Imagine wearing a plastic suit to help you sweat off water weight while biking in a hot sauna or hitting a punching bag until you can’t feel your fingers then sparring on the mat for hours daily for three months just so you can get your face bashed in with thousands watching?
Local fighter Dave Kaplan, a recent transplant from Virginia, came to Las Vegas to do just this. The college wrestler moved across the country to train here following his appearance on The Ultimate Fighter reality show, and this weekend we’ll see if it will all pay off as he takes on fellow TUF alum George Roop during UFC 98.
Despite the pranks and drunken nights, Kaplan says he learned a lot from being on the show and enjoyed the experience. Win or lose Saturday night, he’ll be partying with Roop at Hawaiian Tropic Zone following the fight, making it the first time two UFC opponents have ever shared an afterparty venue.
But the party is far from Kaplan’s mind as he prepares for the bout. Here’s what Kaplan had to say about life as a fighter and his Ultimate Fighter experience:
On cutting weight:
For this fight, I found out about it 13 weeks ago, so I started cutting back then. As of yesterday, I was only five and a half pounds over. I used to do it the wrong way and cut 20 pounds in like three days. It’s easier when you know there’s a lot of money involved and a 24 hour period before the fight. There’s two ways to do it. You can wait ‘til the end like a lot of people do like on the show [The Ultimate Fighter] Krzysztof [Soszynski] cut like 20 pounds in 2 days. It’s either going through that literal hell for that shorter period of time or doing like I did for this one: 13 weeks being disciplined every day and watching the calories I take in.
On fighting as a profession:
When people think of fighting as not a job or competitive athletics, the other person gets to sit behind a desk for eight hours and I maybe train for four hours a day. So they would say, ‘Oh, I work more,’ but they get to go home and eat whatever they want. For fighters, there are no off days.
On preparing for this fight with George Roop:
I’ve been focusing on my cardio for sure. George is a very tough fighter, and what he is good at is cardio and just being mentally tough, which are also two things that I am very good at. I feel that, not to take anything away from him, in a stand up game, in a wrestling game, in a jiu jitsu game, I feel like I have the edge in all of those. But he’s going to go 15 minutes hard. I have only gone to a decision once in my career and that was only an amateur fight – a ten-minute fight – so I’ve never gone 15. The longest I have ever gone is seven and a half because I like finishing fights.
On his favorite submission techniques:
Anything with the legs – footlocks, leglocks. I would love to get “Knockout of the Night” for this fight but “Submission of the Night” would be nice. … They’re not going to give “Submission of the Night” to a rear naked choke or a guillotine. The feet are something that a lot of people don’t train.
On the difficulties of training on The Ultimate Fighter:
Everything that happened in the gym and in the cage was serious, everything that happened at the house, I can speak for myself, was entertainment. Everything I did was strictly for entertainment value, because it’s boring as hell in there. I think there were only four or five guys who realized it was a TV show. You have some great fighters, Philipe [Nover] for instance, Efrain [Escudero], guys who made it to the finals. If they didn’t make it to the finals you wouldn’t have known they were on the show! They were very quiet and hung out in their rooms the whole time.
On the crazy Ultimate Fighter pranks:
Nothing that happened distracted me. The pranks that the red team did were lame – fish in my bed – none of that stuff bothered me. … It is so boring in the house. It’s like jail. No Internet, no phone, no TV, you can’t leave. The things that they did give us - pool table, a pool – were really awesome for about a day. Plus, you’re in a stressful environment of having to fight the people you’re eating breakfast with.