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Stephan Bonnar Interview: The word is tough

Generally, the most well known mixed martial arts fighters tend to leave an impression that could be summed up in one word; you know, the one thing that sticks out. For Fedor Emelianenko, the word could be strength. For Anderson "The Spider" Silva, some might think clinch (particularly if they saw his first fight against Rich Franklin). When it comes to Stephan Bonnar, all one would have to do is check out the TUF 1 Finale to make a judgement. In fact, he and Forrest Griffin left an impression on mixed martial arts fans that night?each of them left the same impression, actually?that won't soon die. In a word. . .

Tough.

Oh how things change, though. You see, before Bonnar's recent victory over Eric Schafer at UFC 77: Hostile Territory, he and Griffin actually trained together at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas.

So MMAFighting.com's Robert Rousseau thought that it might be interesting to hear how things were going on that front and more with "The American Psycho". Luckily, Bonnar had the time.

MMAFighting.com: Congratulations on your win over Eric Schafer.

Stephan Bonnar: Thanks.

MMAFighting.com: Though Schafer is known for being very good on the ground, do you feel that maybe people were underestimating what you could do on the ground coming into that fight?

Stephan Bonnar: I don't know. I really didn't ask to many people what they thought of my ground game. I train ground a lot; I have been for a long time and I've submitted a lot of people. . .

MMAFighting.com: You recently left Chicago for Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas. Why did you decide to leave Chicago and go there?

Stephan Bonnar: Mainly for all the tittie bars here. . . (Actually) there's good training. Instead of a little apartment, I've got a nice house. Instead of having to find parking and driving around all the time, I have a driveway and a garage. . . There's a lot of reasons.

MMAFighting.com: The legendary Carlson Gracie, your mentor and trainer, passed away in 2006. Did that have anything to do with your decision to leave for Vegas?

Stephan Bonnar: Yeah, I was definitely missing my jiu-jitsu coach. I hadn't had a coach since he died. So now I'm in Vegas involved with Sergio Pena; he's my jiu jitsu coach. Yeah, that helped too. It was just really stressful in Chicago. To get ready for a fight I had to head over to a boxing gym in Chicago, then a jiu-jitsu school there, then go twice a week to Miguel Torrez's in Indiana, which is only 25 miles but with the Chicago traffic and all the construction on the highway; oh, say an hour and a half to two hour trip each way. . . (Then) go to Duke Roufus' in Milwaukee, great training in Muay Thai but still a 90 mile drive, damn near two hours each way.

MMAFighting.com: Everything is kind of centrally located for you now. It's a lot easier to get to where you need to be?

Stephan Bonnar: Yeah. The gyms I go to are all within a few miles of each other.

MMAFighting.com: In terms of your new training camp, what part or parts of your game do you feel that you need to improve on to eventually gain a championship belt?

Stephan Bonnar: Let's see. . . (to) get my jiu-jitsu better. I have a teacher now, and I would say I'm learning a lot. I'm focusing on wrestling and straight boxing also. Gonna take a trip to Thailand pretty soon? about a week and a half?to train Muay Thai. Pretty much everything. . . I know that. It's a lot easier to work everything now. I've got good training partners, good coaches, and everything's really close.

MMAFighting.com: Whom would you like to fight next if you had your choice?

Stephan Bonnar: Boy, there's a lot of people I wouldn't mind fighting. Bisping or Hammil, either one. You know, the two top guys from their season. And now Jardine probably wants a rematch with me, and I'm happy to do that. I want a rematch with Rashad. Houston Alexander looks tough; he's been destroying everyone. This division is just so deep, ya know?

MMAFighting.com: Yeah, there's tons of people. You brought up Rashad Evans. How would you fight him differently this time?

Stephan Bonnar: Well, I wouldn't keep going for guillotines and playing guard. I'd try to stand more, defend the takedown. If he did take me down, I would get up.

MMAFighting.com: How's the elbow injury?

Stephan Bonnar: You know, it's good. I had surgery on it and fought not too long after that and it healed up pretty good. . . I'm feeling better. I fought in July and so basically it's feeling a lot more solid. They removed just a lot of bony deposits, which prevented me from bending it and straightening it and blocking up a lot. . . (So), I've got my motion back, most of it at least.

MMAFighting.com: As you said, I know that you fought with that injury. A lot of fighters talk about fighting injured. How much pressure is there to do that in today's game, and where does all that pressure come from?

Stephan Bonnar: Pressure to do what?

MMAFighting.com: To fight injured. A lot of people talk about it afterwards and/ or you hear them talk about injuries. For example, I believe you fought Forrest Griffin with that injury. Where does the pressure come to fight that way?

Stephan Bonnar: That was a mess, that night (second time around with Griffin). My coach too, that was on my mind and I dented my hand pretty early. . . You're afraid to go here, you're afraid to let your hands go, you're afraid to try to work stuff on the ground because of an injury, so I mean you've got a lot to stop you from going out there and getting the job done, you know (laughing).

The pressure, you kind of give it to yourself. I guess you could say no, but come on; it's been your dream your whole life to get to the UFC. You know everyone's a little bit banged up. (Besides) you've fought hurt before. You try to underestimate your injury, and then they call you up and they say we really need you to fight. You want to show them you're a guy that steps up and takes stuff. That's pretty much it.

You want a secure job and to make your bosses happy. It's a good fight for you (versus Griffin); it's a co- main event. It's hard to say no. You don't want to let down fans. It's a special honor.

MMAFighting.com: At this point in your career, ever since you were on TUF and fought Forrest Griffin in that war, you're known for toughness. So it's probably even harder for someone like you to say, "hey I'm injured."

Stephan Bonnar: Yeah, exactly man. My hip's still broken, (but they say): Well hey, you know, you're a tough guy and we need you. (Which prompts you to say) Alright (laughing).

MMAFighting.com: How does it feel to be training with Forrest Griffin?

Stephan Bonnar: He's a good training partner. We go at it. He had Shogun coming up and I gave him a lot of work for that. Even after he fought Shogun, I had a fight coming up. In Cleveland, actually, he was all stitched up, banged up, and came in a couple of times to give me some work which was really nice of him. Then he had shoulder surgery; then he was out.

He's a great training partner. He's always pushing really hard.

MMAFighting.com: It sounds like your friendly with Forrest Griffin. From the TUF 1 cast?you guys are clearly, I think, the best known TUF cast?are you still friends with any of the other guys?

Stephan Bonnar: Yeah, actually. I had a chance to hang out with Josh Rafferty in Chicago? he had a fight before I was fighting? (so) we were both watching what we eat. . . So I went out to eat with him. Kenny Florian was up there. He's a good guy and a friend. Here in Vegas, I train with Alex Schoenauer as well. He's a good training partner. We both train jiu-jitsu with Sergio at Couture's gym.

MMAFighting.com: Alex is going to be fighting in the IFL Grand Prix, correct?

Stephan Bonnar: Yeah, he's actually fighting Vladimir Matyushenko on November 3rd.

MMAFighting.com: Anything you'd like to say to the fans?

Stephan Bonnar: I always hate this part (laughing); I never know what to say.

You know, I'm just gonna do my job and make my fight game better and get in there and try to give you guys your moneys' worth, you know. Make it entertaining, make it exciting.

MMAFighting.com: You always do, Stephan. I really appreciate the time you gave and hopefully we'll get to talk soon.

Stephan Bonnar: Yeah, no problem.