Undefeated middleweight Joseph Henle may possess a picturesque nickname like “Leonidas,” but the fighter is hoping that the name will become synonymous with him as a UFC fighter.

The MMA Corner recently spoke with the Ultimate Fighter alum about his career and his headlining bout against Michael Moreno at the California Fight Syndicate event on Jan. 28.

Moreno was not the original opponent for Henle at the event, which is something that the fighter has gotten used to over the years.

“I’ve only had one fight where the opponent didn’t change,” Henle explained. “That’s the one thing that’s been consistent. I signed a contract for one fight and my opponent blew out his ACL the same day. I swear, people sign to fight me and they either get hurt or pull out. I’m a curse for that.”

Despite his bad luck with opponent changes, Henle admits that his approach to entering the cage on fight night is more laid back than most. At the same time, it doesn’t mean that he’s lacking in confidence heading into the bout with Moreno.

“I’m not one of those guys that has to get crazy or hyped before a fight,” said the fighter. “Moreno is a very solid fighter. He’s fought some tough guys and brings it every time he fights. He’s going to test my skill-set, but I think I’ll show that I’m better in all areas.”

Henle celebrates victory (Rebecca Lee/A Fight Gallery)

Henle’s skill-set has been evolving since he was a youth, where he earned his Tae Kwon Do black belt in just five years. The experience of traditional martial arts had both advantages and disadvantages.

“When I first started training MMA, Tae Kwon Do really helped me with my kicks,” the middleweight stated. “I already knew a lot of the kicks – push kicks, spinning back kicks, etc. – and my mechanics were good. But for punching, it was terrible (laughing).”

During high school and college, Henle played football, as well as other team sports. The stability of having a set season and schedule was one of the biggest changes for the California native as he transitioned to MMA.

“For my first eight amateur fights, I just showed up to the gym,” Henle recalled. “There wasn’t a routine or anything. I learned that as a fighter, you don’t have any idea how many times you’re going to fight in a year.”

Over the past year, Henle faced that problem first hand. Although he has wanted to stay active and work his way back to the UFC, he was only able to compete once during 2011.

“I feel like it’s a game of hurry up and wait. At least until you impress someone. (Obviously) the UFC knows who I am, but there’s no formula to getting back there. I’ve text (UFC matchmaker) Joe Silva every time someone gets hurt, telling him that I’m ready.”

Since his appearance on the reality show’s 11th season, Henle has moved to Reign Training Center to train alongside the likes of UFC middleweight contender Mark Munoz, Jay Silva, Pat Cummings, Brett Cooper and Lew Polley.

“It has made my fight game,” Henle admitted. “I didn’t have much of a fight game before I started training at Reign. When I was on TUF, I can honestly say that I was not UFC-caliber.”

Whether Henle makes it back to the UFC is still to be determined, but luckily for the fighter, he has an MBA in Financial Planning to fall back on when his fight career is over. He just hopes that isn’t in the near future.

“I get paid to hit people. That’s fun,” joked Henle. “The bottom line is that I get to do something I love. I love to train. I liked the financial stuff, but I didn’t love it. I couldn’t sit in an office and do that every day.”

With his sights clearly set on getting back to the Octagon, Henle shared his comments about the topic of fighters’ pay, a hot-button topic of late for the industry.

“Everybody sees basketball, baseball, football – these multi-million dollar sports with splits between league revenue and everything. You can’t compare MMA to any other sport,” Henle said. “We’re still in the first 20 years of it being a sport. Do you think baseball was paying people well when Major League Baseball was first started? I’d love to have a UFC contract making $10,000 to show and $10,000 to win.”

With an impressive win over Moreno at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium on Jan. 28, Henle may earn that very contract.

Joseph would like to thank his sponsors: Michelle Lee and Tri-Coasta, Adidas Martial Arts at BudoMartAmerica.com, Josh at JVP Construction, and the Ali’i Group.

Top Photo: Joseph Henle (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

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