Jon Madsen didn’t arrive in the UFC from the tenth season of The Ultimate Fighter with the notoriety of Kimbo Slice, the experience of Roy Nelson, the power of Brendan Schaub or the athleticism and charisma of Matt Mitrione.
But a little over 15 months after that season’s finale card, he’s still here, outlasting Kimbo and castmate James McSweeney in the organization as he compiled a 4-0 Octagon record that has lifted his overall pro slate to 7-0.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that while Madsen still remains unbeaten in the sport’s premier organization, Nelson is fighting on the UFC 130 main card against former champ Frank Mir, Schaub is coming off back-to-back wins over Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop in Pay-Per-View bouts, and Mitrione is 4-0 in the UFC and one of the media’s favorite personalities.
As for the 31-year old Madsen, he’s still looking for his time to shine, but he understands why he isn’t exactly a household name yet.
“My first few fights, against (Mostapha) Al Turk, (Justin) Wren, and (Karlos) Vemola were kinda boring fights,” he admits. “I got in there and did what it took to win and I really didn’t take any risks. I think in this sport the fans want to see you take risks and they want to see you stick your nose in there and get a little bloody.”
It’s been said that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, but in the fight game, there can be an asterisk attached to that statement. Winning is important in terms of fighting your way to the title, but when you fight to finish in every minute of every round - like a Chris Lytle – you can gain something more and it’s not just job security. It’s the respect given that when you’re on the card, people will watch whether you win or lose.
As Madsen pointed out, his first three bouts in the Octagon were far from memorable. He pounded out three round decision wins behind his stellar wrestling and ability to impose his will on his foes and keep them where he wanted them. It was not exactly Fight of the Night material, and he heard all the barbs thrown at him by critics and fans. It was almost as if he was only using some of what was ingrained in him as he become a high school wrestling star, a three-time All-American and a Division-II National Champ for South Dakota State University.
“We’ve always been taught that when you get an opponent down, you don’t let up, you break him, you finish him,” he said. “You put him away and you make him quit.”
Madsen was getting his opponents down, and he was winning the fights, but he was not finishing them. Then came UFC 121 last October against veteran strike Gilbert Yvel and he had no illusions about what was at stake.
“I think if I would have lost that fight, I would have been done,” he said. “I don’t think there was any doubt in my mind or probably even (UFC President) Dana (White’s) or (matchmaker) Joe Silva’s. If I would have lost that fight or even won a fight that was really boring, I probably would have been booted.”
Well, considering that he is facing Mike Russow this Saturday at UFC Fight Night in Seattle, you know that Madsen’s still here, so it’s evident what happened in Anaheim. But for those who didn’t catch the results, Madsen took control from the opening bell, put Yvel on his back, and finished him with strikes in less than two minutes. In a short career thus far, it was a defining moment.
“I knew I’d eventually get him to the ground, and once I landed a hard elbow I heard him kinda squeak and squeal and I knew the fight was gonna be over soon,” said Madsen, who scored his first TKO since June of 2008. “Everything went perfectly, I felt great, and the fight went great too.”
Just like that, people started paying attention to Jon Madsen again. That doesn’t mean he’s slacking off though.
“The mentality that I take into every fight is that it’s do or die – it’s one loss and I’m probably gonna be out of the UFC, so I try to get in there and win every fight.”
Madsen makes that declaration with no trembling in his voice, or any indication that this possibility is wearing him down. He sounds so calm that he could very well be telling you about the weather.
“I don’t really look at it as pressure,” he explains. “I look at it as a blessing in disguise. My opportunity that I’ve had with the UFC has been great. I’ve been able to do some world traveling and do things that I never thought I would have done in my life, so each fight, I go into it like this the only fight I’ve had and it could be my last fight, and if I lose, I’m done. But I don’t add any pressure from that situation. It’s kind of a fact and something I just deal with.”
And in his defense, he has only had seven fights since beginning to train in MMA in February of 2007, making him a clear work in progress. But he knows he can’t use inexperience as a crutch.
“I don’t know if the fans or anybody really look at that,” he said. “(H.I.T. Squad coach) Marc Fiore told me that I’m learning on the big stage, and not a lot of people get that chance. But I’m thankful for each opportunity, and every fight is such a great learning experience and you get so much better from every fight. I’d like to get a few more under my belt and hopefully it will all come together.”
The next test for Madsen, who trains with Greg Nelson in Minnesota, is Russow, another heavyweight unbeaten in the UFC who has flown under the radar. Actually, let’s change that to the past tense, since Russow made plenty of noise in the MMA world last May with his come from behind knockout of then-unbeaten Todd Duffee at UFC 114. An injury has kept Russow on the shelf since then, but as he returns, Madsen thinks he can make a statement against the Chicago police officer.
“He’s kinda got that mystique right now after his Todd Duffee fight,” said Madsen. “Everybody thinks he’s hard to finish and get out of there so it just gives me a great opportunity to get in there and go for the finish and show that I can put away a guy that not many people think can get put away right now.”
Yet while he has a great opportunity ahead of him, he also has to be aware of Russow’s cast-iron chin, one that kept him in the Duffee fight after absorbing copious amounts of punishment before he turned everything around with a single right hand in the third and final round.
“Either he’s got a good chin or Duffee hits like a girl,” laughs Madsen. “I’m not sure what the situation is, but knowing that he’s gonna be in there for 15 minutes, I like that. I know that I can go 15 minutes, I’ve done it in three of my other fights, so I plan on pushing the pace on him and seeing if he can keep up to my cardio level, and not the other way around.”
March 26th is a new day for Jon Madsen. Another finish, and he might be able to stop thinking about pink slips and more about championship gold.
Jon Madsen Turns The Page
“The mentality that I take into every fight is that it’s do or die – it’s one loss and I’m probably gonna be out of the UFC, so I try to get in there and win every fight.” - Jon Madsen