“All the soldiers who ate of the honeycombs lost their senses…In this condition, great numbers lay on the ground, as if there had been a defeat.” - Xenophon 401 BC
Entering the gym you notice that it’s stripped down, the air is humid, the smell of sweat hangs in the air. The space is no frills punctuated by minimal training equipment. There are a few lonely whiteboards hang on the walls with work-out routines scrawled on them. A group of men are gathered around the far corner of the gym. Most have cauliflower ears, a tell tale sign of a fighter. There is no interest in fancy gear, there is no pretense. There is only the singular focus on becoming a highly skilled fighter. Welcome to SportsLab.
Two fighters are on the mat ready to spar. Wearing head-gear, shin pads and boxing gloves the two will battle for three five minute rounds using a variety of techniques to beat the other via knockout, submission or decision. The bell rings. The combatants are evenly matched, pushing each other to their limits. The contest takes place standing up, in the clinch and on the ground. This is Mixed Martial Arts after all. If you aren’t well rounded you will pay the price.
One of the fighters is Dave Jansen who sat down with me to talk about fighting, beekeeping and rthe Bellator Lightweight Tournament.
I met Dave through a Portland Urban Beekeeper meeting. As he walked into the small room I noticed he had cauliflower ears and that particular way of carrying himself fighters have; understated, slightly hunched, blending into the crowd. He looked familiar. It was a safe bet he was a fighter. We chatted a bit at the meeting. He told me he had been in the WEC and is currently in Bellator. It ends up I had watched him fight on TV.
DM: How did you get started in Mixed Martial Arts? You were a wrestler before. How did you make the transition?
DJ: I was a wrestler at Sam Barlow High School and I wrestled at USA Oregon Athletic Club, now known as Cobra Wrestling Systems, under Marc Sprague. He’s a legend in the sport. I got a full ride to the University of Oregon but I kind of sputtered out. Left the U of O after two years, took some time off, went to Portland State University.
I got caught up in the restaurant industry and met Chris Wilson when I was 24 years years old working at Gustav’s. He took one look at my ears and said I’d be great at fighter. A year went by before I actually took him up on it. I joined Team Quest. So yeah, Chris Wilson talked me into it, planted that seed.
Once I saw him fight in the IFL for the Wolfpack and I thought ok I can make this team, a professional fighting team in my hometown. So I wanted to be in the Wolfpack. That’s what really got me into it.
DM: What drives you to compete in Combat Sports?
DJ: I’d have to say it’s just a overall dissatisfaction with contemporary society and 9 – 5 jobs. I’m really into this neo-tribalism aspect of a Mixed Martial Arts gym and even a promotion, you know. It’s like a circus. I’m lucky enough to be the talent. There is a master of ceremonies with the announcers and all the guys who set up the cage. In Bellator it’s even in a circle, so that’s like a circus. Part of me always wanted to run away and join the circus.
DM: You seem to have taken a holistic approach to your training, specifically float tanks/isolation tanks. Can you tell us a bit about it and how it’s helped your game.
DJ: Yeah, I think some people try to break it down to a percentage of 80% physical, 20% mental and I’d have to say it’s 100% mental. Because without the mental there is no physical. You couldn’t get out of bed to do the early morning conditioning. So that’s the biggest aspect of floating. No only does it, of course, help my meditation, focus and clarity…I get to work on my breathing exercises. I get to visualize and basically I get repetitions in the float tank. I can practice and get the same muscle memory, neurons and everything firing like you would performing a choke or armbar or throwing a punch on the mat. It’s been huge, it’s my biggest tool outside the gym. I go to Float On and they are one of my sponsors. I have to give a shout out to those guys.
DM: One thing that people might not expect out of a fighter such as yourself, is that you are a beekeeper. How did you got started keeping bees?
DJ: There was a fighter on my team, he ended up breaking his orbital bone in a fight. He had to take some time off. While he was healing up he moved back to North Dakota to work on some oil rigs. He had a couple hives he had just started so they were brand new. Right after he got them he was giving me tutorials so I got to know the bees right away.
When he moved, he was telling me he could sell them but he really didn’t want to do that. He’d rather just give them to me as a gift to me so I inherited them. I adopted two hives. They are Italians. Yeah, I love ‘em. It’s really taught me so much about life and responsibility.
DM: Any other lessons you’ve learned from your bees?
DJ: Yeah, sometimes doing too much…there is such a thing as over training, there is such a thing as over treating these hives. You don’t want to tinker with them too much because the bees know what they are doing. And our bodies know what it’s doing. So you allow the hives to heal on their own. So the same thing with my body. I have to listen to it. Allow it to heal, give it rest when it needs it. It’s rewarding.
DM: When you are working with your bees what’s going through your mind?
DJ: I try not to be a nuisance. I try not to breathe on them. I don’t wanna obviously squish ‘em. Hopefully they don’t even know I’m there. I just want to be efficient. I don’t want to dilly dally. I’m trying to be efficient but at the same time appreciative of the beauty. It’s just majestic watching them all do their thing. It’s magical.
DM: Let’s talk about the Bellator Lightweight Tournament. You are coming off a submission win over a tough opponent, Magomed Saadulaev. He was able to take you down in the first round and put you in some bad positions. You remained calm and were able to counter everything he threw at you. It was clear after the first round he was gassing. Your cardio and composure was far superior which allowed you to take control of the fight later on. Do you attribute this ability to your new camp at SportsLab?
DJ: Yeah, this camp, uh…my daily routine, my habits. Trying to live a healthy lifestyle, free of drama and pollutants. Ultimately it’s my support staff; Phil Claud, Robert, Dylan Fussell my Muay Thai coach, Andy Minsker my boxing couch. He’s phenomenal. And my teammates…
I’ve got really the strongest team in the Northwest right now. If not the United States at this point. I mean, per capita we have the toughest fighters.
DM: You have some strong guys on this team.
DJ: Tyson Nam is coming off a huge knockout win over a Eduardo Dante. Tyson Nam snatched up the number five Bantam Weight seed. He’s ranked fifth in the world after that win. Ian Loveland he’s just a vicious knock out artist. He’s coming off of two back to back knock out wins after his stint in the UFC. He’s the reigning Tachi Palace Bantam Weight Champion. Mike Pierce another guy coming off a huge knock out win over Aaron Simpson in the UFC. That was huge.
We’ve also got the kind of unsung heros; Ryan Walker, Blaine McIntosh, Benny Vincent, John Baker, Josh Botkin, Damon Wood is a professional fighter also coming off a knock out win. We got guys coming up from all over the state; Brent Premus, Emmanuel Sanchez, they are two studs from Eugene. High caliber fighters.
DM: Looking back at your older fights, your striking and stand up has greatly improved. You appear very relaxed and effective with your striking these days. It seems you’ve hit a whole new level as a fighter.
DJ: I knew when I got into MMA it was going to take me a good 5 years or 10,000 hours to really master it. You know that old rule. I feel like I’ve found my stride. It’s a very good time to be in the upper divisions of the sport. Bellator is perfect for me. I’d rather fight for Bellator than any other company right now.
Ultimately I fight to make money. I’m a prize fighter. That’s how I make my living so I wouldn’t, I’d…this is my number one choice of jobs. It’s my dream job. You do something you love and you never have to work. That’s what I’m doing.
DM: Tell us about your striking coach.
DJ: Andy Minsker, yeah he was a professional fighter back in the 80s. His last fight was actually at the Starry Night here in Portland, now it’s the Roseland Theatre. I think he was 12 – 2 as a professional boxer. Hundreds of amateur fights. He actually won the 1988 Olympic Trials. They made him do two rematches though, he won the first and lost the second.
He’s a phenomenal coach. He’s an Oregon boy. Lives in Damascus which is my home town. So I go out to his house, we hit mitts in his carport. He doesn’t blow smoke up my ass when I’m doing something wrong. He tells me. When I do something right, I can tell, he’s grinning ear to ear. I’m like a dog trying to please my master.
DM: You made the semi-finals of the Bellator Lightweight tournament. Your next opponent is Ricardo Tirloni. What do you think about him?
DJ: He’s definitely a dangerous fighter. His two losses are to top level guys; Benson Henderson and Rick Hawn. So he’s, you know…he does have some holes in his game which I’m looking to exploit. I’m going to just use my strengths to combat his weaknesses. We’ll see how it plays out.
DM: When you win the lightweight tournament what’s next?
DJ: After I win the tournament I’m fighting for the title. That will either be Rick Hawn or Michael Chandler. We’ll see who wins that bout. Either way it will be an honor to fight either of those guys. I’m just gonna keep on keepin’ on. Every fight from here on out is the biggest fight of my life.
DM: Anything else you’d like to share?
DJ: Yeah, definitely check out Float On in SE Portland. Big thanks to my gym SportsLab and my agency Paradigm Sports Management. Gotta give a shout out to On It Labs, All Pro Science, Future Legend, Big Boy Moving, Determined Records, Budomart America, Heads High Barbershop, and Jersey Pump.
Tune into MTV2 or watch the live stream in HD on Spike.com or Bellator.com on November 16th in Kingston Rhode Island.
DM: Thanks Dave.
Be sure to watch Dave fight Ricardo Tirloni in the Bellator Lightweight Tournament. It airs on MTV2 or streaming live on Bellator.com this Friday night 11/16/2012 at 8 pm.
Epilogue: Dave Jansen has since changed camps from SportsLab to Rose City Fight Club and went on to win the Bellator Lightweight Tournament but injured his ACL. He was unable to compete for approximately 1 year. His first fight back was against former Judoka Rick Hawn. He beat him in a three round decision. Dave went on to fight the new Lightweight Champion Will Brooks and lost via decision.