UFC 147: Mike Russow Carries the Legacies of Steve Jennum and Sean Gannon

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UFC 147: Mike Russow Carries the Legacies of Steve Jennum and Sean Gannon
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

There have been few fighters in UFC history who have donned the badge and walked the thin blue line whilst trying to pursue a successful career in the world's leading MMA promotion. 

Of those who have tried, nearly all have failed. 

Ninjitsu exponent Steve Jennum may have won UFC 3 due to a series of absurd events but ultimately, he was only 2-4 in his career. 

Sean Gannon—the man who felled legendary street fighter Kimbo Slice in an infamous YouTube brawl and was signed by the UFC for his efforts—had his UFC career begin and end in one fight—a TKO loss to the unremarkable Branden Lee Hinkle at UFC 55. 

Other officers have come and gone, none as notable as Jennum or Gannon (and to those who mention Forrest Griffin and Tim Sylvia, the former left the police before he went to the UFC and the latter joined the police force after he left the UFC), but UFC 147 co-main event fighter Mike Russow has a chance to carry their torch Saturday night, and make it burn brightly in the memories of all MMA fans.

He's undaunted by the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master he is set to face, Fabricio Werdum, the man who truly defeated the legendary Fedor Emelianenko for the first time and is even more indifferent about the fact that he must face the Brazilian in his home country. 

"Honestly, it really doesn’t bother me," said Russow at the UFC 147 media conference call, at which Bleacher Report was present.

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
Nine times out of 10, the casual fan picks the buff guy over the guy who's so big he won't take off his shirt.

"I’m the underdog, all the pressure is on [Werdum]. It really doesn’t bother me, what the fans are doing. I really don’t hear them anyway. Especially once the referee says 'go.' I really don’t even hear my coaches, so it that’s not gonna bother me at all."

Russow's background as a Chicago police officer might be responsible for his calmness in the face of such duress and adversity, but surely the act of being both a police officer and full-time fighter must be exhausting both mentally and physically, no?

On that topic, Russow gives some ground and admits that he's no superman; it's tough to perform well at two demanding professions. 

"It’s very tough working both jobs, but I’ve been doing this since like '07 or '08 so I’m used to it now with two careers," he said.

"[O]bviously, the competition is getting a lot harder. But our camps our pretty much the same. Train in Chicago, I got great coaches…It really is the conditioning I think. I know fighters say each time…but I really believe that my conditioning is the best for this fight coming up Saturday."

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
Russow's physique on display.

Such a remark about conditioning might garner sneers from some of the more cynical MMA fans out there, since Russow is notoriously...corpulent for a man who fights in the Octagon. Granted, he's no Roy Nelson, but he's not a chiseled work of art, either. 

However, that's part of Russow's appeal as a fighter and why he's carrying the torch first picked up by Steve Jennum and later carried by Sean Gannon—two men who didn't exactly have body builder physiques themselves. 

Mike Russow is the average man, and the average police officer trying to make his way through the sport—the same way Jennum and Gannon were. 

Yeah, there have been (and are) other lawmen who've graced the Octagon such as Paulo Thiago, Forrest Griffin, Andrei Arlovski and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, but they were both muscular and didn't have the everyman appeal that Russow does. 

When people looked at a prime Andrei Arlovski (ripped to shreds, bearded, with fangs) or a prime "Cro Cop" (massively muscular), it was a given that they were tough and could smash people. 

The fight that made Gannon famous.

But when people saw the doughy Russow against better-looking fighters like Todd Duffee, it was almost laughable. Yet Russow managed to win 15 fights and lose only one!

Most recently, he beat former ADCC champion Jon Olav Einemo, a feat which Russow said did wonders for him psychologically, especially since he's facing another fearsome Jiu-Jitsu fighter and ADCC champion in Werdum.

"I think it really boosted my confidence going against a guy like Jon Einemo…I know [Werdum], he’s a lot more active and is very good, but I definitely think it helped my confidence," he said.

Still, it'd be wrong to typecast Werdum as just a Jiu-Jitsu fighter. In Werdum's first UFC run, such a statement might have carried more weight. But more recently, Werdum has sharpened his striking skills, a fact which Russow is aware of. 

"From watching film on him, especially his last fight with Roy Nelson, I think his stand-up is a lot better, very good with the Muay Thai and the clinch, going for knees. He’s gonna be a tough guy," said Russow.

If Russow can defeat a fighter of Werdum's caliber, it could do wonders for his career. It would be his 11th straight win and his UFC record would stand at 4-0. Russow would make himself the best of the brave yet physically less than impressive, and he might be only a fight or two away from a title shot!

But lofty notions do little to the mind of Mike Russow.

"I’m really just focused on the fight. I really don’t want to look past anything. I just wanna get through Saturday and shock everybody. " he said. 

And shock everybody he might—the same way Jennum shocked the world at UFC 3, the same Gannon shocked Youtube by beating Kimbo Slice and the same way Russow has already been shocking the uninformed UFC fans by racking up win after win, proving that it's not the muscles that make the man.

 

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