by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
On March 17th the IFL’s Condors, led by MMA legend Marco Ruas, return to action against the much improved Ken Yasuda-coached Sabres in a battle that could very well determine which team moves onto this season’s World Team Tournament bracket later in the year.
Key amongst the match-ups in the 5-on-5 battle is the light-heavyweight throwdown between MMA veteran Vladimir Matyushenko and Ruas Vale Tudo student Justin Levens.
For Levens in particular this is an opportunity to atone for himself after having disappointing results in his last IFL fight against Reese Andy of the Tiger Sharks this past January.
“For the first show, as a team, as a whole, the guys did really good,” said Justin of the Condors 3-2 win over the Tiger Sharks two months ago. “As for my performance, I don’t think I did so well.”
“I tried to push the pace too much [against Reese] and came out too aggressive, when I should have maybe held back a little bit and picked him apart,” continued Levens.
When asked if he equated his performance to perhaps being nervous about returning to the big stages of MMA for the first time since UFC Fight 5 last June, Justin replied, “I don’t get nervous at all for a fight, I think it was just me.”
Levens further commented, “I like to put on a good fight every time I step into that ring. To me, going in there and just laying on the ground isn’t a good fight, I like to bang it out and the person that walks away is the winner. I went back and looked at my aggressiveness and slowed down a little bit, that way maybe I don’t rush it with people anymore.”
What’s done is done and Justin and the Condors put the past behind them as they have another task at hand this coming 17th in Los Angeles when they take on the Sabres. It’s a clash that Levens feels matches the two best teams in the entire league.
“I think they’re a great team,” admitted Justin. “I think our team and their team are the two hardest teams in the IFL, to tell you the truth. I don’t see, besides us fighting each other, I don’t see anybody beating our teams.”
As for his individual fight with long-time veteran Vladimir Matyushenko, Levens is admittedly honored to be facing “The Janitor,” but he won’t let his respect for Vladimir get in the way of doing what needs to be done to win the fight.
“I think it’s going to be the toughest fight of my career, period,” exclaimed Justin. “I’ve watched Matyushenko fight since I was 17-years-old, and to fight him is actually an honor, it’s a big thing to me.”
“For the past two years I’ve been struggling, but I’ve got a cooler head and I feel good going into this fight. I think I’m going to beat him. I’ve been working really hard and training my ass off,” added Levens.
Even though Justin has worked a lot on tempering his game, he still feels that strategy-wise, he has to keep Vladimir off his game and force the action to go at Levens’ pace.
“I think in this fight I am going to push the pace, but not too much,” explained Justin. “I can’t over-commit to anything, because that’s the problem I’ve been having with wrestlers. I’m just going to pick him apart and keep moving.”
Levens further stated, “The word is out that he’s going to try to stand with me, which will be cool, because if he tries to stand and trade it will be more exciting. Everyone’s gameplan changes once they get hit, so we’ll see what happens.”
Along with his own hard work, Justin acknowledges that Condors’ Head Coach Marco Ruas’ relentless training of the team will pay dividends in the very long IFL season.
“Marco, I’ve been with him going on five or six years now, and it’s been an honor being with him,” commented Levens. “I watched growing up as a kid too, and to have him accept me into his school and show me everything has been amazing. What he’s teaching us, the aggression level in the training is like no other. I’ve never trained like this before.”
Recently MMAWeekly spoke with Justin’s teammate Jeremy Williams, and Jeremy stated that it’s a big motivating factor to do well because no one wants to have to face the wrath of a disappointed Ruas.
“It’s true, I’d rather go with anyone else in the world, than go with Marco,” agreed Levens with a chuckle. “Marco is a very scary individual. The way he trains, sparring, everything is pretty tough.”
“He’s a really intense guy, but at the same time he’s like an older brother/father, I look up to him a lot. He’s really important in my life; he’s shown me everything in fighting, so I don’t want to let him down, for sure,” continued Justin.
Not only is Ruas an individual that the Condors don’t want let down, but according to Levens, Assistant Coach and female MMA pioneer Debi Purcell is just as intimidating.
“That girl is tough,” exclaimed Justin. “The first time I trained with her, we came in, and I was thinking, ‘This is a chick; I’ll go easy with her.’ So I threw a jab and she caught me with a right hand I was like, ‘Holy crap!’ I was pretty amazed.”
So coaches and fighters alike, the Condors are serious competitors and could very well take a step towards this season’s IFL World Team Tournament Championship when they lock horns with the Sabres on March 17th in Los Angeles.
As Levens explains, it’s going to be a night of action that you’re not going to want to miss.
“Everyone come out on March 17th and watch my fight with Matyushenko, and watch my team fight the Sabres,” concluded Justin. “It’s going to be a great show with lots of intensity and high-paced action. I’d like to thank Hitman Fight Gear, Marco Ruas, and the IFL for taking us in and letting us fight for them.”