by Brian Lopez-Benchimol – MMAWeekly.com
Former UFC heavyweight title challenger Paul Buentello makes his Octagon return Saturday night at UFC 107 in Memphis.
A Strikeforce and Affliction veteran, Buentello is returning to the big show after posting a 5-1 record outside of the Octagon, most recently scoring a third-round technical knockout over Fedor Emelianenko stable mate Kirill Sidelnikov last January at Affliction: Day of Reckoning.
Things have changed since Buentello’s showing at UFC 57 over three years ago, with the UFC’s global marketing schemes and near complete sanctioning in the United States, the “Head Hunter” is proud to be wanted back.
“It’s exciting,” he said while a guest on MMAWeekly Radio. “I’ve been to all the big shows already, but coming back to the UFC, it’s a different crowd, it’s the different fans now. It’s crazy.”
Security pegged as one of the main reasons for his return, it was apparent that some changes were to be made should Buentello come back to the big leagues. Unfortunately, not all change is welcomed and ties were severed.
“My whole career, I never treated (mixed martial arts) as a business,” said Buentello. “I never looked at the sport as a business. I looked at it as a hobby and just make some extra money for my family, but it is a business. And that’s one thing that I didn’t understand.
“I’m on a slight suspension through Bob (Cook at American Kickboxing Academy).
“Crazy Bob and me had a great relationship. He was my manager at the time and I moved on to another management and Bob, I hurt his feelings. He’s a good friend of mine. We’ve been friends forever and it was just one of those things, I hurt his feelings and I totally respect his feelings. He asked that I wait till he feels comfortable to let me come back into AKA.”
It was sound advice from a close friend that helped put things in perspective for the UFC heavyweight.
“It came down to the fact that Javier (Mendez) gave me a good quote and said, ‘Hey, don’t worry about what’s going on. Focus on your fight. You are a fighter. This is nothing. Take care of your business and everything will be fine.’”
Focus he must, as a tall order is ahead for Buentello when he meets Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve, a six-foot-11-inch anomaly hailing from the Netherlands.
How do you fight someone with seemingly unmatched height?
“You bring in tall guys, that’s what I figured out,” shot back the 35-year-old. “You go searching across – I went to Sacramento, I went to Greg Jackson’s – just wherever to try and find tall guys and work the different techniques. Even though he’s tall and everybody thinks ‘oh, get inside,’ that’s not the game plan.
“You’ve just got to fight your fight and get used to his length. I know how to spell takedown; I don’t know how to do a takedown. It’s just one of those things that I’m known for is to just go in there and strike and that’s my bread and butter. If it goes to the ground my objective is to stand, not get locked up into his long legs. If it stays standing, I have to be faster and quicker.”