by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
At tonight’s Ultimate Fighter 4 Finale, Pete “Drago” Sell will make his first appearance at a full UFC event for the first time in over a year.
Months lost to various injuries and the weeks spent taping TUF 4, which saw Sell lose in the semi-finals via decision to Travis Lutter, kept Sell from making his official return to the Octagon, until now.
Tonight Pete matches up with friend and fellow former TUF 4 castmate Scott Smith in a bout that could very well determine the future of each fighter in the UFC.
Just hours before weighing in, Sell spoke to MMAWeekly to discuss his match, reality TV and his expansion beyond fighting.
MMAWeekly: Before we get into your fight at the TUF 4 Finale Pete, let’s talk about the year in which you were away from UFC live events. I know you missed a lot of time in 2005 due to injury before getting back into fighting this year.
Pete Sell: Yeah, listen to this string of bad luck…what happened was I was supposed to fight Joe Riggs but I tore my meniscus in my knee. So I was in a knee brace and I couldn’t do jiu-jitsu or wrestle so I was working a lot on by boxing and busted my hand and had to get a cortisone shot in my hand and I was a mess. That whole end of the year was a mess for me.
I came back and fought in April in Ring of Combat and defended my title on April 14th and I believe that weekend was the audition for the show and in May I went to tape it.
MMAWeekly: Speaking of the reality show, now that you’ve had a chance to see it, what do you think about the TV show compared to actually living it for those few weeks?
Pete Sell: Man it was so different…when you get there everyone is all excited and everything and then you’re like, “Wow, there’s nothing to do, it’s so boring.” We had a good time; we made the best out of it.
On TV they chopped up stuff, like time oriented things, it was all chopped up. Like things that happened in the first episode happened like a long time in and visa-versa, like in the last episode some things were done towards the end, but not nearly at the last episode. So everything was kind of chopped up and nothing was really timed exactly…it’s kind of how things went down but not really.
MMAWeekly: One thing about the reality series that’s different than normally fighting is the preparation time you have. Do you think having far less time to prepare for a specific fight affected your performance on the show?
Pete Sell: You’re fighting a couple times within a few weeks period, like when I fought; I had to fight within a week and a half to two weeks of my last fight. Getting prepared for the [Travis Lutter] fight, I could have been more prepared and worked more on my takedown defense, but I’m just like a different fighter now.
That’s why I think so many guys grow from that show, because you get to see where you are amongst a bunch of elite athletes and see where your level is and I know I’m there. I know once I work on it and get the kinks out of my game that I’m going to be a force to be reckoned with.
MMAWeekly: It’s got to feel good to be finished with it and be able to talk about it after months of secrecy.
Pete Sell: Yeah it’s like a sigh of relief. Right now I’m at the Hard Rock and have seen some of the guys off the show and we’re bugging out laughing about the show. You go through something with those guys, you have a connection and we’ll have that the rest of our lives.
MMAWeekly: Now that you’ve had time to be home and work with your own team in your own gym, how are you feeling heading into your fight with Scott?
Pete Sell: I’m actually feeling better than ever. One of my friends who used to be a bodybuilder put me on a new diet and I’m more shredded now than I’ve ever been. I’m feeling good, in peak condition and ready. I worked my jiu-jitsu with Matt [Serra] and my wrestling with some wrestlers from Hoffstra [University]…we worked on my takedown defense and I’m feeling good, on top of my game.
If you’ve seen my fights, I get better every fight. When I first started fighting I’d just use my jiu-jitsu, I’d jump guard and win fights…it’s crazy. Now I want to bang with people because I hit hard and I want to show people that I can be exciting. I know every fight is different and I think more or less in this fight I’m going to work my stand-up and see how that goes.
MMAWeekly: On the TV show Scott lost to Travis Lutter via submission. Coming from a jiu-jitsu background, do you feel it’s on the ground where you’re going to win this fight?
Pete Sell: I definitely have the advantage on the floor, but if you’ve seen the [David] Terrell or Lutter fights, they all got to his back and broke him down to get him down, he’s not an easy guy to get down from straight-forward. He gives up his back a lot, which I’m sure he worked on and I think he doesn’t get enough credit.
I mean, if you see his other fights, he looks awesome…he knocked out Justin Levins and some other good guys, so people I feel don’t give him enough credit. It’s a weird thing because he’s my friend from the show. I want to see him do well…but not against me [laughs].
MMAWeekly: You got a fair amount of exposure fighting on UFN last year and of course a lot more being on TUF, what do you think about that?
Pete Sell: I think it’s awesome. It’s a lot less pressure now; you’ve just got to fight. It’s like what happened with the other guys on the other shows; you already have a fan base. All the best guys have lost, it’s part of the game, so there’s a relief on your shoulders knowing you already have a fan base and that’ll help bring you back [if you lose].
I’m breaking into so many scenes right now. I have a clothing line coming out with a couple of my friends…I’m getting into the acting stuff…I’m still wanting to fight for the belt and stuff, but I’m going through many avenues.
MMAWeekly: So we may be seeing Drago on the silver screen one day soon, huh?
Pete Sell: Yeah…that’s what I’m talking about [laughs].
MMAWeekly: Your trainer/mentor Matt Serra is fighting for the TUF 4 welterweight title against Chris Lytle on this same show. How are you feeling about Matt heading into his fight?
Pete Sell: I think Matt can keep the pressure on him the whole time and can keep getting him down. Lytle’s pretty good off his feet, he’s flexible and has a good switch, but we kind of know how the fight’s going to go and I’m feeling very good about that with Matt. His pressure is just so good and I think he’ll just keep getting him [Chris] down.
Even if Lytle keeps getting back up, he’s not like a BJ Penn or Din Thomas kind of guy who jabs and then moves, he’s not that type of guy – he’s a banger – so I don’t think Matt’s going to have any trouble getting a hold of the guy.
MMAWeekly: So it’s definitely looking like to you that it’s going to be a good weekend for Serra Jitsu and will build good momentum heading into next year?
Pete Sell: Yeah, we’re going for the sweep. In 2007 we’re taking over everything and that’s what’s going down.
MMAWeekly: Thanks for taking the time so close to your fight for us Pete. Is there anything you’d like to say as we head out?
Pete Sell: Check it out, I’m going to put on an exciting fight for the fans…I’m definitely coming out to do that because that’s what I’m about. I’m going to push the pace and fight hard.
I want to pump up this new line, Now You Know Wear Clothing [www.n-y-k.com]…and I want to thank Sprawl for always sponsoring me and hooking me up. And Scott, man I’m sorry…you’re my boy, but better luck next time. Sorry buddy, but it’s not going to be me [losing], it can’t be me [losing]…it’s just not going down like that.