With Kenny Garner stepping into replace the injured Heavyweight Champion, Guram Gugenishvili, Pat Bennett gets a shot at avenging the most horrific loss in his young career. M-1 caught up with the heavyweight division’s top contender as he prepares for his headline bout at M-1 Challenge: Bennett vs. Garner. The action goes down from The Hangar in Costa Mesa, California, LIVE on SHOWTIME on Friday, July 8 at 11 p.m. ET/PT (Delayed on the West Coast).
M-1 Global: Obviously you’re disappointed about Guram having to withdraw from the fight; can you comment on the unfortunate circumstance?
Pat Bennett: Its tough but I have to look at the bright side, I get to get one of my losses back, and then in October assuming that Guram heals I will get my shot at the belt, and be that much more prepared.
M-1 Global: Kenny Garner is named as the replacement; are you excited for the opportunity to avenge the loss you suffered in the Selection tournament finals?
Pat Bennett: Absolutely, I have wanted to fight him again ever since. I really didn’t get a chance to impose my will on him in the last fight and he took advantage of the opportunity, but I can GUARANTEE that will not happen again this time out.
M-1 Global: Assuming you beat Kenny, are you still eager for your title shot against Guram? (assuming he’ll be recovered and ready to fight in the fall.)
Pat Bennett: Of course that is the bigger picture, and when that time comes I will be ready, but I am fighting Garner right now and he is the only one on my mind!
M-1 Global: Guram and Kenny are much different opponents; have you had to make significant adjustments to your game plan for the fight on July 8th?
Pat Bennett: No, not a lot of changes to go along with the change in opponent. I feel I’ve made a lot of the adjustments I would have had to make for fighting Garner throughout my everyday training over the last 12 months; in fact I’m still training as if it was a 5 round fight.
M-1 Global: Not to re-open old wounds, but Garner’s striking got the best of you in your guys’ M-1 Selection tournament finals matchup last year; what’s been your biggest improvement in your skill set since then.
Pat Bennett: MY stand up. I’ve really worked on improving this element of my game and it’s also improved my wrestling. I’m not the same fighter Kenny is expecting to see.
M-1 Global: Although the fight’s just been announced, Garner’s been very vocal about finishing you in the first round; do you have anything to say in response?
Pat Bennett: Kenny can talk all he wants and I know he will; if I had a mouth that big I’d run it too. Regardless of how the last fight went, I am the better fighter and athlete and this time I will get to show it.
M-1 Global: This will be your first live fight on Showtime and it’s the card’s headline bout. Do you feel any additional pressure knowing that fans across North America will be tuning in to watch?
Pat Bennett: Not at all. I’ve fought on National television before as well as wrestled on TV so I don’t feel any additional pressure. It’s going to be a great fight.
M-1 Global: Is there anyone you want to thank you getting you prepared for Showtime debut?
Pat Bennett: All my family, friends, training partners and sponsors. Thanks for doing everything you can to help get me ready for the biggest fight of my career!
Bennett feels he has all the new tools to counteract Garner’s striking and the decorated wrestler out of Marcellus, N.Y. has been given a desirable opportunity to make an impact in M-1 Global’s heavyweight division as Europe’s leading mixed martial arts promotion hits SHOWTIME for the second time this year.