by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Photos courtesy StrengthCoachOnline.com)

At this Friday’s IFL event in Atlanta, Georgia, the Portland Wolfpack will take to the field of battle since their tough defeat at the hands of the Quad Cities Silverbacks at the finals of the IFL’s World Team Tournament in December.

And while the heart of the team remains the same, there will be some new faces when the ‘Pack step up to take on the Toronto Dragons. Among the new faces will be a fighter familiar to readers of MMAWeekly, Mike Dolce.

Dolce’s name has been mentioned in numerous articles involving Team Quest members for his strength and conditioning coaching, and most recently he was profiled prior to making his successful pro debut in the Ring of Combat Middleweight Tournament last November.

Now after years of hard work and dedication, Mike will be stepping up for his biggest challenge as he makes his IFL welterweight debut. Dolce will be replacing the departed Chris Wilson [who left the IFL to pursue other opportunities] in a battle against local Atlanta fighter Jim Abrille, a replacement for injured Dragons’ starter Claude Patrick.

“It all started with that Ring of Combat fight,” said Mike of how he became involved with the IFL. The ROC has a same-day weigh-in, and with my win, I got into the semi-finals of the tournament. Knowing that, I tightened up my nutrition, planning on the same-day weigh-in again.”

Dolce continued, “And oddly, I’m walking into Team Quest and I pass by Matt Lindland and he asks my weight and then asks if I can get down to 170. I said yeah, because my plan was to drop down after the ROC, so he said, ‘You’ve got two weeks because you’re fighting in the IFL.’ I got a big smile on my face, shook his hand and got right to work. That’s honestly how it happened, it was that quick.”

Having started out as a 280lb power lifter before moving onto fighting, first as a light-heavyweight and then a middleweight, Mike’s task of making to the lowest weight he’s been at since being in high school may seem like a big challenge, but according to Dolce, it won’t be a problem.

“I have never worked with an athlete that missed their weight, including myself,” exclaimed Mike. “To my knowledge, no member of Team Quest has ever missed weight. This is my opportunity of a lifetime, so I have the full confidence that I will be able to make weight, hydrate and perform to the level that my coaches and the IFL anticipate.”

When it comes to his opponent in Atlanta on Friday, Jim Abrille, Dolce admits he doesn’t know much about him, but then again, he’s confident and happy to finally have a finalized opponent after numerous attempts to find a replacement for injured Claude Patrick.

“They’ve changed my opponent three times,” explained Mike. “So right now I’m not preparing for a specific opponent. I’m going to prepare myself to the best of my abilities, listen to what my coaches tell me and compete.”

“I don’t care who my opponent is, I’m going to go out there and hurt him, that’s what I do. Of course I’m a sportsman and a gentleman, but when it comes to competing, I’m just looking to go out there and leave my opponent lying defenseless on the ground. By KO, submission, it doesn’t matter – my hand will be raised at the end of the event,” added Dolce.

As for the team competition, even with only middleweight Matt Horwich and heavyweight Devin Cole returning to compete in Atlanta from last year’s squad [light-heavyweight Aaron Stark is out due to injury and lightweight Ryan Schultz is on medical suspension], Mike is confident in his team’s chances against the Carlos Newton-coached Dragons.

“I think our team chances right now are just as good, if not better, than they were last season,” exalted Dolce. “The reason why is, this is the second season for our team and we’ve learned from the experiences of last year and with Matt Lindland as our coach, he would not field a team that has a chance of losing.”

Mike further commented, “Matt Lindland is a legendary competitor…I don’t care if you’re playing a hand of cards or in the center of the ring fighting, Matt Lindland is going to be sure he wins. The confidence Matt puts in us, makes it so I have full confidence in my coaches and my team.”

Should Dolce emerge from his IFL fight healthy, he will be headed to Ring of Combat in March to continue his quest for their 185lb Grand Prix Championship, thanks to co-operation between the two promotions.

“Fortunately the promoters of both shows have given me the green light to compete in both promotions,” explained Mike. “And I’m very thankful to the ROC and IFL for giving me the opportunity compete for both shows.”

“I think my reputation precedes me for being a fan’s fighter. I have never been in a boring fight, I will never be in a boring fight, I fight until the very end and I’m going to do my best for both promotions,” continued Dolce.

2007 could very well be the breakout year for Mike Dolce. He’s always had the skills, desire, and determination needed to succeed, and now finally he has his opportunity. As Mike says, he will do his best to impress and give everyone who comes out to Atlanta or tunes into FSN a show.

“I have to thank my coaches, family and team for supporting me and being part of this,” said Dolce. “I have to give a huge thank you to Gerard Dente of MHP, my new sponsor. I just signed a deal with them and it makes my life a lot easier [laughs], and I’m proud to be an MHP guy.”

“The fans should be excited that I’m going to be fighting in the IFL now. I’m going to be exciting, I’m going to go out to win and I want to share that with as many people as I can. I’m thankful to anyone who can come to the show or tune in to watch it on TV,” concluded Mike.

Readers interested in Dolce’s strength and conditioning coaching can visit his official website, www.StrengthCoachOnline.com for all the info on his clientele, services, and availability.