Paul Buentello waited nearly four years for a return to the UFC, but less than a month before his UFC 107 fight, he was suspended from his longtime team, the American Kickboxing Academy.
For now, Buentello has been training under the guidance of Trevor Wittman and Mike Van Arsdale at Grudge MMA in Denver, Colo. alongside fellow UFC heavyweights Shane Carwin and Brendan Schaub for this Sunday's fight against Cheick Kongo at UFC on Versus 1.
In this exclusive interview with MMA Fighting, Buentello talks about learning from the loss last December to Stefan Struve and pushing himself to improve under a new camp.
Ray Hui: Before you started your camp, you went on an Oasis retreat. What did you take out of that?
Paul Buentello: The whole nutrition side of it. Take the right supplements, take the right nutrition and you can push your body to whole different level.
Did you notice any results?
Oh, total noticeable difference. I need to know how many rounds, how many minutes, or how many sit-ups I need to do, then I just kind of got bogged down and not wanted to do the workout. But since coming out of the retreat and doing so much stuff for hours and hours and hours and I got over the mental hump of getting it done.
Between you and Kongo, this one's probably not going to the ground, right?
It depends on which Kongo comes out. It totally depends if he's going for the takedowns and trying to hold people down, or if it's the Kongo that wants to stand and strike. It all depends on which Kongo shows up. No matter what fight I get into, everybody knows which Paul Buentello is going to show up: It's going to be a standup war. We're thinking he's going to go for a takedown. He's not going to want to stand. That's our whole gameplan, he's not going to stand at all.
You're training under Trevor Wittman and Mike Van Arsdale now. Is that your new camp now? Grudge MMA in Denver Colorado?
Yeah, I decided to change a lot of things up. One of the things was to put Mike Van Arsdale in charge of conditioning, drilling and all the extra tedious stuff. And I heard so much from Rashad Evans with how Trevor can put your striking gameplan all together. I'm learning so much. And there's so many heavyweights to go with here at the gym. It's amazing how much I've learned in these few weeks I've been here.
Will this be your new camp moving forward?
It's a good fit right now. It's a really good fit and I'm happy with the stuff I'm learning.
What is your relationship with AKA now?
It's still good. It's still good, the relationship right now. Just had to find that different niche and I think bringing Van Arsdale -- he's pretty much attached to my hip -- just changes the whole variable.
Are you allowed to train with them again?
I decided to move the camp, just to change things up. My last fight showed I was missing some conditioning. I just had to move stuff around and see what's out there.
Did all that drama and switching of camp weeks have an effect on your performance against Stefan Struve?
It's hard to say. It's hard to say, but I think it's more my fault than anything else. You can only look back and learn from your last fight, and the main thing I learned that I needed someone attached to my hip to push me through these different workouts.
I know it's become a cliche, but can people expect a different fighter come March 21?
I would say so. Everything is going so well. I'm gaining in so many areas.
Do you feel any pressure going into the fight with a loss?
Nah, I don't feel no pressure at all. I know if I go there out there and fight as hard as I can, so I'm going to have a place in the UFC. I always fight hard, and to the end, and it's not like I'm a boring fighter to begin with. The only pressure I have is to try to improve and not quit on my trainers because they really put a lot of effort and time into me, and I don't want to piss them off. That's my only pressure I have is getting up in the morning and getting these workouts out of the way.
Can you talk about your progression as a fighter now with a different camp?
It's always a learning process, and with Mike Van Arsdale, he has a high quality wrasslin' background. He's always having me drill the takedown, drill the defense, drill the takedown, drill the defense ... And it's crazy how it's a different vibe, different energy. It's totally different.