“There is no feeling in the world like fighting in the UFC.”
Interview by: AJ Hoffman
Photos Courtesy: Cameron Dollar, Dead Fall Photography
Cameron Dollar burst onto the scene during season 9 of The Ultimate Fighter. Despite making it to the semi-finals, he was one and done in the UFC. Next up for him is a match in Houston against the highly regarded Carlo Prater. I had a chance to sit down with Cameron and discuss his journey to the world’s premier organization, and how he plans on getting back.
Dollar: Coming out of high school I lived on my own. I was getting into trouble and getting mixed up with the wrong crowds. I was doing construction and hated my job. Didn’t like where I was heading. I was hating the world. I got into a scuffle with a dude I knew from high school that was hitting on my girlfriend. We were supposed to have a street fight. That didn’t happen. I heard his name on the radio for a Friday Night Fights thing. I went down there to sign up and fight. He was two weight classes over me so it couldn’t happen. I didn’t have any experience, but I fought some other dude and won. It got me interested and I have stuck with it ever since then. I like to fight and I love the feeling of winning and competition. Now I am just trying to make a living off it.
TCD: You are still training in Colorado Springs. Talk a little about your gym, who you train with and what your focus has been recently.
Dollar: I train under Drew Lawrence. I train with olympic wrestlers and some really well rounded guys. We haven’t put together a real game plan yet. Everyone thinks I am a wrestler because I haven’t really had a chance to showcase my standup yet, but I have really been working hard on that. I think this fight may be my chance to show it off a little.
TCD: You tried out for The Ultimate Fighter season eight and didn’t make it. What was that experience like?
Dollar: It was a dream crusher man. I could have sworn I made it. The way the tryouts go you go through 3 different steps. I made it through all 3 steps and they flew me out to Vegas and did my medicals. I sold my car and phone. Got rid of all my bills, thinking this was my big break. I didn’t make it and I was devastated, but I kept training. Luckily they did the same weight class the next year. I got a credit card, flew back out the next time and tried again. They remembered me and I made it the second time. I guess in the end it was meant to be that way.
TCD: When you were chosen for season nine, at what point did you find out that you had to “fight your way in” to the house with the elimination round? Was that a surprise or did everyone know there was going to be that many guys?
Dollar: From watching the previous seasons, they had started that like 2 seasons before ours, it was in the back of my mind. I wasn’t really surprised. It sucked, probably even more for the guys who didn’t make it. There were no wild cards or anything back then. You lose your fight and that’s your last chance. There aren’t extra opportunities.
TCD: How was the actual training you got on TUF? What was it like for you to get training from guys like Dan Henderson and Cyrille Diabate?
Dollar: It was awesome man. It’s an eye opener. Mentally it was a big help being around those kind of people that are pro athletes and train like it. That said, I wouldn’t say the actual training was the best. But it was great mentally. I learned how to eat and train like a pro athlete. Dan’s background is wrestling so I could relate to his style, but with Cyrille and Gustavo, who are amazing Muay Thai fighters and boxers, but it just didn’t fit into my game the way they were teaching.
TCD: Do you keep in touch with anyone from the house?
TCD: Do you think the teams were more divided on that show because there was also the national divide as opposed to just being picked for different teams?
Dollar: Definitely. It was USA vs. UK. If you weren’t kicking it with your team, people would have looked at you crazy. As the season went on everyone kind of warmed up to each other, because at that point we were just trying to make it through the show. The animosity ended as the show got later on because everyone knew who was in and who was out and who still had to fight.
TCD: You lost in the semifinals to Andre Winner. What went wrong for you in that fight and what was the feeling knowing you had come so far to beeliminated?
Dollar: I knew I had made it further than most of the guys, and I knew there was a good possibility I would still be fighting in the finale. When they asked me who I wanted to fight, I said Jason Dent. I was the only one who wanted to fight my teammate because I didn’t like him. I went into the fight with Andre with a hurt rib and I had a pretty beat up foot from my first fight. No excuses, because no one is ever 100%, but I was dealing with that and I was just mentally drained from being in the house for so long.
TCD: After the season you were invited to fight on the finale against your teammate Jason Dent. Talk about the opportunity to fight for the UFC and how that fight went.
Dollar: There is no feeling in the world like fighting in the UFC. Most people get scared or nervous. I was totally relaxed. It was an amazing feeling fighting for them. Unfortunately it didn’t end the way I wanted it. I felt like I was winning the fight and winning the round. I think inexperience just caught up to me. I got a little overconfident because it was coming pretty easy. When I shot for the takedown to try and finish the round I got caught in that darce choke. I remember it vividly, and it has made me train that much harder.
TCD: Since losing in the UFC you have gone unbeaten. Your opponent this weekend is Carlo Prater, who may be the most accomplished fighter you have faced to date. What have you seen of Carlo and how do you feel you match up with him?
Dollar: I know Carlo is a tough dude. I know he likes to bang a little and being from Brazil I know he probably has a good ground game. I think he is a little bigger than me. I am definitely the underdog. Everyone seems to think he is going to win. I think it is going to be a great fight. I have improved a lot and a lot of people are kind of uneducated on the game. I think I am probably a lot better than people think. I don’t have a “belt” in anything, except like a tan leather belt. I know he is a black belt in a few things. But I beat Alvin, and he is a black belt. I have finished all my fights since the show in the first round, so I think I have a good chance of winning and making this a really good fight.
TCD: Do you think a win against an opponent like Prater on national television could be what is needed to get you back into national promotions?
Dollar: I thought I have had fights before that would put me back in. I beat Kit Cope at his own show. I beat Alvin Robinson who was getting all kinds of press. Nothing really came after either of them. I don’t look at anyone as a fight that can get me back. I am just gonna do what I have to do, and if I keep performing and keep winning, there is no reason that I won’t get back to that level.
TCD: You had some success at 145 lbs, but are moving back to 155 for this fight. Where do you plan to fight at long term and how difficult is the cut for you at featherweight?
Dollar: The weight cut isn’t too bad. I can make 45 and 55 both pretty easy. Everybody from the UFC is dropping to 145, so people are telling me to start focusing on 155. I have put on some weight, so this is where I am hoping to stay at for a while.
TCD: Do you have anyone you would like to thank?
Dollar: My coach, Drew Lawrence, and all my teammates. Rockford Fosgate, Springs Automotive Group, Pins And Needles Custom Tattoos, Freedom Fighter, Mass Suits, MMA Grills and Colorado Signs & Banners.