by Cindy Ortiz (photo courtesy of theultimatefighter.tv)
(Photo courtesy of theultimatefighter.tv)
“15 minutes of footage just said I’m not the weakest link on that team; 15 minutes worth of footage says I whipped the best guys ass on team Franklin!”
(Jason Von Flue after being sent to the green team on episode 7)
JVF is living proof “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” Underneath a gothic appearance beats the heart of a warrior. Jason may not have gotten a “second chance to make a good first impression” when he joined the cast of The Ultimate Fighter as a welterweight alternate for Josh Burkman, but he did take advantage of the opportunity to show millions of viewers what he is all about. Von Flue exited the TUF 2 experience with a whole lot more than what he showed up with. He didn’t win the six-figure contract, but he did manage to earn respect and win over the hearts of MMA fans across the country.
Jason spoke candidly about the way he was treated on the show, most of which he saw the same time viewers did as it aired each week. He also caught me off guard with his attitude about a rematch against Jorge Gurgel, the welterweight he “sent to pasture” in episode six. The biggest shocker was who Jason said he wants to fight next!
This was a very telling interview and a reminder that “you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.”
Cindy Ortiz: Hindsight is 20/20, Jason. Given another opportunity, would you do it all over again?
Jason Von Flue: Oh… absolutely, Cindy. TUF was a great experience and I learned a lot, both personally and as a fighter that’ll stay with me for the rest of my life. I found out how strong I am, both mentally and physically and I got to train with some of the best fighters and coaches in the business. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
Cindy: It was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity. Who has been the single most influential person in your career so far?
JVF: Chuck Liddell. Chuck has been a friend and mentor to me from day one. He has an iron will and an incredible drive to win. I guess when you train with the best; you want to be the best.
Cindy: Speaking of Chuck, how did he feel about the way you were treated on the show?
JVF: Chuck and Matt were buddies and he was surprised and disappointed by the way Matt had treated me on the first episode. He became a bit more… I guess you could say displeased as the episodes unfolded on TV every week. After I fought Jorge, it is my understanding Matt called Chuck the next day and apologized (laughter).
Cindy: Apologized for what?
JVF: Well, he told Chuck he was sorry… that he really didn’t know.
Cindy: Didn’t know what?
JVF: Well, what he said on TV; if you read between the lines, what he basically states is I’m a piece of shit and I’m worthless, you know, the whole nine yards; you have no heart, you have no desire to win, you can’t be trained and you’re… a piece of shit.
Cindy: Oh boy! How did you manage to stay as civil as you did, week after week?
JVF: You know, I didn’t go there to make friends or to be somebody I’m not. I wasn’t there to kiss Matt Hughes’ ass; I went there to win and learn everything I could and to nail a contract. If people wanted to treat me like crap because I got there late and they felt I didn’t deserve to be there, that’s their problem. I prayed to get a shot like this and I wasn’t about to let what someone had to say to or about me screw it up. It was too important.
Cindy: What was it like watching the show and seeing how you were treated and talked about?
JVF: It was a trip; sorta surprising. Like, I knew Matt and Jorge didn’t particularly care for me but seeing some of the things they said and did behind my back really sucked!
Cindy: If Matt and Chuck were friends and you are Chuck’s boy, why would Matt treat you so bad?
JVF: I don’t know. I didn’t really get it either. The only possibilities I could come up with were maybe it was because Chuck was getting ready to fight Jeremy Horn, a good friend of Matt’s or maybe because Matt saw me as being everything he’s not.
JVF: You know (laughter), tall, scrawny, gothic… I actually confronted him about it one night in a bathroom with no cameras or mic’s on and he didn’t really have an explanation. I just told him he and Chuck were about the only two guys in the sport of MMA I look up to and getting to train with him was an honor. I asked Matt to just give me a chance to show him what I’m made of and to please work with me a little bit and I reiterated he didn’t have to like me to train me. I wasn’t there to make friends and it was fine if Matt or any of the others didn’t like me, but I respected each and every one of them.
Cindy: Did things get better between you and Hughes after your pow-wow?
JVF: A little bit. I mean, he mellowed out some and I kept my distance. If Matt was hanging out in one room with some of the guys, I’d make it a point to be in another one. It just seemed to work better that way. Generally, if you don’t like me, cool, I’ll fuck with you (laughter), but with the situation between Matt and I where he’s the coach who can put my ass back on a treadmill for an hour, I thought it best to just give him some space (laughter)!
Cindy: If somebody treated me like that, my feelings would have been hurt!
JVF: Well, I think a lot of it comes down to mental toughness. I could have broken down and cried, “Oh, this is horrible, I wanna go home,” but I don’t quit at anything. I’m not known for being like, “OK I’m done.” I wasn’t going to let the way some people treated me come between me and my dream. No freakin’ way… no way. I used the negativity of my situation to my advantage and it made me stronger.
Like I said on the show, Matt didn’t have to like me to train me. I came on the show with an attitude and had a chip on my shoulder; that was obvious when I walked through the front door. I was pissed off when I got there.
JVF: I knew I was behind. I had missed more than a week of training that everyone else got. I had just gone through a bad break up with a girl the month before and two weeks after the break up is when I found out I didn’t make the show. I was like, “Oh no!” So I had been running around drinking, partying and doing things bartenders do (and shouldn’t do) for a week and a half… then I got the phone call from Dana at 10:00 on a Wednesday night when I was about five minutes from having a cocktail!
Cindy: Daaaaayum (laughter)!
JVF: Yeah, tell me about it! I was shaking because I couldn’t believe it! Then, in the middle of my conversation with Dana, I had to tell him to hold on because I had to break up a fight in the bar. I sat the phone down, whipped some ass and then got back on the phone with him. It was crazy! Anyway, I was pissed because they needed me now and I wasn’t in my “preferred condition,” mentally or physically because of some things I had going on in my personal life. I had just resigned myself to the fact I didn’t make the show and wouldn’t be going… and then Dana called!
Cindy: (laughter) I’d be like, “Uh-oh!” Who do you think has been your toughest opponent so far?
JVF: Jorge Gurgel. That fight went fifteen minutes and was a true MMA fight. It incorporated striking, ground and pound and submission attempts; you name it! Not to mention, Jorge is a stud and a half!
Cindy: Did you really think you would win that fight?
JVF: Yes… yes I did. What people don’t realize is I missed making the show originally by one person. I was THE next fighter on the list out of about 1,500 that applied, so I’m not a piece of crap fighter. I had just as much potential as anyone else on the show.
Jorge was a smaller opponent but he’s tough as nails. I respected his BJJ background, but I also knew my takedown skills were better and you counter BJJ with ground and pound or leg submissions. What I didn’t get to show were my leg submissions; I just didn’t want to go for Jorge’s bad leg because I didn’t want to hurt him or end his career. But, had I needed a back up plan, I would have gone for the leg and would have tried to break his ankle or knee-bar him (laughter). That’s what would have happened, but luckily, it didn’t come to that.
Cindy: How many stitches did you get as a result of your fight with Jorge?
JVF: Forty, and when Keith opened up my forehead during practice, I got another nineteen.
Cindy: Dr. Hsu will be “blinging up the Mrs.” this holiday season on Dana’s dime (laughter)! Jason, how has your life changed since TUF aired and viewers started recognizing you?
JVF: It’s been great. I’m always busy now. I’m constantly online answering e-mail or talking to somebody about the series, the UFC and the sport of MMA. I stay super busy, but very happy. It’s an honor to be a part of something like this because this sport is going to change the world over the next decade. I’m proud to be doing something so worthwhile that is helping to raise MMA to the next level. How often can you say you got to do something like that? It’s pretty rare.
Cindy: True. What’s the worst damage you have ever inflicted on an opponent?
JVF: Um… my first year of BJJ/fighting, I leg-locked and ripped four ankles and two knees apart on different opponents. I broke a couple of noses; never really cut anyone open.
Cindy: Ouch! Jorge had his knee surgery and says it’ll be 100% soon. Would you ever want to give him a rematch after his leg heals?
Jason: Hmmm… I’m pretty impartial. I mean if Jorge or the public thinks there needs to be a rematch then, whatever; that’s fine. At that point it comes down to my management team to decide if it’s a good fight and to work it out with Zuffa if they want to make the fight happen. They’ll let me know; I mean I’m not too concerned about it either way.
Cindy: What? No worries? You sound pretty indifferent about fighting Jorge again.
JVF: I think Jorge Gurgel is a stud and I have the utmost respect for that man. I mean his fighting spirit and mentality is awesome and I admire that. Jorge is living his dream, you know? He came over here with nothing and now he lives his life on his own terms, the way he wants to and the man is just unreal. As far as rematching him, even with his knee at 100%… same consequences as the first time.
Cindy: (laughter) Are you serious?
JVF: Yeah… I think it would be a little bit different of a fight; I would have my own team in my corner who know me and how I fight if there’s going to be a rematch… I mean if Jorge wants round four (laughter)…
Cindy: Round four?
JVF: Yeah, we fought three and I beat him. In my eyes, a rematch is just round four because it’s not gonna go three rounds this time. I’d drop him in the first five minutes; round four (laughter)!
I feel I outworked Jorge as far as size because I had to cut 18-pounds for that fight. I don’t know how it happened but I walked on that show weighing 180-pounds and in a week and a half, I was up to 189-pounds. The NSAC gives you a pound over, so I had to drop 18-pounds to make weight at 171.
Cindy: I didn’t know that. Now when Matt sent you to Team Franklin, Rich seemed to genuinely welcome you, which says a lot about him considering the fact you beat his best friend and eliminated him from the competition. Was Rich truly as sincere as he appeared to be on camera?
Jason: Yes… Rich is amazing. When I got sent to his team to even out the welterweights on each team, I looked Rich straight in the eyes, shook his hand and asked him point blank if there was going to be a problem, and he goes, “Man, that was competition. You won a good fight. Welcome to the team.”
Cindy: That’s great, Jason.
JVF: I know! I can’t tell you what it meant to me and how relieved I was. Rich is a good man.
Cindy: Are there any fighters you wouldn’t mind “mixing it up with” in the octagon?
JVF: I’ll fight anybody, but the one person I would really like to fight is Josh Koscheck from TUF 1.
Cindy: Why Koscheck?
JVF: I think it would be a fun one because he’s a bad-ass D-1 wrestler and I’d like to test my skills against his. I don’t really know him but I got to train with him once and he seems like a nice guy. I guess we’re associated so we probably won’t fight. I’d still like to, though.
Cindy: Let’s get some plugs in here. Who are some of your sponsors and how did you secure them?
JVF: My primary sponsor is Tap Out. These guys have been great to me. They had my back sense I started. They’re a bunch of nutty guys that think I’m nuttier than they are. Locally, Meathead Movers has always been there. Arron and Evan Stead always hook it up for my fights or team events. M G Sports supplies me with supplements and great advice. Matt Gains is a huge local supporter of MMA. Left Coast T-shirt Company has been great about supplying quality t-shirts at a great price. James is a huge supporter of local sports and talent. MSD Labs has supplied me with my website. JR is a great friend and awesome business man.
Cindy: Do you foresee losing any of these sponsors by not being able to acknowledge their support on live TV and PPV’s? How big of an impact will that have on your career?
JVF: I hope none. TV and PPV’s aren’t the only way a fighter can market their sponsors. I wear their hats, shorts and shirts just about everywhere I go and I use my web site to show my appreciation for their support as well as talk about what they have and what they do for me every chance I get. Sometimes, you gotta create those opportunities because getting airtime isn’t always a given; even then, it’s pretty limited. If we can’t thank them on the PPV’s or during the live Spike TV events, we just need to work a little harder to promote them the best way we can.
Cindy: Dana’s gonna love you (laughter)! Maybe Matt will one day, as well!
JVF: (laughter) Ya think? If you work hard and believe in yourself, sponsors will, too. If they truly believe in you, there going to support you as best they can. I don’t think maintaining established sponsors will be too difficult for me because I worked hard for their support before I got on TV. Recruiting new sponsors might prove to be a little more challenging if they want to hear their name on TV and fighters might not be able to make that happen. We just need to do the best we can within the parameters established and hope for the best.
Cindy: How important are sponsors to a fighter?
JVF: Sponsors are huge to a fighter. They help us attain things we can’t afford, but need. When they provide “supplemental income,” it helps to get us to and from events, and allows us to cut back on our work hours so we can spend more time training for fight. Even if I have no sponsors, it’s not going to stop me from pursuing my dream to fight professionally. I just love this sport too much to let anything keep me from doing it.
Cindy: It sounds like you fight for the love of the game and the fame and any financial gains are secondary.
JVF: Making a living as a pro fighter is very hard to do because the sport is not at the same level of recognition as other sports are. It’s headed in that direction, but until it gets there, I will continue to work my regular job and train like I do now… because I love the fight game that much.
Cindy: That’s great! Do you have a web site, dojo, trainer/instructor etc. that you’d like to plug or a message for your fans?
JVF: Sure… let’s see; my web site is www.jasonvonflue.com; The Pit and SLO Kickboxing, John Hackleman is my manager and striking instructor; Justin Fraser is my ground coach and cardio man and without these two, I wouldn’t be at the level I’m at now.
I just want to thank everybody that has supported me through the years and stood by me with TUF, especially Chuck Liddell. He’s been such a good friend and mentor. Thanks to all the new fans I gained after doing the show because the outpouring of love and support has been tremendous.
I also want to acknowledge and thank God for his love and support because with out him by my side, I wouldn’t be here today.
Cindy: I will definitely make sure I get all that in and thanks for taking the time to chat, Jason.
JVF: Thanks for giving me the time (laughter)! I really do appreciate the interview, Cindy.