by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Stepping up on short notice is never easy for any fighter, but with the success of guys like Tim Boetsch and Jim Miller, who have taken bouts with little time to prepare, the benefits can be plentiful. The latest fighter to take this task to heart is Arkansas based fighter Mike Wessel, who earlier this week stepped in to replace Mark Burch at UFC 92 against Antoni Hardonk.

MMAWeekly.com spoke to Wessel just a day after accepting the bout against Hardonk.

MMAWeekly: First off, how are you feeling getting this opportunity to fight in the UFC?

Mike Wessel: This is a really big deal for our gym and me. It has been a major goal to get to the UFC. But, now that this has been accomplished it is time to move on to my next goal… win! I am just thankful for this opportunity and that I have had guys like Roli (Delgado) and Matt (Hamilton) to train me.

MMAWeekly: Any hesitations on taking the fight on just one week’s notice?

MW: No! You only get a handful of opportunities in life and this one is rare for most fighters. I train everyday like I have a fight coming because Matt and Roli have told me that this would happen like it has, if it was going to happen. So, I have stayed focused and worked hard. This is my only occupation so it is hard not to stay training full time.

MMAWeekly: Can you give us just a general background on how you got involved in MMA?

MW: I was the strength and conditioning coach for the (Arkansas) Razorbacks for two and a half years. About a year into it, I was getting bored. I love to compete. Competition was missing in my life at that time and I started to get out of hand with drinking and not staying healthy. I played football my whole life and I was always part of a team with goals. When I was coaching, I really didn’t have that feeling and needed it so that I did not become worthless. So, I started kickboxing with the team’s coach and had success and felt that I could do this for a living. That’s when I met Matt and Roli and they have guided me the rest of the way. I have goals and a team again and that’s what I was missing in my life

MMAWeekly: Can you give us your thoughts on Antoni Hardonk as an opponent?

MW: Well, he kicks really hard. He is a great fighter and does not quit. I have watched some of his fights and he can look like he is down and out, but he fights through tough spots and wins. I respect his stand-up and BJJ but his heart is what I respect the most. This will be a slugfest from two guys that don’t quit till one is asleep.

MMAWeekly: Hardonk has devastating leg kicks and great stand-up, but you’ve got power as well… do you mind standing with him or would you prefer a ground fight?

MW: He is very well rounded. I love to stand and bang, but I am also comfortable on the ground, too. I guess we will see were it goes, but either is fine. I feel that he is very good at what he does and so am I. But who don’t like the big guys slugging it out? It’s a great match up and opportunity for me.

MMAWeekly: Will you go back and review any fight tape on Hardonk before the match-up next weekend?

MW: I already have. Even before I signed the contract I was scouting him. I guess that’s the old football coming out. But I try not to be concerned with what he does. It’s what I do that will dictate this fight.

MMAWeekly: How helpful are your coaches and trainers in getting you ready on short notice like this?

MW: They have been telling me to stay in shape and keep training hard since an hour after my last fight (five months ago). I have just done what they have told me. But I love to train and condition. I can’t stand not coming to the gym for whatever reason. So I have stayed in shape and trained hard since August. I feel ready even with this short of a notice.

MMAWeekly: Any sponsors or training partners that you’d like to thank?

MW: I want to thank my wife Kelly, my mother Kandis, my grandfather Chris, my father Tom, my Aunt Joy, my sister Heather and the rest of my family, The We$t$ide MMA Team, Matt Hamilton, Roli Delgado, Boris Washington, Seth Klienbeck and family for all his help with keeping me healthy and taking care of me at all hours, and all my training partners for there support and help with everything I have done. They are all a major part of this.

I would also like to thank my sponsors. Aaron at Clinch Gear, Jimmy and the boys at Zen Factory, Combat Sports, Darby at Innovative Spine Rehab, Jason at Fitspin.com, Gladiator Mouth Guards, Insidefighting.com, The Rolfes Family at Celina Glass, and of course you guys at MMAWeekly.com.

I know this has been long, but I want to tell my Grandmother, who has severe cancer, that you are my favorite person in this world. I love you so much. Thank you for always being there for me. You are truly a great woman and someone that I hope I to be like. G-ma, you are an inspiration to me, and the strongest person I know. Keep fighting and being strong because you show everyone around you, especially me, to not give up and that fighting adversity is the only option. I love and thank you with everything that I am.