Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
2005 was a year of comeback for Rich “Clete” Crunkilton. After missing much of the two previous years because of injury, Rich came back to go undefeated last year, raising his record to an impressive 12-1.

“I had a pretty good year last year,” said Crunkilton to MMA Weekly recently. “I fought three times, nothing really big, I fought on a local show in Tampa, one in the WEC and the third was in Freedom Fight in Canada. None of those fights were really high profile, I’d guess you’d say they were kind of to get me ready for this year.”

When asked if he felt satisfied by his performances after missing two years, Rich responded, “I feel like I did all right, I won all three, I need work on a couple different areas but I feel like I did all right. The last one I felt pretty good, I fought a kickboxer, I took him down and finished him there, so it worked out pretty well.”

Most fans may remember Crunkilton from his bout against Hermes Franca at UFC 42 in 2003. After losing that fight via decision, Rich would miss the next two years because of various injuries. “First I had an elbow injury, then I blew my knee out, and that was about another six months that had me out.”

While many fighters might get disheartened by being out of the fight game for such an extended period of time, Rich refused to get down on himself. Instead he focused on the task at hand and did what he needed to do to return to action.

“I’ve taken long breaks before so it really didn’t bother me that much,” admitted Crunkilton. “I knew I had to rehab and get it better before I could do anything else, but I never thought that I was through.”

Recently Crunkilton has been training away from his hometown of Orlando and according to him it’s been a great experience and has him ready to go in 2006. “I feel good, I’ve been training out in Florida and I feel I’m in better shape than I have been for my last fights. I’ve done a lot of roadwork and it has me feeling pretty good and ready to go.”

Rich continued, “I’m working out at a gym called Marcio Simas Jiu-Jitsu; they’ve got a few good fighters there, Seth Petruzelli and Paul Rodriguez train there. I live in Florida and sometimes when I have fights out here (California) I come out early, but for the most part I do my training in Florida. I try to hop around different schools, but mostly I train at Marcio Simas, it’s a Gracie-Barra gym, and then I help coach at my local high school so I wrestle with a bunch of young guys there on a daily basis.”

Crunkilton’s first test this year comes at the WEC event this weekend in Lemoore, California against a member of Cesar Gracie’s team. “I’m fighting a guy whose name is Nick Ertl. I don’t know too much about him other than he’s good at Jiu-Jitsu and he’s fought a bunch of times.”

According to Rich, the fact that he doesn’t know much about his opponent isn’t anything that concerns him, as he trains as he would for any opponent. Mainly he wants to make sure he has the energy needed if the fight should go longer than his ones last year, the longest which only got half way through the second round.

“I’m working just general things I do for any fight,” commented Crunkilton. “My main thing is to get in shape so I can get my gas where I need it to be, so mainly getting my cardio normal.”

If all goes well for Rich at the WEC, he hopes to make it the first of a lot of action he intends to be involved with in 2006, whether here in the States or abroad. “This year I want to fight as many times as I can and get back into some big shows, see how I do, make a run for it and see how it goes.”

“I’ve gotten pretty heavy in the past few weeks so I’m thinking I might jump up to 170lbs possibly, I’m not really sure. But right now at 155lbs I’d like to go overseas, there’s a lot more action over there for 155lbs,” further commented Crunkilton.

Regardless of where or what weightclass Rich fights in, he intends this year to be an entertaining one for the fans and a dismal one for his opponents. ” I’d like to thank all my friends in Orlando and at Marcio Simas where I train and “Crazy” Bob Cook my manager. Just watch out for me this year, I might be knocking some people out, so watch out, I’m coming at you.”