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|LeVesseur hopes to 'rattle' Prater|
|Written by Ben Pherson|
|Wednesday, 03 October 2012 15:53|
Marcus "The Prospect" LeVesseur is arguably the most decorated wrestler in Minnesota history.
In high school, LeVesseur won the final 141 matches of his career and claimed four consecutive state titles while wrestling at Minneapolis Roosevelt and Bloomington Kennedy. He qualified for state all six years, placing sixth as a seventh-grader and fourth as an eighth-grader before ending his career with four straight state crowns.
In college, LeVesseur kept winning. In fact, he never lost. LeVesseur went a perfect 155-0 while wrestling at Division III Augsburg College and won four consecutive D-III individual nation titles.
Combined in college and high school, LeVesseur won the final 296 matches of his career. Yeah, 296-0.
LeVesseur's path to success in mixed martial arts hasn't come quite as easily. The Prospect has taken his lumps along the way. But three consecutive wins over good competition in 2011 finally earned LeVesseur a shot with the UFC.
His first test with the big show didn't go well. LeVesseur lost to TUF veteran Cody McKenzie by first-round submission last May.
Luckily for LeVesseur, the UFC is giving him another shot. And this time, that shot will happen in his home state.
LeVesseur (21-6) returns to UFC action Friday night as part of the organization's second trip to Minnesota. "UFC on FX: Browne vs. Bigfoot" is scheduled for Friday night at Target Center in downtown Minneapolis.
The UFC isn't giving LeVesseur an easy fight at home, though. Instead, he'll take on veteran Carlo Prater, who's faced many of the top fighters in the world.
Prater brings a 30-11-1 record into the fight. But like LeVesseur, Prater lost his last UFC fight — to TJ Grant — so it's a must-win for the veteran.
Prater's resume includes wins over Melvin Guillard, Spencer Fisher, Carlos Condit, Pat Healy, Anthony Lapsley, Keith Wisniewski, Cameron Dollar and Erick Silva. He also has losses to Minnesota natives Brock Larson and Derrick Noble, along with notables like Drew Fickett, Richard Crunkilton and Antonio McKee.
LeVesseur has been preparing for Prater by training regularly at The Cellar in Minneapolis. After bouncing around for a while, LeVesseur now calls The Cellar home and says he's in the best shape of his life.
We tracked down LeVesseur this week to find out if he's ready to fight on the biggest stage in his home state.
Marcus, thanks for the time. How's the weight cut going?
LEVESSEUR: It's good. I'm maybe eight pounds over now. So I'll get my work out in (Wednesday night), and I'll do some side work after the cardio-kickboxing class I'm going to. I'm
hoping to wake up the day of weighins only a few pounds over. I like to avoid the sauna as much as possible. I've seen the inside of those things too much over the years, so I like to avoid it if I can.
So, the easy question ... how excited are you to be fighting for the UFC in your home state?
LEVESSEUR: It's exciting. It's hard to describe, really. It's great to fight in the UFC anyway, and to do it in my hometown, that's just amazing. It's something most people will never get to do. I'm just thankful that the UFC gave me this opportunity. I'm pumped, and I've put in the work. I worked as hard for this fight as I ever have. We've figured our game plan out, and now it's just a matter of sticking to it.
You're coming off a loss in the UFC, so there's a good chance if you don't win, you could get cut. Plus, the fight is at home ... are you feeling that extra pressure?
LEVESSEUR: Yeah, the pressure is there. But I adapt to it pretty well. I feel like the past events in my life, with wrestling and everything else, have prepared me for it. And it's not just me in that position. He's in the same spot. We both have a lot at stake. We're both trying to keep our UFC careers going. We both have our backs against the wall. I'm ready and I'm prepared to function in that atmosphere and under that pressure.
What did you learn from your first UFC fight?
LEVESSEUR: I learned a lot. I think one of the greatest things I took away was just learning what it's like to be part of a UFC fight card. I got my UFC jitters out of the way. ... As for that fight, I got put in that choke, and at first I thought that the guys wasn't squeezing hard enough. I wasn't worried about it. It was in, but it wasn't there. I thought he wasn't squeezing hard and he didn't want to burn his arms out. But my body sucked air, and I was just done. I need to adapt better to those positions. There were a lot of little things I was able to work on. I think the big one is adapting your game plan. We got off our game plan in that one and I wasn't able to get back into it.
You're at The Cellar now full-time. How did you end up there?
LEVESSEUR: Yep, it's my main gym now. I've primarily been there. What got me there was, well, I guess I had always heard a lot about them. I had heard only good things. They're mainly a standup gym, a kickboxing gym. I was like, 'Yes, that's what I need!' I had the wrestling down, but I needed to focus on my standup. My jiu-jitsu needs work, but I feel like I can decide where a fight is going to take place. So I wanted to get better on my feet, so I could bang with some of the top guys at the weight. ... I also had a few friends who were training at The Cellar, guys like Carey Vanier. He'd been there for six months, and he had nothing but great things to say about them. So I went in, and it's usually weird the first week you go into a gym. But there were no egos in there. It was a great fit, right away from the very first day I was in there. They're a welcoming group. It's even better now that they have the jiu-jitsu guys in there. It's a great gym, and I feel like I've had my best camp ever.
Your cardio has been a major problem in fights previously. How do you feel about your cardio heading into this fight?
LEVESSEUR: It feels absolutely great. I really went all-in for this training camp. I've worked very, very hard, especially knowing the fight is at home. I don't want to disappoint myself, my family, my friends or the fans. I've been training hard but not overtraining. I've made sure my cardio is where it needs to be. I feel like I'm in the best shape of my life. You know, Carlo has had some trouble with cardio, too. So we're both in the same spot. I think the big thing will be, who's able to function when they're tired. That's the key. You're going to get tired in there. You'll be drained, but who can perform when they're tired. That's who will win the fight.
What do you know about Prater? And what's the game plan for Friday night?
LEVESSEUR: He's tough as hell. He's a well-rounded guy. He's a beast on the ground. But standup wise, he just loves to stand and bang. There's no way around it for me, this will be a tough fight. But he's a guy who if I can beat him, it will turn a few heads. My game plan is to get him out of his element. What he's good at is being on the ground. Now, I'm not afraid to go there with him. But we don't want to be down there with four minutes to go in a round. I will be very selective with my takedowns, if I do them at all. I want to put him under some pressure on his feet. It's not his strength. Yes, he can bang, no doubt. But we see some holes on his feet. I hope to beat him to the punch. I hope to rattle him and get him off his game plan.
LEVESSEUR: I see two guys who are going out there and going to war. Both of us need to win. As for predictions, I don't care. I just want to get the victory. I don't care how I do it. I really can see this one going the distance, and it just might be the fight of the night. My game plan is not to go out there and take him down. It's the kind of fight that might be on the feet for the full 15 minutes. I'm sure I'll get tagged. But I think this is a good fight for both of us. Styles make fights. When you get two fighters in there, with one who is good at jiu-jitsu and one who is good at wrestling, it usually cancels out. It's who's better on the feet. For me, this fight is perfect. I think it's going to be exciting. I think I have the edge in speed and power. I know he's had 40 fights, but I think he's only got like two knockouts. So, I'm not going to shy away from a brawl.
What's your favorite career knockout? That standing short elbow has to be up there, right?
LEVESSEUR: Well, I have a headkick knockout, too, and that has to be up there. It's every fighter's dream to do that. But the elbow one was pretty sick as well. It's something I'd love to do again. That will be locked and loaded if the opportunity is there.
If this fight doesn't go your way, and the UFC releases you, do you plan to keep fighting?
LEVESSEUR: Obviously, it's a possibility that the UFC could release you at any time. But, in my mind, I'm going to win this fight. But either way, after the win, I plan to keep with it. My body feels good. I have no major injuries. So I'll keep trucking along no matter what.
You're now the head wrestling coach at Hopkins High School. That's maybe the state's most notable basketball school. How do you turn Hopkings into a wrestling school?
LEVESSEUR: Like any school and any sport, it starts with recruiting the kids in your own school to join the program. If I see a dude who isn't taller than me, he shouldn't be playing basketball. Everyone wants to go out for basketball at Hopkins, but that means most of you are going to sit on the bench and not play. Wrestling has so much to offer. It can offer a lot in the way of self-esteem, and it challenges kids in ways other sports don't. So, we have to get that message to the youth. As far as trying to compete with basketball here, obviously, the basketball program is a beast. They have college coaches and there's a lot of talent there. But I think the wrestling community is just so much different and so much closer. We have that wrestling family, and it can offer kids so much. In wrestling, you go to war with your teammates every day. It's unique. Wrestlers have a bond that's just different. If you've never wrestled, you won't understand it. If you have, you get it. It's something every kid should experience. It can do a lot for people; I really believe that.
Who's the best wrestler you've seen in Minnesota over the last, say, five years?
LEVESSEUR: Griffin Parriott of New Prague is one of the most exciting young kids I've seen in the last year or two. He's so fun to watch. And then obviously, the standout from Apple Valley, Mark Hall. Dude's a stud. ... Other than that, there's always a few guys I see at state every year that just amaze me. I make sure to watch those kids, because there are things you can pick up. They've all got new techniques, things I can pick up and pass on to our kids.
Are you expecting a big crowd there to support The Prospect on Friday at Target Center?
LEVESSEUR: I always have a great crowd there. My whole family will be there. And really anybody who's a fan of MMA here in Minnesota, you should be there. If not, you should get popped in the head. The UFC doesn't come here often, and who knows when they'll come back. Plus, it's an amazing card. People need to be there if they care about MMA at all.
Are you surprised or disappointed that your fight will be on Facebook and not part of the TV broadcast?
LEVESSEUR: No, not at all. Once that other UFC card got canceled, and they started moving some of the better fights from that card to this card, I figured there was a chance. You know, this card doesn't have Jon Jones or Anderson Silva, but it's a stacked card. It has a lot of guys in the top 10 in their weight class, looking to move up into that top 5. I think it's a great fight card, so I'm not surprised. Even though I think our fight will be great, it's a card where all the fights are great. So I'll just do my work a little earlier in the night.
Finally, who would you like to thank?
LEVESSEUR: First off, my management at KO Dynasty. They got me this opportunity to fight in the UFC. I'd like to also thank Huberts for sponsoring me and my after-party. Also, Training Mask, Lexani and MMA Bodyguards. Locally, I need to thank sponsors Masu, Northeast Social and then Ron Johnson. He's put together a pretty sick fight documentary called 'So You Want Blood' and he's done so much for me, helping round up sponsorships, etc. I'd like to also thank the fans. Without them, none of us would be here. I want to thank The Cellar and all my training partners there. They've whopped up on me this past few months, but I appreciate it. And finally, I want to thank Minnesota MMA News. It's great to have someone following the sport locally, covering these local athletes and giving them the attention they deserve. Oh yeah, one last one — I want to thank Matt and everyone at Currine and Co. They're actually putting my fight shorts together at the last-minute. Currine has been awesome, and I appreciate what they're doing for me.