With almost twice as many fights as his opponent Cheick Kongo, Paul Buentello didn't expect to be the underdog this Sunday at UFC on Versus 1 in Broomfield, Colo. Yet here he as high as a +330 bet on some wagering sites.
“I thought it was funny,” Buentello said on Sherdog Radio Network's “Savage Dog Show” on Wednesday. “There it goes again with the critics. They're looking at my last performance. You're only good as your last fight in the critics’ world. It motivates me a little bit but it also makes me feel comfortable because there's no pressure on me.”
Sunday’s bout will be Buentello's first under the tutelage of trainers Trevor Whitman and Mike Van Arsdale in Denver, following a close majority decision loss to Stefan Struve at UFC 107 last December. The move from the American Kickboxing Academy to Grudge MMA has done wonders for “The Headhunter.”
“It's very interesting because these guys have a totally different style,” said Buentello. “Trevor's trying to work with these new techniques and these new drilling things we've been working on and I try to go against these guys and try these techniques out and these guys all know it. They hit me with everything they've got. Everybody in Trevor's gym is a specialist in something and they bring something different every time. Every time I spar with somebody different. It's crazy. The first four weeks have been hard.”
Those first few weeks didn't start with a training session, but a meeting between Whitman and Buentello. Whitman asked the fighter what needed improving in his game and Buentello was very forthcoming in his response.
“My striking,” said Buentello. “I'm not firing off my legs, off my hips. I'm a little bit of a push puncher. My takedown defense in certain areas, I have to work on that. My jab could be crisper. My right hand could be a little crisper. Just a lot of stuff and he pointed out I had a lot of bad habits on my footwork. It was an interesting conversation because I was honest and he investigated and he said, ‘Wow most fighters would come in here and say I'm good at everything. I do this great. I do that great. Look at my record.’ He was impressed that I broke it all down for him.”
Buentello has been content with the move.
“I've never said this before but it's been probably the most organized training camp I've been at in a long time,” he said. “Everything is written out on a sheet. You get an email every couple of days telling you your status of how your training is going, where you got to be the next day. It's phenomenal. I know where I've got to be. I know what I've got to do.”
With his training back on course, the only question that really remains for Buentello as he prepares for Kongo is what version of the French fighter will show up?
“We don't know if it's going to be the grappler, the wrestler or the striker,” said Buentello. “We have no idea and we prepared for every situation Cheick Kongo is good and is known for. But we still don't know who's going to show up. He can put a dollar on it and he knows which Paul Buentello is going to show up. He knows I'm going to come straight forward and I'm going to let my hands go and I'm going to do everything possible to land my hands on him. Guaranteed. But we don't know which Cheick Kongo is going to show up.”