Interview with Jeff Lentz: From The Ultimate Fighter to Professional Boxing


By: William Holmes

Many fans of MMA remember Jeff Lentz when he competed in the Ultimate Fighter season 12, which featured Georges St. Pierre and Josh Koscheck as the coaches. Lentz was able to win the opening round of the show and made it into the house, but he lost his first fight against Alex Caceres and was unable to advance in the reality tournament.

A lot of fighters who compete in the show fade into oblivion and are rarely heard from again. However, Lentz was able to rebound and later compete in Bellator Fighting Championships and was also able to capture the featherweight championship at the last Ring of Combat event, which is considered by many to be one of the top regional promotions in the United States.

We’ve heard many boxers talk about stepping into the cage and competing in MMA, and we’ve also seen a few, such as James Toney and Ray Mercer, actually take that risk with mixed results. However, we have not seen many mixed martial artists decide to cross over into boxing and truly test their stand up ability.

Jeff Lentz is the exception.

He made his pro debut in a Russell Peltz Promotions card on February 25th in Atlantic City with a stunning first round KO. He fights again on the Main Events Promotions card in Brooklyn, NY, on March 24th, and Boxing Insider spoke with him.

BoxingInsider.com: We have with us former The Ultimate Fighter competitor, current Ring of Combat featherweight champion, and now also a professional boxer Jeff Lentz. Tell us about your mixed martial arts background?

Jeff Lentz: I have a long kickboxing background, kempo, jiu-jitsu, and American style kickboxing for years and years. I currently mainly train at Ocean County Martial Arts Studio. I first started training karate when I was seven years old.

BoxingInsider.com: When did you first get into boxing?

JL: A few years ago I first started training with Sean Darling. I had dabbled a bit before, sparring in the kickboxing gym and whatnot. For the most part, I started training seriously with Sean Darling about two years ago.

BoxingInsider.com: How did you first get approached to enter into your first boxing match?

JL: I was actually out in front of my house, and my boxing coach lives about a half block away. He was walking his dog, and he walked past me, and he said great fight the other night: how do you feel, how’s everything going? I said I felt great, fight went smooth. I told him I’m still in shape and looking to fight as soon as possible. The next day he called me and asked me if I wanted to take this boxing fight? I said sure, why not? I got into the gym that night, six days before the fight, and then it happened.

BoxingInsider.com: So you got called one week before your first boxing match. What were you thinking when you first stepped into the ring?

JL: I was thinking the normal…I boxed many times in the gym. I knew I was in shape and I had confidence in my hands.

BoxingInsider.com: It’s rare to see someone who’s competing in both mixed martial arts and boxing, where do you plan on focusing your career at?

JL: Mixed martial arts is where my heart is. Boxing, I’m really starting to get the hang of it, and I’m really beginning to like boxing. I like to compete in both as long as possible, but it’s wherever the best opportunity comes first. I’m definitely fighting March 24th at the Aviator Arena on the Zab Judah undercard, and I’m in negotiations with Bellator for May 11th and with Ring of Combat for April 27th, and whichever makes the best offer I’m going to fight for.

BoxingInsider.com: Tell me a little bit about the guy you’re fighting on the Zab Judah undercard?

JL: My opponent’s name is Vinnie O’Brien, 3-1, tough guy, great card. He’s a good respectable opponent. I think at the end I seem to be a more powerful fighter than he is and I know my cardio is going to be just as good as he is.

BoxingInsider.com: I noticed at your last boxing match, you almost jumped on your opponent when you knocked him down the first time. Did you almost forget that you were in a boxing match and not a mixed martial arts match?

JL: You know I was so excited, and I only took the fight on seven days notice, and to be honest I never really watched too much boxing, and I didn’t really know too much about the boxing rules, and yes I got a little excited coming from MMA and it really didn’t click in my head until I almost started attacking him again that hey, I’m not allowed to do this.

BoxingInsider.com: Does Kurt Pellegrino support you doing both boxing and mixed martial arts?

JL: Kurt supports whatever I do, he’s a great coach and a good friend of mine. He knows stand up fights is what my background is, I really love kickboxing but there’s no money in it. Boxing comes pretty natural to me, and we’ve been boxing in the gym for years. I’m comfortable on my feet, and he supports me for whatever I’m doing as long as I’m winning.

BoxingInsider.com: A lot of boxing purists believe mixed martial artists don’t have good boxing technique, what do you think about that?

JL: I completely agree. A lot of mixed martial artists don’t have the technical standup of most pro boxers. Stand up in MMA is not as clean, but at the same time you got to be careful about four ounce gloves, you know a guy cannot be as technical as a good boxer and be throwing big punches and do just as well. Definitely the size of the gloves makes a big difference, but it also makes a good puncher just as dangerous as a technical boxer.

BoxingInsider.com: How do you think technical skill in boxing is coming along?

JL: It’s definitely coming along. I’m trying to improve every single day. I’ve been working on my power for awhile, I also train at evolution martial arts in Manchester, and my instructor there Dan Fisher has been working on my technique, but I still feel like I have a little bit of cleaning up to do.

BoxingInsider.com: Is fighting your full time job?

JL: Fighting is my full time job, yes sir. I also train people during the day.

BoxingInsider.com: How many mixed martial arts matches do you hope to have this year, and how many boxing matches do you hope to have this year?

JL: This year? Umm, it all depends. I strongly believe in karma, and whatever happens, happens. I feel like everything happens for a reason, I’m fighting on this Main Event card on March 24th, and if they offer me something else, a good fight, and the money is right I’m there. It doesn’t really matter, as long as things are going well, I’ll just keep going in whatever direction things fall into place.

BoxingInsider.com: I know you previously fought on The Ultimate Fighter, do you have any plans or hopes to be back in the UFC?

JL: Of course, I’d love to be back in the UFC. That’s originally my main goal, and is still a goal of mine. I’d like to win a title in something, whether it is MMA or boxing. I believe I have a stronger chance in MMA than I do boxing. I took this pro boxing fight for fun really for something to do on the side, I like to stay busy and it’s easier for me to keep fighting while I’m in shape. If I have too much time between fights I let myself fall out of shape, I like to stay fighting and stay busy.

BoxingInsider.com: Five years from now, where do you see yourself in the fight business?

JL: Hopefully with a title around my waist somewhere. In five years I’d like to see myself in my own gym with a belt hanging on my wall. Hopefully in the UFC, Strikeforce, or Bellator.

BoxingInsider.com: How long do you plan on continuing to box?

JL: I box in between whenever I can. Boxing to me is just fun on the side. I’ve been talking to Sean Darling for the past year about getting a pro boxing fight, just because I wanted to work on my standup, clean it up a bit, and put some more confidence behind my hands.

BoxingInsider.com: There seems to be a big boxing vs. mixed martial arts debate, do you have any views on that, or do you think the two can co-exist?

JL: I think the two can co-exist. It’s definitely, in some ways the same fan base, but in other ways a different fan base. A lot of the old school fans of boxing will always watch boxing, and I feel like MMA is more of a new age kind of thing, a little too brutal for some of the older crowd, but it’s still in the young early stages. Mixed martial arts is developing quickly, but it’s not even close to as developed as boxing of course, but I feel like it’s working it’s way up there and it will be there soon.

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