After working at home in Hillsboro, Ill., for a while to get ready for my UFC 135 fight with Diego Sanchez, I got the word that Diego got injured and was being replaced by Josh Koscheck. I just kept my mind focused on business, and continued camp with my guys in Salt Lake City, Utah.
We were working on cardio, working on technique for the opponent, and just really getting in shape. And if you’re wondering why I just didn’t stay in Hillsboro, there were a couple reasons for that. First, it was because I didn’t have the bodies and the facility back home that there are in Utah. I flew Robbie (Lawler) in last week, so he was with me in Salt Lake. Matt Pena is here, Jeremy Horn is here, DaMarques Johnson. There are just a bunch of guys here who can really push me and I wouldn’t have that same environment back at home.
Plus, we’ll be fighting in high altitude in Denver on Sept. 24 so another reason I came out here four different weeks as opposed to the usual two or three is to get the elevation training out here and get my body adjusted -- just so I have no concerns about the elevation in Denver.
And while I worked hard in my last two weeks in Utah, I was able to go home the weekend before last to see my family. I’ve got kids and a great wife, and though my wife suggested that I just stay out here for the weekend, I told her absolutely not. So I went home, soaked my family and friends up for a couple days, charged the batteries, then came back to Salt Lake City fresh and ready to go again. And we went straight from the airport to the gym, where the boys were ready to put me to work again.
It’s more than just physical work though, and with Jeremy around, he helps me get ready for the mental side of the fight and get a rock solid game plan together. He brings a lot of intelligence to the table, but not only is he smart, but he breaks things down in a way that makes it easy to understand, and it’s the way that he passes information along that makes him so important to the team. I’ve been in the position where he’s been on the outside of the cage and I’ve been on the inside and he’s walked me through steps and I’ve won fights because of his coaching through the fence.
You can’t underestimate the value of that knowledge, and it’s been easy for me to take everything in and keep an open mind because I’ve been learning my whole career. It’s one of those things I’ve never given up on, and I know that no matter who I’ve learned from, there’s always more out there to learn in this sport, and I think that’s the right mentality to have. It’s the old traditional martial artist that doesn’t think he needs to go anywhere or learn anything else that will fall behind, and I can’t let myself do that. I’ve also put myself around good people and I grew up in a good environment as well, so I think it’s the people I have around me and the people I’ve had teaching me in the past that have helped me keep that attitude that you never stop learning in this sport.
And, ever since I accepted the change in opponents, I’ve watched some tape on Josh and my coaches have watched his tapes extensively. They told me what his tendencies are and what his strengths and weaknesses are and what he’s probably gonna do out there. So when I break down the fight in my mind, I always try to see myself doing all my moves, them finishing for me, and I see myself getting my hand raised at the end.