UFC fighter and Chicago-area native Clay Guida will be in action at the United… (Courtesy of UFC )
Sure, hockey is back and the Blackhawks are off to a hot start. However, another hard-hitting sport invades the United Center on Saturday: mixed martial arts. Clay Guida of Johnsburg and Ricardo Lamas of Chicago step into the UFC octagon in separate bouts this weekend. Before they trade punches, kicks and chokeholds with their opponents Saturday, they spoke to RedEye about training, working up an appetite and partying—Chicago-style.
How is a Chicago UFC event different from others?
Clay Guida: I feel like this is a second debut for me. I'm in a new weight class [featherweight, down from lightweight], I have a clean slate and I'm excited to make a homecoming. It's hard to put into words how special this moment will be, as the closest I've ever fought to Chicago has been in Cicero. I'll have my own cheering section of Guida fans in the Madhouse on Madison, and not many fighters get to experience something so special.
Ricardo Lamas: Chicago is a huge city with tons of fight fans, and the fans really get into the fights. Since I am from here, there's that little extra motivation when you are fighting from the town you lived in your entire life.
Outside of a gym, what's the best venue in Chicago to train?
CG: There are three places to go if you want to perfect all the ingredients of MMA. Obviously check out Clay Guida's MMA Stop Fitness in Crest Hill. I'm there all the time, and a lot of UFC fighters stop by for seminars. I also train with the first Chicago place that got me into MMA, which is Midwest Training Center, and I work on my wrestling at Gilbert Grappling.
RL: I'd like to train on the observation deck of Willis Tower. Being that high up and getting your work done would be a great experience.
What's the best restaurant for a pre-fight meal in Chicago?
CG: It's tough to think about food right now, but if you've been cutting weight and are finally allowed to eat a good meal after the weigh-in, I would either get killer Italian at La Scarola or try the best steak in the city as well as celeb hot spot Chicago Cut.
RL: In Chicago there are plenty of great restaurants to go to. If I had to choose, I would go with Maggiano's and Carmine's. Both great spots to get anything that you have a taste for.
The best place to celebrate a UFC win in Chicago is …
CG: My after-party will be at The Scout Waterhouse & Kitchen on South Wabash [Avenue]. I can't think of a better place to celebrate than that, so come join me!
RL: The best place to celebrate a win is bar-hopping in Lincoln Park, Wrigleyville, or Rush and Division. All great places to down a few drinks and hang out with great friends.
If you could stage an MMA-style movie fight scene in Chicago, where would it be?
CG: A back alley or low-lit "L" train stop. That's about as authentic to Chicago fighting as it gets.
RL: Why not Lower Wacker Drive? You had Batman filmed down there, along with "The Blues Brothers." It's a great setting for an awesome fight scene. It just has that feel of a fight going down.
My favorite Chicago-based movie is …
CG: The "Untouchables," but only because "The Big Lebowski" doesn't take place here.
RL: "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is a fantastic film. Matthew Broderick was awesome in it. Plus Chicago is featured in so many locations, you can't beat it.
Here are breakdowns of two of the fights involving Chicago-area natives Saturday at the United Center.
Clay Guida vs. Hatsu Hioki
Guida's debut in the featherweight division begins Saturday against Hioki. Ironically, Hioki's last fight was against fellow Chicagoan Ricardo Lamas; Hioki lost that bout via decision.
Guida will use wrestling skills and his fast paced movements to confuse Hioki. Hioki hasn't finished a fight since his time in the Shooto organization two years ago. For Guida, dropping down a division and getting that first fight is always tough. There are always questions on how the weight cut will affect him in the cage.
Ricardo Lamas vs. Erik Koch
Lamas is slowly making his way up the featherweight ladder, and Saturday he takes on another future championship contender in Koch. Lamas has been on a tear since his UFC debut, racking up three straight victories.
Lamas will definitely have the advantage on the ground. With his experience as an All-American wrestler at Elmhurst College, Koch will have little luck if the fight gets to the mat. Koch, on the other hand, has a big upside in terms of his strikes and jiu-jitsu. If Koch keeps his distance to avoid the takedowns, it will be tough for Lamas to mount any offense.
Ted Gruber is a RedEye special contributor.
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