“People pick their own demise, don’t they?” – Dave Faulkner talks TUF, Michael Bisping and his Dome MMA return

Dave Faulkner, who fought on the 9th season of The Ultimate Fighter, makes a return to the cage at Dome MMA on Saturday. Love2Fight caught up with Dave to ask about his time on TUF and his return to fighting. 

Are you looking forward to the fight?

Yeah, it’s been a year since I last fought. Well, Saturday will be just shy of exactly one year since my last fight. But yeah, it’s different now. I used to get forced into fighting, I used to get paid to spar with all my training gear and nutrition for free. I was making enough money and I’ve never been greedy but there was a point after an injury where I needed the money, so I forced myself to fight last year. 

I’ve never really actually wanted to fight, I’ve always preferred grappling competitions and that. But it’s changed now, I want to fight now. I haven’t been getting my ‘week before’ stresses where I think my opponent is going to be better than he is. 

So you’ve got a bit of hunger back then?

Yeah I just want to fight now, not even for money, which is weird ‘cause I’ve never been like that. 

It’s funny then how someone who claims to not like fighting ends up getting to The Ultimate Fighter!

Yeah it is. I mean, I’ve wrestled since I was 11 – freestyle, catch etc. and I always wanted to be a pro wrestler because I didn’t know it was all fake! (laughs) I started doing tournaments thinking ‘I’m going to be a brilliant pro wrestler!’  so when that didn’t work out because it was all staged, I got offered a Vale Tudo fight in 2002.  

I’d just become a dad and I’d never been in debt but I owed £300 to a credit card and thought my life was over so I took that Vale Tudo fight for 200 quid, and that was that.  

What was The Ultimate Fighter like?

It was good. Again, though, I didn’t really want to do it. I don’t really like the UFC and its douchebag mentality. I was in the gym and caught someone with a twister and they said “who’s that?”. The guy who I got in the twister was in most of the videos Mike [Bisping] had sent them and he looked good so they told Mike to get me a fight and they’d get me on The Ultimate Fighter. My eyes just lit up with money! 

I dominated my opponent and then got a phone call asking to try out for TUF and my first thought was “there’s going to be f***ing thousands there, I’m not gonna get through!” but I went and did things cleverly – I made myself look good. My biggest kept secret is that I’m a decent striker so I had a pretty flashy routine on the pads worked out with spinning kicks etc. and Dana was impressed. It came to the grappling part and I have two world titles in submission wrestling and the grappling side of things is just my real love so I tied this lad up in a knot and got him in all kinds of leg locks. I got a call in a really cheesy American accent saying “you’re on The Ultimate Fighter!” 

But the not being able to contact the outside world on the show was heavy. Because of family problems I couldn’t see my kid much as it was but then being on The Ultimate Fighter made it worse. It was weird. 

We used to get creative in the house to combat the boredom that came with not being able to do much. We made a game of draughts from bottle tops, and that eventually turned into chess! I was making weird masks and all kinds. Me and James Wilks were into our magic, and we kept having everyone off for their free TapOut gear by working together to cheat people out of little games around the house. There was a lot of gambling going on, which was weird. Dean Amasinger used to keep his foot in ice cold water for some free gear too! It even got to a point where we were going to make a movie called ‘Kung Fu Goes F***ing Ape Shit!’ with Ross Pearson in it! It didn’t happen though. 

We had a phone that we could use to request anything we wanted in the house, and I was eating like a pregnant woman because of being sick! 

Everyone also seemed to have a buzz around them too, apart from me. Oh, and James Wilks because he was mostly fighting in America. But I was in the gym single legging, double legging and submitting everyone and James Wilks was saying how he teaches BJJ to police officers but I kept myself to myself talking about comic books and horror movies or something! 

What was it like training with someone like Michael Bisping? What was he like?

There’s loads of ‘horror stories’ of what he was like. He did have a bit of a f***ing attitude but it wasn’t what people misconstrued it as, thinking he just had a bad attitude. When he came to Wolfslair he couldn’t wrestle, couldn’t box but he had an engine and he was surprisingly strong. He also had crazy reaction times so those things made him good but when he started he just had to get through by training all the time. He just wanted to do something with it [fighting] and he was totally motivated from the start. He did everything he could to get to where he is now. People thought that meant he had a bad attitude but he just wanted to make it. 

One of the horror stories comes from when we were training, doing the shark tank. One of the lads shot in at Mike and Mike threw a kick. Now the kick was probably meant for the body but it smashed him in the face and broke his cheekbone. The lad was just rolling on the floor injured but Mike wanted to carry on shouting “come on who’s next?” and started sparring someone else. A lot of people wouldn’t train with him because of that but it just showed how ‘in the zone’ he was and at the end of the day, it’s one of the risks of fighting. 

As a coach on TUF, he wasn’t training at the time so he was a fat c**t! He just had us doing really intense drills the whole time and burned us out quite a lot.

I’m one of the ones who’s never had a falling out with Mike, even when we were on The Ultimate Fighter. 

He looked livid with you for refusing to answer the bell for the sudden victory round against Frank Lester though, even though it turned out you had bronchitis. 

That’s the thing, because I was his mate he wanted me to do well and t**t everyone and he bigged me up that much. But what you saw on TV is worlds apart from what happened – I was sick. I had to cut 9kg in 5 days and I was doing some bag training and because I’m left footed, I was swiveling on my right foot and I was kicking that much, I got a huge blister on my right foot. I tried to treat it but then from the mats etc. it turned into staph infection. Because of this I couldn’t really shoot [for takedowns] or lean on my back foot to strike. The next thing you know, when Mike brought the hammer and tyre in, I smashed myself in the leg and had a huge lump there. At first I thought “oh f***ing hell I don’t know my own strength!” but it turned out to be the staph getting worse. As for the bronchitis, I only found out after the fight with Lester that I had it. I was complaining about lung pain and had shallow breath in the second round. I knew I was knackered but I thought I had it in me to still beat him. I thought I’d be able to stop it going to that extra round but it did, and I just couldn’t do it. 

We were getting 5 grand per stoppage on TUF and Dana told me he’d double it if I heel hooked Frank Lester. But I was too tired and had no energy to wrestle him, I just needed to keep it standing. It felt like the invisible man ran up to me and stabbed me in the front of the chest. I honestly thought there was a chance I could die, I didn’t know what was up with me. I’ve never been so sick in my life. 

There’s a bit at the end of the fight, and I love it as a photograph, where we both sit next to each other leaning on the cage. He told me I hit him with an uppercut and all he could see were bubbles, with my face in each one of the bubbles! (laughs) so I was sat up against the fence because I couldn’t breathe, and he was next to me because of the punch I got him with. 

The thing is as well with that fight, I didn’t even want to be described as a ‘hero’ for fighting when I was sick. I liked the drama to be honest, especially after the road he took to get to fighting me. Everyone thought I was the favourite so him winning was a bit of a shock. I thought I’d beat him but I couldn’t. 

I was in a mood over the whole situation for months after it. I read people talking shit about me on the internet and on YouTube, and I’m one of those people who rather than argue about things, I’ll just go and prove myself to them. But I just couldn’t because of my lungs being ruined.

What weight class are you at right now? How is your cut going?

I was at welterweight for TUF which was easy when I was about 84kg but I injured my back and went up to about 100kg – but I wasn’t fat! (laughs) I’m fighting at middleweight now and I’ve cut from about 97kg for this fight. But all in all cutting to middleweight is easier.  

 I am looking forward to the fight but there’s two things from TUF that are affecting me mentally. One is positive – I want to prove myself. I believe I haven’t fully shown my potential. I fought Dean Amasinger on Cage Warriors and I dropped him on his head and then heel hooked him and got disqualified, but I wasn’t arsed! I’ve always kind of wanted to be disqualified just once. (laughs) He also ended up becoming one of my best mates. With my fight against Aldric Cassata I used limited grappling and striking but now I’m confident I can let all of my tricks out of the bag – I want to be a bit flashy and show off! 

This is a negative one: I’ve always got this fear of not being able to breathe again because honest to god, it’s different to being tired. Being tired is the norm but not being able to breathe is the scary one. I’ve had a bit of minor therapy about it but nothing major. I had these reoccurring dreams, and I’m not being big headed but I’m not used to losing. I don’t feel like I lost because I pulled out myself but I dreamt that I’d be fighting guys like Ross [Pearson] who’s my mate and he’d be catching me in guillotine chokes and everything! It was all to do with people thinking I’m a shit fighter. 

So what happened on The Ultimate Fighter has obviously played on your mind ever since?

Yeah it was f***ing bad. Like I said, I’m not used to getting beat. I hate it. The fights on TUF don’t even feel like real fights but it’s the aftermath of what people thought. I had people who didn’t know me coming up to me saying “Dave, what happened? People always told me you’re good but you’re shit!” And they wouldn’t have any of it when I told them how sick I was. I choked him out in front of everyone! I got a lot of positive stuff for being on TV too, but there was so much negativity. Once my lung was better I was walking round and these lads about 18 shouted me and asked if I was on The Ultimate Fighter and I said I was. He asked if I was alright then shouted “ahh you’re shit!” I just head kicked him and stormed off. And that was at a point where I wasn’t looking for a fight, but the wanting to prove myself has really given me a hunger. 

My last fight wasn’t against a great opponent but I swept him and took his back and choked him. I used a different type of choke on him which was good. 

Are you going to use your wrestling to your advantage on Saturday?

Well, no. I’ve said before my best kept secret is that I’m a good striker and I’ve had 12 Thai fights and finished nine of them! Most of the first fights I was shit – just a brawler. One of them I just did a spinning back fist and stopped him. I prefer fighting when I don’t have to think about fighting, I’ve got a happier mentality towards it all now. Ideally, I want a fight to feel like a spar. 

My 3 Vale Tudo wins came by knockout. I’ll use my wrestling as a fallback. If standing and striking doesn’t work, I can always take it to the ground. I don’t like going to decision but 2 of my fights have. I have a reputation of going to decision, which I want to get rid of! 

People pick their own demise, don’t they? I can read the fight and take it anywhere. 

I want to be more active. When you see my 3-1 record my most recent fight was last year and then it says 2008. It’s not great. I’ve got to start fighting more regularly. I’m getting little slots on cards like this thanks to TUF but it seems to be more on my reputation than my actual ability. So I also need to change that.  

So how is your training going nowadays?

It’s been tough getting back into it after a year out injured. As soon as my back was better, I started training again so that’s about four or five months now. I know how to manage my injuries and I can change up my training more to avoid injury. 

I hate all the superficial training with people climbing ropes and doing loads of pad work, I always think “when do you actually f***ing spar?” (laughs) 

How did this fight come about? 

I’m a kind of guy where if anybody asks for my number, I give it out. And I also got to a point where I thought if I get offered a fight – I’d say yes. I’ve also taken a bit of stick for people thinking I have a lack of commitment and that I wouldn’t stick to fighting and that’s my main problem as a fighter. I had something to prove so as soon as Lee Monaghan offered the fight, I took it.  

The card you’re fighting on is mostly an amateur card – do any of the younger lads stand out for you?

Yeah, they’re using the amateur side properly. The rules aren’t as bad anymore. I don’t think young fighters should train MMA straight away, they should have a specialty. They might learn all the skills of MMA, but they’d also pick up the bad habits or be weak in certain areas. 

John Carney is probably the guy who stands out the most. He’s got a great attitude towards it. He’s just a proper slugger, and when you teach him he listens with intent. Another one of the lads Danny is a good lad too. He looks the business.  

It’s been great talking to you Dave!

No problem – I’m glad you let me get my point across and I can’t wait to start wrecking people again!

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