One of the sad truths about the growing sport of MMA is that unless you’re competing on the biggest stage, money can be hard to come by. Fighters on the regional circuit are forced to live on meager budgets or keep day jobs to make ends meet, which can hinder their dreams of reaching the big show.

Even those who have had a taste of the UFC, such as TUF 11 alum Joseph Henle, face these types of challenges. As “Leonidas” prepares for his Maximum Fighting Championship debut at MFC 34: Total Recall on Aug. 10, the middleweight is hoping to put food on the table with a win.

“A lot of people say you can’t fight for the money, but I disagree,” Henle told The MMA Corner in an exclusive interview. “I want to make a good living. I’d like to be able to take myself and my girlfriend to dinner. That would be nice. If I don’t win this fight, we might be eating fruit and vegetables and I have to figure out how I’m going to make it to October and get another fight. No joke.”

Henle (Josh Wood/MMA Valor)

While other fighters can relate to Henle’s current position, the California native’s outlook on fighting is different than most of his peers.

“I don’t fight because I enjoy beating people up. That’s not my personality,” explained Henle. “There’s guys out there who have other things [outside of MMA] and are fighting because they like to fight. They really want to win, but I really want to eat. I’m trying to feed myself.”

Another area where Henle’s perspective may differ from others in the sport is his willingness to fight anyone. With numerous camps backing down from fights between training partners, Henle doesn’t care who stands across from him when the fight starts.

“I don’t have to be angry to beat the piss out of you,” declared the Reign Training Center product. “I can smile and hit you in the face as hard as I can. I don’t care. I’m not like American Top Team, where you don’t fight your teammates. If the money is right, let’s do it and get paid.”

Henle’s take on the fight game comes after a frustrating 2011 where he competed just once. The various injuries, cancellations and other things beyond his control made life difficult from the undefeated fighter. However, his luck has turned around thus far in 2012. In fact, his MFC debut will be his third fight this year.

“It’s been nice having the ability to find the fights that we want and with the organizations that we’re happy to be with,” said Henle. “Being able to stay injury free has been crucial. We made some changes to make sure that we’re not overtraining. When you’re trying to stay active, you don’t want to beat up the body too much. It’s great not to have another 2011 and get more consistent paychecks.”

Thus far, Henle has gone 2-0 this year, defeating Mike Moreno by decision in January and then submitting Ben Jones in just 90 seconds in May. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some adjustments along the way.

“The one in January, obviously we didn’t want to go that long. I had a weird issue where I was a lot lighter than I normally am, by like five or six pounds. I only had to cut four pounds,” recalled the middleweight. “Something didn’t feel right. But we fixed it. The fight against Ben Jones was awesome.”

Now, Henle will look to continue building momentum with the Canadian promotion and the additional exposure of AXS TV. It may be the exact scenario that gets him another shot with the UFC.

“Last time I spoke with [UFC matchmaker] Joe Silva, he said I needed to step up the level of competition,” said Henle. “It’s nice to do it in MFC because I’m getting on television and getting additional exposure. It’s not like fighting some guy where no one will see it and all they see are the records. More people will see the fight and watch what I can do.”

“I’m really excited to be on AXS TV. Outside of the UFC, this is some of the best televised MMA. MFC has really good production value. Out of all the promotions on the channel, MFC does the best job to make it feel as clean as possible.”

One of the adjustments that Henle must make as he journeys to Canada for the first time is the fact that the promotion utilizes a boxing ring, rather than the cage that most U.S. promotions have turned to in recent years to mimic the UFC.

“It kind of has a Pride feel to it,” Henle said while referring to the now-defunct Japanese promotion. “I’m pretty comfortable [in a ring]. I’ve made some slight adjustments in my takedown defense to eliminate the wall walk stuff. The ring won’t be a problem.”

Henle (R) looks for a choke (Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog)

Standing on the other side of the ring on Friday night will be 9-1 grappling ace Luke Harris. The Canadian has secured all nine of his wins by submission, but Henle is confident in his own skill set.

“I think Luke is an extremely dangerous opponent, as he’s a heavy, heavy grappler,” said Henle. “He’s got a lot of skills on the ground, but I am a grappling base guy with a lot of jiu-jitsu and wrestling. I don’t feel that I’m at a disadvantage if we go there. He’s going to be dangerous, but I have a submission game too. I want to dictate the pace, and wherever I want the fight, that’s where I’m going to take it.”

With Henle just days away from his 29th birthday, the fight with Harris and trip to Canada are a welcomed change from fighting close to home. Now he’s just looking for a reason to celebrate.

“It’s actually relieving [competing in Canada],” stated Henle. “There’s no pressure because you get to just focus on the fight. I’m flying out there with my boys, I’m going to go smash somebody, and then come home. Hopefully I get the ‘W,’ put on a good show and everyone has a good time.”

More importantly though, a win over Harris will stave off Henle’s appetite… at least for another few months.

Joseph would like to thank all of his sponsors: StreetSoldiers.com, Michelle Lee and Tri-Coasta, GoSuperLife.com, Adidas Martial Arts and The Ali’i Group. Also Knuckle Headz Boxing and all the guys at Reign Training Center. Follow him on Twitter: @LeonidasMMA

Top Photo: Joseph Henle (Maximumfighting.com)

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