Verbal Sparring: Brad Burrick (King of the Cage)

When Brad Burrick steps into the cage on November 26th and fights for the King of the Cage Middleweight title, he’ll realize a dream that has been a long time coming.  Burrick is a decorated San Da / San Shou kickboxer who competed in MMA long before America learned the names Silva, Lawler, or Franklin.  In fact, this is his second MMA tour-of-duty.  After walking away from the sport in 2002, Burrick returned to caged competition last year at “King of the Cage: Explosion,” proudly fighting in his home state of Michigan.

In this interview, we sat down and discussed the roots of Burrick’s fighting and military career, garage training, leading a fight career worth living, and who the better James Bond is.

JT:  What is your background?  How did you get involved in Mixed Martial Arts?

BB:  I started martial arts when I was nine, taking traditional Karate.  I remember seeing the first UFC in Black Belt Magazine when I was in high school, and I got kinda excited about it.  After I got out of the army, I started competing [in MMA].  After four years, I actually left the sport and went to San Da / San Shou kickboxing, where I won several titles and world championships.  But [San Da] has a really small community, and I didn’t want to keep fighting the same guys, so I decided to go back into MMA.  When I first got back, I thought only one match would settle my competitive spirit.  It’s been two years now and I’m fighting for the King of the Cage title.

JT:  Did you continue karate throughout high school?  Did you do other sports?

BB:  The only time I would say that I stopped doing any martial arts training was when I was in the army.  Then, as soon as I got out, I started training again.  I was a Ranger, and they keep you so busy, you really don’t have the freedom to [train martial arts] in that kind of unit.  You’re usually in the field for 40 days or a month.  I was the radio operator for my team.  My rucksack weighed 120 pounds, so after you walk around with that for a day, you’re pretty worn out.

JT:  It looks like you left MMA around 2003.

BB:   MMA wasn’t as organized then as it is now, and I was frustrated.  A lot of that was because I didn’t have the proper training for it at the time.  So I walked away and did San Da.  I was a really good stand up striker and I had a judo background for throwing.  But after four years, I didn’t have anything left to do, so I went back to MMA and I think I’m more into it now than I was.

My thing is I take on a fight, I train for it, and after I’m done competing, then I’ll decide if I want to fight again.  I just really enjoy the training.  Training is one of the most enjoyable things for me.

JT:  That’s interesting.  I think most people think that’s the hardest and the worst part of the job.

BB:  I think it’s hard, but I have a real small group of guys that I train with, and we help each other out.  I used to run a bigger program out of a local gym here.  About a year and a half ago, I closed that down and I went into my garage and fixed it up.  I got nice mats and insulated it and everything.  And I got about five other guys, and there are a couple other people that come.  We’re a small, tight group.  We’re like a little family.

JT:  Do you have a name to your team?  Tell us about your training partners.

BB:  Yeah, we’re the Ronin Fight Team.  Most of the guys I train with now are my students.  I have a guy, Steve Colegio, whom I’ve been training with since forever.  He was a former kickboxer that got into MMA.  I also have Keith Frattarelli, who’s a 205-pounder.  I used to train with Jason Ireland.  He’s kinda the one that gave me the kick in the ass to get back in [to MMA].  A couple of his guys, like Dennis Vogt, come up to help me sometimes..  One of my students, Dennis Brohl, just started competing last year, so it’s been cool, because we can help each other out.  And he’s about my size.

JT:  Do you find yourself utilizing a lot of your San Da in MMA, like Cung Le does?

BB:  Yeah, but I’m a bit of a different fighter than Cung Le.   The thing that helped me the most from San Da is how to transition fast from stand up in the clinch and the throw.  I think I’ve benefitted from that a lot.   And I’ve fought some very good  stand up guys, so I’m not so worried about when I’m standing up with someone because I have the confidence that I’ve already done it with someone else, where that’s all they did .  That helps a lot.

JT:  Is your approach to this match, because it’s a title fight, different than the other ones?

BB:  Yeah. I was given about two month’s notice, so it helped a lot.  In some of my last fights, I would know I’m fighting, but I wouldn’t know the opponent until the week of [the match].  So this time, I’m able to mentally focus on one specific game plan and one specific person.  We’ve been able to look at footage to create a strategy for fighting him and orientate the training based off that strategy.  So that would be the big difference.

JT:  What is it like to anticipate winning the King of the Cage middleweight title belt?

BB:  It’s something I’ve wanted for awhile, so I take a lot of value in it.  That’s my main goal, right now – to win that belt.  I got my other [San Da] belts, but I’d consider this just as high or higher.

JT:  Tell us a bit more about your San Da championships and titles that you’ve had.

BB:  The Arnold Classic holds an annual San Da tournament and I won that from 2000 to 2005.  In 2004, the USKBA (United States Kickboxing Association) held the World Championships out in New Jersey, where I fought guy from the Russian Draka team who was two- or three-time world champion at that point.  Everybody is telling me “oh, the Russian Draka team is really good.  They’re one of the most prestigious teams.”  It would be like coming from Xtreme Couture in MMA.  Now going into the fight, I didn’t know his credentials.  I went in there and fought, and I was able to win, which earned me the world / gold medal.  Later, I found out his credentials, and I’m kinda glad they didn’t tell me until after.

In 2005, I fought the Brazilian national champion who was silver to the Russian that I fought in 2004.  And I was able to TKO him in the third round.  So at that point, I started to look at going back to MMA

JT:  Have you ever fought internationally?

BB:  Nope, I’ve only fought in the US.  In San Da, I had to pay my own way.  I work 40-some hour work weeks and pay bills and taxes just like everyone else out there.  It gets hard, but I’d rather not look back later on my life and regret.  No matter what happens with this next fight, I want to know that I at least trained my butt off and went out there and did it.  To me, it would be more hurtful if, ten year s from now, I looked back and said “well, I could have,” but didn’t.  If you have the dream to be an artist, why not try for it.  My dream is to be a fighter, and whether I’ll be the best or mediocre or whatever, at least I tried.

JT:  What is your downtime like?  What do you do for fun / away from training?

BB:  I’m a big movie freak.  I watch a lot of movies.  We just saw “Quantum of Solace” last night

JT:  Who’s the best Bond?

BB:  Sean Connery.  I like Daniel Craig a lot, and I liked the direction of the movie, but Sean Connery’s the man.

JT:  As a fan, what are some of your favorite fights?  Who are some of your favorite fighters?

BB:  The first match between Randy Couture vs. Chuck Liddell.  I probably watched that fight ten times.  I’m a Randy Couture fan in general, but just seeing the underdog winning . . . especially as a guy who, at the time, we thought was over the hill.  I like Anderson Silva and Chuck Liddell, but right off the top of my head, that would have to be my favorite fight.

JT:  Tell us about your sponsors?  Who should the fans know about and why?

BB:  I just recently got my first sponsor,  After my last fight, one of my guys, Dennis Brohl, said “I want to get you a sponsor.”  A week or two later he called me and said “hey, we got these guys.  Check out this website.”  Basically I just made a list of stuff that I’d need for the fight.  They sent me that plus some stuff, so that really helped.  It’s nice, because they don’t even really know me, and they’re willing to help.

JT:  What is your best / worst memory in your MMA career?

BB:  The best memory was recently after my last fight, when I beat Kyle Gibbons, and they told me I would be able to fight for the [King of the Cage middleweight] belt.  Because I’d been trying to get [a title shot].

The worst memory was probably when I fought Luke Zachrich and he caught me in an armbar.  I had just come back to MMA and that really sucked because I just wasn’t quite on par yet with my grappling.  I had all these people come out, and that was the first time I fought in Michigan.  It’s hard to go out and face those people, especially after they’ve spent their hard-earned money to come see you and everything.  They look up to you, they’re proud of you and everything, but to face them still is a hard thing.  You want to be the person that wins all the time, but unfortunately, that’s not life.

JT:  It looks like you had a bit of a feud going with Eddie Sanchez.  What’s the legacy behind that?

BB:  There really wasn’t a feud or anything like that. I just talked to Eddie not too long ago, actually.  The Fight Zone [who got shut down in Michigan], who did a couple of shows in Indiana and Ohio, was run by Dave Gomez.  Well, Dave Gomez is Eddie Sanchez’ instructor.  I went into the thing and I beat him the first time.  After that, I don’t know if they just wanted their student to win or if they liked the match up and thought we were entertaining, but they rematched us and he won.  Then they wanted us to fight again.

JT:  It looks like Eddie took some time off from the sport as well and also came back.  So maybe there’s a fourth go-round in the books for you guys.

BB:  It’s possible. I believe he’s at 170 now.  But I could actually probably make 170 [laughs].

JT:  What else should the fans know about Brad Burrick?

BB:  I think I’m an exciting fighter.  Of course, probably every fighter says that, but I try to stay up.  I have a kickboxing background, so I think people find that exciting.  I’m also not the kind of person that takes the easy road for a win.  Unfortunately, it’s kind of cost me some matches, but I usually keep trying to fight through and do different things.

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