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'The Ultimate Fighter 5' alum Gabe Ruediger talks comeback

Former WEC lightweight champion and "The Ultimate Fighter 5" alum Gabe Ruediger returns Wednesday night in the main event of Gladiator Challenge: Warriors in Pauma Valley, CA.

MMAFighting.com caught up with Gabe as he aims to make a comeback in 2009.

MMAFighting.com: You've taken some time off for injuries and you've said this will be your comeback year. Are you looking to pick up the pace this year?

Ruediger: Absolutely. I have two fights already, this fight and another fight planned for this year that I already have contracts for. My next fight [with Palace Fighting Championship] is going to be in May, I'm trying to get a fight in before then so I can stay busy with the rebuilding.

MMAFighting.com: You'll be fighting Nick Realle. (This interview was conducted today in the morning before the weigh-ins. His opponent has since changed two more times.) I wasn't able to find out too much about him, do you know anything about him?

Ruediger: I don't know too much either. I know that he's 2-0 or 3-0. I think he has a wrestling background. I don't know too much about it to be honest.

MMAFighting.com: The bout is at a catchweight of 165 pounds?

Ruediger: They told me they were just going to make it a welterweight bout. They told me that yesterday.

MMAFighting.com: But you'll return to lightweight right?

Ruediger: Yeah I have every intention. I had neck surgery last January [2008] and I kinda ballooned up so it's a gradual process. I'm actually I fought at 162 in August. I can't imagine I can't get back to 155 again. It's just a matter of timing.
You've taken time off for obvious reasons, injuries. You're calling this your comeback year.

MMAFighting.com: Who are you training with nowadays? Are you still with Team Quest in Temecula?

Ruediger: No, I left Team Quest. I just felt there wasn't a good coaching atmosphere. We haven't had a striking coach or a jiu-jitsu coach there in over a year. I started training with Rodrigo Mederios my original jiu-jitsu coach again. Been training with Bob Chaney for stand up. I'm still friends with all the guys from Quest. I'm still training with a lot of them, and I'm friends with them. They're team, it just wasn't working for me.

MMAFighting.com: You have your own gym too, right?

Ruediger: Yeah! Yeah, Bob Chaney and I opened our own gym in Murrieta. It's another aspect of training that I felt like I needed to pursue. It works out perfectly because Mr. Chaney has got over 46 years of martial arts experience. He's trained live over seven Muay Thai champions and over four boxing champions. It's a good environment for me, plus being that close to my striking coach makes it that much easier.

MMAFighting.com: And you opened it recently?

Ruediger: Yep it opened Jan. 5. I've been teaching there for two weeks now. It's a relatively new program but in time it's going to grow and be really really good.

MMAFighting.com: As someone who's recently been involved opening your own gym, what's your take on the announcement of UFC Gym?

Ruediger: I don't know too much about it. Is it going to be a fitness club or a training facility?

MMAFighting.com: It sounds like they're gearing it towards the average person trying to get fit.

Ruediger: I think the UFC is very very smart in their branding. I don't know; let's see how that goes. I can't imagine the UFC doing anything half-assed. It's going to be another impressive business venture.

MMAFighting.com: Has your portrayal on "The Ultimate Fighter" hurt your ability to get fights?

Ruediger: No, not so much with name recognition comes the need to get marquee people for their other events. I actually was in negotiations with EliteXC prior to their demise. The show itself has positive and negatives. It obviously portrayed me in poor light but at the same time it was great face time and [helped] make me recognizable.

MMAFighting.com: Taking those positive and negatives, say you had another opportunity to do another reality show? Would you be open to it?

Ruediger: [Laughs.] I mean it would depend on the reality show and depending on what the content was. But now that I've had a behind the scenes look, I would be excited differently. I mean I wouldn't be opposed to doing a reality show.

MMAFighting.com: There's always that risk though, that they'll portray you in whatever way they want no matter how you actually were on the show.

Ruediger: Absolutely. You know, that's unfortunate. But the bottom line is being recognizable and recognizable and that turns into profit in the long term. I think the more people that know regardless if they love or hate you? A perfect example is the guy in the last season, that Junie kid (Junie Allen Browning). I mean he really had no place fighting in the finale, but with face time came that opportunity.

MMAFighting.com: Do you keep up with the show?

Ruediger: I watch the show here and there. I don't watch a lot of TV either way, but I've had friends in the last two seasons so I try to get in there and watch when I can.

MMAFighting.com: In your last fight, you said he came back to early. Are you 100% for this fight?

Ruediger: I'm a 100%. I feel great. I think I just wasn't mentally prepared. I jumped right back into training. My whole focus was getting back in and fighting as quick as I can and I just didn't think about it properly and I definitely feel that now I'm in the position I need to be.

MMAFighting.com: How is your relationship with the Zuffa? As a former WEC champion, do you see yourself with either organizations?

Ruediger: I don't have a poor relationship with them. They're obviously the top dogs. I think it's a matter of how I perform. I think being in either of those organizations is a matter of how I perform in my next few bouts. Yeah, I was a WEC lightweight titleholder, which even holds a lot more weight than the TV show, but I feel I can be competitive against anybody. I train with the best guys in the world and I know where I stand. I don't think I'm the best guy out there but I certainly think I'm competitive. It's a matter of what I do in my coming bouts. Do I show that I'm ready for that level? Or I do I show that I [fade into] obscurity? It really all depends on how I do.

MMAFighting.com: I want to hear from you about the whole Dynamite!! USA fiasco. The commissioner at the time Armando Garcia didn't allow you to fight reportedly because he felt you had mental issues based on watching you on "The Ultimate Fighter" TV show. Is that true?

Ruediger: Was that the reason that Armando said I couldn't fight? Yes. But was there mental health issues? No. I had my license in California the year prior. I got licensed in Nevada two months before I got licensed in California. No problems whatsoever. Nothing had changed whatsoever in my status within that timeframe. Mr. Garcia for whatever reason felt like it was necessary to put a hold on my application in order to do more mental health tests was basically what he said. What it came down to was that I had to see a psychologist and talk to them for less than a half hour and the guy said, "You're fine." But yeah, that was basically what it came down to.

MMAFighting.com: You actually had to see a psychologist in order to get your license.

Ruediger: Yeah, it's unbelievable. Especially considering that I know of at least three fighters that are clinically bipolar that are licensed in California.

MMAFighting.com: Has your motivation for fighting changed in any way since the show?

Ruediger: Yes and no. I mean I've always had the motivation to fight prior to the show. My first pro bout was in 2002, which is kinda like the dark ages of MMA. People often don't realize that it wasn't always the TV. There wasn't always the ability to see a fight every week. When I got involved it was in Indian reservations [and] it wasn't sanctioned anywhere. The reasons I had to fight weren't the reasons people are into fighting now. I kind of lost track of that a little bit maybe because of the TV show and I definitely lost my motivation for why I do things but I'm back to the main thing is to test myself and enjoy the sport that I've been doing for, gosh, almost eight years.

Gabe Ruediger would like to thank TapouT, Fairtex, Sinister, Forty Thieves Clothing, Crossfit by Overload, Onthemat.com and more.

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