By Scott McKie B.P.
One Feather staff
The One Feather staff caught up with rising mixed martial arts (MMA) star Dan “The Handler” Hornbuckle last week as the EBCI tribal member was home visiting family during the Cherokee Indian Fair. Although he grew up in Illinois, Hornbuckle is grounded by his Cherokee roots.
“The Tribe is here. The Aunts are here. The heritage is here. My beliefs are here,” he said.
Hornbuckle, who has a 19-2 professional MMA record, is about to start training for a title fight in Japan in the welterweight division scheduled for New Year’s Eve. His opponent has not been publicly announced yet.
To say he is about to start training is almost erroneous. Hornbuckle trains six days a week in various disciplines including Brazilian jujitsu, Jeet Kune Do, Muay Thai, Jing Sun, as well as strength and cardio training. “Preparation is the key to success.”
He will step up that training though for his title fight. “I love hardware,” he said explaining that he was ecstatic to find out that they give out trophies in Japan when you win an individual fight.
Hornbuckle recently won a fight at Sengoku – Ninth Battle against Akhiro Gono. “It wasn’t about Gono. It was about getting that trophy.”
While winning is important to Hornbuckle, it isn’t everything and he doesn’t celebrate after a fight like some MMA fighters do. “You have to hold yourself in a respectful manner. We can’t be parading around like a bunch of buffoons.”
He said he hopes to be able to change the image of MMA. “It’s a beautiful art form. I want to make sure everyone sees me as an athlete, not a barbarian.”
Sometimes in the arena, Hornbuckle will have to face friends. When asked what the mindset is for that situation he related that you just have to focus and zone into the fight. “Once you enter the ring, then it’s no more Mr. Nice Guy. It’s time to go to work.”
That mentality definitely works. “We know its business. We (Hornbuckle and Gono) actually went out to eat afterwards – went to a Korean barbecue.”
When asked what advice he would have for young fighters, Hornbuckle related, “Take it slow. Train hard, and believe in your dreams. If you believe it, you can achieve it. I know it’s a cliché’, but it’s true.”