I've had the chance to talk to the 6'6", 260-pound Norwegian John-Olav Einemo on a few occasions now. Despite being an imposing figure in both size and stature, you'd be hard pressed to find an easier guy to get into a good conversation with.
Einemo is fighting Saturday night against Chicago native Mike Russow on the undercard of UFC on Fox 2 and I had a chance to talk with him prior to the fight.
Before now, Einemo's career has been up and down to say the least, let's just say he hasn't been in the good graces of Lady Luck.
A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, coupled with the accolades of being the only man to beat Roger Gracie at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships made, Einemo a highly touted prospect when he made the transition to Mixed Martial Arts.
Despite having to pick up the striking arts along the way, Einemo was looking like a fighter full of promise after starting off his career with a 6-1-0 record. Then the injury bug hit, among other things, and the big Norwegian wasn't to be seen on the professional circuit for four-and-a-half years.
Despite the hiatus, the UFC signed Einemo to a deal in early 2011 and things were looking good once again, but it was a year full of ups and downs for the heavyweight.
Einemo lost his first fight in four-and-a-half years at UFC 131 in Vancouver to Dave Herman in a back-and-forth brawl that resulted in Fight of the Night honors. The loss wasn't the worst of it though.
"There was a lot of things happening. Of course UFC took over Strikeforce and there was some problems with Alistair [Overeem] and Zuffa," Einemo said. "Certainly they had trouble with payments and they decided to cut everyone from Golden Glory. So we all suddenly lost our contracts. Luckily we could work it out, we just had to change how they wanted to pay us, so it wasn't a big deal and everything is OK again."
The story between Overeem, the UFC and Zuffa made waves in the second half of 2011, which ultimately resulted in Overeem's departure from Golden Glory after a 10 year relationship with the famed Dutch gym. In fact, the dispute still rages on and it looks as if everything will have to be decided in court.
We hear a lot about the dispute between Golden Glory management and Overeem, but not much about how the other fighters of Golden Glory feel about the whole situation.
"Me personally, I don't have any problems with Alistair," Einemo told Bleacher Report. "But, of course I think the situation is sad for the whole team[..] I can understand somethings Alistair is saying, but still I think it's not a nice thing to turn your back to people that have been helping you for so many years. I respect Alistair and I respect his decision, of course it is up to him what he is going to do, but if it is only for money I think it is sad."
One gets the sense that the fighters at Golden Glory feel betrayed by Overeem, but at the same time still see him as a friend and a solid fighter.
Opinions may change once the details of the whole debacle are finally settled, but until then the fighters of Golden Glory seem as much in the dark as to what the truth is as the fans and media trying to get the scoop.
Overeem recently fought and retired former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar and Einemo wasn't too shocked with the result.
"I wasn't really surprised," Einemo said. "I was surprised actually cause I thought Brock would put up a little bit more of a fight and he would go for it a bit more, but the result didn't really shock me. I was expecting Alistair to win. I think he was a little bit shocked with the power of Alistair."
Moving on from camp disputes and former teammates, Einemo is looking forward to fighting on the undercard of UFC on Fox 2 against Mike Russow. This will be Einemo's second fight inside the Octagon, but this time he will be looking for a different result and a different kind of fight.
Against Herman, Einemo didn't get much of a chance to show off his vaunted ground game and despite putting on a Fight of the Night performance, the loss and the type of fight he had weren't what he was looking for.
"The fight became more of a brawl then a very tactical fight on my side," Einemo said. "I think it had to do with the fact that I didn't fight for six years and I came straight in to the UFC and it wasn't really a warm up fight since Dave Herman is a good fighter."
As UFC president Dana White has said during countless interviews and press conferences, ring rust is for real and Einemo tends to agree with his boss.
"Absolutely, before the fight I thought it wasn't going to be an issue because I had good training and I had really good sparring partners and we were sparring really hard in the training," Einemo said. "It [sparring] was almost like a fight, but it's not the same, it's different when you are there and there are all the people watching, it takes a lot of energy out of you. Ring rust definitely is a factor."
Ring rust shouldn't be a factor against Russow, who is 14-1-0 as a fighter and has a similar skill set to Herman. Einemo is going to want to avoid brawling with Russow, who seems to have a knack for surviving a vicious beatdown and still being able to win the fight (see Russow vs. Duffee, UFC 114).
"I definitely need to keep my hands up and try and make it not so much of a brawl," Einemo said. "I feel my head is better for this fight than for the last fight. Last fight I was really tense before because of the long break and this time I am a little more ready going in to it."
The fight with Russow will be aired on Fuel TV and is part of the second card to be televised on Fox, featuring main card fights between Rashad Evans and Phil Davis, Chael Sonnen and Michael Bisping and Demian Maia and Chris Weidman.
This is a big opportunity for Einemo, but here in North America we probably don't realize how little the deal between Fox and the UFC means for people living in other corners of the planet.
"Probably if you live in the States it's [the Fox deal] better, but for me from Norway and staying here in Holland I don't think it's really so much different for me. I don't really think too much about it," Einemo said.
In fact for Einemo, says that being able to fight on cards closer to his home are the biggest deal to him and are the ones he looks forward to being on.
"I am really hoping to get a fight here in Sweden on the 14 of April," Einemo said. "I don't think they have any heavyweights in this card and another Golden Glory fighter is also fighting there, Siyar Bahadurzada."
Einemo is fighting in Russow's home city and it would be nice for him if he could have his next fight closer to home. Of course, if Einemo wants this to happen he will probably have to come away with a victory over Russow Saturday night.
And considering the turnaround between now and UFC Sweden, he better hope he comes away with no injuries.
In any case, win or lose, I know Einemo is hoping to fight a more technical fight, but should it turn into a war like his last fight against Herman. I am sure the UFC fans and the UFC itself won't be disappointed by that.