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Friday, Aug 05, 2005

Out Of The Shadows:salaverry Primed For Ultimate Fight Night Breakout

Out of the Shadows:
Salaverry Primed for Ultimate Fight Night Breakout

By Loretta Hunt

Ivan Salaverry - Photo courtesy of Zuffa/UFC

Ivan Salaverry has lived in the shadows for quite some time and been just fine. While teammates like Josh Barnett or Bob Sapp have clawed their way up the ladder to a UFC Heavyweight title or to overnight superstardom on every ice cream wrapper, shaving cream can, and soda bottle in Japan, Salaverry was the quiet guy standing behind them, his gentle smile never betraying the slightest sign of jealousy.

In a sport where being "big" is often better, 34-year-old Salaverry has been content to go about things in his own unobtrusive way– that is till now. Tonight, 10-4 Salaverry will be the envy of every mixed martial artist in America, the headliner on the UFC’s first ever straight-on MMA event on cable television. Relegated to the pay-per-view bracket for years, fighters could only hope to score up to 200,000 potential admirers on a good outing with the UFC, but with Ultimate Fight Night, millions might watch Salaverry swing or submit his way to notoriety.

"Honestly, I don’t have a clue," the Chilean athlete sheepishly answers when asked why he thinks he got the coveted slot. "I’ve always thought I was the redheaded stepchild of the UFC, but I think they’re starting to enjoy my style. They’re starting to enjoy that I don’t have to be somebody that overwhelms people to make statement. Yes, I can go out there quietly, humbly and do my job, fight well, and come out on top."

With sweat come opportunities. Turn the pages of Salaverry’s scrapbook and you’ll see a 6’0" string bean wrestling at 135 pounds in high school on one page; a dashing, dark-featured jock voted "class flirt" on the next. Then there’s the soldier: a construction, mines, and demolitions expert in the Marines; the night dwelling club promoter, and a pressed-suited social worker.

Yet, fighting is what Salaverry knew he was meant to do when the dreams started nine years ago, dreams that had him fiercely contorting on the ground or madly duking it out with some anonymous blur. Familiar with the UFC and Royce Gracie in particular ("a skinny Latin dude" that reminded him of his father), Salaverry sought out a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu instructor and trained for a while with Marcelo Alonzo, a Carlson Gracie brown belt at the time, in the greater Washington area.

That was not enough though. Hearing of a local expert trainer breeding a super team of functional all-purpose fighters, Salaverry found himself at AMC Pankration, a full-service facility led by "the Wizard" himself Matt Hume. Salaverry savored the times, leaving the gym each day with three things — bruises, a black eye, and a big smile. Nourished by the fight world, Salaverry’s obscurity slowly began to wane as his record started to grow.

At his UFC 37 debut, a solid 200-pound Salaverry used his weight advantage to throw Russian Red Devil Andrei Semenov around the cage like a rag doll. Just two shows later, however, a distracted Salaverry would be weighed down by Olympic wrestler Matt Lindland. The loss taught Salaverry the lesson of getting his personal affairs together before stepping into combat. He parted ways with his girlfriend at the time, and began the task of getting another big fight in the big show.

Added to UFC 50’s roster two years later, a centered and poised Salaverry had an answer for every attack last-minute opponent Tony Fryklund threw his way, before verbally submitting the Miletich-trained fighter with an unorthodox back crank in under two minutes.

While news of fighters leaving camps tends to spread like wildfire, Salaverry’s exit from AMC Pankration has been much like his tacit much unpublicized career, even though the middleweight left the gym at a critical time about a month before his UFC 52 victory over Joe Riggs. Between his praises of Hume, he’ll only say that there was a "falling out" between himself and his trainer of five years and that it was time to move on.

Training for the last five months at Ring Sports United in Bellevue, Salaverry still receives the instruction of AMC trainer Bard Kertson along with Eric Dahlberg, who oversees his endurance training among other areas. "I know Matt Hume is amazing," Salaverry comments of his former teacher. "He is the wizard for a reason, but at the same time, I’m getting a lot more from these gentleman as far as personalized attention." Along with training camps that have included Tito Ortiz, who is slated to work Salaverry’s corner tonight, the happy-go-lucky fighter has pieced together a training system that will ready him for fifteen minutes under America’s microscope.

21-6-2 opponent Nathan Marquardt, a 5-year plus veteran of Japan’s Pancrase organization and its middleweight title holder, is a deep well of both experience and skill. As technically-gifted as Salaverry say MMA pundits, their pairing makes for a fairly evenly-matched affair. It won’t be an easy fight for either, but Salaverry doesn’t wish to live in the shadows anymore.

"I’m excited to show these people what true professional athletes that do no-holds-barred are like," Salaverry hungrily echoes his past teammates that have gone on to accomplish their own feats of greatness. "I want the American public to see great fighters fighting. I want it to be an epic fight. You know, one of those fights where you’re like ‘wow.’"

posted by Full Contact Fighter @ 8:00 pm
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