by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
For Alex Schoenauer the experience of the IFL has been bittersweet. Being chosen and trained by MMA legend Bas Rutten for his team, the Anacondas, then winning his debut match against MMA standout Travis Wiuff were definitely the highlights of Alex’s IFL experience.

Conversely there was the fact that despite Schoenauer’s win, the Anacondas were eliminated in the first round of the team tournament by Pat Miletich’s Silverbacks fallowed by Alex’s superfight loss to Jamal Patterson.

With more time to work with Rutten and a further commitment to evolve, Schoenauer returns to the IFL a stronger fighter and determined to not only succeed himself, but push the Anacondas past Antonio Inoki’s Sabres on this weekend’s event in Portland, Oregon.

“I’ve come a long way since then,” said Alex to MMAWeekly of what he’s been up to since season one ended. “There’s been a lot of improvement. I’ve been training a lot, trying to improve my game, ground, wrestling, stand-up, everything to get better to get to the title.”

When it comes to his team’s performance and why he felt they didn’t do as well as they would have hoped, Schoenauer believes that unity may have had something to do with their difficulties dispatching the Silverbacks.

“I think the key part of last season is that we all didn’t train together,” admitted Alex. “The team that did really well last season, Miletich’s team, they actually trained as a team together. You can see that that really made a difference in the ring. So what we’ve been doing these past couple weeks is training as a team, pushing each other and that’s going to show up in our next fights.”

As for his personal performance, Schoenauer feels that his loss to Patterson, while disappointing, will ultimately yield positive results for his fighting career.

“It’s just one of those things that happen,” explained Alex. “I got caught because I made a mistake. It’s a little disappointing because I came off a win over Travis Wiuff, but it’s one of those things where you continue to work and learn from your mistakes. Every fight you learn something from it, so that’s how I take it, it won’t happen again and it’ll make me a better fighter.”

At the IFL event in Portland on September 9th, Schoenauer steps into the ring with the most experienced members of the Sabres in Kazuhiro Hanamaka in a fight that Alex feels he has the distinct advantage in.

“He’s a top wrestler in Japan and he brings a lot to the plate,” said Schoenauer of Hanamaka. “He’s been in the big shows so he’s been around a little bit, but at the same time I think he’s going to be a bit of a limited fighter. His Jiu-Jitsu isn’t good, he’s a straight wrestler, and I don’t think he’s going to have the striking skills that I’ll be able to bring to the plate. Still I think it’s going to be a good fight. He’s a tough guy and has proven himself, so I have to go in, perform and do my best. I’m looking forward to winning.”

Then there is the Anacondas, many people’s favorites to win the first IFL Team Championship, how does Alex feel they compare in season two?

“You’ll see that everything is different, as far as the team pushing each other, the comradery…everything,” replied Schoenauer. “Bas has been pushing us so hard, so now stepping into the ring is going to be fun time. We’re able to train together as a team and push each other so we’re going to be much better I think.”

“We want those [championship] rings. That’s all we’ve been talking about is those rings they handed out. So we’ve got to win two more fights and we’ll get those rings. As a team that’s what we’re looking forward to, getting those rings and show that our team is the strongest,” further commented Alex.

When the Anacondas first competed their legendary coach was retired, but since he has returned triumphantly to active competition. When asked if Rutten, with his notorious sense of humor, “reminded” the team of his recent conquering glory, Schoenauer replied, “No, not at all [laughs]. He was just amped to be fighting again.”

Alex continued, “When it comes to his fighting, he uses what works best for him and puts that into our training. When he punches you it hurts, so we’re trying to train so that every time we punch someone in the ring it will punish them, so they’ll feel it too. So it’s great to have him as a coach and there’s always something to learn from him.”

Schoenauer concluded the conversation by saying, “I want to thank Tapout, Las Vegas Combat Club, my Jiu-Jitsu instructor Sergio Pena, and Bob LaGratta. To the fans, come out and watch us put the Sabres away and send them back to Japan.”