by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
When looking back over 2005 it is completely understandable if Pete “Drago” Sell felt bittersweet about his year fighting. After being brought in as a late replacement for Robbie Lawler in February and choking Phil Baroni unconscience at UFC 51, it looked like it was going to be a breakthrough year for Sell.
Unfortunately after losing a hotly contested referee stoppage to Nate Quarry at Ultimate Fight Night 1, Drago would spend the remainder of the year out with an injury sustained during training to face Joe “Diesel” Riggs at UFC 55. Now with the year coming to a close and a return to action just around the corner, Sell spoke to MMA Weekly about his injury, the middleweight division, and where he’d like to see himself when all is said and done.
When asked about where he was at in recovery from the injury that prevented him from fighting at UFC 55 Sell responded, “Basically I’m probably at 80%. I had a minor tear of the meniscus in my knee and I hurt my hand real bad sparring.”
Pete explained how the injuries occurred by saying, “What happened was is that I hurt my knee before the Riggs fight so I had to pull out of that fight, which I was pissed off about. So for that fact I couldn’t do any takedowns or Jiu-Jitsu I had to put a knee brace on and I was doing a lot boxing sparring to get my hands up and I ended up hurting my hand. I was stuck doing nothing; I was going out of my mind, so I’ve just begun training again to get back in action. I just got a cordazone shot in my hand so it’s feeling better, people always say I hit hard so that’s how I hurt my hand.”
As for what he did while away from training, Sell said, “You know what I just took kind of a vacation from everything for a little bit. I was relaxing, hanging out with girls, having a good time and enjoying life instead of running around 24/7 at the gym. I lifted a little bit; put on a little size, but I couldn’t do much of that either. It almost makes you a little hungrier sometimes to have a break. Sometimes when you train all the time it becomes too much like a job, instead of enjoying it so much anymore, the same thing over and over again, a little break is good for you.”
Pete’s initial injury was sustained getting ready for Joe Riggs, when asked if he would be willing to face Riggs in the future if Joe returns to middleweight, Pete replied, “Anytime, I’m down for anyone it doesn’t matter to me. I just got hungry after my last fight (against Nate Quarry); all that did was open my eyes. I don’t know, I really haven’t thought about it (other fighters), I’m down for whatever it doesn’t matter to me. I just like having exciting fights, that’s the whole Serra-Longo team is all about, putting a show.”
With Quarry’s win over Sell at Ultimate Fight Night 1 this past August, Nate was propelled into a title match against Rich Franklin at UFC 56.
Pete had an opportunity to watch the fight and summed up what he saw in that match by saying, “Honestly I think Nate got a little bit exposed. The kid does hit hard, but his style is a little stiff, he’s a little unorthodox. I don’t think he’s relaxed enough, we knew that going into my fight with him. He just ended up catching me with a punch I didn’t see coming and those are the punches that hurt you. He basically got exposed for his style, (it shows) that a guy with really good stand up is going to take a guy who’s stiff like that out any day of the week.”
Even if Sell had defeated Quarry, he doesn’t feel as if he would have been given the opportunity Nate was. “Yeah for sure (I would have wanted to be in there), but they gave him the title shot. Honestly, say if I knocked out Quarry, you think they would have given me a title shot? It wouldn’t have happened in a million years.”
As for when Drago hopes to return to action, the answer may be sooner than later. “I’m hoping to get a fight by late February/March if everything goes good with my injuries and I get back in shape. I really haven’t gotten back to hard, hard training, so I don’t know how my injuries would hold up. I actually have never been injured like this, two things at the same time, it’s just a pain in the ass. You get through one thing then you get through the other thing, it kills you because you can’t do anything.”
Pete continued, “If things take off for me I’d love to fight a lot, it will get me up more, I’m dying to get back in there. You get everything so bottled up, I have so much aggression to let out and I just have a good time out there. I love to fight.”
When it comes to possibly getting a shot at UFC Middleweight Champion Rich Franklin, Sell feels that his best attribute in a fight like that would be his determination and will to succeed.
“Right now Rich Franklin is on top of his game, I’ll take nothing away from the guy, but one thing I always have against anybody I fight is a lot of heart and will to win,” said Sell. “So no matter what, if somebody is technically better than you or this and that, I have that toughness and I do have a tough chin. I know people were talking shit after the Quarry fight, saying I got dropped by a jab and this and that, but if you get hit by MMA gloves and you don’t see it coming, you’ll get a flash knockdown. That was my first flash knockdown ever in a fight, I had one in training, so I’ve only ever had two flash knockdowns ever.”
“I was overconfident going into the fight, I never even thought that could happen to me. I’ve got a hard head and I’ll come to fight and the will to win, if I can impose my will, I’ll impose my will and see what happens,” further commented Drago.
One thing Sell knows for sure is that he’s a far more well-rounded fighter now than he was when he first started fight and more than what some people give him credit for. While the majority of his victories have come by decision and submission, do not be surprised if he starts to lay people out with his improved striking ability.
“I wish I had the skill that I have now back then,” explained Pete. “When I first started fighting I basically had my takedowns and Jiu-Jitsu, I was kind of ground ‘n pound guy, but more a take guys down and submit them kind of fighter. I just kind of stuck with that, so back in the day there wasn’t much well-rounded guys so I stuck with that. I wish I started my hands earlier, but they’re getting better and better. I feel like if I went back and fought the kids I fought when I was an up and commer it would be a totally fight now, I’d kill ‘em even worse.”
As Sell heals and gets ready to return to action next year, he feels his goals are set firmly in front of him and among them is to be eventually known as one of the top fighters the sport has ever seen. “I want to basically make my statement in the UFC, MMA world. If I can one day, be a legend in this sport, I want to take it to another level. I don’t want to just be another contender; I want to be known as one of the top guys. I’m shooting for the stars basically, the sky’s the limit, I’m not just trying to aim for being another fighter, I want to take over the game.”
Drago concluded, “I definitely want to thank Sprall, Paragon Mortgage, Common Athlete, I’m probably forgetting somebody, and of course Matt, Nicky and Ray. That’s like almost unspoken, they’re all like my family (the Serra-Longo team), I don’t even feel like I have to say that, I’m closer to them like that. I look up to them, no matter how big I’d get, I’ll always look up to those guys.”