by Mick Hammond, MMAWeekly.com
At the upcoming Sportfight: Proving Ground I, the organization will take its first step in building up it’s own amateur talent to compete in their main shows in the future. On a card meant to separate true up and coming talent from all the rest, one of the most highly regarded participants is main event fighter Aaron Stark of Team Quest.
Stark, a 30-year-old former wrestler at the University of Wisconsin will be making his fourth fighting appearance of the year and hopes to use the show to catapult him into professional success in 2006. Recently Stark spoke to MMA Weekly to give people an idea of what he brings to the sport and where he may be headed.
“I was a wrestler for a very long time, starting at five and up through college at Wisconsin and during that time I ran into some people who were leaning towards MMA,” said Stark of how he got into the sport initially. “I thought they were nuts at the time, but my brother got into BJJ and got me involved in it and through that I got into MMA.”
Stark had already established a connection years earlier with fighters that he would eventually end up being teammates with at Quest. “I knew Chael Sonnen in school and he said he was interested in this and like I said at the time I thought he was completely out of his mind. I had never been in a fight and didn’t have any interest at the time. I’m from Oregon and used to wrestle with Matt Lindland in the same club when we were younger, I went to Wisconsin on a scholarship and came back to Oregon and joined Team Quest in April or May.”
When it comes to his fighting style, Stark is quick to point out while he has a strong base in one aspect of the game, he continues to grow as a fighter.
“Obviously with my wrestling background it’s centered in that,” commented Aaron. “But I added some submissions when I started in BJJ and have been focusing on my stand-up recently. My base is always going to be wrestling; you can’t throw away 25 years of that. All my fights have been won by submission but I’m working on becoming more well-rounded.”
Now that he’s a member of one of the elite MMA teams in the country, Stark acknowledges the help he’s received from his teammates have helped put him on the right path. “I think that working with Team Quest have helped a lot. Guys like Chael and Matt have a background in wrestling and are also accomplished fighters and along with Robert Follis they can help to lay down a blueprint that goes from where I am as a wrestler into becoming a MMA fighter. I’m heading in the right direction, getting a little impatient because I want to always be better, but I feel I’m on the right path.”
Promoter Matt Lindland thought so much of Aaron to make him the headlining fight of this new breed of show under the Sportfight banner. According to Stark, being the main event isn’t any kind of pressure he hasn’t faced in the past, and in fact he relishes the opportunity to help both Lindland and himself out.
“I don’t think that I feel any pressure, I think part of that comes from competing for a long time,” said Aaron. “Obviously Matt has been really helpful to me, so anything I can do for him or his show is something I want to do. But more than anything I want to get out there and perform for myself. If the fans enjoy it that’s great, I want to be entertaining and win, but I think in order to perform well you have to have some sort of self-interest.”
On the show Stark will be facing off against Rick Reeves, someone that Aaron has some familiarity with from a previous show. “Actually the fight I had in the UCF promotion, he was on that card, the problem is I didn’t have any idea I’d fight him so I didn’t pay attention to the bout, but what I did see he appears to have pretty good hands and wants to throw. I’m ready for that, but I’m not going to try to get too focused on something in specific happening. I want to have a general idea what he’s likely to do but I don’t want it to be so set in stone that I can’t change the gameplan if that’s not exactly what he does.”
With people behind him such as Lindland and the rest of Quest, the future looks very bright for Stark. As to what he plans on doing after this fight, Aaron intends to make a serious run at making fighting a lasting career, even if that wasn’t his intention in the first place.
“Hopefully I can get another five or six years in, I’m just taking the whole thing as it comes,” explained Stark. “Like when I took my first fight I never had any intent or said, ‘okay now I’m a fighter.’ I just always thought I would just like to try at least once and tell the grandkids or whatever that I did it, but I really enjoyed it and wanted to do it again. I just am going to keep on going until it’s not fun anymore or I’m too damn old, or whatever the case may be.”
Aaron continued, “I’ve been talking with the guys at Quest and looking to fight a pro fight earlier in the year, possibly January, we’re discussing shows but nothing set in stone right now. I realize it’s a step up in competition, but that’s what it’s all about. If you compete at the same level all the time or just beat up local guys that doesn’t challenge you or make you better. I’d like to at least think that my next fight will be a pro fight.”
The conversation concluded with Stark wanting to reiterate how much he’d like for people to come out and support this new brand of Sportfight and for his teammates’ success. “I hope that everyone comes out and we can get a packed house and have a good showing. I hope all the guys from Quest on the card perform well, that’s all you can really ask for. I’ll go out there and I’ll do what I do and so it goes.”