Mixed Martial Arts fighter and champion Abel Cullum returned from Japan with a tough loss and a lesson learned.
Cullum, King of the Cage, flyweight, world champion, competed May 26 in the second round of the 2008 Grand Prix Featherweight Tournament sponsored by Dream of Japan.
"There are a lot of things that I would do different," Cullum said. "I was too much of a tourist this time around."
Fighters in the Dream Grand Prix were competing for a chance at two titles, the 2008 Grand Prix featherweight Champion and the Dream Featherweight title.
Cullum (14-3-0) was defeated in the second round. He tapped out by submission to Hideo Tokoro (22-16-1) of Japan.
Cullum said from the start of the first round it was a physical and fast-paced fight.
"I got cut over my right eye in the first round," Cullum said.
Cullum's father and trainer, John Cullum, did not accompany his son to Japan this time and was at home in Tucumcari watching the fight.
"I was watching the fight live at 4:30 a.m. and was caught by complete surprise that Abel tapped," John Cullum said.
"It all happened so fast that I could not believe that I tapped out myself," Abel Cullum said.
John said he could tell right away when Abel came out to the ring that he was not in the right state of mind.
"I just know," John said. "This was his first actual loss not by decision. This one hurt him but I am starting to see where it is helping him."
John said the exposure, media attention and fan frenzy may have played a part in the 22-year-old fighter's mental state.
"He was being viewed by 20 million televisions in Japan alone," John said. "That is not including the HDNET and pay-per-view to 150 different countries. That kind of attention can get to a young fighter."
John said since Abel returned he can see a difference in his training. He said he is actually listening and asking questions again.
"He is starting to get his hunger and focus back," John said. "I think that he had that mentality that he could not get beat and it took being beaten by one of the best in the industry to put things back into perspective."
Abel agreed. He said he has returned the basics and is putting in more hours into training.
"I felt that I did not represent the U.S., Tucumcari and New Mexico to the best of my ability," Abel said.
With little time to waste, Abel is training to get ready for a King of the Cage Title defense on Aug. 1 against Richard Montano.
Coming off the defeat in Japan, Abel will face Montano, the fighter who gave him his first loss in his professional career.
Both Abel and his father will use this title fight as a measuring point to his training and mental development.
"I lost to Richard on Dec. 10, 2005 by decision," Abel said. "This has been a rematch four years in the making."
"Abel needs to come right out take command of the fight," John said. "If he can come out and dominate right away, I know that he is heading in the right direction."
Abel said he has been invited back to Japan in September by Dream but has turned it down for the moment.
"I need to concentrate on my King of the Cage title defense before I even think of returning to Japan to redeem myself," Able said. "I need to be prepared mentally and physically."