Doug Kulbis (3-3) is a name familiar to Ohio MMA fans, as the featherweight has competed in the Buckeye State since 2008, when he started an amateur career that led to a 7-0 record and the 2009 NAAFS amateur 145-pound title.
Kulbis then turned pro in 2010, but he dropped his first bout. Since then, however, he’s won three of his last five outings, and he looks for a fourth win when he takes on Jeremy Kitts (2-3) on the main card of Saturday’s “UVC 20: Clash at the Coliseum” event on Saturday.
We were recently able to catch up with Kulbis to talk about his fight.
How did you get into MMA?
I got started from wrestling in high school. I went to an Ohio State wrestling camp, and I met Mark Coleman. After wrestling in high school, I joined the Marine Corps and we did a lot of ground combatants like jiu-jitsu and elements of Muay Thai and things like that.
I started doing a little boxing and kickboxing in the Marines, and afterwards I moved right outside of Philly and I got into boxing for about a year. When I came back to Ohio, I was looking for a good boxing gym, and it seemed like most of the places were MMA gyms. It’s just kind of a natural progression from there, just wrestling and turning that into something with jiu-jitsu in the Marine Corps. And back when I was a kid, I remember watching the UFCs with Coleman.
What are your thoughts on your matchup at UVC 20 with Jeremy Kitts?
I always like to know more about my opponents, but it’ll be interesting. If I can remember correctly he’s the first lefty I’ve fought. I’m also left-handed, so I finally get to use all of those techniques against somebody with the same stance that they’ve been teaching righties all these years, so I’m pretty excited about that.
I know he’s a good power puncher, and he’ll take punishment and give it out too. I’m looking for a war and I think it’s going to be fun.
I know you were recently down in Brazil doing some training. Can you talk about some of the guys you got to train with and what the atmosphere is like down there?
I trained at X-Gym, which is Anderson Silva’s gym. The jiu-jitsu master down there is Ricardo Perez, so I was training and staying with him down there. I was training with Master Sylvio Behring for jiu-jitsu as well. I trained a little bit with Anderson Silva, [Rafael] Feijao, former Strikeforce champion, [UFC fighter] Erick Silva, the Nogueiras would come over from time to time and bring some fighters from their gym.
It’s really different from a lot of gyms that I’ve been to. They’re tough and they don’t have the same thing that a lot of the fighters here have where they always find excuses. The Brazilians don’t; they have a lot of pride in their country. They always find a way to push through, and that’s one of the biggest things that I learned from them. There’s just no reason you shouldn’t be training and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be training hard. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be punching hard or kicking hard if you can. A lot of the guys start from nothing and we think we know what poor is, but you go to Brazil and that’s just a different kind of poor. Literally you have to fight for food.
You also had a fight while in Brazil, which you won via TKO over Martin Obregon at Jungle Fight 39. What’s it like fighting in Brazil?
There wasn’t a lot of difference. The show started a little bit late, there are always hiccups just like anywhere else. The fans were different, and it might have been the show, but the fans seemed to be a lot more excited. They were a little bit more behind the fighters. After my fight they all wanted to take pictures; there’s a lot of respect given to fighters there. They just respect that they’re putting it out there.
One of my biggest pet peeves is that I can’t stand when two guys get in the cage and put it all out there, and no matter how it turns out somebody loses. Fans don’t know what that’s like. The other thing would be is that they’re not nearly as strict on the doctor’s rules. If I remember correctly, there wasn’t a doctor, but they had an ambulance. There was no blood test, so after the fight I was making sure I didn’t get any of his blood on me. But I got [a blood test] when I got back, so I’m good.
You’ve trained a lot of your standup with Ryan Madigan, a guy who is a pretty underrated striking coach. Talk about training with a guy like him.
I totally agree with you on that front, he’s definitely underrated. The last I heard he was number three in the world, and he can convey an idea to punch a certain way. There’s always things that need correcting, you’re never perfect, nobody is. He just makes it so easy for you to understand and he gives you such interesting tools to use. He’ll hold pads for me, and we just get on the same level.
I got a lot of respect in Brazil for my Muay Thai, guys like Anderson Silva commenting on my standup fighting. That’s all thanks to Ryan Madigan. He’s a great fighter.
Your life outside of fighting is as a tattoo artist, which seems to go hand-in-hand with MMA. How did you get into that line of work?
Strangely enough the same thing that got me into fighting got me into tattooing; it was the Marine Corps. When I was deployed in Iraq, you get down time, and sometimes there would be a day or two days where we weren’t doing anything. The busy guy didn’t have to do the work around the area like cleaning up, so I always tried to look as busy as I could. So I’d be drawing all the time, and I got to drawing tattoos for myself and people would start looking at them, so people would commission me to draw something for them. I started thinking that I could make something of it, and when I was at a shop when I got back they offered me an apprenticeship. I wasn’t able to take it because I was getting deployed again in three months, but it got the ball rolling in my head.
When I got out, I ended up back in Ohio and I started looking for shops. I was at a gym training for one of my fights, and another artist came in and his friend was fighting on the same card as me, and he liked the tattoos that I already had and asked me where I got them. I asked if he was looking for an apprentice, and it just happened to be the best shop in Cleveland.
You’ve actually been recognized for some of your tattoos. Do you have a favorite one?
I have a couple that mean a lot to me. I have a turkey on my left hand, that’s probably my favorite one. It’s from my dude Ben Franklin. I always liked his views on the world. Not a lot of people understand why I have a turkey on my hand, but that’s why.
Anything else you want to mention before the fight?
I’d like to thank my sponsors, Intimidation Clothing and Riley Hotel Group. I’m just looking forward to a good exciting fight on Saturday; I’m training hard and I’m ready to do it. I want to get this one down and get a couple more out of the way before the end of the year and then into next year. I also want to thank my girlfriend, Renata.
Photo courtesy NAAFS