On April 19th in Montreal, Travis Lutter and Rich Franklin will face off in a bout to determine who rises to the top of the UFC’s Middleweight landscape. While Franklin has donned UFC gold in the past, Travis Lutter remains unacquainted with the Middleweight strap, but is confident that it will only be a matter of time. MMAFrenzy.com’s Eric Shapiro recently had the opportunity to speak personally with former TUF Alum and Brazilian JiuJitsu specialist Travis Lutter, who shared his thoughts on upcoming opponent Rich Franklin, The Ultimate Fighter series, a grudge against Anderson Silva, and everything in between. Enjoy.
Eric: First letâ€™s talk history for a second, can you explain how you got into martial arts?
Travis: I started wrestling when I was in sixth grade, I wrestled through high school and a little bit of college, then I started doing a little bit of Muay Thai, and then the UFC came out and I watched that and I wanted to learn jiujitsu.
Eric: I read that youâ€™re a black belt under one of the most famous BJJ practitioners in the world, Carlos Machado, how did you meet Carlos?
Travis: I was living in South Dakota and I would come down here (Texas) to train jiujitsu and Carlos opened a school down here in Dallas, and eventually I bumped into him and started training with Carlos.
Eric: Letâ€™s jump into more current events. Youâ€™ve got a big fight against former UFC champion Rich Franklin in just a couple weeks at UFC 83. What is training like for you and are you preparing any differently for this fight?
Travis: Itâ€™s business as usual. I train each fight basically the same, I work my stand up, I work my wrestling, I work my jiujitsu. I only train MMA once a week where you mix it up. GSP from what I hear only mixes it up once a week, otherwise heâ€™s out there training wrestling by itself, training jiujitsu by itself, training stand up by itself. The reason is because you get sloppy when you just do NHB 24-7 and thatâ€™s all you do.
Eric: Are you at all nervous in facing someone as dangerous as Rich Franklin?
Travis: No, Iâ€™m not nervous I donâ€™t really get too nervous. You know Rich is the former champ and heâ€™s a really dangerous opponent, and I think a lot of people have written him off and I think thatâ€™s a mistake. You know Rich has only been beaten by two guys, itâ€™s just that one of those guys has beaten him really bad really quickly, and very recently. I still think Rich has all the tools to beat 95 percent of the guys out there.
Eric: Since Rich Franklin is said to be one of the most well rounded guys in the game, do you have a strategy in mind for attacking him?
Travis: Iâ€™m going to go out there and circle him, take him down and beat him up. Itâ€™s going to be that simple.
Eric: Since youâ€™re a jiujitsu specialist, is it safe to assume that you would like to take this fight to the ground?
Travis: Of course, I mean every one of my fights I always want them on the ground. You know Iâ€™ve won a couple fights on my feet but more than anything I always want my fights on the ground.
Eric: Since Franklin couldnâ€™t seem to get the better of Anderson Silva on two occasions, do you think those losses have made him any less dangerous?
Travis: Well Rich is a professional, and just because he doesnâ€™t match up- you know everybodyâ€™s got kryptonite out there, and Anderson is just his kryptonite, you know Rich isnâ€™t Superman.
Eric: Do you think mentally you might have the advantage over Rich since he is coming off of that second loss to Silva?
Travis: I donâ€™t think heâ€™s (Franklin) ever really looked the same since that first defeat against Anderson. You know going out there and giving it your best on your best day, and then getting destroyed like that Iâ€™m sure its going to shake your confidence. But Iâ€™m expecting the best Rich Franklin and I hope heâ€™s at his best when I get to meet him.
Eric: When you fought Anderson Silva you had the mount at one point and started delivering some good ground and pound, why do you think that you were unable to finish Silva off at that point?
Travis: I just made a mistake, I set up too straight, I got a little bit excited and he took advantage of that situation. I got myself over-extended and he hooked those long ass legs of his under my shoulder and he held me off. Itâ€™s one of the things he does, I know about it, but I just made a mistake I just got excited thinking I was going to kill him. But its one of those things you know. You make mistakes, you learn, and you get better.
Eric: There is still some debate as to Anderson Silvaâ€™s ground game, in your opinion how evolved is Silva’s jiujitsu?
Travis: Well look at what heâ€™s done to some other fighters, I think Andersonâ€™s got really really good jiujitsu. I donâ€™t think heâ€™s as good as I am even though he submitted me. I was beating him jiujitsu-wise the whole fight, I was out positioning and just got caught the way I see it. That being said you look at him against Nate Marquardt and he (Marquardt) went to take him down and Anderson switched him and I thought Andersons jiujitsu looked great in that fight. Against Dan Henderson, Dan controlled the first round and in the second round he got caught. I donâ€™t think it was necessarily Danâ€™s best performance and I was pulling for Dan to win that fight, but I thought that Silva would probably beat him even on the ground.
Eric: Many people said that you got beaten at your own game (jiujitsu) when you submitted to Anderson Silva. I wanted to know if you specifically submitted to the hold or the strikes which he delivered while you were stuck in that position.
Travis: The hold. I got choked. I wasnâ€™t submitting to the strikes- he caught me. It was just one of those things, I was in it for a long time and I thought I was out and I got caught. My hats off to Anderson he was the better man that night, but there have been other fighters that have been caught before and they come back and they prove that it was a fluke. And that is what Iâ€™d like to do, Iâ€™d like to come back and prove that Andersonâ€™s win over me was a fluke.
Eric: If you were able to get another shot at Silva, how different would your game plan be the second time around?
Travis: The game plan is going to remain basically the same. Just once I get into a good position like the mount or the side mount Iâ€™d take my time. You know, not sit up quite so far. Iâ€™m still going to take him down, still going to beat him up from there- But I do think that I am a better fighter than Anderson Silva. I still think Anderson is a great fighter and he beats almost everybody, and I think thereâ€™s only a couple guys that can beat him, and I think that Iâ€™m one of them.
Eric: Do you see a definitive weakness in Silvaâ€™s game that can be exploited?
Travis: I donâ€™t think heâ€™s got the best jiujitsu out there and his wrestling isnâ€™t bad, but itâ€™s not up to my speed. Someone like Matt Lindland I think would give him a lot of problems.
Eric: Now itâ€™s been over a year since you last fought, do you think this is works in your favor?
Travis: I donâ€™t think itâ€™s a problem. Iâ€™ve had gaps before between competition and it didnâ€™t affect me. Iâ€™m in my gym everyday training and itâ€™s just another day at work for me.
Eric: I hope this isnâ€™t too much of a sore subject, but looking back on that fight against Anderson Silva, can you say why exactly you had trouble making weight?
Travis: I was just trying to see how heavy I could come into the fight, see how much weight I could cut. I thought I could have a little advantage being heavy but I found out that I can cut 204lbs, I canâ€™t cut 208lbs. So 204lbs is my limit and Iâ€™m coming in a lot lighter for this fight. The weight shouldnâ€™t be a problem for this fight and Iâ€™m not interested in doing the monster cut anymore. It was just a mistake and I was really playing Russian roulette with the wrong fight. I would never again do to myself what I did the two days prior to that fight in the sauna, it just wasnâ€™t healthy.
Eric: Was the weight issue an isolated incident, or have you ever had problems like that in previous fights?
Travis: Iâ€™ve never missed weight before. I grew up wrestling in high school and college and I never missed weight once.
Eric: So what would you say is your walking weight?
Travis: Right now Iâ€™m 196, 197 lbs, but in between fights I can walk around a little heavier at around 215 lbs.
Eric: Jumping topics here, regarding your time on the The Ultimate Fighter, what was your experience like and what maybe can this seasonâ€™s new batch of competitors expect?
Travis: Hellâ€¦Hell. Thatâ€™s all you can say about that, it sucks. I hated it I thought it was the worst thing ever. But you know a guy like Matt Serra he loved it, he had his best friend Drago (Pete Sell) there and when you have friends or family or whoever around its definitely a lot better. I really didnâ€™t know the other guys and of course you can become friends with them over the course of the show, but I still hated it. I hated that show.
Eric: Can you comment on your current contract situation with the UFC?
Travis: Iâ€™ve got five fights left on my contract so it doesnâ€™t look like Iâ€™ll be going anywhere soon unless they cut me.
Eric: I was curious about the whole signing process with the UFC, do you personally sit down with Dana White and negotiate or how does it work?
Travis: Oh there is no negotiation, Iâ€™ll tell you about my last negotiation. I went on The Ultimate Fighter, I didnâ€™t have a contract with the UFC at the time. I sat down in front of their lawyer, they had brought me out to Vegas on their dime, and they say if you want to be on The Ultimate Fighter this is how much you will make, here’s your contract, its two inches thick, youâ€™ve got five minutes to look at it and sign it. So just like every other fighter that walked in there I said okay, where do I sign.
Eric: Prior to your appearance on The Ultimate Fighter you had fought in the UFC three times, but you never had a multi fight deal with the UFC?
Travis: I never had a multi-fight deal before now, they had to sign me for each individual fight. First one was against Marvin Eastman for 3,000 and another 3,000 to win. I made $6,000 that night. Only the past two years have I been able to make a living fighting. You know, not all of us are B.J. Penn
Eric: So would you prefer to stay in the UFC for most of your career or are you open to fighting elsewhere?
Travis: Iâ€™d rather stay with the UFC. Theyâ€™re the number one organization in the world and I donâ€™t think anyone is really a close second. This is where Iâ€™ll get the most publicity, this is where I hope to stay, I want to be the UFC Middleweight champion.
Eric: Have you ever fought outside the U.S.?
Travis: Yea, England twice, Denmark, Sweden. Iâ€™m actually undefeated outside of the United States.
Eric: So you might have some good luck going for you in Montreal then?
Travis: Absolutely, itâ€™s actually the big venues in Vegas that Iâ€™ve had trouble with. I can win on The Ultimate Fighter I can win at the Hard Rock, but I just canâ€™t win at the MGM or the Mandalay Bay.
Eric: Assuming you beat Rich Franklin, how much closer do you think that brings you to another shot at the title?
Travis: If I win this fight in dominating fashion I think youâ€™ll see Travis Lutter and Anderson Silva fight, thereâ€™s a lot of color to that one. You know Anderson Silvaâ€™s talked shit about me since our fight, he said he thought his jiujitsu was better and that his knees were hurt which is why I was taking him down so easily, and I called bullshit. When I missed weight he also made some comments. I donâ€™t have a bad thing to say about any other fighter, I just donâ€™t like Anderson Silva. Long story short, I donâ€™t like him and I want to kick his ass. Iâ€™ve emailed Dana White and said the first thing I want when I beat Rich is to fight Anderson Silva, let me fight him again. I just dislike the guy.
Eric: So how do you see this fight with Rich Franklin ending, whatâ€™s your prediction?
Travis: All I care about is that I go out of there with my arm raised. If it ends in the first, second or third round thatâ€™s great. But if it goes to a decision I donâ€™t mind as long as my hand gets raised at the end of the fight, and I can go on and have a good life.
Eric: Getting back to your time on The Ultimate Fighter. As you probably know Matt Serra comes off as a bit of a heel at times due to his outspoken personality. In your experience with Serra would you say that he’s a generally likable character, and that his public portrayal might be a little misleading?
Travis: With Serra I think itâ€™s what you see is what you get. I like Serra a lot I think heâ€™s a great guy. We were on opposite teams on the show and we didnâ€™t know each other before. We knew of each other because weâ€™ve been to Abu Dhabi together but we definitely werenâ€™t buddies. Now I guess you could say were friends, I consider him a friend you know I call him up see how his trainings going, shoot text messages back and forth, etc. The thing with Serra is he speaks his mind. You know heâ€™s not going to come out there and pretend to be friends with you if he doesnâ€™t like you. If he doesnâ€™t like you heâ€™s going to call you a prick or an asshole or whatever. And thereâ€™s something to be said for somebody like that in this over P.C. civilization that we live in, itâ€™s actually nice to see something like that. I think thatâ€™s why he has so many fans. You love him, you hate him, but youâ€™re still going to show up to watch him fight. I wish I could even be a little more like that sometimes so I got a lot of respect for Serra.
Eric: Alright, so what would be your prediction for Serra-GSP II ?
Travis: Well Iâ€™m cheering for Serra, nothing against GSP but Serraâ€™s my boy and I think Serra can knock him out again, I think he (Serra) could submit him, and I think GSP could win a decision. But I donâ€™t see GSP knocking out or submitting Matt. I think he could ground and pound on Matt for five rounds and pick up the decision, but thatâ€™s about the only way I see GSP winning.
Eric: Iâ€™d just like to get your opinion on something before you go. Given all of the newer MMA promotions which are emerging as of late, do you think they at all pose a threat to the UFCâ€™s success?
Travis: Well the thing is you got lots of guys throwing their hats into the ring saying that they are fighters but they donâ€™t have the skill. Look at HDNet fights, most of the guys on there, nothing against them, but they shouldnâ€™t be fighting yet they should still be training. I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s necessarily good for the sport.
Eric: Lastly, do you have any sponsors youâ€™d like to thank at this time?
Travis: All my sponsors from my past probably donâ€™t get enough recognition but the future sponsor that I got right now is Warrior Wear. Hopefully Iâ€™ll even get a few more before the end.
Eric: Alright well thank you for taking the time to do this, and good luck in Montreal.
Travis: Thanks a lot, I appreciate it.