Lindland throws hat into political ring
If Matt Lindland were a pitcher, he’d be the guy who’d want to protect a one-run lead with the bases loaded and Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz due to bat.
A 2000 Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling silver medalist, Lindland thrives the tougher and the more pressure-filled the situation.
The 38-year-old is fighting for the first time in almost a year and a half when he meets Fabio Negao in a middleweight match on the Affliction: Banned mixed martial arts pay-per-view card on July 19 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
On that card are five of the top 10 heavyweights in the world. And if Lindland had his druthers, he’d rather be fighting one of them, with no disrespect meant toward Negao.
“As an athlete, you always seek out a challenge,” said Lindland, whose last fight, coincidentally, was against top-rated heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko, the headliner of the Affliction card. “I think any athlete would much rather face a guy everyone knows, a guy who is highly ranked. That’s just what it’s like to be a competitor.”
None of those types of fighters were out there, though, as Affliction built primarily an all-heavyweight card. Just getting back into the cage, though, is enough to motivate Lindland, a plain-spoken sort whose game evolved from the slow, lay-and-pray style that some fans despise into one in which he’s looking to finish at all time
He’s had a lot of time to work on his finishing moves in the game, though, because he’s been on the shelf so much recently. After essentially being blacklisted by the UFC because he wore the logo of an unapproved sponsor to a weigh-in, Lindland has had to scramble to find fights over the past three years.
For much of that time, he had to fight out of his class. He challenged powerful light heavyweight Quinton “Rampage” Jackson at a World Fighting Alliance card in Los Angeles on July 22, 2006, in a bout he lost by a razor-thin split decision.
And then after wins over Jeremy Horn and Carlos Newton, Emelianenko submitted Lindland on April 14, 2007, in St. Petersburg, Russia, in a bout that gathered so much attention in Russia that then-President Vladimir Putin attended.
Emelianenko’s skills are such that he’s almost a mythical figure in MMA. He outweighs Lindland by nearly 40 pounds, but Lindland battled him on more than even terms until Emelianenko smoothly maneuvered into position to apply his trademark armbar and end the bout.
The bigger the fight, the more Lindland likes it, but he may have taken on a meaner, dirtier fight than he could have ever imagined this time.
And no, that’s not a knock against Negao.
Rather, it’s an acknowledgement of the reality that nothing is as rough and tumble as the world of politics, which Lindland entered by running as a Republican for a seat in District 52 of the Oregon House of Representatives.
Lindland said he opted to file when he arrived at the courthouse on the final day to declare for office and discovered there was no Republican candidate running.
The Democrats control the legislature in Oregon and Lindland believes they’ve taken the state far off track, particularly fiscally. And since a Republican, Patti Smith, was retiring and giving up her seat, Lindland didn’t want to cede it to a Democrat.
“It just seemed to me to be kind of the way the system should operate,” Lindland said of his on-the-spot decision to run. “It’s a citizen legislature and it just seems logical that if you go and see who is running for your party and you don’t see anyone you feel is more qualified, you should do what is right and step up and run. And so that’s what I did.”
Politics might be the most cutthroat business on earth, but Lindland is surprisingly calm about his campaign. He’s committed to his issues and said he has a clear plan, if elected.
Politics has none of the risk associated with his primary career, he notes. And though he wants to win badly, because he believes he’s the best candidate and that his district needs a voice to speak out against what he says is wasteful state spending, he said he doesn’t believe his stomach will be in knots on election night.
“Nobody is going to punch me,” he said. “Nobody is going to kick me in the head. I’ll be making my case to the people over the next couple of months that I’m the best person for the job. But if the people don’t turn out, there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s like fighting in that I can only control what I do.”
But Lindland’s life over the next week or so will be fighting, which has gotten his competitive juices flowing again. After leaving the UFC, he coached and fought in the International Fight League, has promoted matches himself and signed a contract to compete for BoDog Fight.
BoDog staged his bout with Emelianenko, but he wasn’t offered another bout. He was thrilled when Affliction came along, because it provides an outlet for him to compete.
With the UFC not interested in him, the IFL on the verge of bankruptcy and BoDog essentially going under, Lindland’s choices were getting slim.
And while Affliction faces a steep uphill task competing against the more established UFC, at least it’s a start.
“They’re getting the right athletes,” Lindland said of Affliction. “As much as guys who are fighting for the UFC say they’re happy with it in public and in the media, there are plenty of them who aren’t, and that includes guys who say there are. I hope this company can be successful, but I realize what it’s up against. This isn’t easy. The UFC is good. It’s put the time in, the money in and the resources in.
“Anyone who is willing to do that could possibly have success, but there hasn’t been anyone yet who’s really been willing to hang in there and do that. I hope that (Affliction) is ready and that this is a start of something.”