The UFC is king. Plain and simple.

Not all fighters, coaches and managers feel this way, and many of the sponsors, media and other tertiary promoters of the sport have not always been pleased with parent company Zuffa LLC’s business practices. However, regardless of anything else, the best fighters in the world fight in the Octagon.

The Bellator brass might not agree, but, for a long time, Strikeforce and World Extreme Cagefighting were tied for the No. 2 spot in the hierarchy of MMA promotions. It’s no surprise that both were bought by Zuffa and eventually merged into the UFC. This is a business practice that nobody can argue, as it is mergers and acquisitions that lead to some of the greatest organizations in the world. The best part is that fans of the UFC, and MMA in general, have gotten to reap all the benefits.

Jordan (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Jordan (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

Stars like Anthony Pettis, Chael Sonnen, Benson Henderson, Gilbert Melendez, Daniel Cormier, Tarec Saffiedine, Jose Aldo and all of Team Alpha Male are now fighting under the UFC banner, and it has done nothing but make the sport better and the competition more fierce. One such crossover that has made huge waves in the Octagon is former Strikeforce heavyweight Shawn “The Savage” Jordan.

Jordan, a native of El Paso, Texas, is a 2007 NCAA national champion football player from Louisiana State University, a two-time state champion wrestler, and a pro MMA fighter who has earned 11 knockout wins in 20 appearances. In his career, he has fought in Bellator four times, Strikeforce twice, and the UFC for his last five battles.

The 15-5 Jordan holds a UFC record of 3-2 with dazzling knockouts of Oli Thompson, Mike Russow and Pat Barry, one loss by decision and one loss by knockout. His last fight was in October against a surging Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 166. Both men came in hot, and Gonzaga slipped one through, handing Jordan his first stoppage loss in over three years.

“The big guys hit hard,” said Jordan in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “We all hit hard and try to knock each other out. He just caught me with a good counterpunch. I’ve tried to throw that punch a hundred times and never hit anybody with it, but he landed it then, and he won.”

Nobody likes to lose, especially guys who played football under one of the greatest coaches of all time, Nick Saban. It may seem easy to feel defeated and stay away from the gym, but even after 20 pro fights, Jordan still knows he can only get better. So, he dusted himself off and got right back at it.

“I started training the week after,” he revealed. “I always try to maintain and continue to train. I try to work on my mistakes and continue to improve. The week after our fights, we might not just go back to three or four times a day, we might just train once a day, but I still stay pretty active either way. I’ve got a lot of high-level training partners that come in to help me, so I try to get back in and help them as much as I can.”

Jordan, who has spent a lot of time at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque with Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, currently trains out of the American Top Team headquarters in Coconut Creek, Fla., so he’s no stranger to training with big guys, like Travis Browne, Glover Teixeira, Steve Mocco and Todd Duffee. This will be a big bonus going into his next fight.

In December, Jordan found out that his next opponent would be the recently controversial Matt Mitrione, a former contestant on The Ultimate Fighter 10. The two heavies will square off on the other side of the globe at the CotaiArena in Cotai, Macau, this Saturday night on the main card of the TUF China Finale.

Jordan has never been to East Asia before, so this will be a new experience. Since both men are American fighters, the acclimation to the time changes should be very even. While Jordan will miss having as many fans on hand as he does in the United States, he’s excited to see the foreign land.

“I think I’d prefer to stay home and fight,” Jordan admitted. “It’s a little easier, travelwise, to get family and friends around. But I’m training to fight and I’m training to win, and I’m excited about it. I’ve never been to China, so it should be a fun time. I hear Macau was previously owned by Portugal, so there’s a Portuguese influence there. It should be fun.”

Mitrione has never fought in China, either, but he has fought across the pond in Sweden, where he won with a 19-second knockout of Phil de Fries. His last fight was in Canada at UFC 165 in September, when he got choked unconscious by Brendan Schaub in the first round. Mitrione, a former NFL player, is 6-3 in the Octagon with five of those wins coming by knockout. He is three inches taller than Jordan with a whopping seven-inch reach advantage, so Jordan understands the importance of getting inside and utilizing his wrestling skills.

“At this level, most athletes should have a well-rounded repertoire of skills,” stated Jordan. “I’m sure if Matt feels [wrestling’s] a weakness for him, he works on that more. I’m sure it’s to my advantage that I’ve been wrestling longer, but we both like to get in there and strike it out.

“Matt’s a taller, longer opponent, so I’m sure he’s going to keep his distance and try to use range fighting with me. I’m going to have to push in and put him in my world, get my hands on him. I think it will be kind of an aggressive start.”

Jordan (R) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

Jordan (R) (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

There’s not a soul in MMA that expects this one to be slow and boring, and Jordan is definitely looking at Mitrione as someone against whom he can showcase his talent. He’s gradually gotten tougher opponents and Mitrione’s TUF appearance, teamed with his recent comments about a transgender fighter, has made him a sort of heel in the eyes of fans.

“I’m excited to get to compete again,” said Jordan. “Matt’s a big guy and, obviously, he’s got a big name. I’m glad I’m going to get to fight him. It should be an exciting freakin’ fight. It should be fun and entertaining for the fans, too.”

Jordan has similar plans for 2014 as he did for the previous year. In 2013, he had three fights, going a pretty successful 2-1 on the year. He is looking for at least as many fights this year. With no real targets on the radar, he’ll take whatever the UFC brass want to throw his way.

“I don’t have any specific opponents, but I would love to get three or four fights in,” said the Texas native. “I just want to win. I want to get back on a win streak and improve and learn more. I just want to stake my position in the heavyweight division. I just want to fight and compete.”

For some of the smaller guys who regularly go the distance, it can be difficult to get four fights in a year. It’s not as much a size thing as it is a power-versus-skill thing.

With less power in some of the smaller guys and a ton of technical skill, they are harder to knock out, and the more time spent in the ring, the greater the likelihood of taking a lot of physical damage, including injuries. After 15 to 25 minutes in the ring with a Frankie Edgar or a Benson Henderson, there may not have been a stoppage, but everyone is leaving the ring pretty beat up. Getting back to training at 100 percent can take a little time. For big guys, like Jordan, who rarely make it past the first round, it’s nice being able to get back to the grind.

“I see it as an advantage,” said the knockout artist. “I don’t usually get beat up too bad. It’s a good advantage to be able to fight sooner and get quick turnaround fights. I don’t need as much time off to heal or whatever.”

Well, the next big test for Jordan comes Saturday night—or early Saturday morning in the United States—as he faces a big, bad, hard-hitting Mitrione, whose stand-up skills have only gotten better since leaving the TUF house. Jordan wants to redeem himself after his loss to Gonzaga and show the world why he belongs in the UFC heavyweight division.

“I’m always training to fight hard, and I want to compete with the best in the world. I’ve always said that we do this sport to compete and be No. 1, not just to have a job.”

Jordan would like to thank all of his coaches and training partners, including Ricardo Liborio, Roger Krahl, Steve Bruno and Kami Barzini. He would also like to give a shout-out to Travis Browne for coming down to Coconut Creek from Albuquerque to help him train for this fight. Follow Shawn on Twitter: @SavageShawn

About The Author

Dan Kuhl
Interview Coordinator