Dave “The Fugitive” Jansen, thirty, is a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter with Oregon’s Team Quest Fight Club. Our talks took place prior to his World Extreme Cage Fighting (WEC) bout in Las Vegas against Ricardo Lamas on August 18, 2010.
Alex: You came into cage fighting from wrestling?
Dave: I wrestled at the University of Oregon, but I dropped out. I didn’t get injured—I injured my mind. Maybe it was a good thing wrestling fell through, because I probably wouldn’t be fighting today had I wrestled all four yours. But I got left with this void. Six years went by.
Alex: Did you stay in shape those six years?
Dave: I went to the gym, but I wasn’t in shape. I went through a phase of cigarette smoking and drinking. Once you’re in shape, though, it’s just maintenance. Now I’m in fight shape.
Alex: Do they do drug testing before fights?
Dave: They test for everything they can. Adding these rules saved MMA. In the early years it wasn’t even a sport; it was a spectacle.
Alex: It didn’t seem like a spectacle when I saw Strikeforce Challengers at Portland’s Rose Garden, although there was a fight in the stands. I was surprised, though, at how quickly the crowd turned against a fighter after he got poked in the eye, and the fight was called. Can you tune out the crowd?
Dave: Sometimes. I’ve had eighteen fights: six amateur, twelve pro. In the early fights I couldn’t hear anything—couldn’t even hear my corner men. I was gacked. So much adrenaline. Now I can hear their corner, my corner, the crowd. I just got to assume that 90% of the crowd are uneducated fans. They yell some pretty obscene things—“punch him in the Fallopian tubes.” People are calling for elbows on the ground. Elbows to the head aren’t allowed on the ground in Strikeforce or amateur shows, but they are in WEC. I don’t even get frustrated by the crowd screaming stupid shit, not knowing the rules. I just expect it.
Alex: So you’re not doing it for crowd approval?
Dave: They’ll turn on me in a heartbeat.
Alex: Are you fighting for who you’re training with? Do you have a bond with them?
Dave: I don’t have many friends right now outside of my stable of fighters, but I fight for myself.
Alex: You spend lots of hours at the gym.
Dave: Yeah. I train and teach there. I’m kind of a hermit right now. When I go home in between practices I’m exhausted. I load an episode of Mad Men and lay on the bed. I have a futon that folds so I can elevate my feet to get the circulation going.
Alex: Are your trainers pushing you too hard?
Dave: No, I’m primarily my own trainer. I have a plyometrics guy I hire outside the gym. We work on balancing, agility, speed. Other than that, I’m the one who goes running at night, I swim, I do yoga in my room.
Alex: Are you worried about head injuries?
Dave: I’ve been choked out twice, but I’ve never been knocked out. One time in practice a couple of years ago one of the fighters was saying, “Oh man, I’m coming out to fight to the song ‘I Kissed a Girl.’” Later in my rounds I’m going with one of my teammates. Now usually I’m hard to choke. But I attempted a takedown, double leg, and I got locked up in a guillotine choke. Then I had a lucid dream that I was walking in the Lloyd Center and hearing the song “I Kissed a Girl” throughout the mall—I’d been choked unconscious. Suddenly I woke up and the fighter was saying, “You’re snoring.” I was sure he was in my bedroom—then it all came together.
Alex: You wouldn’t want young kids to emulate this…
Dave: Not unless they’re in my Team Quest class so I can teach them how to do it the right way, and not as some idiotic game.