by Jeff Cain – MMAWeekly.com
Matt ‘The Law’ Lindland spoke publicly for the first time since being “fired” by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) following his UFC 54: ‘Boiling Point’ bout with Joe Doerksen exclusively to MMAWeekly SoundOff Radio.
In the upcoming months Team Quest will have three members competing for MMA gold. On November 19th at UFC 56: ‘Full Force,’ Team Quest’s Nate ‘The Rock’ Quarry will take on UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin.
On New Year’s Eve Dan ‘Hollywood’ Henderson rematches Murilo Bustamante for the Pride Bushido Welterweight Championship. UFC 57, on February 4th, will showcase the third fight in the Randy ‘The Natural’ Couture and Chuck ‘The Iceman’ Liddell trilogy for the UFC light-heavyweight title. But what about Matt Lindland?
“When the number one fighter in the world can not get in the ring and fight the top contender….there’s something wrong with this business that allows that to happen.” Matt Lindland could have made that statement yesterday and it would be relevant, but he made the comment to MMAWeekly in March of 2004.
Lindland always seemed one fight away from getting another shot at the UFC middleweight title after losing to Murilo Bustamante in February of 2002 at UFC 37: ‘High Impact.’ Bustamante never defended his title and the UFC middleweight championship would remain vacant for nearly three years until Evan Tanner defeated David Terrell at UFC 51: ‘Super Saturday’ in February of this year. Coincidentally the belt wasn’t put up until after Matt Lindland lost his number one contender status.
‘The Law’ then strung a couple of nice wins together and looked to be in line to face former teammate Evan Tanner for the title after tapping out Travis Lutter at UFC 52: ‘Couture vs Liddell 2.’ At the UFC 52 post fight press conference UFC president Dana White commented, “I will make it public right here that he [Lindland] will get the next shot at the title.”
UFC 53: ‘Heavy Hitters’ rolled around and it was Rich Franklin who got the shot at Evan Tanner and the UFC middleweight belt despite White’s comments following the previous event.
Lindland was back in action at UFC 54: ‘Boiling Point’ winning a unanimous decision against Joe Doerksen. He had to be the next in line for the title now. Right? Wrong. Matt Lindland was “fired” by the UFC and teammate Nate ‘The Rock’ Quarry will face Rich Franklin for the UFC middleweight championship at UFC 56: ‘Full Force’ on Nov. 19th.
What happened? What did the number one contender do to warrant receiving his walking papers? Did he test positive to steroids? Did he strike a referee? “I know the reason they gave me…Because I wore a T-shirt to the weigh ins.” Lindland told MMAWeekly.
Is that the real reason? If you take the UFC at their word it is, but if you take them at their word Matt Lindland would have been fighting Evan Tanner for the title at UFC 53 and not Rich Franklin.
Lindland was questioned “why do you think you were fired?” He answered, “Because I wore a T-shirt to the weigh ins, and they could fire me. Obviously they didn’t want me to fight Rich Franklin. They’ve got somebody they’ve invested some money into. They paid Ken [Shamrock] a lot of money for that fight he did with Franklin. They paid him $230,000 to show. That’s a lot of money invested right there. Franklin comes out of that with a win, goes on this reality show. They invested a lot of money in Rich on that reality show, and now they don’t want something messing with their investment.”
Lindland should be fighting Rich Franklin for the title at UFC 56, but he’s not. According to Matt, “It’s too scary for Rich, and that’s too scary for the company because they know what will happen if they put me in there with Rich.”
What would happen if he and Rich Franklin fought, Lindland was asked. He replied without hesitation, “I would beat his ass. Bottom line. Rich does not want to fight me. He would make sure that the company got him the number one competitor to fight. He doesn’t want to fight the real number one talent, so he went out and they got somebody that’s not even ranked in the top ten to be the number one challenger.”
Discussing the current trend of UFC fighters, Lindland sarcastically commented, “You know what they say? Yes, whatever the UFC wants. Yes, whatever Dana wants. Yes, whatever Dana wants. Whoever the UFC wants me to fight, that’s who I’ll fight next. Whatever they want me to say I’ll say next. Rich Franklin has a weak chin. Oh, wait. They told me to say that. I’ll say whatever they want me to say. What do you want me to tell you? They’re robots. They’re scared to say anything. They’re scared to be themselves.”
Matt went on to say what BJ Penn has previously said, and claims his lawsuit against the UFC revealed. Lindland, an Olympic Silver Medalist, said, “The UFC is not the number one organization in the world. This isn’t a world title. This is a UFC belt. That’s all this is. This isn’t a world title…That’s the exact thing the UFC told BJ Penn. This isn’t a world title. We’ll take it away and give it to Matt Hughes. It’s not your belt. It’s our belt. It’s a UFC belt. We can give it to whoever we want. It’s not a championship belt. It’s a UFC belt.”
Will we ever see Matt Lindland back in the UFC? It’s hard to say, but he said, “If they wanted to get real talent back in that weight class than they’ll bring me back. I mean that’s the bottom line. If they want to keep bringing sub par fighters in to challenge a champion. They want to bring in guys, continue to bring in guys that aren’t even ranked in the top ten to challenge for titles, but like I said it’s not a real title anyway. It’s their title. They’ll do what they want, but if they want to get real talent in there than they’ll bring me back.”
Matt’s teammate, Nate Quarry, will be competing for the UFC middleweight belt in less than two weeks. “Nate Quarry’s a great fighter. Don’t get me wrong. He’s come a long way. Nathan’s fighting, training the best I’ve ever seen him train, looking great in the room. Bottom line, he’s not in the top ten right now.” Stated Lindland.
About Quarry’s fight with Rich Franklin, Lindland stated, “Nate’s looking better than I’ve ever seen him look. He’s been training really hard. He’s been working on all aspects of his game. I don’t know how good Rich Franklin is. We all saw that Ken Shamrock fight. Then he fought Evan Tanner who in my opinion hasn’t been the same guy he was for over a year now. What’s his other win? Oh he beat another guy that wasn’t ranked in the top ten, [Jorge] Rivera…..So he’s fought one guy in his whole career that was ranked in the top ten. How good is Rich Franklin? They don’t want to find out, so they’ll put somebody else against him besides me. That’s fine. It’s their company. They can do whatever they want.”
Lindland went on to say, “I don’t know how this fight is going to go. That’s what makes it interesting. It could be a really even match up. It could be a one sided fight. I think that Rich is a little overrated…I think Nate’s going to perform very well. Like I said, he’s looking better than he’s ever looked before. He’s training really hard. He’s in great shape. I know he’s going to be able to go five rounds because he can do it in the room right now with some pretty good guys. We’ll see.”
What’s next for Matt Lindland? He heads to the UK for Cage Rage which takes place on December 3rd to take on Brazilian fighter ‘Nino’ Schrembri. Discussing how the fight came about, Lindland said, “I had been talking with those guys about coming over there every since I fought over there the first time I guess. Then I signed a deal with the UFC. It was a three fight exclusive deal before they fired me…They could have cost me some money because I could have went over there and fought in the UK a couple times in between signing the contract and fighting Joe [Doerksen]. But I thought I signed this exclusive thing with the UFC, I’ll hold off and fight over in the UK later. We talked about me possibly coming over there in February and then this spot opened up. I just jumped right on it.”
Fighting remains the number one priority in Matt Lindland’s professional life. One organization’s castaways are another organization’s opportunity to snag up top talent. Cage Rage didn’t waste any time doing just that. While other Team Quest members will be fighting for MMA belts, their most consistently ranked fighter will be fighting in the UK.