Paul Buentello’s decision to switch managers and return to the UFC has also resulted in his extraction from his longtime training team at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, Calif.
The Texas-born heavyweight had been repped by Bob Cook, one of AKA’s main trainers, for the last few years. However, when the fighter asked for his release from Strikeforce to accept a deal with the UFC this fall, things got complicated. Buentello decided to replace Cook, also a consultant for Strikeforce, with a new manager. The result was a multi-fight agreement for the 35-year-old fighter’s return to the Octagon, but it came with a price. Buentello was told he would no longer be welcome at the well-regarded camp he’s called home for a good portion of his professional career.
Both Buentello and Cook won’t discuss the additional details of the split or how long it might last. But Buentello, who faces gangly 6-foot-11 Dutch fighter Stefan Struve this Saturday at UFC 107 in Memphis, Tenn., said he’s picked up the pieces of his “shattered” training camp and prepared for his Octagon homecoming as best he could.
During his eight-week training camp, Buentello visited Greg Jackson’s New Mexico gym for a week, while Dave Velasquez, a cornerman for a number of Buentello’s past bouts, took on a greater role.
“Now that the whole demographic of this training camp changed, I’ve had to rely on Dave to find sparring partners and take care of the sparring and just do a lot of work,” Buentello told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Savage Dog Show” this week. So, basically, (it’s been) a little bit of Velasquez and Jason Moss from Optimum Results in San Jose, the personal trainer I hired since the Gary Goodridge and ‘Baby Fedor’ (Kirill Sidelnikov) fights. Those two guys are the real backbone of this whole training camp.”
Reminders of Buentello’s recent choices will be all around him on Saturday. Cook, who acted as a motivator and confidante, will not be the fighter’s corner. But the heavy-handed striker said he’s already reaped some benefits from his decisions. When original opponent Todd Duffee withdrew from the Dec. 12 bout six weeks ago due to injury, the UFC secured and announced a replacement to face Buentello within days.
“Right off the bat, (the UFC) had another opponent in place,” said Buentello. “My whole thing that I wanted to leave Strikeforce and come back to the UFC was consistency and just the security that I was going to fight, that the fights would still go on no matter what’s going on. It just shows that the UFC’s in the business of putting on fights and I’m in the business of fighting… I’ve been in situations where you’re opponent stubbed his toe and you’re off the card. It just shows; I made a security decision on what I wanted to do in this fight world.”
Buentello anticipates that Struve, who’s won two of his three UFC bouts by submission, might search for takedown openings if he can during their main-card bout.
“Struve, with his height, I would honestly think he’d work on his double-leg and shooting in, but he’s just so tall,” said Buentello. “There’s no telling what his game plan is. I don’t know if he going to try and clinch more. It’s hard to say because when you’re that tall you have a lot of body to move. You have to make all your limbs work together. I just know I need to stick to my game plan and get it done and fight my a-- off like I always do.”