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Steve Cofield

The Ric Flair of MMA coming soon to a cage near you

Steve Cofield
Cagewriter

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There's already an early leader in my Ultimate Fighter 8 clubhouse. Aside from the fights, the personalities are what make the show. Early on, I think we all choose the guys that we're rooting to win the whole thing.

David Kaplan, a former college wrestler from Washington D.C., won his qualifier fight easily over Fernando Bernardo with a choke at 2:19 of the first round. He withstood some big shots in the opening minute and then outclassed 'The Machete.' I'm not simply stuck on his fighting because we've seen very little. The reason to root for the kid is his personality. He sat down with USAToday's Sergio Non and showed that he totally gets it.

Anyone who says they want to emulate Ric Flair during their MMA career is down with me. One of Kaplan's best friends from the taping TUF 8 was Tom Lawlor, who did some pro wrestling before getting into mixed martial arts.

"Tom and I were talking about this with other guys that we were witnessing on the show," said Kaplan, who has dubbed himself 'Diamond Dave'. "Talent you've got to have. Athletic ability, all this kind of stuff. Charisma is not something — you're either born with it or not. You're either magnetic or effusive, or you're not."

Kaplan is the rare MMA prospect who wants to be hated:

"You have to have the personality to deal with it. And wanting it — I want those people to be booing me because they know who I am and they want to see me."

It sounds like Kaplan did well on the show. He's moving to Las Vegas soon to train full-time in Sin City. He said he got offers from both coaches, Frank Mir and Antonio Nogueira, to train at their home gyms.

Kaplan sounds like he's going for broke in Vegas:

"Hopefully, the UFC thing works out great. If it doesn't, I'll party my way into an early grave, probably, because it's an easy place to do it. If I could just put the the drinking down and just focus on the ladies, I think I'll probably be okay. I want to fight the best guys and I want to fight at the weight where I have the best six-pack abs so the ladies like it."

The average hardcore MMA fan or fighter may not like what his motivation is for getting into the sport:

"My goal isn't necessarily to be champion. My goal is to be able to fight and get paid a tremendous amount of money, and parlay that after fighting into something else. Fighting, for me, is a means to an end. I want to end up in Hollywood doing acting or music or something in the entertainment industry, after the (MMA) career's over. I want people that don't even watch the UFC pay-per-views to know who I am."

It's not all braggadocio. Kaplan has a soft side like when he cried because Flair lost.

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