Interview With Abel Cullum
Back in early July, I was told I was going to Albuquerque, NM to help run the Badlands show at the Isleta Casino. It was a great show that saw Brandon Hunt win by split decision, Donald Sanchez make quick work of Titus Holmes, Tait Fletcher knocked out early in the first round by Chad Herrick, and Michelle Waterson and Thircia Poovey put on the fight of the year! I think this might have been the loudest croud I have ever heard at a King Of The Cage event. New Mexico really loves their MMA!
I was also introduced to a kid I have heard a lot about, but never had the chance to meet prior to this weekend. Abel Cullum is the new King Of The Cage Flyweight Champion, has a record of 11-1, and is currently training to defend his title for the first time. We recently spoke for a little while on the phone and I was able to talk to him about his training, background, and his title winning fight against Ryan Diaz.
ML: Can you tell me about your background in MMA?
AC: I’ve been fighting for almost four years now, and training for 7 years. All of the training I have has been based on my dad’s and my own knowledge, and it’s just been growing over the years based on what we’ve watched and seeing what works. We’ve always said we’re more Jiu Jitsu based. We try to avoid a lot of the traditional Jiu Jitsu because I feel with the Gi, because people loose sight of the fact that you could be getting punched in the face while you’re working on certain submissions. I just try to focus on a lot of the basics and making up stuff as we go and just having fun with it.
I like to represent the sport in a different way than a lot of fighters. A lot of fighters have a reputation of being a fight hard, party hard type of personality. I like to bring a new persona, by being proud to say that I’m abstinent, I’m drug free, alcohol free, and I don’t party after the fights. I like to represent myself well, represent the sport well, and King Of The Cage especially. As one of the champions, I’d just like to be an ambassador for the sport, and hopefully, more fighters take that turn.
ML: You’ve been fighting as a pro for three years, and hat time you’ve gone 12-1 and you’re on an 11 fight win streak. Did you think you were overdue for a title shot or did it come at just the right time?
AC: I think it’s at the right time. I just take it as it comes, I enjoy fighting, I love to fight. I’ve always wanted to hold a King Of The Cage title and I’ve been dreaming about this since I was 14 years old. I think this came at the right time, I’m only 21 years old and I’ve got a lot of time left in my career. I plan to fight for at least 10 more years and it’s just a sign of great things to come. I’m looking forward to my future and the future of the sport and representing King Of The Cage in everything I do and just have a good time doing it.
ML: Being 11-1 going into your fight with Ryan Diaz, you were a 7-1 underdog. Do you feel that should have been accurate?
AC: Yeah, somewhat because Ryan Diaz has done a lot for the sport of MMA and has been around for a long time. He is a Muay Tai champion and has done a lot of big things in the sport, and I’m just a small town kid from New Mexico and you know, people are going to underestimate me. Unfortunately for Ryan Diaz, he found out you don’t want to underestimate me. I’ve been the underdog in most of my fights and I like that role.
ML: Can you walk us through the fight with Ryan?
AC: Sure. First round was a lot of battling for position and his wrestling was a lot better than I had expected. I was really looking forward to standing and trading with him a little bit in the first round because I know he likes to do that, but he actually shot in on me relatively quick into the first round. From there, I was just trying to stay on my feet and create some separation and he was trying to work to the ground. Eventually, he did slam me to the ground, so I started working my Jiu Jitsu. I worked a few Kimura’s but I couldn’t finish them because he was defending them pretty good.
The second round, we came out and I started throwing some hands and kicks and we stood a little bit longer this time. He shot in and every time he took me down, I’d get a sweep or put him on his back and get back up. I worked a few elbows and some ground and pound and try to make him pay and make every position uncomfortable for him, and it was going pretty well for me.
He started getting a little tired in the third round and I felt him start to break down and try to figure out what he could do to me. He didn’t have too much offense the entire fight, he was just trying to defend my submissions. By the third round, he was kind of broken down and I had him in a Kimura a little bit, and then I let it go because I was in side control and I was in good position for some ground and pound. I started laying in with some elbows and went for full mount, worked some ground and pound with my hands and elbows. I cut both of his eyes above the eyebrow, and his right eye below the eyebrow, and I messed up his nose pretty good. As I was doing that, he was looking up at me with these eyes like a scolded dog, I don’t know how else to describe it. They just said he was broken. It was just one of those empowering feelings, it was indescribable. I could tell I took the fight out of him.
When I had seen that, I went for the Rear Naked Choke right at the end of the third round. The bell rang and when I let go, I felt that he was kind of out of it and his corner had to coach him back to his corner, and he was kind of saved by the bell there. At the beginning of the fourth round, we came out and traded a little bit and I ended up taking him down, and worked some more ground and pound. Then we stood back up and traded a little bit more, and the fourth round went by pretty quick.
The fifth round started and I wasn’t smiling anymore because I was disappointed with my performance, and my dad was yelling at me “stop playing around, finish him!” the entire time. I’d say I had him beat since the third round and I just had to finish him. He was still there enough to fight me off and keep me from submitting him. I finally went for an Arm Bar and there was no way I wasn’t going to finish it, there was no way I was going to let go of that submission. I was going to take his arm all the way off if I had to or something. I wanted to finish that fight, I don’t like decisions. I got his arm and I felt it dislocate at first, and he still wasn’t tapping. I looked at the referee, Herb Dean, and I told him I think his arm is broken, but he just kept watching. He wasn’t tapping yet so I twisted it and I was pulling on it at the same time, and I could feel it stretching and popping, and finally Ryan tapped out.
From then on, I was just so exited, so pumped, and kind of emotional at the same time. My family was there, a lot of friends were there, and a lot of people I that knew were there that came all the way from New Mexico to watch me fight in Greenville, Mississippi which was awesome! All of that hard work and the dreams I had when I was 14, never faded and finally came true.
It’s been awesome since then. I’ve been doing a lot with my different sponsors, like autograph signings and photographs, and going out and meeting the fans. Everybody wants to see the belt, and see the pictures, and hear about the fight. I’m happy to tell every one of them.
ML: What were your feelings on the fight getting pushed back? It was originally scheduled to happen about a month and a half earlier in the year, wasn’t it?
AC: I had mixed feelings. I found out the fight was rescheduled the day it was cancelled. So I was kind of happy because it gave me more time to train and improve. I’m only 21 and I’m improving everyday, so the more time I have, the better for me. Ryan’s had a long career and he’s kind of at the end of it or at least he is at the plateau of his training. So it was good and bad, it gave me more time to train, but I was let down when it had to be rescheduled because I was so exited for the fight. I was also bummed that I was going to fight for the title in front of my home crowd, but then it was moved to Mississippi.
ML: Have you been approached about your next fight yet?
AC: There’s some talk about me fighting on the September 20th show, but that’s just rumors for now, so I can’t say too much on that.
ML: So you may get to have your first title defense in front of your home crowd in new Mexico.
AC: Like I said, not 100% confirmed, but it does look like it. There’s no better feeling than fighting in front of your home state! It’s awesome when the whole crowd gets behind you, it feels great! I’ll be training my butt off and do my best to not let them down come fight time.
ML: How do you like to finish a fight? Ground, KO?
AC: I’ve always said I prefer submissions over knockouts, because, there’s no accidental or flash submissions. You don’t just walk out and submit somebody. You apply the submission and they tap out and give up willingly. It’s not because they have a weak chin or any other reason, it’s because are the better fighter and you finished him. I feel it’s real rewarding to make someone give up. I love to just beat people down and take the fight out of them. It feels great. Knockouts, I’ve had a few TKO’s in my last few fights, and it does feel great and it’s a cool feeling when you feel their body just give in. When I knocked out Eddie Armendariz, I felt my fist connect with his chin and I felt his body just buckle and breakdown. It is a rewarding feeling and I love to win either way, but I’d have to say I prefer submissions because it’s more rewarding to me. As long as it’s finished before it goes to the judges, I’m happy.
I don’t like decisions. I’ve only had one and it was the only loss in my career and that was back in 2005. I don’t ever plan on going to a decision again, I’m going to fight my heart out. I might get too wild and get caught, but as long as I finish the fight, I’m happy.
ML: What do you like to do in your spare time?
AC: My spare time? I really don’t have too much of it. When I do, I have a group of 8 fighters I train with that I like to hang out with. I like to fish, that’s one of my favorite past times. I also like to hike and mountain bike and go trail riding. Like I said, I don’t do much of the night life, I’m not a partier at all.
ML: How much do you train a week?
AC: I still work a full time job, I’ve been an Optical Lab Technician for the last three years. I train ever night from about 4:45 to 7:30. so, anywhere from three to five hours a day, five days a week.
ML: Where do you train out of?
AC: It’s our own private gym called Cullum Ground Fighting.
ML: Anyone you want to thank before we go?
AC: Yes, I’d like to thank Terry Trebilcock and Hamilton Auto Group, Rockstar Energy Drink, and all of the fans, I definitely appreciate everybody! Like I said, I’m always available to everybody, I love to meet new people, I love to talk about all fights. I want to thank everybody that has supported me along the way and all of my trainers and training partners. I plan to continue to do my best to look good and entertain everyone out there. And I thank you for taking the time to do this interview.
ML: Thank you again for your time Abel!
A couple of quick side notes, EliteXC announced that they are going to have a press conference in New Mexico on Thursday, August 7th, so it does look like the show in September is going to happen. EliteXC also signed Michelle Watterson to a contract and she will probably be on that card as well. I hope I will be back at that show as well!
Don't forget to come check out King Of The Cage "Bio-Hazard" at the San Manuel Casino in Highland, CA on August 14th! It will be a great night where we will see Joe Camacho make his first Junior Welterweight title defense against Victor "Joe Boxer" Valenzuela. We will also see the rematch between Aaron "Slam" Wetherspoon and Anthony "The Reciepe" Lapsley to see who will win the Welterweight title. Will we see another double KO? Also on the card, James "The Educator" Fanshier and Mike "The Joker" Guymon will fight to decide who will get the title shot at the winner of the Wetherspoon/Lapsley fight.
Other bouts on the card will see Rick Legere face off against Daniel Hernandez, Neil Cooke take on Darrel Mason, Mike Robles vs RJ Clifford, Jon Ulloa vs David Aguirre, Ernie Calma vs Chris Cully, and Marcos Gonzales vs Daniel Huynh.
See you there!