by Mick Hammond
With the firm emphasis on the heavier weight classes here in the States, not only are the lightweight fighters having a hard time finding quality fights and paydays, but so are all the fighters who are in the divisions below them such as featherweight. Overseas such divisions thrive; Shooto’s 143lb division for example possesses some of the best fighters in the world such as Champion Alexandre “Pequeno” Nogueira, Gilbert Melendez, and Rumina Sato.

But in Shooto many of those competitors are natural 155lb fighters who cut down in weight to make the 143lb limit, few are true featherweights. One fighter who is a true 145lb fighter and is not only one of the division’s best fighters, but probably one of the country’s best overall young talents, is Team Quest’s Ian Loveland.

Loveland is a former FCFF Featherweight Champion in the amateur ranks and earlier this month at Sportfight 13, he won his second professional bout, defeating Joe Doherty via arm bar at just 2:46 of the first round. With the win Loveland raised his overall record to an impressive 9-0, finishing every fight in the process.

As Loveland told MMA Weekly, changes in the rules he’s accustomed to made him more relaxed in his win over Doherty, “This was the first time I fought that didn’t allow up-kicks. So I was able to take him down and not worry about getting kicked in the face, so I stood over him and dropped some bombs.”

Loveland continued, “We got stood up, which I think was a bad call, but I landed a couple of shots standing and caught him with a good knee. I went for a guillotine, missed it, and ended up on bottom. From there I was able to get the arm bar and finish him.”

Another rule change that has helped Loveland’s game is the one made in the transition of amateur to professional fighter, elbow allowance. “I like being able to elbow from the top, it opens up more of my game. It gives people something to think about because it’s a lot harder to protect when you’re in tight in guard. Elbows make it so I don’t have to sit up and expose myself to drop punches.”

Loveland’s ground game is said to be second to none on Team Quest. Considering the likes of Randy Couture, Matt Lindland, and Ed Herman are on the same team, that’s saying something. As Loveland explains, his relentless ground ‘n pound has helped set up his submission game, “I’ve actually finished most of my fights by submission but it’s not because my BJJ is slick. I think guys just want to get out of the fight (when they submit) to get away from me hitting them.”

With slim pickings for the most part for fighters in the lower weight classes, Loveland would like to remain at featherweight, but he’s willing to take fights both above and below his natural division in order to get more fights in.

“I’m definitely wanting to go to Japan and fight at 145lbs,” said Loveland. “I’d even be willing to fight at 135lbs, I’d have no problems making the weight and being strong. I might even want to take some fights at 155lbs, I’d be small for the weight because I’m not much over 145lbs, but I’ve got Mike Dolce, a good strength coach putting some size on me, slowly but surely. I’m willing to take a fight at any of these weights if a good opportunity comes.”

One thing Loveland isn’t known for is calling out fighters. He’s confident he’s got the right support group around him to direct his career in the right direction. “I never really have called anyone out. I trust my management to find me the most competitive guys to fight. I trust my career with them.”

Loveland continued, “I don’t really know much about anyone outside the local fighters here, I don’t fallow anyone’s careers. I’ll fight whomever Matt (Lindland) and Robert (Follis) think is good for me to fight. Definitely if big names come up I’m willing to fight them. I’d like to put on some more size and maybe challenge for the Sportfight Lightweight Championship (against Cam Ward), I think I’d be a good match for him and I’d like to get some revenge for my old training partner Dennis (Davis).”

Whatever lays ahead for Loveland, one thing is for sure; he’s got a bright future and as he himself said in closing out the interview, opponents beware. “I’d like to thank ultimatefightwarehouse.com, strengthcoachonline.com, and sportsbook.com, they’ve been very supportive of me. I’d also like to say good luck to all my opponents because I’m looking to hurt you guys.”