MMA fighter Eddie Wineland (right), who trains in the Chicago area, takes… (Getty Images )
MMA fighter Eddie Wineland is no stranger to the Second City. The northwest Indiana native does the majority of his training in the Chicago area and often makes that wonderful drive down the Skyway (ahem, note sarcasm here).
On Saturday, the 29-year-old takes on Yves Jabouin in a UFC on Fox event in front of a sold-out United Center; many of his family and friends will be in attendance. Juggling his MMA career, his duties as a firefighter and building a house can pile on the pressure. For Wineland, however, it's just part of life—as is catching a certain TV show.
"ALF" was a big part of your childhood and you started talking about it on Twitter (@EddieWineland). What got you hooked on the series?
When I was little my parents would turn it on and I would sit in the living room and watch "ALF." I like the whole cast of characters and of course ALF himself. It was a fun show to watch and turning on NBC, I immediately got hooked. A few days ago, I was just turning the channels and it was there and I couldn't turn it off. I'm not a hardcore fan … but once it comes on, I get really excited.
The show "Chicago Fire" is popular right now. Does any show or movie come close to an accurate portrayal of firefighters?
With both "Chicago Fire" and "Backdraft," they make one really poor mistake in the actual fire production. Anybody that has been in a real fire knows there is no clear vision when going into a fire. There is a lot of smoke going through the areas and seeing clearly is just not possible. All you see is a bright orange glow through black smoke and you can barely see your own hands.
When there isn't a fire, what do firefighters do? Sit around and think?
Well there is a lot of downtime at a fire department; that is not debatable. Yes, we play cards, we sit around and chat but not many guys just sit and stare into a wall. There's a lot of talking going and it's like your second family. We are always thinking of new ways to make our department better and there is a lot of physical training taking place.
You and Darren Elkins are the only "local" fighters on this weekend's card. Does this surprise you given how many Midwest fighters are out there?
No, it doesn't bother me, but I am surprised they didn't put Clay Guida on the card. It's nice fighting at home, but I'm not worried about any other fighters except myself. I mean the Midwest has a lot of great fighters through the ranks and even in the UFC. Sometimes the fighters that are from around here don't fall into place to be put onto a certain card.
Do you put extra pressure on yourself when fighting in front of your home crowd?
Not at all. I started fighting with an arena full of people screaming my name but when I step into the cage, everything is silenced. This is my job. I come to do it, step into the cage do my best and keep going. It's just another day whether people are screaming for me live in person or through their television sets.
Complete this sentence: I will win Saturday if I ___.
Step into the cage. Ha! In all seriousness though, I will have my right hand in his face repeatedly. It's something that he won't like on Saturday and if somebody doesn't like something and you're facing against them, why not continue to do it? After the hand, he will be falling to the floor.
Thin or thick crust pizza? New York or Chicago style?
I'm telling you after my fights if we are in the area, we always hit up Lou Malnati's. They have some of the best pizza around. Chicago pizza in general is really good but Lou's is the place to be. So after the fights we make it a point to get there and get our eats on.
Pizza is pizza to me, but how can you beat Chicago style? I love a nice thick pizza instead of a piece of cardboard that you can chew on. I haven't had New York pizza but its more preference for each person. But the thick pizza is the choice for me and it gets better and better every time I eat it.
Ted Gruber is a RedEye special contributor.
TALE OF THE TAPE
Eddie Wineland (20-9-1) vs. Yves Jabouin (19-8-0)
Bantamweight bout, UFC on Fox
4 p.m. Saturday, Fox Sports 1, United Center
(Main card airs at 7 p.m. on Fox)
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