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Interview: IFL Contender John Gunderson

In an exclusive interview with, International Fight League contender, John Gunderson talks about his preparations as he gets set to take on Ryan “The Lion” Schultz for the IFL lightweight title on February 29.

Gunderson holds a 15-5 record that includes two wins and two losses in the IFL. One of those losses came in his last fight against Wagnney Fabiano at the IFL World Grand Prix Semifinals on November 3. Gunderson expects a better result later this month against Schultz.

“I lost [to Fabiano] in my head before I even got in the ring,” recalls Gunderson of his submission loss. “I broke my hand three weeks before the fight and I could barely train. Even a week before the fight it hurt just to run or shadow box. The IFL wanted me to pull out.”

Gunderson didn’t pull out, thinking that he could tough it out in order to collect a payday for his family. But the injury put him in a bad situation.

“In the first round I went to punch him in the side and I hit him in his elbow. It hurt so bad. I came back to the corner and Ken (Shamrock) knew I was hurt.”

Less than two minutes later, Gunderson was in Fabiano’s guillotine and tapped out. He doesn’t want to make excuses, but he is also confident it would go differently if he was healthy.

“I don’t want to take anything away from him. He did his thing and he beat me but I’d love to fight him again. I know I would beat him.”

The road to the IFL was a tiring one for John Gunderson, who had to make a grueling road trip just to get a shot to compete.

Gunderson received a phone call the day before tryouts were to occur for a spot on Ken Shamrock’s Lions Den team. The problem was that he was home in Oregon and had to work the next day. After taking the day off and convincing a buddy to join him, Gunderson drove all night, arriving in town at 1:00 am. He was able to catch a little sleep but he woke up early as tryouts started at 9:00 and he had no idea where they were located.

After finding the facility and consuming little more than some Gatorade, John pushed through the all-day session before making the long drive back home so that he could be at work the next day. It wasn’t until he was back in Oregon when he got the call that he would be part of the Lions Den team for 2007.

Now he’s training full time at the Lions Den and living in Reno but is planning on moving to Las Vegas next week. About to become the head instructor at a new LA Boxing location, Gunderson looks to capitalize on living and training in the city where so many champions currently train.

Gunderson hopes to add his own name to that list of champions when he takes on Ryan Schultz for the IFL lightweight title. In his opinion, the two match up for a very exciting fight.

“We’re both strong guys. He’s a better wrestler. I’m a better grappler. He punches harder, but I am a better technical boxer. And I have a better chin.”

Ten of Gunderson’s fifteen wins have come via submission which would lead a casual fan to think that he likes things on the ground. But that’s not actually the case according to the man himself.

“I have a lot of submissions to my credit,” he says. “But it’s mainly because guys don’t want to stand with me. I’d prefer to stand and strike, but I’m just as happy to submit guys too. This fight is definitely staying on our feet and it’s going to be the fight of the night.”

Schultz will likely come ready to do his part to earn best fight honors. He has an aggressive style that can be dangerous to his opponents. Gunderson is ready for this and seems unfazed.

“Schultz always comes out swinging for the fences from the very start and is going 100% all the time,” says Gunderson. “He throws with bad intentions, but he’s wild. There’s no way he’ll be able to go five rounds the way he fights [note: this fight is scheduled for three rounds]. He may get a lucky shot in, but if he doesn’t then he’ll probably gas before the end of the fight.”

When the IFL was launched, there were two key differences separating them from the UFC and other organizations. Instead of a cage, IFL fights occur inside a ring. Additionally, the IFL consisted of teams of five fighters that competed for a league championship. The organization recently announced that they were doing away with the team concept and Gunderson thinks that’s a good decision.

“I thought the team thing was OK,” says Gunderson. “But I prefer not to be on a team. I mainly want to worry about myself. I don’t want to worry about getting anyone else ready to fight and I don’t want them to worry about me.”

“I like hanging out with those guys and I still work out at the Lions Den. You always need training partners to get ready for a fight but worrying about whether the other guys are going to win sucks.”

Aside from how it affects him personally, Gunderson also feels this change makes for a better product from the IFL.

“Now that there aren’t any teams, the competition is going to be a lot better. Now, a camp can bring in the guys they think are best and that may be only three guys. Before, each team had to always have five guys and the fifth guy or even the fourth guy may not be very good. That doesn’t make for good fights. Now the top guys should be facing each other and it will be better for the fans.”

And as for the ring, Gunderson feels that it has both advantages and disadvantages over the cage. It may also give him a small advantage in his match against Schultz.

“The ring provides a better view for the fans, but I don’t like the possibility of getting caught up in the ropes. But since he’s a better wrestler, he can’t get me pinned up against the cage.”

So what is Gunderson’s prediction for February 29?

“I don’t like to predict when or how, but I will predict that I’m going to win.”


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