by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photo courtesy IFL.tv)

This past February when the Portland Wolfpack made their 2007 debut against the Toronto Dragons there were questions surrounding the Pack. Key among those questions was the position of welterweight.

Season 2 breakout star Chris Wilson had opted out of the IFL to pursue other avenues, leaving a large hole in the Wolfpack’s line-up. Replacing Wilson’s dynamic ability and chemistry with the rest of the team could have proven a monumental task.

Enter Mike Dolce.

Dolce had long been known for his strength and conditioning coaching of many of the Wolfpack’s fighters, including Wilson. Mike had also just made his successful pro debut a few months earlier, at middleweight.

The challenge, so it seemed, would be to get this one-time light-heavyweight down to the 170-pound welterweight limit and see if he could retain his explosiveness. Dolce responded with flying colors.

It took just 19 seconds for Mike to raze replacement fighter Jim Abrille to the ground and pick up his second professional win, helping lead the Wolfpack to a 3-2 victory over the Dragons in the process.

“If you saw the fight, I don’t think it could have gone much better,” exclaimed Dolce of his IFL debut. “The weight cut was actually easier for welterweight than it was for my middleweight performances.”

Mike continued, “It seems for me the more I do it, I get dialed in more and more. Obviously strength, conditioning and nutrition are my primary focuses and I’m getting better at it every day it seems.”

With his win, Dolce helped the Wolfpack go to 1-0 on the season. Since then the L.A. Anacondas and Tokyo Sabres have both won their second events of the year, placing them in prime position to be two of the four teams in the 2007 IFL World Team Tournament.

Mike knows that in order to keep pace with those teams and secure a spot for the Wolfpack in the tournament, tonight’s showdown with the Renzo Gracie-coached N.Y. Pitbulls is a must-win.

“There is always pressure going into an individual bout, but especially with the IFL team structure there’s extra pressure on top of us to get a win for our team to advance to the finals like we did in 2006,” said Dolce. “Going against Renzo Gracie’s Pitbulls is a large task.”

“Renzo’s a great coach, a great competitor, and his guys are equally talented. So the Wolfpack really has to bring our A-game going into this fight,” added Mike.

Dolce also knows that unlike last time, he’s not facing a replacement, but rather an IFL veteran in Delson Heleno, who’s currently riding an impressive four-fight winning streak.

“Fans can expect an exciting fight,” exclaimed Mike. “I think Delson’s an extremely good athlete. He’s strong, in good shape, has great submissions, throws hard strikes, so it’s definitely going to be a fan’s fight.”

Dolce further commented, “With all due respect, I think this could very well be Fight of the Night. Delson fights with aggression, but anybody that knows me, knows I’m extremely aggressive – so it’s going to be a war – with me winning.”

With a team victory the Wolfpack could place themselves in prime position to get back to the WTT Finals later this year. If that happens, and Mike himself does well, it could very well culminate in some of Dolce’s career goals coming true.

“Two years ago I left my job to become a World Champion MMA athlete,” explained Mike. “Now that I’m in the IFL, that dream is really close. My goals were to be a World Champion athlete, be a member of a World Champion team and to coach World Champion athletes.”

“I firmly believe that my team will win the World Team Championship in 2007, that I will enter and win the individual Grand Prix, and some of the athletes on the Wolfpack are athletes that I strength coach. So it’s a great year for me to go 3-0 with those exact goals,” continued Dolce.

To make those goals become reality Mike and the Wolfpack have to get through the Pitbulls tonight at the Mohegan Sun in what could very well be the toughest team battle of the season for both squads.

“I have to thank Gerard Dente and MHP, Matt Lindland for the opportunity to step up and be the full time welterweight for the Wolfpack, and all my teammates,” said Dolce. “I have to thank my wife Brandy for believing in me, supporting me and being the main drive behind my ability to pursue my goals.”

Mike concluded, “To all my fans, thank you so much. I’m getting all your emails, letters, MySpace messages, feedback and support. I’m going to go out there, lay it all on the line and perform for you, and I’m going to do my thing and that’s crack some skulls!”