Interview – Rakim Cleveland

“I’m looking for this to become a war.”

Rakim Cleveland

Interview by: Eric Hostetter

On the 9th Legacy FC Event, Mick Maynard gave to me – top Houston heavyweights Rakim Cleveland and Derrick Lewis fighting in the cage! (Well that didn’t quite roll off the tongue like I thought it would. Oh well, it was a decent attempt to tie in the Christmas season with an interview.)

Rakim Cleveland, who fights out of 4oz Fight Club, is currently ranked as the #2 pro heavyweight in Houston, while Derrick Lewis sits atop the division at number 1. Cleveland has wanted a rematch with Lewis since he lost via arm bar in their first match up over a year ago. That fight was his pro debut and since then he has gone on a two fight winning streak; including a win over Lewis’ Silverback teammate Dale Mitchell.

Rakim is more confident than ever that he can defeat Lewis going into the fight. I cought up with him while he trained this past Saturday and we talked about his fight, the new look Rakim and what’s in store for him in the future.

TCD: Let’s start off with a softball question. How’s your training going?

Rakim Cleveland: Going pretty good, since I’m in my 14th/15th week of camp already. It’s been a long camp.

TCD: We have heard rumors of you becoming sleeker and dropping a few pounds in weight. Is that true?

Rakim: Yeah, I’ve dropped a lot of weight. I’m smaller than I was when I fought Dale back in April. Naturally, I’ve picked up a little bit of speed with the weight loss, but to keep up my strength, I’ve mixed in a little strength and condition.

TCD: Well congratulations on your progress, any particular reasoning behind it?

Rakim: This is a big fight for me, but it is my last Heavyweight fight. I am looking to drop down to 205 lbs after this fight. So this weight loss plays into it also. I feel that with me losing this weight and keeping my strength, that I am coming into this fight with an advantage.

TCD: What kind of changes have you made in your daily life to garner these kinds of results?

Rakim: I’ve been eating a lot cleaner, not eating junk. I am eating veggies, clean non-fatty food, to tie into working out twice a day.

TCD: Do you feel that you have achieved the results that you have wanted in losing that weight or do you feel that there is still some more to go for this fight?

Rakim: I do feel very comfortable where I like to be in terms of my weight. I’m not too light, not too heavy. Right now I’m in maintain mode, but we will see what I weigh in at in a couple of weeks.

TCD: Aside from losing a little bit of weight, what has Coach Bob and Coach Jeremy been focusing in with you in your training?

Rakim: Precision striking. We have been focusing on more accuracy and my punch count per round. I am going to throw a lot of accurate punches and not waste this opportunity.

TCD: So I take it that this ties back with your commitment into losing weight and place a lot of focus on conditioning, thus increasing your gas tank?

Rakim: Yeah, my gas tank has always been something of question since I started fighting. I feel that has changed as I am able to do 6×5 minute rounds, in training and that number is getting better and smoother.

TCD: This return fight between you and Derrick Lewis, at Legacy 9, has been a long time coming. You guys are the #1 and #2 Heavyweights in the current quarterly rankings. Can you tell us what this fight means to you?

Rakim: This is a big fight for me because he beat me in my debut as a pro. To me though it is not about getting even, but it is more along the lines in seeing what I can do in the cage against him with a full camp. Last time I fought him it was only on like a week notice. I am not making excuses for that fight, but if he beats me now then he is a better fighter than me.

TCD: Without spoiling your game plan too much, what can we expect to see out of Rakim Cleveland in this fight, as opposed to what we seen of you in the past?

Rakim: You will see me last a lot longer and going deeper than you have. You will see clean boxing and very little sloppiness. It is going to be a war. I’m looking for this to become a war.

TCD: Other than the task that you have in hand, what would be another short term goal for you?

Rakim: Just working my way down to being a Light Heavyweight. I feel like I will be more dominate at 205 as I won’t be fighting people that could be larger than me. I just want to be the best at whatever weight class I go to, just be the best.

TCD: We look forward in seeing what you can do. Is there anyone that you like to thank?

Rakim: I want to give a shout out to my 4oz. crew, my S&C coach Leonard Maclin, US Fight Team, US Fighting Association. I would also like to thank all of my training partners for putting together a solid, clean camp with no injuries, thank you for helping me getting ready for this fight.

TCD: Do you get to use Barry on occasion as a hitting cushion in working on your striking?

Rakim: He has come in a few times. I mess with him a little bit in sparring. Keep him in check a little bit.

TCD: Thank you for that and a great interview! Good luck in your match against Derrick Lewis at Legacy 9 on December 16th at the Arena Theater.

Legacy Fighting Championship 9 taked place on Dec. 16, 2011. You can get tickets at LegacyFights.tv or you can catch the fights live on HDNet.