If you are no stranger to M-1Global.com, you’ve probably heard Team Finland middleweight Lucio Linhares referred to as “the best fighter you’ve never heard of.” But Team Finland, not yet known as an MMA powerhouse, is full of surprises. In addition to Linhares, Finland also boasts another well kept secret from the mainstream MMA community in rising welterweight Janne Tulirinta.
Thanks to a three fight win streak, Tulirinta is currently 11-3 and is not only earning praise as one of the best welterweights in the M-1 Challenge, but also garnering praise from hardcore fans as one of the best 170 pound fighters in the world currently not competing in the UFC.
With a 5-1 record while competing under the M-1 banner, this talented grappler has begun to emerge as a true all around threat. His evolution as a fighter was never more apparent than earlier this month at an M-1 event in Kansas City. Matched up against USA East welterweight Anthony Ford, a professional Muay Thai fighter who has competed in Japan and Thailand, Tulirinta needed just 11 seconds to knock Ford down while standing and then finishing him with strikes on the ground.
But on July 4, fans all around the world (with the exception of the U.S. and South Korea) will get their chance to see this well kept secret via Internet PPV on www.M-1Global.com (orders now being accepted via cell phone — please follow the instructions listed on the widget on the right hand side of the page).
The 15-bout card from Seoul will see Tulirinta face Ivan Ivanov of Bulgaria. Despite being in the midst of his final preparations for the bout, Tulirinta recently took time to speak with M-1Global.com.
M-1Global.com: Can you provide details about MMA’s place within Finland’s culture? Specifically, can you talk about the level of its popularity?
Janne Tulirinta: MMA has not broken through to Finnish popular culture yet, but it´s coming for sure. I have been in this sport now for almost ten years and all the time it´s getting bigger and more organized. Because of that, I believe that in few years it will be part of Finnish regular sports.
M-1Global.com: Some countries, such as Team Japan and Team England consider it an honor to represent their country in the M-1 Challenge and have displayed a great deal of national pride. What does representing Finland mean to you?
Janne Tulirinta: Of course it´s big thing for me to represent Finland, especially in this kind of sport. I love my country and I´m proud for having a possibility of standing up for my country.
Janne Tulirinta: I started with wrestling when I was about five-years old. I continued that to eleven, twelve years old. That was of course a bit childish at the time, but I learned also a lot of things back then. But my ground skills are from BJJ, and for those I have to thank my jiu-jitsu masters Lucio Linhares and Alex Monsalve! Also my team in Riihimaki is very strong in jiu-jitsu and our sparrings are the top quality of Finland. Thanks to Wille, Tapsa, Peetu, Tuomo, Saku and many others!
M-1Global.com: When did you first begin training in martial arts?
Janne Tulirinta: After my wrestling I trained boxing a little bit and then I took a break from combat sports. I came back to martial arts at the age of 20.
M-1Global.com: Finland returns to action on July 4, less than a month after competing in Kansas City on June 5. Do you mind the short turnaround?
Janne Tulirinta: In fact I don´t like to fight this often. But this is the way it happens now and I have to deal with it. It takes a lot of time to recover from jetlag and do your trainings with full intensity.
M-1Global.com: Lucio Linhares is fighting on Aug. 1 at “Trilogy” against Mikhail Zayats and will be unable to compete for Finland. Can you discuss the anticipated impact of his absence?
Janne Tulirinta: Lucio is an important part of our team in and out of the ring. He got a great opportunity to fight at Affliction so it´s natural that he won’t fight at the next M-1 Challenge. I´ll miss my room mate :)
M-1Global.com: What can you tell us about Lucio’s replacement for the July 4 matchup vs. Bulgaria, Mikko Suvanto?
Janne Tulirinta: Mikko is a good fighter, no doubt. Otherwise he wouldn’t be a part of Team Finland. Mikko has been fighting a lot and also has lately been training in the USA with top fighters in the world.
M-1Global.com: You’re set to fight Ivan Ivanov in Seoul. How much do you know about him as an opponent?
Janne Tulirinta: I have seen some of his fights and know a little about him. He´s a good fighter and I hope that we can put up a great show.
M-1Global.com: There’s a chance that Finland may not make the playoffs but you are undefeated in your last three fights and have been one of the best performers in this year’s M-1 Challenge. Can you talk about what your fight plans are for the remainder of the year and what your long-term goals are?
Janne Tulirinta: I have no plans for the rest of the year because like you said everything is still open for us in this year’s M-1 Challenge. Also I´m having a first child of mine late summer. I have to think about my family :)
M-1Global.com: You’ve basically been involved with the M-1 Challenge since the beginning. Outside of competing in Finland last year, what was your favorite country that you competed in, and which was your least favorite?
Janne Tulirinta: In fact, last year we visited two countries, Russia and Spain. This year we have been to the U.S. twice and now we are going to Korea. It´s nice to visit different countries and experience their cultures. The trip to Korea is something I´m waiting for because it´s kind of an exotic country for me. Overall, in every place we have been treated really well and I want to thank our hosts.
M-1Global.com: The July 4 event will be available live in Finland via Internet PPV on www.M1-Global.com. Is it important that fight fans in Finland will now have an opportunity to see you and Team Finland compete live?
Janne Tulirinta: Of course, hopefully they will find the website and will be able to push us to victory.
M-1Global.com: In closing, do you have anything you’d like to tell Finnish fight fans?
Janne Tulirinta: We are waiting for you to really cheer us via Internet and help us do the job of beating the Bulgarians. THIS IS HÄRMÄ!!