by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
This coming January is looking to be one of the busiest months of MMA in a while. Along with shows happening in California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Canada, Oregon will be hosting what is becoming something of an annual event as Sportfight tips off the year on January 6th from The Rose Garden in Portland for their 14th show, entitled “Resolution.”
Headlining the card will be a Sportfight Lightweight Championship match between Champion Cam “Mr. Smooth” Ward and fellow Northwestern standout John Gunderson. Recently MMA Weekly spoke to Ward to discuss the upcoming fight, changes he’s making in his game, and why, despite being a champion, he seems to be left out of the talk surrounding the lightweight division.
MMA Weekly: First off Cam, tell us what you’ve been up to since the last time we spoke to you.
Cam Ward: For the most part I’ve been training hard and working a lot with Sean Haley who is really good with Muay Thai. I’ve been working my stand up and improving the holes in my game. Everybody pretty much knows what I come forward with, I go out there and try to impose my will and just see if they can stop it. The more I fight with the same style, the more people are going to have the opportunity to try to take my game apart through my tendencies. So I’ve been doing my best to try to change things and do things differently than in my past so I can mix things up. I’m working on checking leg kicks, things like that, a lot of people haven’t thrown leg kicks at me but I’ve got a feeling that Guns (John Gunderson) is probably going to do that. He’s going to want to kick, going to want to punch, so I’ve been working a lot of defense.
MMA Weekly: Did your last fight against Dennis Davis have anything to do with the decision to work on your game?
Cam Ward: I went really straight forward in that fight and I really want to try to work angles now so I don’t get into that mentality of “let’s just bang” and take risks. I’ve been working angles a lot and that’s going to stop me from getting hit so much. I got hit with a couple of pretty good right hands in that last fight that swelled my eye shut and it kept me from being effective in my stand up after the first round because my eye was swollen shut. I took way too many shots in that fight and I want to change that.
MMA Weekly: All right let’s talk about your upcoming fight against John Gunderson at Sportfight 14. Tell us your thoughts on this fight.
Cam Ward: It’s a highly anticipated fight, truth is we’ve been scheduled to fight four different times. He was injured twice, I was injured one time, unfortunately he had a death in his family in May so we couldn’t do that then. I’m excited about being able to do it now, I know Guns is excited about it, it’s going to be a big bang. I know he’s training hard, I’m training hard, he’s got good Jits, I have good Jits, he probably hits a little harder than I do in the stand up, but my transitions and Jiu-Jitsu game are superior. He’s going to be looking for the sweet spot and I’m looking for the tap out.
MMA Weekly: I know you’re very familiar with Gunderson having seen him fight quite a bit.
Cam Ward: Yeah I’ve seen John fight five times now and have traveled over 100 miles to watch him fight. Recently he beat Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett and some other good guys. He’s won his last three recently and is on a 3-0 run and done it pretty impressively.
MMA Weekly: What kind of advantages do you feel you have over John?
Cam Ward: Since we’re headlining the next Sportfight there’s been a lot of talk on local internet sites about it. People are putting in their two cents on it, saying who’s going to win and why, some people are saying Guns is going to be too strong and some say I’m going to submit him just like everyone else and I like to think that’s the case. I’ve gone against heavier guys, I beat Chris Wilson, the current Sportfight Welterweight Champion, a year ago, so I’ve fought bigger, stronger guys. He’s probably going to be a little stronger than me but that’s only going to last the first round and after that the fight’s going to be pretty technical and that’s where I’m at my best.
MMA Weekly: This is the second time you’re headlining a Sportfight event at The Rose Garden, home of the NBA’s Portland Trailblazers. How does it feel to be given the opportunity once again to headline a show at a major arena like this?
Cam Ward: It feels great to be honest with you. They could have headlined Chris Wilson of Team Quest but they chose me. I think they did it because I headlined my last fight in Portland and there’s a lot of people here learning about NHB and I’ve kind of become the name locally. Hopefully this will give me the opportunity to take on some real fights where I can go up against some guys that could put a smashing on me. Those are the kind of fights I want, I want to have the opportunity to be smashed on or be the underdog that ends up winning the fight. It exciting though (to headline), Matt Lindland gave me a really good deal this time around where I have the opportunity to make some decent money, so I’m fortunate for that. If it hadn’t been for the turnout and 100 tickets I sold personally before, I might not have gotten this opportunity. I think I put out pretty good fights and am pretty exciting and give the fans what they want to see. Everybody got their money’s worth on the last show.
MMA Weekly: Even though you’re an undefeated champion in one of the most respected promotions in the US, you still don’t seem to be getting the kind of attention that other fighters at 155lbs have been getting lately. Why do you think that is?
Cam Ward: I think it’s politics man, I think you have to know people. I’m not trying to talk any smack but there are guys like Charles Bennett who are not the greatest fighters in the world by any means, but they are entertaining fighters and they have people that know people. It doesn’t mean he’s that good, I mean a guy like me, I’m good, but I don’t know anybody so I have to wait for someone to see me and hand-pick me. I’ve emailed everybody and their brothers but they’re lukewarm because they don’t know who I am. I haven’t gotten any fight tapes from Sportfight, they’re not really going to promote me to outside venues because they want to make money off of me, so that’s understandable why they’re not going to promote me. I don’t train with Quest so I’m not under Matt Lindland, so he’s not trying to promote me at other shows. I’m just this little guy from a little club who does my homework and I work my butt off and do what people say I can’t do because they say I can’t do it.
MMA Weekly: Having said that, what kind of things do you hope can help get you to that next level?
Cam Ward: Honestly I really am hoping, and I’m not sure it’s going to happen because it’s everyone’s pipe dream right now, that there will be a 155lb Ultimate Fighter TV show. If they do that I want a tryout, I’m a champ, and if they bring back 155lbs to the UFC I think I can be a big part of it. Granted, I’ve got four pro fights (nine overall), but I am undefeated and I’ve beaten everybody in contention in the Northwest. The best guys are coming out of the Northwest, but again I’m not from Quest so nobody knows who I am on the big level. I’ve beaten three Quest fighters but yet nobody knows who I am, but I’m going to keep plugging away, it’s all I can do, train harder and keep going.
MMA Weekly: Okay, before we finish up I know you wanted to get in some thanks.
Cam Ward: I want to get in a word for my sponsors, Dr. Lovelace who a chiropractic sports medicine doctor at Back in Motion in Beaverton, and Race Design owned by Fred Roman in Aloha. Also Jay Hornstein who provides business and commercial real estate financing for doctors in Portland, and Big C Enterprises and my boy Christiaan V. Last but not least I want to thank Joey Hanna and let him know I’m out to help him so maybe he can help me. And of course my team, Oregon Jiu-Jitsu, Scott McQuary, Sean Haley, my training partners Enoch Wilson, Brad Horner, JT Horner, Jose Vargas and all those guys. People can also check me out at My Space at www.myspace.com/sportfighter. They can get tickets to the show from there or by calling 503-901-2993.
MMA Weekly: All right, is there anything you want to say about your upcoming fight as we head out?
Cam Ward: As for the fight between Guns and I, it’s going to be great. He and I like each other and we’ve toasted each other, “here’s to you knocking me out, here’s to me choking you out,” but we’re going to give people an exciting fight. This year on January 8th when I fought Chad Nelson and won that fight he jumped in the ring, which I don’t think is a lot of class on his part because I had just won, it was my moment, and said he wanted a piece (of me). Well John Gunderson, 354 days later, be careful what you wish for because you’ll get it. And he’s going to get it, I’m going to bring my A-game, and he’s going to see what I’m really about because I’m going to bring it to him. I plan on getting a tap out, it doesn’t matter how, armbar, kneebar, leg lock, front toe lock, neck crank, whatever opportunity comes my way, I’ll make the most of it.