by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
2005 has been a mixed affair for Dean “The Machine” Lister. After winning his first bout in Pride by defeating Akira Shoji, earning a shot at this year’s Middleweight GP in the process, Lister had a bad performance against Ricardo Arona and was eliminated in the first round of the tournament. Lister rebounded with a win at the Abu Dhabi World Submission Championships in a supermatch against BJJ legend Jean-Jacques Machado, then disappeared from public sight.

After taking some time to help others prepare for their fights and to get his personal life in order, Lister is set to return at Royce Gracie’s inaugural FIGHTFEST show in Evansville, Indiana on December 9th against Joseph Baize. As he was nearing final preparations for the bout Lister spoke to MMA Weekly to discuss the match and why he feels his best is yet to come in MMA.

MMA Weekly: First off Dean, the last time we spoke you had just gotten back from Germany doing grappling related business. Can you tell us what you’ve been up to since then?

Dean Lister: Well I’ve been kind of going through a whole remodeling of life, so it’s a good thing, but I went through a stage that was kind of like a hard time, a lot of changes at one time. All at one time, everything changed, this, that and the other all changed. It was a distraction for a time but now I’m getting back into focus. I don’t want to say this is a warm up fight, because that’s not how I look at it, but this is my time back before I get with a big organization. As far as what I’m looking to do soon, I’ve been talking to a few people, I can’t say exactly where I’m talking to, but it’s stuff I’m excited about.

MMA Weekly: You’ll be returning to MMA action at Royce Gracie’s FIGHTFEST show here soon, how did that come together?

Dean Lister: I’ve known Royce for a long time, he’s always been real good to me and helped me out in the past, so I’m figuring if he’s going to having an event, I’m going to support the event. It was good timing for me to get my butt into gear and get myself back out there competing. So I’m going to get out there and compete and I’m going to try to make this event as successful as I can.

MMA Weekly: You’ll be facing Joseph Baize, do you know anything about him?

Dean Lister: I know absolutely nothing about my opponent. I don’t even know what he looks like because I can’t find a picture anywhere. This is an advantage to him, I don’t feel like all my experience, what I’ve done, that’s an advantage because I feel like he’s been able to study me. I’m sure he’s hungry and take my head back to wherever he lives, back home with him. He wants to kill me probably, so I want to try to be ready for it. But there’s been so many things changing, I’m just trying to be in shape and this and that, my heart is where it should be but I’ve been spread out a little bit. I don’t know anything about him so I think that plays to him a little bit.

MMA Weekly: Not knowing anything about him going in, what kind of strategy will you employ in a situation like this?

Dean Lister: I’ve recently become more well-rounded in my game. I always hated when people say this before, but I’ll say it, I don’t really care where it ends up. I’d be like, “Shut up, you do care,” someone has to have a preference, but in the sense that I want to do a lot more stand up, I don’t care if we’re on our feet. Of course I’m not a stranger to the ground, so it’s fine if we end up on the ground. If I feel the right time I might take someone to the ground, I might not, it depends, if someone takes me down, it’s only happened one time in my career that someone took me down, that’s fine too. I want to be more well-rounded on my feet and on the ground, I don’t really want to be a specialist anymore. The general idea is just go out there and fight, with someone I don’t know anything about that’s all I can do, just go out there and fight.

MMA Weekly: So we might see you looking for a KO in this fight?

Dean Lister: Like I said, I’m not looking for anything specific, if I feel the right time I might just go for a single leg and take him down, or I might go with a clinch with knees, my kicks are pretty good, and my punches are pretty good. Everything is really coming along great as far as me understanding my personal game with throwing punches and kicks, my personal game is to close to gap and take people game. In my personal game my Jiu-Jitsu is getting a lot better, I don’t know how it is, but it’s getting better still. I’ve been working all aspects of my game and I don’t care which one I show.

MMA Weekly: Recently you’ve spent time training with different people, in particular Team Punishment guys like Kit Cope and Tito Ortiz. Has that had an impact on your quest to become a more complete fighter?

Dean Lister: Oh yeah, but to be honest I haven’t trained with Tito in a while, I’ve trained with Randy Couture, Dan Henderson, and Rulon Gardner has helped me with my takedowns and I worked with him on his Jiu-Jitsu for his fight last year. So there’s a lot of people coming in and out and training. My gym has a good open atmosphere, it’s a place where people I guarantee would feel welcome and at home real fast, I think that’s why we have a lot of people coming to my gym. And yes it definitely has benefited me to share techniques. I would never claim to know everything, of course I don’t, I’ve got so much more to learn, so it’s all the much better to train with people who have different skills than me.

MMA Weekly: I know you don’t want to look past this fight, but what are your plans for the rest of the year, is there enough time to maybe get in another fight?

Dean Lister: Yeah, however I’m down with doing something else before the end of the year, but that’s just not what my plans are. Everything’s planned but nothing’s planned, I’m open to every option, nothing’s set in stone, so I’m not sure. It’s good I have the freedom now, but I could have more structure to my fighting now, my scheduling and organizations and stuff, but that’s all coming along in good time.

MMA Weekly: So let’s say for instance if Japanese company was looking for high level talent to participate in a New Year’s Eve event, you’d be interested?

Dean Lister: Yeah that’s definitely a possibility, that’s what I was saying but not saying, that’s what I was thinking on my mind, you read my mind, there’s some big New Year’s shows and I’m definitely down with those. I’ve actually heard there was some talk of inviting me to one or two of those, but you never know what’s going to happen. The promoters sometimes just want to see a specific match between Fighter A and Fighter B, so if both A and B are available, they’ll call them both, but if B is injured or something they won’t even talk to A. There could be some people who want to see a particular match with me involved somewhere, but I don’t know if I’ll be contacted about that. I’m down and ready, I could do that, but you never know, but if a promoter has something they want to see then I’m definitely all ears.

MMA Weekly: And for 2006, are you looking to be more active in MMA?

Dean Lister: Yeah I’m hoping, definitely, this year I had two and Abu Dhabi, so I’m hoping next year I’ll have four or five. Actually four is good because if you start doing a fight every month or other month it’s hard on your body. Not the actual fighting but the peaking, going up and down every two months, it doesn’t let you get the right kind of rest or shape you need. You can’t get in shape six times a year as well as you can three times a year, so fighting three or four times next year would be fine with me, no problem. That extra month between fights helps a lot.

MMA Weekly: You mentioned your gym earlier, can you give us some info on that for people that may be interested in coming down and training?

Dean Lister: You know what the gym I’m with now is called The Boxing Club, it’s not City Boxing, that’s where I used to train for about three years, but this past year and a half I’ve built up this new program at The Boxing Club in San Diego. It’s off of Convoy street so we’re centrally located, we’ve got free parking, clean mats, this is very important, and the great open atmosphere that I’d guarantee any of my schools would have. I guarantee top level structure, I guarantee you won’t find better structure anywhere else, if you find anything that rivals us it is because of personal opinion and that you may just learn better from one person than you do another. If anyone wants to come by and train, we’re not pushy, we don’t try to constantly sign you up, it’s a real relaxed atmosphere. It’s a complete gym with World Champion Muay Thai instructor Mel Menor teaching there. So you have great Muay Thai classes, great Jiu-Jitsu classes, great equipment, we have all the equipment you would want, and girls jumping rope everywhere, so it’s pretty cool, so stop by. The best way for info is go to www.TheBoxingClub.net or call them at (858) 576-9509, anyone come down and take a free class and they won’t be pushy, just straight forward and relaxed.

MMA Weekly: I understand you may also be offering a bit more of a personal training experience to people in the future?

Dean Lister: Yeah, the house that I’m living in, I’m working out a deal with the gym, I’m still trying to work out the rate of it, but I’m open to fly-in camp. It’s where someone would be able to come down, live with me in my house, and go into the gym two times a day, train with my team, have some place to stay and it’s cheaper than a motel. I’m not going to be ripping people off and saying that it’s $1,000 a week or something, but it’s going to be something good for someone who lives out of town to have somewhere to stay and train. We’re still working on a daily/weekly rate for that and getting the room furnished right now. So we’re going to have some good things coming up for anyone that wants to come down and train with Dean Lister.

MMA Weekly: Thanks as always for taking the time out for us Dean. Is there anything you’d like to say as we close this interview out?

Dean Lister: Basically sometimes when I fight, I win, I lose, whatever, I know people can say some good and bad things about me, it depends on what I do and if they like me or not. I want to say to anyone that’s supported me, doesn’t like my style, it doesn’t matter, basically anyone, the last two years of my life I haven’t been able to show who I truly am in the ring. It’s no one else’s fault by my own because of the distractions I had around me. Those distractions are void and non-existent now, so we’re going to see a new Dean Lister the next time I fight, step in the ring, into the cage, it’s going to be a different person. It’s going to be the old person but much more talented and experienced, and I can’t wait to show that side of me. I appreciate all the support out there and all the criticism because it makes me grow stronger.