Dan "The Handler" Hornbuckle (20-2) is best known for knocking out Japanese mixed martial arts superstar Akihiro Gono with a devastating head kick at "Sengoku: Ninth Battle" at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan in August 2009. In a fight that few gave Hornbuckle a chance, he showed the world a glimpse of his potential with a knockout that earned him numerous "KO of the Year" nominations. Since that fight he has continued to climb toward his goal, a goal that involves fighting the best en route to becoming a world champion.
MMA Spot’s Thomas Caldwell had a chance to sit down with Hornbuckle and ask him some questions as he wrapped up a training session at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Fla. The Bellator fighter opened up about the promotion, his feelings on the Ben Askren and Ryan Thomas controversy, as well as what will be most important in his continuing journey to the championship.
Thomas Caldwell: How are feeling following your submission victory over Tyler Stinson last week?
Dan Hornbuckle: I've been blessed with no injuries. Knock on wood. The fight went quick, so I'm happy with that. I'm right back into my training camp, I started back up yesterday. I fought on Thursday and started camp on Monday.
Caldwell: You’ll face Steve Carl (10-1) in the next round. He went to war with Brett Cooper the same evening you fought Stinson. What do you know about Carl, and how will you prepare for him?
Hornbuckle: Steve is a tough brawler and a tough wrestler. We already have film on him, and we are breaking him down. I'm excited for this fight with Steve Carl, it's a good match up. I'm just looking forward to going in there and doing what I do, and walking away with my hand raised.
Caldwell: There has been quite a bit of shake up and controversy already in this tournament. First, Sean Pierson, your original opponent, had to pull out due to injury. Jim Wallhead was stranded in Europe. Many people thought Brett Cooper won his bout with Carl. And obviously, the much talked about Ryan Thomas vs. Ben Askren incident., and Thomas’ return to the tournament. Would you like a chance to face off with some of these guys that did not get their opportunities in the tournament?
Hornbuckle: Man, at this point, I will fight anybody that Bellator wants to put in front of me. Everybody in this MMA industry is so well-rounded and they have good styles. It all comes down to strategy and how you train for it. Whether it's Pierson, Askren, Cooper, whoever would have been the punching bag. Everybody is good at everything, it's a matter of how you go in there and strategize and train for the individual.
Caldwell: Staying with Ryan Thomas for a moment. What are you thoughts on the Ryan Thomas vs. Ben Askren fiasco? From the first fight, to Thomas being brought back in, to him getting a rematch at Askren in the semi-finals?
Hornbuckle: I couldn't be more happy for Ryan. Justice got served. Everything happens for a reason, and Ryan is motivated to kick the crap out of Askren, man. That's how you sell a fight, to have a scenario like that. Ryan looked really good against McClintlock, he was fired up, he was ready to go.
Read the rest at MMASpot.netCaldwell: Your contract in Japan is with World Victor Road/Sengoku. I know you had an issue with them telling you that you were fighting this past New Year's Eve and that ended up falling though. Has that issue been addressed? Do you have constant communication with WVR?
Hornbuckle: It hasn't been addressed yet, because they knew I was getting ready for Bellator. I was supposed to fight there on a March 7 show, but it was just too close to the Bellator tournament. I weighed out the benefits, rewards, and what this tournament means to me. And my name stateside is what's important at this point, so I had to turn that fight down, and I'm just focusing on the tournament right now.
Caldwell: What do you find the biggest difference between fighting in Japan versus the United States is? Which is your favorite?
Hornbuckle: The difference between fighting stateside in the U.S. over Japan is the energy in the crowd. In the States everybody is into it, they are very excitable fans and that's a good thing, they can get very worked up. Now, over in Japan the fans are very quite. You can hear a pin drop. They want to be entertained. That's the big difference between fighting in the States and Japan.