by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
At the start of the 2007 IFL season it wasn’t known whether or not Carlos Newton’s Toronto Dragons could repeat their success of the season prior by making it to the IFL World Team Tournament semi-finals.

After two team events this season, there’s a chance they just might do that, but they have to win big this Saturday in Las Vegas, Nevada against Renzo Gracie’s New York Pitbulls.

It’s due in no small part to the persistence of Newton that the Dragons are in position to set the final four for this year’s WTT.

After tinkering with the line-up during the year, he’s found a solid combination of youthful enthusiasm and hard-nosed work ethic in his fighters, and should they upset the Pitbulls, both the team and its individuals could see action in the post season.

For his part, Carlos feels he’s grown as a coach and through his team’s experiences, grown as an individual, leading to a rejuvenated outlook to his own fighting career.

Shortly before heading to Las Vegas for the IFL’s final 2007 regular season event, Newton spoke to MMAWeekly about the growth of his team, being part of the IFL, and what lays ahead for the wandering samurai that is affectionately known as “The Ronin.”

MMAWeekly: First off Carlos, tell us how the Dragons are feeling heading into Saturday’s match-up with the Pitbulls.

Carlos Newton: The guys are feeling really great, pretty relaxed with no pressure. There were some guys that might make it to the individual Grand Prix and there was a lot of pressure on them to perform – win under certain times and so forth – but we just got the word that all they have to do is win.

So, it’s just a bit of exorcise in staying calm, not working about anything, and sticking together on this one. There’s going to be no disappointments as long as we just go in there and do our thing.

MMAWeekly: How do you feel about your team as we close out this regular season, and for their future prospects?

Carlos Newton: So far the team has been performing excellently. I can’t expect anything more of my team. Right now I think we’re third or fourth in the league – and you can’t shake a stick at that. If we’re not third or fourth, we’re really close to it.

If we make it to the finals, that would be awesome, and you’ve got to congratulate the guys on their performance. Next year, we’re going to be looking to improve even more.

MMAWeekly: How would you say you’ve changed over this time as a head coach in the IFL?

Carlos Newton: I’ve matured a lot more as a fighter and I feel like I’ve been able to appreciate more my accomplishments. Because I realize these guys are looking at me, looking to accomplish the same things, so I reflect a lot and tell them what things have worked for me.

It’s also interesting to see these guys make their own mistakes and learn from it. And at the end of the day all you just say, “I’ve been very lucky and I hope things work out for everyone on the team too.” That they accomplish their dreams and so forth, just like I accomplished mine.

During the year I had the reigns on the coaching a little tighter, but heading towards the playoffs I’ve started to give the guys a little more freedom, their own direction. Now they’re stepping into the ring themselves and are taking the title into their own hands.

MMAWeekly: Kind of makes you feel like the grizzled, old MMA veteran now huh?

Carlos Newton: Yeah, I suppose so. [Laughs] It’s funny, but this makes it pretty much official.

It’s been a lot of fun and this season and I really do look forward to the playoffs, and after that the individual Grand Prix, and it’s going to be exciting. I’m having so much fun seeing the guys with smiles on their faces, enjoying themselves, looking forward to their fights – it’s a new way of doing things.

MMAWeekly: Having fought for just about every major promotion in the world, how would you equate your time with the IFL?

Carlos Newton: Working with the company has been great. I have never seen another company that treats its fighters better. Basically, fighting with the IFL is like fighting in Japan; they treat you with a lot of respect, everything is on the up-and-up, like clockwork.

Being a fighter, you’re always used to indecisive matchmakers or promoters. So, it’s a real nice change to get down to business, knowing where you’re going and what you’re doing.

MMAWeekly: This Saturday the Dragons have their last team battle with the Pitbulls. What are your thoughts heading into this showdown?

Carlos Newton: For me, I don’t see any reason for the Dragons to not be in the playoffs. I felt we won the match-up against the [Portland] Wolfpack, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. At the end of the day I feel we do have the skills to be in the final round and the Pitbulls are looking to crush all of that.

They know we’re a serious team to go up against. We’re very capable team in the ring this year, so I don’t blame them for putting their best line-up forward. I feel that the Dragons are one of the stronger teams, and that we will make into the playoffs, so there’s a lot at stake.

MMAWeekly: Before we head out, give us an update on your fighting career and where it’s headed before the end of the year.

Carlos Newton: I’ll most likely be fighting at the end of the summer. We were looking at me fighting at the end of July, but things got shuffled up a bit in the industry. So if things get going, I’ll have my next match-up at the end of the summer, and until then I’m just training with the guys, getting ready for that date.

Basically I’ve got a few opponents on the table. A couple of guys I want to fight, if they’re willing to fight me. So, we’ll see if we can get that to happen and take it from there.

MMAWeekly: So we’ll be seeing The Ronin in action for sure sometime very soon, huh?

Carlos Newton: Yep, definitely, I’m not retired. This is a real rebirth of things, getting involved with the IFL, and at the end of the day I’m going to make the best of it and have a great time.

MMAWeekly: And looking to knock some people out, right?

Carlos Newton: Exactly, that’s my new thing now. [Laughs]

MMAWeekly: Thanks for your time, as always, Carlos. Is there anything you want to say in conclusion?

Carlos Newton: I want to say, everyone come see the Dragons. We’re going to bring it and burn it up. I want to say congratulations to the team, you guys have made it this far; and I know you guys are going to shine and do your thing, so let’s bring it home.