by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo Courtesy April Pishna/IFL)
Heading into the second season of the IFL this past September one of the true wild card fighters in the World Team Tournament was Aaron Stark of Matt Lindland’s Portland Wolfpack.
With an overall 4-2 record Stark was a generally unknown commodity to the general MMA public which made him decidedly an underdog to Reese Andy of Maurice Smith’s Seattle Tiger Sharks. But when all was said and done it was Aaron’s hand that was raised victoriously, helping the Wolfpack advance to the WTT Semi-Finals on November 2nd in Portland, Oregon.
“It felt great,” said Stark to MMAWeekly of his win over Andy. “I felt it was a good win for me, a big win for me, especially because the guy’s such an accomplished wrestler. I think a lot of people thought I was going to get my ass kicked so it’s always good to prove people wrong.”
With Aaron’s win securing the Wolfpack’s advancement 3-2 over the Tiger Sharks, he feels overall pleased with the team’s execution and feels they will be even more motivated next time around.
“I felt really good about the team’s performance,” commented Stark. “Obviously not every one won, but at the same time more or less performed pretty well. I know Devin felt pretty bad about his performance, but it’s something to build on and to go forward with. I know how he feels, it’s never any fun to lose, but I think he’ll come back and put some big wins up for the team.”
Not only did Aaron and the Wolfpack do well, but their coach Matt Lindland knocked off fellow top-ranked middleweight fighter Jeremy Horn in the evening’s main event.
“I’m always a big support and believer of his,” said Stark of Lindland. “It’s kind of funny with people I talk to he’s got this completely unearned reputation as a non-finisher, but if you go back and look at his record he’s one of the highest percentage finishers in the game. I don’t care who it is, you can put him in with anybody, he’s always a competitor and I always believe in the guy, he’s amazing.”
“I try to model my fighting after his quite a bit, because of his background and the things he does. His awkward style is a good thing because it throws kind of a curve ball for fighters that don’t know how to deal with it. Hopefully I can get my own awkward style that no one knows how to deal with,” added Stark.
It could be easy to get caught up in the team’s initial success, but according to Stark, he and the rest of the Wolfpack are clearly focused on their upcoming semi-final showdown with Bas Rutten’s Los Angeles Anacondas.
“Obviously I look at a guy to see what they’re most likely to do but at the same time I try to focus on my gameplan and opposing my will on the other fighter rather than waiting and reacting to what they do,” replied Aaron when asked of his strategy for his next opponent Alex Schoenauer.
“He’s pretty good in a lot of different areas, his striking and submission game, but I think I can beat him in the takedown realm. I’m just going to go out there and do what I’m going to do and try to make it my fight rather than let him do what he does,” continued Stark.
As for how Aaron feels of the Wolfpack’s overall chances against the Anacondas, “I think we’re going to do great, I’m really excited. I’m looking at the line-up on paper and there isn’t any match that we can’t win.”
Stark further commented, “The way I see it, we can go 5-0…will it be easy…no…do I guarantee it…no…but at the same time it’s a definite possibility. We’ve got all the tools and every one has a very, very good chance of winning their fight.”
Aaron concluded the conversation by reiterating to fans that on Thursday, November 2nd they’d be hard pressed to find anything as exciting in Portland as the IFL and that they should come out and show their continued support for the sport and promotion.
“It will be an outstanding fight and I don’t think anyone can find anything more exciting to do on a Thursday night, so come out and watch us put on a great show,” wrapped-up Stark. “You’re going to see world class production, great fighters, and some people throwing down and beating the crap out of each other…there’s nothing better than that on a Thursday night.”