioned events like the controversial Xplode Fight Series, MMA Fighting has learned.
CSAC is considering sanctions against fighters who compete in these unregulated, Native American reservation shows, and is also investigating whether or not some promoters are committing criminal acts, according to chairman John Carvelli.
"We have a lot of authority over our licensees and if we feel like they're engaging in unsafe activities, we will look at that license very closely," Carvelli told MMA Fighting.
Carvelli said CSAC would consider suspending -- or even revoking -- the licenses of athletes who fight for promotions like Xplode Fight Series and Gladiator Challenge on a "case-by-case basis."
Promoters can skirt state regulation by holding shows on Native American reservations, which are out of CSAC's jurisdiction if the state commission is not specifically invited to sanction the show. XFS, in particular, has become known for egregious mismatches, including a January women's bout featuring a vicious KO of a seemingly untrained competitor.
Ilima MacFarlane brutally knocked Katie Castro out cold in just 10 seconds and the video went viral, appearing on ESPN and garnering nearly one million views on the XFS YouTube page -- not just because of the visceral nature of the finish, but because Castro looked ill-prepared for a fight in her attire and skill level.
Websites have dubbed Castro a "soccer mom" because of her appearance, but Xplode owner Gregg Sharp is adamant she is not that and he believes the "soccer mom" moniker is what has caused all the fuss. Sharp told MMA Fighting that he is considering legal action against BJPenn.com, the website that originally used that terminology, as well as whoever tipped BJPenn.com off to the video.
"We're looked at under a microscope," Sharp said. "If my promotion was going on in Idaho, no one would care. It's definitely true. The only reason this video made it to the surface is because somebody had a hard-on for me. That's it."
MacFarlane was making her pro debut in the Jan. 17 fight and Castro came in 0-3, so the matchup didn't look bad on paper. However, all of Castro's losses have come by TKO in under 30 seconds, according to Sherdog's Fight Finder. Sharp said Castro was a last-minute fill-in.
"The quality of the fight turned out to be poor and unfortunately we're in the position we're in now," Sharp said. "If that fight ended in a rear-naked choke in 42 seconds, this wouldn't be the same case.
"Katie's not a great fighter, but she's a street fighter. She's far from a soccer mom. The reason why this has gone viral is because of that word. If they put 'Street fighter loses to MMA fighter,' this thing gets 12 hits on YouTube."
Xplode Fight Series runs its events almost exclusively on the San Pasqual Indian Reservation in Valley Center, Calif., about 45 minutes north of San Diego. XFS doesn't run out of an arena or a casino, but the backyard of an Indian family under a metal overhang.
The tribe as a whole does not support Xplode Fight Series in any way, according to San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians chairman Allen Lawson.
"They have a right to do that on their land," Lawson said. "But it is not sponsored by the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians. And it is not condoned by the tribe, either. It's an individual family that's doing that -- not us. It's on the reservation, but it's not sponsored by us. We have nothing to do with it."
'We've come a long way from barnyard fights and all these crazy backyard fights. Our sport is so much better than that. We are athletes and I think we should hold ourselves to another standard.' - Jessica Penne
Jessica Penne, a UFC women's strawweight top contender, attended the event in January to support a friend competing. She said she was "shocked" at what she saw.
"We've come a long way from barnyard fights and all these crazy backyard fights," Penne said. "Our sport is so much better than that. We are athletes and I think we should hold ourselves to another standard. By supporting that kind of show, I think it holds us back. We deserve to fight in better organizations than that, in better venues than that, get paid better than that. People that continue to fight in these organizations, it's just devaluing us."
The MacFarlane-Castro fight was hardly an aberration. XFS has become infamous for pitting trained athletes against foes that are winless and seemingly unprepared. The latter are typically announced as coming from "independent" or "freelance" gyms. Sharp has even embraced the bad press, putting the nickname "Tomato Can MMA" on the cage. "Tomato can" is an idiom for a fighter deemed an easy opponent or guaranteed win. Sharp said he plans on "turning a negative into a positive" by using it as a brand and selling T-shirts with the phrase.
Xplode, which holds pro and amateur fights on the same cards, regularly features competitors with records like 0-20, 0-15 and 1-16. Most lose by knockout or submission within one or two minutes of the first round. Some of the fight videos, which get posted on the promotion's YouTube page, show clear mismatches that could be deemed dangerous.
Sharp declined to make Castro available for an interview for this story.
"The problem is that Katie Castro is not someone, in my opinion, that can handle these types of things well," Sharp said. "She's not. Is she an Ivy League grad? Of course not. Is she a younger person that's getting through life? Absolutely."
Sharp said he'll no longer allow Castro to fight for XFS.
"Whether Katie got knocked out viciously or not, Katie is done after that fight," Sharp said. "She's just not getting better. She's not taking it serious. And eventually, yes, something could really seriously happen to her short of the knockout that happened."
MacFarlane has since signed with Bellator MMA. Her coach at San Diego Combat Academy's Team Hurricane Awesome, Manolo Hernandez, refused to allow MacFarlane to speak with MMA Fighting after repeated attempts, but Bellator made her available for comment.
In the interview, MacFarlane said she faced seemingly untrained opponents before as an amateur with Xplode, but did not pre-judge them, because she feels like that would have been a dangerous mistake.
"These girls look really tough," MacFarlane said. "Yeah, while they might not have technical training, they're still going to go out there and try to kill me. There are still fighters out there who have that same skill set. They might not be super technical, but they're scrappy and they're tough and they're strong. I didn't look at Katie like that. I looked at it like, 'This could end up going either way.' That's just how MMA is anyway. It doesn't matter who you're standing across from. MMA is a crazy sport where you can get hit with one clean hit. They can throw a haymaker and you can be knocked out."
MacFarlane, 25, said her lone regret about the entire saga is that the video on the XFS YouTube page made her look "like an asshole," because it showed her smiling right after the KO. MacFarlane said in reality that she went back to her corner after the blow and was "visibly upset" until referee Luis Cobian came over.
"He's like, 'It's not your fault. She signed up for this. She has done this before,'" MacFarlane said. "There might be people who call themselves fighters who, yeah, they don't train, but they think that they can fight. Or they think they can step in the ring with a couple street fights under their belt or something. He's like, 'Don't feel bad. She knew what she was doing and she's done this before.'"
Xplode uses Cobian and Cecil Peoples, two CSAC-licensed referees, as officials. CSAC frowns upon its referees working unregulated events.
Cobian did not return a message for comment. Peoples said XFS is comparable to other events its size.
"It's not any less safe," Peoples said. "[Sharp] has doctors there, there's an ambulance there. I don't think there have been any serious injuries that I know of. I've never seen anyone taken away in the ambulance."
Asked about blatant mismatches, Peoples said there are mismatches in other shows, too, and he preferred not to comment on that specifically.
"You know what kind of shows Gregg puts, I know what kind of shows Gregg puts," Peoples said. "He's working hard to get the shows better, to make everything work right. And I'm there to make sure that nobody gets hurt out of reason.
"If it was a mismatch or something, I'm there to make sure that things don't get out of hand. That's what I do."
Many San Diego Combat Academy fighters compete for Xplode Fight Series and several have been on the receiving end of favorable matchups on paper. MacFarlane is 5-0 in Xplode between her pro and amateur fights. Her opponents' combined record is 1-9.
Hernandez said in a statement that Castro was a last-minute replacement in January and weighed significantly more than MacFarlane. He said he's grateful to Sharp for making the fight happen on short notice. Sharp said he wasn't comfortable releasing the name of MacFarlane's original opponent, because she had a "legitimate" reason for withdrawing.
"XFS is a safe and well-run promotion and we appreciate them for being able to hold events consistently for all fighters," said Hernandez, whose team is most known for producing UFC fighter Liz Carmouche. "It's not a glamorous venue by any means, but they have given fighters a chance for the last four years here in San Diego and they should be appreciated for that."
'You know what kind of shows Gregg puts, I know what kind of shows Gregg puts. He's working hard to get the shows better, to make everything work right. And I'm there to make sure that nobody gets hurt out of reason.' - Cecil Peoples
Sharp maintains that his shows don't differ much from sanctioned ones across the country.
"There are plenty of 3-22 guys out there fighting in CSAC all the time," he said. "There are plenty of 1-9 guys. There are tons of 2-12 guys in all athletic commissions. They're out there. It's the way it is. That's just regional MMA."
The California State Athletic Commission does not seem to agree. Carvelli said CSAC is currently looking into whether or not people like Sharp are committing criminal acts by trotting out apparently untrained competitors and fostering potentially unsafe practices.
"We have to investigate all those things," Carvelli said. "We don't have enough information yet to really look at ways to limit this as much as possible. The investigation is there now. We're meeting with folks on that, trying to get information on that.
"Sometimes what I'm wondering is what these fighters are being told. I think you do have to look into it and, assuming they're fully informed, they're experienced and they're choosing to fight on here, then we're more than willing to look at disciplinary action, frankly to protect them and to protect their opponents."
Part two of our three-part special report runs Saturday morning.
Morning Report: Chael Sonnen talks beating 'basic and straightforward' Ronda Rousey
Who better to chime in on the state of women's MMA than Chael Sonnen and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin?
Making an appearance on Austin's podcast Thursday, Sonnen echoed the same concerns over Ronda Rousey's division voiced earlier by UFC commentator Joe Rogan.
Rogan was critical of the UFC's booking of Rousey against former boxing champ Holly Holm, chalking the matchmaking up to "a lack of talent" in the women's bantamweight division.
Rogan made the case for No. 4 ranked Amanda Nunes getting the next crack at Rousey over the then-ranked No. 9 Holm, but Sonnen seems mostly apathetic to the field in general.
"Miesha Tate is the right contender if you want to follow the rankings but that's been done twice," Sonnen told Austin. "The division lacks parity. It's a tough sell and we've already seen it twice and it wasn't close the first two times. I like that there's new blood. I like that Holly Holm is in there in terms of Miesha being out, but I get Joe Rogan's point with Amanda Nunes. You could have gone with her but at this point, what the hell's the difference? We're buying it for Ronda and that's just the truth."
While Rogan's critique over the division coincided with lavish praise of Rousey, Sonnen wasn't as eager to dish out hyperbole for the champ.
"As far as fighting Ronda goes, these girls have one tremendously big obstacle which is that they don't have the competitive history [of Rousey]. Ronda's skill set is not unique. Jon Jones' skill set is unique. Jon Jones goes out there and does video game moves that the announcers can't even call because they've never seen them before. Ronda's a very basic and straightforward fighter, however, she's a masterful competitor.
"She's been at it her whole life through the Judo circuit, been to two different Olympic games. She's shaken hands with another girl, competed with the lights on and found a way to get her hand raised."
Sonnen insists it's Rousey's experience and mindset that set her apart from her challengers, not so much being an elite athlete.
"These other girls don't have that," Sonnen said of Rousey's competitive career. "The division is brand new. It's two, maybe three years old. They don't have the amateur backgrounds, the professional backgrounds or anything extensive. They're not great competitors. That's what separates Ronda. It's more of an intangible than a physical. She's a competitor and these other girls aren't."
Rousey defends her bantamweight title to Holm Jan. 2 at UFC 195 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
5 MUST-READ STORIES
The MMA Beat. The panel discusses the UFC's upcoming huge December, why Holly Holm got the nod to face Ronda Rousey next, what's next for the likes of Nate Diaz or Max Holloway, Anthony Johnson's punishment, Melvin Guillard's Bellator debut and more.
Close. UFC women's champion Ronda Rousey earned nearly a million PPV buys in her Aug. 1 title defense to Bethe Correia in Brazil.
Angry Mighty Mouse. Demetrious Johnson says he's done listening to MMA's "uneducated fools." "You just don't understand the positives and the technique that I bring to the table."
'They're going to lose a lot of talent.' Melvin Guillard says he hears a lot of gripes over the UFC-Reebok deal from his American Top Team teammates.
'Fight for the forgotten.' Bellator heavyweight Justin Wren has returned from the Congo, but his fight for the Pygmies has just begun.
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We haven't seen the last of Sinead O'Connor.
Gilbert Burns training for ADCC this weekend.
Uriah Hall still talking about that damn kick.
Bellator MMA LIVE Weigh Ins - Bellator 141
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Emanuel Newton thinks Linton Vassell or himself deserves to 'WIN' the Bellator - DYNAMITE Tournament
Great talking with NBC-NY about how crazy it is that MMA isn't legalized in New York yet #legalizeMMANY #mma #ufc pic.twitter.com/1G3vAJUifX
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Please grind carefully.
Man I love my team! We grind @cainmma and @slikbxr. # wegrind #weareaka @ufc 192 I can't wait ! pic.twitter.com/dzbi1U6jGC
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Sparing day (: pic.twitter.com/y0TPzF8BNO
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Great advice @drannmarie for your daughter @rondarousey http://t.co/rND5qqUtdz
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Too bad, didn't know Bec was injured since I blocked her right after TUF I really wanted to fight in Australian in front of all my family.
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Going to show @BryanCaraway the new era of grappling--#FUNKJITSU! Serra might teach u when I'm done! @UFC @seanshelby pic.twitter.com/0aGmn3aQN0
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@UrijahFaber So I just heard u need a date for December. Caraway is still hidin under Miesha's tit. These got a mean squeeze! @seanshelby
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Lots of fun and laughter with these ladies! @criscyborg @mieshatate so great to get to know them in... https://t.co/DigG8roJHP
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The athletic state comission monitors the water in our body. To make sure dehydration is not too extreme. Great! pic.twitter.com/RwwbtTObPT
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This Week in Struggle.
How do I get Tito Ortiz to stop sending me candy crush requests on FB?! I've already asked dude once https://t.co/wKmDCdRDPd
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@matthughes9x is not amused pic.twitter.com/CsSYweDDS7
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Fly lands on my crotch, I'm so sore and tired I went to swat it. Smashed my nuts, missed the fly. Fly: 1 Me: -14
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This is how you win practice pic.twitter.com/43b3py0afo
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You know you've been fighting for a long time when someone asks you "What's your record?" and you have to check Sherdog. @sherdogdotcom LOL
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600+ lbs in a 2 seat Z4. And they said it couldn't be done... pic.twitter.com/4VWm1TBHQH
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A 60 year old man just told me I had nice muscles & I'm so handsome I could be a model while I was in BB&B #awkward https://t.co/Cpwv4FnTvH
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Announced yesterday (Aug. 27 2015)
Francis Carmont vs. Philipe Lins at Bellator 142: Dynamite
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