by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
No one quite possibly personifies the new generation of fighters that have grown up with the sport of MMA like Ian “The Barn Owl” Loveland does. At just 22, Loveland has been around MMA since he was a teenager and has grown into serious contender in just a few short years.

Having begun his career as an amateur in 2004 for Team Quest, Ian has become one of the fastest rising and most dominant fighters in the 145lb weight division. After going undefeated this past year, Loveland is scheduled to open 2006 as one of the featured fighters on January 6th’s Sportfight card, taking place at the Rose Garden Arena in Portland, Oregon.

“I think things moved a long pretty well,” Ian told MMA Weekly recently about his year. “I got in a couple amateur fights and turned pro this year and got in three fights and won them all. My training has been going awesome, my game is really starting to take off now and my training partners and I are starting to get into a groove. Things are really tightening up and are looking good for next year.”

Loveland could have gotten in another fight for King of the Cage Canada in early December, but an infection prevented him from making his highly anticipated Canadian debut.

“I had staff all across my back from shoulder to shoulder,” said Loveland. “I didn’t really notice it because it was on my back, you can’t see back there, so I didn’t know until it started itching and I looked at it. I called the doctor and he said he couldn’t see me for four days so it got worse before I got treatment.”

Now back 100% healthy, Ian is turning his attention towards January 6th where he’ll be facing off against Anthony Hamlett in Anthony’s retirement fight. And if Ian has anything to say about it, Hamlett’s retirement will come in swift and decisive fashion.

“I don’t really know what to expect from my opponent, he’s kind of an older guy and has a lot of experience, but I’m sure I’m going to be faster and stronger so I’m going to push the pace and probably pound him out. I’m sure I’ll finish him,” commented Loveland.

While Ian faced fighters close to his age in the amateur ranks, as a professional he’s now going up against fighters much older than he is. According to Loveland, this phenomenon is, “A little bit weird; the last guy I fought was a little older than I was too. This guy is like 10 years older than I am, so it is kind of weird.”

After this fight Loveland is scheduled to compete for the Mars organization in Japan against a fighter named Tamura on February 4th. For Ian this represents an opportunity to make a dream come true and perform in front of a crowd that is highly accepting of lighter fighters.

“It’s going to be awesome, that’s what I’ve been looking forward to since I started fighting,” said an enthusiastic Loveland. “It’s been my goal to get over to the Japanese market and I’m happy I’m going to get an opportunity to start showing my stuff over there.”

For Ian, like all fighters below 170lbs, it can be difficult to find the kind of paydays and quality fights in the US that they can find abroad. While it has disheartened a lot of fighters, Loveland seems optimistic that he’ll be able to find the kind of opponents he’s looking for, even if Japan doesn’t work out.

“I’m sure I can find tough guys to fight anywhere,” commented Ian. “Fighting in Japan is just something I’ve wanted to do, not something I have to do. Who knows, I might just get this one fight and maybe they don’t offer me anything after that. Maybe they do, maybe they don’t, I’m just looking to fight the toughest guys I can, wherever I can find fights.”

Now that going to Japan is a goal that is close to being reached, Ian has one more that he’d like to make happen this upcoming year.

“My main goal for 2006 is that I want to headline a pro show. Whether or not I can achieve that I’m going to set the hardest goals I can. I realize it’s pretty hard for a 145-pounder, but if I don’t have something I can work towards I’m not going to be pushing myself to train harder and be better,” stated Loveland.

Ian concluded the conversation by saying, “Come support Sportfight and all your local Northwest fighters. I also want to give a big shout out to Mike Dolce and www.strengthcoachonline.com, and World Fight Warehouse.”