I just want it more than he does, and I need to make a statement.
Interview by: AJ Hoffman
Dale Mitchell is an intimidating figure. His hulking form sports tattoos and he has neck muscles that many humans can’t imagine having. Behind the external beast is a soft spoken, gentle giant who really couldn’t be friendlier. Unless you are Rakim Cleveland, his opponent at IXFA 7 this Saturday in Winnie, TX.
Mitchell: I am from Houston. Born and raised. Grew up in the Katy-Cypress area. I actually grew up with Larry Crowe. We were knockaround kids. Lived on the same street. Funny enough, I went to the same high school as Derek and Larry at Cy-Springs, so we have been together for a while. I got into wrestling when I was young, but it wasn’t offered in junior high and high school, so I played football. I got a full ride scholarship to East Texas Baptist University playing football. I played up there for 2 and a half years. I was scouted by some pro teams a little, but had some unfortunate off the field incidents that forced me to leave school and come back. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t made that mistake, but everything happens for a reason, you know.
TCD: When did you start fighting?
Mitchell: I used to work in a nightclub as a bouncer there, and one night Reverand Bart saw me taking care of a few rowdy guys at once. He took me to the Renegades show to let me see what it was about. From there he introduced me to Saul Soliz. I worked with him for my first few years. I already had a wrestling background. My dad was a New England state champ. He still holds records for most pins in a season and quickest pins.
TCD: How did you end up at Silverback?
Mitchell: When Saul moved the gym, it was too far for me, so I started training at Westside MMA. I had a kid, and took some time off. I took a two year break from MMA. One of the boxing coaches from Silverback saw me sitting at a bar and said “you look like a fighter”, so I told him about my background. He gave me a business card and I have been here ever since. Tony and I have butted heads to the point where a lot of guys would have left the gym, or the coach would have asked him to leave, but we are a family. It is a perfect place to train, especially as a heavyweight. We have the most heavyweights. The biggest, strongest guys. I don’t see myself going anywhere else anytime soon. This is the perfect place for us. Between Larry Crowe, Derek Lewis, and a couple other guys coming up, I have so many training partners who can emulate what I will see in the cage. I know for a fact my opponent doesn’t have that.
TCD: Talk a little bit about your opponent. What do you know about him, and what have you seen on film?
Mitchell: I don’t think much of him. I respect him as a man, as we are supposed to in this support. I don’t see anything special. He is a lazy fighter. He lays
around a lot. He has some nice kicks, but that’s about it. I have seen him get thrown around the cage by guys that he shouldn’t getting thrown around by. I know he is working on takedown defense, but like I said, who does he have that could emulate my size at his gym. He has a good amateur record, but I don’t understand why you would want to fight 10 fights for free. He just doesn’t look like he has the power he should have for someone his size. I know he is working a lot of kicks and muay thai. You can work on your striking all day, but he can’t emulate the feeling of me pushing him against the cage when he is up there training with 155 pounders. All I really have to worry about is not getting kicked in the head. Keep my hands up, chin down, and I should be good to go. I wanted to be subtle with this guy, but he has been running his mouth a lot. The old me would have gone off the deep end and gotten angry. I am just going in to fight my fight. I have trash talked before, but it’s stupid. I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me. I know he is trying to throw me off my game. His wife or girlfriend or whatever sent me some messages on Facebook to try to get in my head. He has been commenting on my pictures. From what I understand he wants a rematch with Derek, so he called me out thinking it would be an easy win for him. That was a mistake. Derek isn’t a ground guy, and he armbarred him easy, so he is going to be in a world of trouble off his back with me. He is trying to make it personal, but I haven’t let it effect me.
TCD: How has the weight cut been?
Mitchell: It’s been good. I was planning on fighting around 255, but right now I am at 269. I feel really good though. I just like food too much to drop down like that. I am feeling strong and fast though, and this is the smallest I have been at 265 I think.
TCD: Do you think people are fooled by your appearance? Do people expect you to be a standup fighter, and not use as much technique?
Mitchell: That definitely happens. I roll with guys and people are surprised by my ground game. I don’t think there is a heavyweight out there who can match me in terms of skill and technique. I am a lot more flexible than guys my size. I am great on top, and I do fine on bottom. My takedowns are stronger and more explosive than anyone else. Most big guys when it comes to submissions it is a rear naked choke or maybe a kimura. You will see me with kneebars, heel hooks, you name it. That said, I can stand up too. I am not afraid to stand up with anyone, and that is actually my game plan for this fight. But to answer your question, yes, people are surprised at my technique. I am not just some big musclehead. I actually have pretty good skills.
TCD: You are pretty competitive on the grappling tournament scene. Does that play a big role in your fight game?
Mitchell: I compete in all the tournaments I can, and I have only been tapped twice in the last couple of years. Every tournament I do I feel myself improving and I am winning gold medals. I don’t think there is anyone around here who is on my level, so I have been going all over the place trying to get better competition. I don’t know what is next for me in that. I would like to go to Worlds, Abu Dhabi or Pan Ams. Any major national tournament. My goal is to earn a major title in submission grappling or jiu-jitsu. I love to showcase my technical skill and technique.
TCD: How do you feel about the way your career has gone so far?
Mitchell: 1-3 is the record. I should definitely be at 2-2 right now. 2 of the 3 were true losses. First one was against Patrick Castillo. I went into that fight not really knowing his skill level. The next fight was against Ike, and I got cut. My next fight was at Bellator 27 in September. I fought against Richard Odom, a San Antonio police officer, and the event was in San Antonio. Anyone who saw that fight knows I won. I was on top for three rounds, grounding and pounding. I had the dominant position for two and a half rounds. He couldn’t get out from under me, and I was active on top. Still somehow I lost a split decision. It bothered me, it hurt, but I knew I fought well enough to win. It’s important for me to build that record back up. No one wants to call in fighters with an upside down record. If you are sitting at 1-4 or 1-5 your career might be over. That makes this fight even more important to me. If I want to keep fighting, I need to win. If things don’t go my way, it is gonna be a tough road for me. There aren’t a lot of heavyweights in this town, and promoters aren’t looking for 1-4 fighters. He is in the same boat though, so it’s important for him too. I just want it more than he does, and I need to make a statement.
TCD: How do you envision this fight going?
Mitchell: We are both careful fighters. I think it will start a little slow. There will be a feeling out process, finding the range. Once we get into I think it will be something to see. I think we make it through the first round, and I beat him in the second. Either ground and pound or submission. If he can stay up long enough to get a standing stoppage I would like to give it to him. Other than that I see him turtling up and letting me pound him out or leaving something out for a submission. Most of his fights have ended early. It will be interesting to see how deep he can go. My cardio is good, I think better than his. I haven’t seen him going deep. I don’t know if he could make it past the second round, so I may push him deep into the fight. I am quicker, I am stronger, and I have better cardio and recovery than him.
TCD: Anyone you want to thank?
Mitchell: I want to thank Tony at Silverback, Melissa Hayes, my parents, my son Jordan, my head sponsor, Jeremy Brown from Auto Check, and any and all fans out there. Haters too.