In his first fight since dispelling the EliteXC myth of Kimbo Slice, Seth Petruzelli returns Saturday against IFL veteran Chris Baten at Art of Fighting 4 in Tampa, Fla.
Last October, Petruzelli (10-4) became an unlikely hot topic when he accepted a main event fight against Slice on a few hours notice and proceeded to stop the EliteXC main draw in 14 seconds. Although the event on CBS turned out to be the third most watched MMA card ever, Slice's loss in credibility and Petruzelli's controversial comments following the fight heavily contributed to the company's closure within the end of the month.
In this exclusive interview with FanHouse, the MMA fighter/entrepreneur explains his in-ring inactivity and the possibility of a rematch with Slice in the UFC.
Ray Hui: Why did it take this long for your return to competition?
Seth Petruzelli: It wasn't my choice, actually. I had tried to get a fight three-four months after and I tore my MCL in my right knee and that put me off for a couple of months after that injury. But it gave me some time to do some commentating, which I didn't know I had the talent for -- moreso than people think. (Chuckles.) I commentated for the [Roy Jones Jr.'s "March Badness"] card I was supposed to fight on then I had a couple more bookings based off that. I tried to get on a couple more cards that [eventually] fell through and what not. I tried to get on Strikeforce and was going back and forth with Strikeforce over a bunch of different things. Finally they said they would like to have me on card but then Art of Fighting got a hold of me like around the same time. They put up a good offer and a good fight, kinda just went with them.
Coming off a big win that garnered you a lot of attention, do you think your long break hurt your momentum?
It didn't help at all. I definitely would have done a couple of fights as of right not but it is what it is. If people are still going to remember what I did, come this fight they'll put it back in their heads for sure.
You're fighting a local fighter in Florida. How would you describe him in terms of his strengths and weaknesses?
His strength is that he's extremely strong. (Chuckles.) That's his main strength. He's got decent kicks. He's done Tae Kwon Do his whole life -- national Tae Kwon Do champion so obviously he's going to have some dangerous kicks. He's strong, he doesn't gas. His weaknesses are definitely his takedown defense, his takedowns, his submission skills aren't that great. I definitely plan on standing up with him and see how it goes and depending on how it goes standup wise, I'll feel confident about taking him down and playing it out on the ground.
Your last fight which lasted 14 seconds, barely enough time to break a sweat. If you don't count that fight, it'll be 22 months since your last. How do you approach ring rust?
I'm in the gym every single day. Training with other guys that are fighting. I've been training with Tom [Lawlor] for his two fights in the UFC. I'm at pretty much all the fights for all my fighters. As far as ring rust, I got a ring, I have a cage at my gym. I'm in the cage training with all my fighters. I'm at all the fights so it's not like anything new to me. It's the same visual that I always see, the same feeling that I always get when I'm at the fight.
For your last fight, you traveled to train at Greg Jackson's gym. Where are you training for this fight?
Right, and I was actually supposed to leave a few weeks ago for Jackson again. I was talking to [Keith] Jardine and I was going to help him get ready for his fight and he was going to help me get ready for this fight but I had some more health issues that came up, which stopped me from leaving once again to train with them. So I've trained exclusively at my gym in Orlando at the Jungle for this fight, with Tom Lawlor, Mike Lee and all the other fighters at my gym.
You're being billed as the "Kimbo Slayer/Killer" for this card, is that a nickname you're comfortable with?
It wasn't my idea to put that on the poster. I want to get past the Kimbo thing. I definitely still want to be known for the guy who knocked him out but I definitely don't want to be labeled that forever.
Win or lose on the show the UFC will probably keep Kimbo on the roster. Do you think his signing opens up a door for you to return to the UFC since a rematch would certainly peak interest?
Yeah, definitely. No matter how he does on the season, they'll have him come back for another UFC fight and I've talked a little about it with the UFC with Tom being in the UFC and stuff like that. They kinda hinted that as long as I do well in my next fight that they would possibly want me back in the UFC and hopefully, eventually set up a rematch.
A Kimbo rematch wouldn't happen until at the earliest December. Would you fight for Strikeforce until then?
Art of Fighting already wants me for their next show in November. I have nothing on paper with them but I said that I would fight for them again in November, but I would definitely look for anything with Strikeforce and UFC if anything came about after this fight.
You're a busy guy, owning a Smoothie King and the Jungle Gym. How do you balance a fight career while running extra businesses on the side?
A good wife that does a lot of the stuff for me. (Laughs.) When I get a fight going, she's definitely at the Smoothie King 24/7 handling all the business and I'm at the gym most of the time and when I don't have the fight. We're both working at the store, both at the gym and stuff like that. It balances out a little better when you have somebody helping you out with it.
Commentating is one of the many things that's a lot harder than it looks. How was it for you?
It actually flowed pretty good cause the person I was with (World Boxing Hall of Fame announcer Bob Sheridan). It just flowed naturally for us. He was the commentator and I was the color commentator so I was just feeding off what he said. I hear some people when they want to do it, it sounds atrocious and horrible so I don't know. I guess maybe that's something I can look to do after I am done fighting. Which would be nice! Not getting punches in the head and just talking about it.
You were at UFC 100 as a dog accompanying Tom to the cage. How did that entrance come about?
Well CB [Dollaway] was known as the "Doberman" so Tom had the bright idea of being a dog catcher and I guess I was going to be the dog. I guess he wouldn't have it any other way besides me being a dog and he thought a chain and a bone would be a good idea to make me look like a dog and I just went with it. He didn't pay me any money for it, he didn't beg me, he just asked me and was like "you know what? for a teammate I will do it."
Finally, do you have a prediction for Saturday?
Knockout. First round.