By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly
By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly

It wasn’t enough for wrestler and MMA veteran Mike Van Arsdale to return to the UFC…he wanted a shot at championship gold. Unfortunately along the route to the title, Van Arsdale met UFC legend and current number 1 contender Randy “The Natural” Couture at UFC 54 and fell to defeat. What many people overlooked about that fight was the fact that Van Arsdale lasted into the third round with one of the most dominant pound for pound fighters that MMA has ever seen in Couture, all this with something else looming on his mind.

“I haven’t told anybody what happened before that fight and I think I’ll wait until after this fight to tell anybody.” said Van Arsdale very candidly when talking about his fight with Couture. “Pretty much I was lucky to just make it through the two rounds and part of the third round based on what happened to me in practice. Randy is so tough and he brings it to you, and basically he got me to the point where I was so tired, and I wasn’t used to being that tired, because I wasn’t able to train due to the things that happened to me in training camp. I was upset I lost the fight but I wrote it off as a learning experience”

Now a more focused and healthy Van Arsdale will return on February 4th to take on top ranked Renato “Babalu” Sobral. Van Arsdale has had a mix of training partners readying him for this fight, most recently joining up with MMA training guru Greg Jackson and his team in New Mexico. Jackson has a reputation for putting some of the most skilled and well conditioned fighters into the ring, and his training regimen will put any fighter to the test.

“I would just say it’s a living hell.” Van Arsdale stated about the workouts that Jackson puts his team through. “The training is good. He’s just got me so tired at times, I thought I might die. But I just kept going and now I’m starting to feel good.”

Originally training out of the American Kickboxing Academy, Van Arsdale sought out King of Pancrase and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Nathan Marquardt to help him improve his ground game after a submission loss to Couture. It was Marquardt who Van Arsdale credits with his new found ground skills and who brought him to New Mexico to train with other top fighters like Diego Sanchez, Joey Villasenor and Keith Jardine.

“I started off with Nate Marquardt in Denver and I trained with him for about two weeks.” said Van Arsdale. “And that went pretty good and I thought he was just an unbelievable fighter, and I didn’t see him have any weaknesses. So I said, I’ve got to train with this guy. He’s a young guy, tough, strong as hell. I figured after I left him I went back to AKA (American Kickboxing Academy) and trained there for two weeks, had a good training camp there, and talked to Bob Cook about it and I wanted to bring Nate Marquardt up to AKA, but he (Nate) thought he might be fighting on the February 4th show and he wanted to train here (at Jackson’s) and I expressed my feelings to Bob that I wanted to train with Nate, so I bought the ticket and came out.”

Van Arsdale knows that Babalu is a top notch opponent, but apparently at this point in his career that is all he is willing to face, and he understands how important this fight really is, but could it be his last?

“I think he’s a tough fighter. I think he’s one of the best fighters in the world,” Van Arsdale said of his opponent. “I’m so fortunate to get in there and fight him, I’m fortunate to have this opportunity. I don’t think he has any weaknesses really, he comes in pretty good shape, he’s well rounded, and he’s just the kind of guy I want to fight at this point in my career. Joe Silva was the one who came up with the idea for me to fight this guy, but I was going to ask to fight him anyways. At this point in my career I don’t want to fight anyone but a guy like Babalu. I’m not going to say anything bad about anyone else out there but if its not one of the best guys out there, I’ll just retire.”

With a win, Van Arsdale could be catapulted back into the very short list of fighters who could be a contender to the winner of the Couture/Liddell trilogy. He would like nothing more than a shot at the title.

“I really don’t anticipate much at this time except for the fight that I’m signed to take,” said Van Arsdale. “But as long as I feel good and as long as I feel capable, and as long as I feel like I’m going to win the fight, or win the belt, I’m going to continue to do that. Winning the belt is everything. That’s what I want. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. If they give me an opportunity that would be great.”

Only time will tell if Van Arsdale will get his shot at championship gold but he will have his next shot at proving himself worthy when he takes on Babalu at UFC 57.