My mindset is very focused. It's going to be trying to have action and have movement. One thing that I've been thinking of a lot is that I cannot be focused on the results. I have to focus on the performance. The performance will make the results. I have to focus on what I will do in the fight. I thought that I will do this tactic and this tactic, but, you know what, how people see it is up to them. I have to do what I can do to my opponent. I have to win. I have to come forward, be aggressive and I have to move. I have to make him move. I have to make him react. I'm going to be coming after my opponent very aggressively in this fight. That's all I can say. I don't have an intricate game plan, waiting for some specific move he's going to do or trying a new move I've been working on. I've got the same stuff I've always been working on but with a new focus and a way to apply what I know.
That's two good quotes from you. Last time it was "grappling is like tying knots" and this time is "focus on the performance, not the results."
You can't really control people's opinions. All of my seven victories have been from submission. All of them. My three losses are split decision losses. If it comes to a decision, I have a record of not have a good history with decisions. That's because people think that if I go for a triangle and the guy gets out, they might look at it like as ??h, he got out of Lister's triangle', whereas I think they should look at it like I almost finished the fight. If I hit you with a punch, and you take the punch, good job but you don't say ??h, that guy almost got knocked out. He's winning.' No, he got hit really hard. I went for a triangle and he escaped. That's good for him, but I tried for something. If those aren't counted as being aggressive, and they are counted against me...
You're right. It's important, mentally. Out of 100%, how much of fighting is mental?
It's almost 100%. It affects your training, too. Training is a big part of your fight but if you aren't mentally pushing yourself in training, the mental aspect will not let you develop yourself for the fight either. There are also genetics and experience. You can't just be motivated, have no experience and expect to come in and win.
What have you been working on in the short time since we saw you in the last BUSHIDO?
Working on? Just solid aggressive game plan because I have no idea what my opponent is going to do. He might be thinking that he's going to take me down. Which, by the way, is not a bad thing but I hope the judges don't think that. It's a personal opinion and I can't worry about that. I know that I'm good on the ground. He's good on the ground, too. He's going to hit me on the ground and I'm going to hit him back on the ground. I'll go for submissions and he can go for submissions on me. I'll see what happens. I'm not going to say what will happen but I feel very confident. I can't worry about the results. I have to worry about my performance and what kind of damage and discomfort I can put on my opponent.
What do you think you have to be mainly careful about Arona?
His big leg kick. His right hand. I don't think it's necessarily a powerful right hand but he's a powerful guy. It's got to hurt and the gloves are not cushy gloves, really. It all adds up. I don't want to get hit by his right hand or his right leg. I played football and I remember when I was little, I hated getting hit but with the helmet on, I became the hardest hitter. I'd smack people. Eventually, you get hit enough that you think that's just how it is. If you hit him first and harder, you win that exchange. You've got to hit your opponent first, faster and harder than he hits you. That's what I realized.
It's safe to say that you will try to educate the fans that there is more to Dean Lister than being the world's greatest grappler.
I'll put it this way. This really is how I feel. I've been asked a lot of times why I do mixed martial arts. Are you insane? My first two fights, back in the cage, they lock you in and you think, "what am I doing here?" I won those first two fights. I questioned it but I finally found my own answers. There're a lot of examples of one-on-one combat but this is the one that I chose. It's the ultimate test. You can hide in a team and you can't take all the credit for a team. You can give credit to your friends that helped you train but it's you in the cage. It's you in the ring. The strategy, the conditioning, the mentally toughness; it all comes together. The challenge of getting better, improving who I am. In this fight, I may open up new personal challenges, away from my old strategies. That's all I'm going to say. I'm going to take a big chance in front of everyone. This guy might take me down. He might kick me. I don't know what he's going to do.
Well, even though you are a submissions guy, you understand that it's not just two guys rolling around in a ring. You've got to put on a show for people that paid very good money to watch a fight.
Very true. However, in the past, I've always dealt with someone that's been a better striker, so I have to take them to the ground. Now, I feel like, okay, I know he's gotten better in striking. I heard that he's the best striker in top team. I don't know but I know that I'm a lot better in striking. The only way to show that, prove that and see, is to do it. Not just doing it in practice but to do it out there in front of everyone. Yeah, it's the first opponent that might take me down or not. I've never been taken down in a fight. No ones ever done it. I'll let people take me down. I don't want to sound cocky but I feel very comfortable on my back. I get to the ground any way that I can. I don't know what's going to happen in this fight. I don't know what his strategy is. I imagine that he's going to try to kick me and punch with that right side. Hit me with the right leg and hit me with the right hand. I expect one of us, or both of us, to be really beat up after this fight. Really beat up. Like, hurting. I may not sleep tonight. (laughing)