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Richman: 'I need to destroy this kid's face' Print E-mail
Written by Ben Pherson   
Friday, 13 January 2017 17:52

Finally, the Marine is stepping back into the cage.

Following a two-year suspension for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs, Minnesota's Mike "The Marine" Richman is returning to MMA on Friday night at Mystic Lake Casino.

The Minnesota Martial Arts Academy product is taking on prospect Lazar Stojadinovic in the 145-pound main event during Legacy Fighting Alliance's first show in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. The longtime Bellator product brings and 18-6 professional record into the bout.

Regardless of what fans think of Richman's positive test for PEDs, he's always been one of the sport's most exciting fighters and one of Minnesota's brightest prospects. He's also a former Marine, and someone who's faced an incredible amount of adversity throughout his life. So when his suspension hit, of course there was frustration and sadness, but Richman has experienced far worse forms of adversity in his life. And the positive test did not erase what he's accomplished in his amazing career.

The positive test and subsequent suspension easily could have ended Richman's career. He's 31 now, and he could have ridden off into the sunset and never fought again.

After Richman's anger and frustration wore off, he realized MMA was still his true passion. He's always been an assassin, and that won't change when Richman returns to the cage at Mystic Lake on Friday night. The night's main card, which broadcasts live on AXS-TV, begins at 8 p.m., and tickets will be available at the door.

This offers Minnesota fight fans a rare opportunity to watch the Marine in person. Many of today's fight fans weren't around when Richman was fighting locally.

One thing is for sure, Richman's attitude and desire have not changed. He's still out for blood, and Minnesota fans should expect nothing less from the Marine.

We caught up with Richman this week to talk about his showdown with Stojadinovic. Nothing was off the table, and Richman agreed to take on the PED talk head on. For that, he's earned even more of our respect. Not that he didn't already have it. But, it's great to finally have the Marine back in the cage.

What do you know about your opponent on Friday night, Lazar Stojadinovic?

RICHMAN: Honestly, I had no idea who he was. I guess I knew he fought Jordan (Parsons) back in like 2012. He caught Jordan with a clean shot,

flash knockout. Other than that, I know he trains at ATT. So he's at a respectable gym. He's a boxing guy, had a bunch of amateur boxing fights and a few pro bouts. He's just another hungry bull who thinks I don't have it any more, but that's what I expect every time I get in there now. I'm sure he thinks I'm getting old and he's bigger, stronger and faster, better striker, better everywhere.

So with his boxing background, do you anticipate he's someone who will stand and bang with him?

RICHMAN: I think so. If he really had 150 amateur boxing bouts or whatever it was, maybe his ego and instincts will kick in and he'll want to stand with me. But I'll say this — this mother f***er has never been hit by me with four-ounce gloves before. I think he's going to get hit by me and readjust his game plan. But who knows, you never know what their game plan is going to be. Like Eduardo Dantas, we thought he might stand, but he ran across the cage and started shooting immediately. So I just keep an open mind, I'm not much of a game plan guy. I'd like to utilize some of my boxing and watch out for his takedown attempts. I'm going to go in there and hurt this kid. I'm going to hit him hard ... no matter what he thinks about his own ability, he hasn't had to fight me. I've been very focused this fight. I've been working on my wrestling and my clinch game, making sure I become a much more well-rounded person. I also want to utilize my kicks more. My instincts are always to put on a show for the fans, and maybe that's cost me some wins, but it is what it is ... I want to put on a show.

With the long lay off, are you as excited for this fight as any you've had in your career?

RICHMAN: There's definitely been a lot of anticipation. It's also back home in Minnesota, so I'm amped up for that. Again, I'm just ready to go out and put on a show. This has been like a career reset for me. Stepping back at this point of my career because of the suspension was tough. For Bellator, I've been fighting name guys for like five years now. I've never been a one-fight contract guy, I've always been the guy taking on names every single fight. Now, I'm fighting a guy I've never heard of for a regional show. Basically, my back is against the wall. A loss would set me back even further. I don't want that setback. Don't get me wrong, LFA is a great organization, and they're all about getting guys to the next level. I love that. I think the reality is, this is huge for me. I need to destroy this kid's face. He's going to come out hungry. Nobody knows him, he's trying to make a name for himself. He's only in the main event because of me. Again, he probably thinks he's younger, stronger, faster, whatever ... I'm going to go in there and prove I'm still a killing machine.

Have you had a main training partner in the gym for this fight, someone who's similar style wise to Lazar?

RICHMAN: I tried to get with a lot of southpaws. John Castaneda is a southpaw, so I got in a lot of work with him. He's a similar height to this guy too. He has a great motor and I think he's way more elusive on his feet than this guy. We sparred a lot for this one. So yeah, Castaneda was a great training partner, a huge asset to me in this camp.

What's your status with Bellator?

RICHMAN: Well, it's pretty simple. They released me, it is what it is. That was a crappy situation itself. From the get-go, they made it sound like they were behind me and they wanted me back. That was the vibe I got and what my manager got. After a year passed, they emailed my manager and told him they were releasing me. It caught us both off guard. They never gave an explanation. I was pretty salty at first. But then when you look at it, it's just business. They're constantly building, signing more and more guys, putting together bigger and bigger fights. They can only guarantee so many fights a year.

What were your initial emotions after getting released?

RICHMAN: At first I was disappointed and frustrated and then angry. After all that subsided, I looked at it as a positive thing. I am a free agent for the first time in a long time. If I get on a regional show and win a few big fights, hopefully I'll get into the UFC. That's where I want to be. I want to finish my career with a long UFC run. That's the real reason I keep grinding.

You tested positive for performance enhancing drugs and were suspended for two years. What led to your decision to use PEDs come about?

RICHMAN: You know, it doesn't matter. It's a decision I made, it was stupid and I regret it. I could give you 1,000 excuses on why I did it. Oh, I hurt my hand, I didn't want the aches and pains of training camp, I was cutting a lot and didn't want my testosterone to dip ... but that's all they'd be, excuses. It's all bullshit. I made a horrible decision, and I paid for it. It was dumb, no excuses. None of those excuses justify what I did, and none of them will mean shit to anyone anyway. Again, I could say, oh, everyone is using them. Even if that was true, it's not vaild. I made a stupid decision, I got caught, and I paid for it.

Was there any point, at your age and at this stage in your career, after the suspension came down that you just thought the career was over and you wouldn't fight again?

RICHMAN: Of course. My mind really went back and forth. Often I was like maybe it's time to move on, to think of the next stage of my life. I still have GI Bill I haven't used, so I can go to college. There were so many ups and downs emotional. My mind was a roller-coaster. I didn't know what to do. I also was making pretty good money fighting, just fighting. That went away, so I had to go to work again, got a job working security at a strip club downtown, the Spearmint Rhino. That's what it came to, working at a strip club. I was starting to get back to it, starting to think I could do it again, then Bellator released me, and that was another big hit emotionally. It was all just a big step back. So, I had to ask myself over and over how bad I wanted it. I just had to focus and keep believing in myself.

How long were you out of the gym following the suspension?

RICHMAN: Oh it was quite a while. I would pop my head in at the Academy. But when you're working at the club, it's like we have pro practice at 11 a.m. I would either be opening the club at 5:30 a.m. or getting home at 4 a.m. if I closed. So it's an exhausting grind. But even that stuff aside, I needed some time to decompress. I would pop in to see the guys, help out a little when people were getting ready to fight. But I was in and out. I needed to find that drive and hunger again. But, I've always had that prize-fighter mentality. I have always throughout my career been thinking about that next fight.

Was there some great epiphany where you finally decided you wanted to continue to pursue the MMA dream?

RICHMAN: Not really a set moment, but this summer I got closer. I knew I was going to stop working at the club and getting in the gym. I just got back in and got focused. I started training some clients, too, and I really enjoy that. I was getting in the gym more and more and I could feel my mindset changing. It snowballed, and I eventually knew when the suspension was up I was going to get right back at it, keep grinding.

How big did you get while you were away from the gym?

RICHMAN: Man, I was up there. I was 190 for sure, maybe hit 200 at one point. I think I started this camp, like eight or nine weeks out, at 188 pounds.

As you've gotten older, have you found cutting to be more difficult? And how has this cut been?

RICHMAN: It has been hard to tell, since it's been so long. It feel good. It's never easy, though. Cutting has always been tough for me, always been a battle. Dieting, portion control, getting into a calorie deficit, figuring out how many weeks out I need to start burning that fat off. It's a process for sure. But it's been going good so far. ... That said, I'm not sure if I'll ever get to (135) again.

When you did make that move to 135, did you notice a difference in the fighters or yourself, strength wise?

RICHMAN: It's tough to say. I never clinched up with Ed West or Nam Phan. Those ended quickly, so I didn't get to experience it really. My body seemed to react fine for those, the speed and quickness was still there. As far as grappling strength and grappling conditioning, I didn't experience it until the Dantas fight. He started shooting right away, clinching right away. I was stuffing shots, and I could feel that, he felt really strong, and I felt less strong than normal. My energy faded quickly. The big cut definitely hit me there.

What were you feeling emotionally when the suspension came down, embarrassed, angry, frustrated, sad?

RICHMAN: Definitely embarrassed. It was like, great, I did this, they caught you, now you have to pay for it. There was definitely sadness and some embarrassment and frustration. It was like, great, now I'll have that label for the rest of my career, that asterisk on my name forever. It was sad and frustrating at the time, but I deserved it. I got what was coming to me. I had that mix of emotions, and really, embarrassment was the big one.

What are your emotions like heading into this fight? Are you simply pumped to be back in there, fighting at home? Or a little frustrated to be stepping back?

RICHMAN: It is a little bittersweet. I've been fighting on the road, in big TV fighters for a long time. I've had 12 TV fights. So to come back and be fighting at home, it's mixed emotions. Yeah, it's great, I and love being able to come back to my roots and have my fans and friends and family be able to be there. There are a lot of people excited to see me fight locally, some who have never seen me fight in person before.

You mentioned your coaching. Do you think that could be your next move when fighting is done?

RICHMAN: I really do love coaching. Coaching the striking aspects of MMA, I think it's something I do well and I can see myself continuing with that down the road. It's definitely something I've thought about. Whether it's at the Academy or a different school or on my own, who knows. I'm not sure what I want to do. Opening my own gym would be tough, because I just have the striking pedigree, and I'd have to hire someone to do the jiu-jitsu. I mean, I've never worried about jiu-jitsu belts. Not at all. I've never worked on it. Seriously, I'm still a white belt, I never worked my way up. But

You've always been that silent, quiet killer. That calm, cool assassin. Do you think with the layoff and the anticipation, you might be overly emotional and amped up for this fight to the point that you'll need to slow yourself down a bit?

RICHMAN: I always attack. If someone thinks they're a bull, I go out there and try to be a bigger bull. I have a lot of pent up frustration and anger from the past year, not just with the suspension stuff but shit from my personal life. I know all fighters go through personal issues, and everyone has to deal with it. I'm not trying to come off that way, like I'm different. But there's been a lot going on. So yeah, I'm sure I will let out some frustration in there. I still want to be level-headed, though.

How do you see this fight going?

RICHMAN: I'm not into game plans really. I'll just say, if he takes one of my shots and he's still standing, it'll dictate what kind of fight this will be. I don't know if he's going to stand and fight me, if he's going to run, if he's going to shoot. Is he going to crumble from my first shot? Who knows. I think he's an instinctual fighter. So am I. I think that will mean this fight should turn into something special.

With the positive test, I'm sure some promotions could have just turned you down, so how grateful are you for the opportunity to fight for LFA in a main event on national TV?

RICHMAN: I definitely appreciate it. I honestly didn't know what was going to happen, if they were going to even want me. And then I had no idea it would be main event. It's pretty bad ass. I think it goes to show that people still appreciate and respect what I did in the past.

Finally, who would you like to thank?

RICHMAN: Obviously, I want to thank everyone who believe in me throughout this whole thing. Everyone who encouraged me to come back. My family, friends, and everyone I've met along the way. They've all been so positive and encouraging. My training partners and teammates at the Academy. Greg Nelson and Matt Miller from Horsepower. I want to thank LFA for having me, Mystic Lake for hosting the show, and you for the interview.