‘Sell’ing Himself, “Drago” Ready for Quarry

Sell'ing Himself

By Steven Curtis Aug 2, 2005
For whatever reason, maybe it was the The Ultimate Fighter hype, maybe it was the anticipation for Liddell-Couture II, one of the biggest upsets of the year in mixed martial arts barely registered on the radar.

During UFC 51, 22-year-old Pete “Drago” Sell, in his first UFC bout, not only traded leather with one of the toughest punchers in the game, the so-called “New York badass,” Phil Baroni (pictures), but he put him to sleep with a guillotine and sent him packing to Japan.

Sherdog.com visited Matt Serra’s star student at Serra Jiu-Jitsu in Huntington, Long Island as he was preparing for his August 6 fight with Ultimate Fighter golden boy Nate Quarry.

Still motivated by what he perceives as a lack of respect, “Drago” is confident, jacked and ready. While he wouldn’t make any predictions, we’ll make one ourselves: this guy is going to be a force in MMA for a long time.

Sherdog.com: So how does it feel to be the guy that knocked Baroni out of the UFC?

Pete Sell (pictures): It feels good. Man, he’s a loudmouth. I heard a couple of interviews, and he’s still running his mouth. But if he keeps knockin’ guys out and keeps winning fights, I could ask for big money for the rematch. (laughs)

Sherdog.com: Sherdog’s guy in Japan, Masa Fukui, wants us to ask you, for the sake of all the Japanese fighters out there, “What’s the key to beating Baroni?”

Sell: The only way he can beat you is trading with you. If you outbox him, he can’t beat you. He’s not a counter-puncher. If you keep moving on him, you can take him out.

Sherdog.com: You took that fight on three weeks notice. What was your reaction when you got that call?

Sell: I acted just like I would if I was training for any other fight. I got as much time in as I could with the training. We always come in with a good game plan, with Ray Longo and Matt (Serra) and Nicky (Serra) and I was ready to rock. I don’t care, I’m not scared to fight anybody. It was nothing to me.

Sherdog.com: How did you get into the UFC in the first place?

Sell: I saw Royce beating up everyone in the first UFCs and I got my hands on a couple of tapes back in the day. You know those Marco Ruas (pictures) tapes? The street fighting tapes? I was actually in taekwondo at the time; I actually have a black belt in taekwondo, which is funny, but they give those belts out like candy. You’re there for a certain amount of time and you get it, ya know? Here [at Serra Jiu-jitsu] it is all about how good you are.

So I was there for a while and hooked up with Matt in Babylon, New York. I didn’t even know who Matt was at the time. I just knew he was under Renzo Gracie (pictures) and I actually went to the grand opening there, when Matt was a purple belt, so I knew Matt before he was a big UFC star. So I knew Matt before and I started training for real when I was 17, in October of ‘99. I did the Pan American games, I got a bronze medal.

Sherdog.com: Americans weren’t winning too many medals in jiu-jitsu back then.

Sell: The guy who finished second, I actually popped the guy’s arm in the first minute. But as he went over, he got the two points for the sweep and he got out of the armbar. Then he stalled the rest of the time, and he won on points. But who really won that fight? I mean, I popped the guy’s arm and he beat me by two points. That’s why I’m not into the grappling game as much.

Sherdog.com: One of the things you said before the Baroni fight was that you had nothing to lose.

Sell: It’s true! I had nothing to lose. He had everything to lose. There was no pressure on me.

Sherdog.com: As a jiu-jitsu guy, you stood toe-to-toe with one of the hardest punchers in the game. Where did that come from? Was that all from working with Ray Longo?

Sell: It’s all Ray Longo.

Sherdog.com: How long have you been training with him?

Sell: About three years.

Sherdog.com: Was your plan to take Baroni’s biggest weapon away early?

Sell: I knew that he was the type of guy that if you get into his head, and show him that he can’t hurt you, which he couldn’t, that he crumbles; he can’t take it. He’s like a bully in school — if he intimidates somebody and they crumble right under him, he’ll pounce right on you. But if you’re not intimidated by him, he can’t take that, ya know?

Sherdog.com: Corso [Sherdog photographer] mentioned this earlier — do you feel you didn’t get the respect you deserved after that Baroni fight?

Sell: Of course I didn’t get enough credit. Oh, so it only happened in the last minute or whatever, what’s the difference? Meanwhile, Lindland and Tanner — and I’m not discrediting those guys, they’re great fighters — but I’m the only guy to actually finish Baroni and take him out; they beat him on decision, and they get praised for it. I actually trade with the guy, he didn’t do anything to me standing up, and everybody watching the fight says he was beating me standing up. If you watch the whole fight in slow-mo, even the first exchange we had, they talked about his uppercut advantage, look at the right hand I landed during that flurry. His head rocked back, I know he felt that, which is why I think against the cage he didn’t push back that much. Because he got rocked, too. But people were like, “Oh, Baroni’s uppercut, that’s what made him shoot.” I’m gonna shoot anyway. I’m a grappler. It wasn’t because he rocked me. That was the game plan from the jump for that fight. Then I felt like I could stand with him, which is what I did.
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