Courtesy of UFC
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 | 5:15 p.m.
Any mixed martial artist who's competed on the reality series "The Ultimate Fighter" understands what it's like to have a future with the UFC riding on every fight.
Fortunately, that pressure usually doesn't follow them once they've left the show.
But for TUF 10 cast member Jon Madsen, every fight of his career has taken on the feel of a single-elimination tournament, as the heavyweight says a long-term future with the UFC is no guarantee.
"I still haven't been told I have a two or three-fight deal with the UFC," Madsen said. "In my eyes, it's still one-and-done. If I lose, I feel like I'm going to be out."
That feeling will be with Madsen (5-0) again this weekend, when he takes on UFC newcomer Karlos Vemola (7-0) at UFC 116 the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Despite an impressive professional career in which Vemola has stopped all his opponents in the first round, the London-based fighter will be relatively unknown when he steps into the octagon for the first time — by both fans and by Madsen.
When asked what he thinks of Vemola's accomplishments as a six-time Czech Republic national wrestling champion, Madsen admitted he knew nothing about them.
"Good for him I guess," said Madsen, on his opponent's wrestling background. "I don't know anything about the guy. I've never watched film on him and could care less. If I focus on myself and what I need to do to, I'll win the fight."
Frankly, Madsen doesn't like to concern himself with any fighter except the one he sees in the mirror.
Besides a text here and there, Madsen says he hasn't kept in touch with any of his TUF 10 teammates and, considering he didn't recognize the name "Court McGee," apparently didn't bother watching the latest season of the show.
Following a win over Mostpha Al Turk at UFC 112 in April, Madsen disappeared on a California camping trip with his girlfriend and decided to completely ignore his phone. He ended up missing five calls from matchmaker Joe Silva, who already had found his next fight.
"When you start focusing on what anyone is doing but yourself, there's less focus on your own game plan," Madsen said. "I do my own thing. I give it 100 percent and let the cards fall wherever they fall."
Focusing on himself became an important quality for Madsen at the age of 25, when he spent three months in a state penitentiary for multiple DUI offenses.
While serving his time, Madsen noticed that some of the inmates actually enjoyed living a life free of responsibilities. It wasn't something that appealed to him.
"I could definitely see why people get comfortable and end up liking it in there," Madsen said. "You have zero responsibility. You get up, you're fed, you have clothes to wear — you just live your life without any stress.
"It wasn't something I was interested in. I had things in my life I wanted to accomplish. I just knew it wasn't the place for me."
These days Madsen has found a place in the Minnesota-based DeathClutch camp, alongside fellow UFC heavyweights Brock Lesnar and Chris Tuchscherer.
He's recorded back-to-back decision wins over Justin Wren and Al Turk and swears fans will see him take more risks once he feels his future with the UFC is secure.
Until then, Madsen says he's still treating every fight in the organization the same way he did while on the show.
"Whether or not that's true or not, only the UFC guys know," Madsen said. "I know I've just got to try and make myself better and go into every fight like it's the fight of my life.
"I'm still attentive to just doing what it takes to win the fight. I'm not trying to be flashy or real aggressive until I get the go-ahead where it's like, 'Hey, you've got three fights locked down.' Then I can get a little wild and aggressive in the cage, knowing I'll be back."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.