Eddie Wineland will face the test of a true champion on Saturday when he defends his bantamweight title at WEC 26 against fellow Midwestern standout Chase Beebe.
In this exclusive interview with MMAFighting.com, Wineland talked about how he got involved in MMA, his thoughts on the new WEC, his long-term goals and more.
Q: How did you get started in mixed martial arts?
A: I wrestled since I was six years old, since a little kid. And when I graduated high school, I was just kinda like lost and all I was doing was working out and lifting. A buddy of mine had been doing mixed martial arts since our sophomore year, He says to me why don't you come check it out, if you don't like it, you don't have to do it, just come and try it out. I worked out there the first night and I was hooked after that. I started taking boxing. Sharpen my other aspects, cause I already had my wrestling. So I sharpened my submission and my boxing.
Q: How did you meet Keith Wisniewski?
A: The guy who introduced me to the sports was Jason Veach. He actually trained with the Wisniewski brothers. Those were the guys who had asked me if I would like to fight for them. Asked if I was interested in competing.
Q: You eventually left Duneland Vale Tudo, and you are now training with Miguel Torres. How did you meet Miguel?
A: I had always known of him. I had never seen him fight. I had broken my jaw October of '04. And then in August of '05, I believe, I made my comeback fight. I had no corner man. Miguel so happened to be there. I heard of him, he heard of me. He cornered me. I talked to my dad, talking about Miguel. "You should go train with him and see how he is over there." I started working out with him. I was going 3 times a week to Miguel and 2-3 times a week at Keith's. And I started picking up more of the things Miguel does and what he uses. The more and more I train with him, it was like "Wow, I want to learn more and more." I started training full time there.
Q: It must be great to be able to train with someone who is your size.
A: That's the one thing that's really nice. You got two guys who are in the 135-pound class training out of the same gym who are top ten fighters. You got two guys training together, all you're going to do is sharpen each other.
Q: What's your opinion on the new version of the WEC?
A: My opinion of the WEC is the big show for the little guys. It doesn't get any bigger that that. It's the UFC for the little guys, basically.
Q: Do you feel the lighter fights are finally getting some recognition?
A: As far as the light guys, it was a matter of time. People wanted to see heavyweights, people they wanted to see heavyweights. Once they start seeing the lighter guys, everything is going to flip flop. Everything is just going to change courses. There are heavyweights that are exciting but they are too far in between. But if you watch a lightweight fight, it's 15, 25 minutes of nonstop action.
Q: As a fighter competing predominantly in the Midwest, how did you end up in California for WEC 20?
A: Keith got me the call. It was an offer we couldn't refuse. It just kinda took off from there.
Q: Antonio Banuelos was one of the WEC's top attractions. How did you prepare for him?
A: I got to see one tape on him. I got to see him fight Ed Tomaselli. I was watching that fight. And I was thinking to myself "man that guy is strong." I see him stand straight up from guard and just running across the cage and slamming him. "Jeez, this guy is powerful." I knew he had a strong wrestling background, and that didn't really worry me. I had a strong wrestling background. I knew he hit hard. That didn't really worry me. I can take a punch really well. I had to stay off the ground. That was my biggest concern. I knew I could outbox him. My biggest concern was staying off the ground. Staying away from the takedown.
Q: Now that Zuffa owns WEC, do you feel your title holds a higher value?
A: It gives it more prestige. Now it's gonna be another UFC is what it's gonna be.
Q: What are your thoughts on Chase Beebe?
A: I know he has a strong wrestling background. He's a four-time high school state champ. If he takes me down, he takes me down. My jiu-jitsu game is slick. I'm not worry about him out boxing me. I know he's going to come ready. He's going to come ready, and he's going to be strong. He's going to be like myself, he's going to be a natural athlete. The fight is going to be very, very interesting.
Q: Did you hear anything about WEC on the Versus network?
A: I don't know when they are going to be airing this one. I know they are starting in June with the live show, I believe, I haven't really gotten any information on that. So I don't know as far what's going on with that. But as far as being on the Versus network, it's kinda cool. I was flipping through the channels the other day and I actually saw the Versus network. It's basic cable here. Everyone back home is going to sit and watch me on TV as I'm fighting.
Q: Versus is available in more homes than HDnet.
A: My last fight, in California, We were trying to find somebody who can get HDNet so my family can watch it. Long story short, one of my friends ended up buying the box, buying up their [package] just so we can get HDNet, that's kinda crazy. That kinda sucks.
Q: What are your long-term goals in this sport?
A: I'd like to keep the title. That's my biggest goal, is to keep what's mine. I worked hard to get there. I don't want somebody to take it away from me. Longtime? I'd like to just fight. Right now I'm holding down a full-time job. It's not bad. It's extra money. But I'd like to be making enough money fighting to w here I don't have to worry about a job. I think I have a lot more potential than what I'm showcasing. Everybody's always going to improve. I don't think you can see my true means until I can train full-time.