by Mick Hammond
It’s been a rollercoaster ride of a year for “The World’s Greatest Grappler” Dean Lister. Early in the year he won a spot in this year’s edition of the Pride Middleweight GP by beating Akira Shoji. Then he had difficulties with Ricardo Arona in the first round of the GP and was ousted via unanimous decision. Then in May he came back to defeat BJJ legend Jean-Jaques Machado in an Abu Dhabi superfight.

After taking some time off Lister has returned to training and is ready to make an MMA run in the second half of 2005. “I was getting back to normal life,” said Lister of his time off. “Now I’m training hard again after making sure I recovered well from all my activity. I went through a lot of tough competitions this year.”

When Lister returns to action he hopes it will be again in Pride, either on their main show or the resurgent Bushido series. “I hope to fight again in Pride before year’s end. I think I will be, I feel I’ve shown them that I deserve to be there. So look for me to get back into fighting before the end of the year,” proclaimed Lister.

Dean will be returning to fighting after making a triumphant return to this year’s Abu Dhabi World Championships as he shut out Machado 8-0 in their superfight. Originally Lister was slated to face Arona, but due to commitments with Pride Arona was unable, so Machado stepped in and gave it a valiant effort, but Lister proved again why he was 2003 Absolute Champion.

“It was a really great day in my life,” said an enthusiastic Lister. “I had the right strategy and stuck with it for the win. I’ve respected him (Machado) my whole life, so it feels great to win against such a competitor.”

Unfortunately Lister could not finish off Machado with a submission, but as Lister revealed that might be because of the strategy he was imploring during the match. “I like to finish all my matches with submissions, but I this time I wanted to be conservative. Only if I saw an opening through a mistake was I going to take any chances.”

Lister further commented, “Working the butterfly guard I don’t have a lot of submissions I could deal. I came close to a choke, I passed his guard, took his back, but it didn’t feel right so I didn’t lock it in. I got the points I needed though and won the bout, so things worked out.”

Grappling has never been an area of concern for Lister, he’s known for his skills in the ground, but as he admits, his stand up is where he feels he needs the most work and intends to bring it up to the level of his ground game. “Muay Thai is my focus, it’s what I’m going to put the most emphasis on in training.”

“I may even take some kickboxing smokers, it’s something I’m interested in to see how my stand up is progressing,” continued Lister. “I feel my grappling is entertaining but people want striking, they want the big hits and knockouts. So hopefully with work I can add that to my game and entertain fans with my striking.”

Regardless of when he returns, Lister knows he has a lot of expectations to live up to and he intends to do so by continuing to make himself a complete fighter and by not being complacent in battle.

“I made a mistake in my last fight (against Arona),” concluded Lister. “I went for too many foot locks and should have worked for better position on the ground. I got hit by a stupid punch and went down and I know that shouldn’t have happened. I’m going to be smarter in my gameplan from now on and I’m confident I’ll do what’s needed to be the best fighter that I can be.”