by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
Alex Schoenauer’s three-season tenure in the International Fight League has been much like a rollercoaster ride, punctuated by impressive highs and disheartening lows.
Wins over Travis Wiuff, Kazuhiro Hamanaka and Allan Goes have been offset by nearly alternating losses to Jamal Patterson, Aaron Stark and Mike Ciesnolevicz (twice). So it’s understandable if people wonder which Schoenauer will show up each time he steps into the ring.
While consistency has eluded him to this point with the promotion, he did manage to win enough fights in the regular season to qualify in the light heavyweight division for this weekend’s IFL Grand Prix in Chicago.
Due to injuries and contractual issues, unlike the other four weight classes – which will host the first round of their respective four-man tournaments – Schoenauer steps directly into a final round championship bout with this season’s most consistent 205-pound fighter, Vladimir Matyushenko.
“Originally I was supposed to fight Matyushenko to begin with in the (semi-final) fight,” said Schoenauer of this weekend’s match-up. “There was a bunch of stuff that happened and then I was supposed to fight (Mike) Whitehead, and then some changes happened, so it was me and Vladdy again.
“So great, it’s just one fight for the belt. Hell yeah, I’ll take that.”
With everything that he’s put in during training, stylistically, Schoenauer feels this fight could play into his favor.
“He’s got a lot of fights under his belt. He’s old school, but he doesn’t have anybody to really push him, I don’t think,” he explained. “(Watching) his last fight I was able to pick apart his game a little bit and see (his approach).
“He’s basically a strong wrestler. I’ve been facing wrestlers all season. So I’m going to work my jiu-jitsu on him and my stand-up. He’s not going to want to stand with me. If he does, great, that’s what the fans want to see, but other than that I think it’s going to be a great fight.”
It currently appears that Schoenauer will be returning to the IFL’s Anacondas next year, however, he’s unsure who will coach the team and where they will be based in the 2008 season. The league is considering realignment and the addition of two international teams.
Even with that uncertainty, he remains focused on the fight ahead.
“I think it’s up in the air, everything’s always changing around,” he said of the upcoming Anacondas 2008 campaign. “I’m just concentrating on my big fight coming up and then I’ll have a little bit of a break before the season begins in January, so we’ll just see what happens.”
Schoenauer’s uncompromising attentiveness to this weekend’s match-up is understandable considering what’s at stake not only in the fight itself, but also for his career so far.
“I’ve been in the sport competing professionally for about four years now and this is a dream come true to fight for a belt,” he explained. “It’s not a small show belt, it’s an IFL belt, and it means a lot because there’s a lot of competition in the league for it.
“I’ve been training hard and do everything I can to be ready for it 300%. When it comes down to it, it’s twelve minutes to go in there and prove that I earned that belt and that I deserve it.”
With the first round of the IFL Grand Prix to be broadcast live on MyNetworkTV, Schoenauer may just get the opportunity to prove to the world who he truly is as a fighter and where he is headed in the upcoming year.
“To all the fans, come out and support the IFL,” he said in closing. “There’s going to be some great fights on the card and the 205-pound belt will be on the line as well.
“I want to thank MMA Authentic, Bob La Grata, Tapout, Bas Rutten, and Kevin Randleman for helping me out with my wrestling.”