Archive for February, 2009

Lopez, Boxer Defend Titles, “Chaos” Reigns Supreme At KOTC: Immortal

Posted in King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2009 by jaytan716

The gods shined brightly on Neil “Chaos” Cooke, as he claimed the King of the Cage Super Heavyweight title amid one of three championship matches at KOTC: Immortal, which took place on February 26, 2009 at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highland, CA.

Defending their championship gold was then-reigning champion Chance Williams at super heavyweight (265+ lbs.), Tony Lopez at light heavyweight (205 lbs.), and Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela at junior welterweight (160 lbs.).

In fact, a unification bout at bantamweight (145 lbs.) between reigning champion Lazar Stojadinovic and interim champion Angelo Sanchez was also scheduled, but had to be pulled from the show due to casino age restrictions.  When Stojadinovic was unable to defend his title in December 2008 due to injury, Sanchez and Tony Hervey squared off for an interim title, which Sanchez won by close split decision.  KOTC matchmakers were hopeful to reschedule the Stojadinovic -Sanchez fight for the March 7th show, KOTC: New Breed, in New Mexico.

Other KOTC action that night included:

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.) – Josh “The Shark” Iuli vs. David Vessup

Fans were ready for some fight action with this first match, and Vessup and Iuli did not disappoint.  Iuli set things off with a hard right, then connecting with more straights as he charged in, but Vessup used his sizable reach advantage to throw high kicks and Muay Thai knees.  Vessup eventually  got the takedown, but after stalemating in the corner for some time, referee Doc Hamilton ordered the stand-up.  In round two, Vessup fired a push kick-left punch combo that dropped Iuli.  Vessup followed that up with ground-and-pound, eventually taking the back and getting the tapout by rear naked choke at 0:30 seconds of the second round.

Lightweight (155 lbs.) – John “Johnny B. Goode” Ulloa vs. Bobby “King” Green

Green, who suspiciously resembles a younger “Krazy Horse” Bennett, opened up with a low kick that Ulloa countered.  Green fired more low kick-overhand right combinations, scoring a takedown and claiming full mount.  Ulloa scrambled out and got a body clinch on Green’s side, but Green escaped, ending up on side mount.  From full mount,  Green cinched in a left armbar.  Ulloa tried to roll through with it, but Green held on and claimed the tapout 2:11 of the 1st round.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.) – Dave Cryer vs. Lucas Taber

The first round was largely a feeling out period, as Cryer circled the cage around Taber in the middle, occasionally landing combinations that largely went unanswered.  Cryer fired off an outside right kick that even the fans in back could hear.  And another one.  Taber eventually got his rhythm, engaging more and shooting in under a right mid-kick, but Cryer ended up getting the better of it, doing damage from side mount to the end of the round.  In round two, Cryer continued to keep Taber guessing, launching another right kick with bad intentions.  Taber tried to capitalize on Cryer’s slip off of a combination, but to little avail.  Towards the end of round two, he came to life with a charging combination that was enough trouble that Cryer avoided by clinching up.  By round three, Taber knew he had to do something.  A loud  “DAVE” chant broke out, which then turned into a “FIGHT” chant.  Go figure.  Taber shot for another takedown, which Cryer stuffed effortlessly.  At the 10 second mark, Cryer turned up the heat and tried to finish the match.  Regardless, the judges gave Dave Cryer the unanimous decision.

Featherweight (145 lbs.) – Aaron “The Bloodspiller”Miller vs. Roberto Vargas

Vargas was a house of fire, coming in with combinations that stunned Miller.  Going to one knee, Miller gave up his head and neck, allowing Vargas the chance to slip in a standing guillotine choke at 0:12 of the first round.

KOTC Super Heavyweight (265+ lbs.) Championship – Neil “Chaos” Cooke vs. Chance “King of the Streets” Williams

Williams was anointed the Super Heavyweight title in December when his opponent, Mike Bourke, was unable to compete.  Cooke, coincidentally a teammate of Bourke’s, traditionally fights at heavyweight, but is moving up to challenge the self-proclaimed “King of the Streets” for his title.

Cooke came out firing a right straight, which gave Williams his opening to score a takedown.  Williams bulled Cooke up to the corner.  Cooke was able to get up briefly, but Williams threw him to the ground, taking the back.  Cooke again scrambled to his feet.  They broke apart and threw simultaneous lefts, both landing solidly.  Any normal man would be out by that point.  Williams tried for another takedown, but stepped back to engage.  As he did, Cooke worked some dirty boxing, firing combinations as Williams pulled away.  Williams stopped the assault by grabbing a clinch and pushing Cooke against the cage.  Cooke pulled Williams to the ground and fired rights from behind as referee Herb Dean finally stopped the match at 2:21 of the first round, making Neil “Chaos” Cooke the new King of the Cage Super Heavyweight champion.

Heavyweight (265 lbs.) – Travis Browne vs. Michael Westbrook

Westbrook is a former Washington Redskins wide receiver who’s been studying jiu-jitsu since 1995. Browne set things off with a high left kick.  Westbrook switched between clinching Brown against the cage and throwing overhand rights from afar.  Brown fired a left shin kick which was hard enough that Westbrook turned away.  Browne tried to finish, but Westbrook regained composure and ended up in the top position on the ground.  Westbrook almost got caught  in an armbar / triangle as he tried to pass guard.   Browne continued his right low kick assault in round two.  Several times, Westbrook pushed Brown up against the cage, leaving himself open for a choke.   By round three, Westbrook finally started to counter Browne’s right low kicks, but not the body kicks that came after it. Shortly thereafter, Westbrook fell to the ground, forcing referee Cecil Peoples to call the match at 1:22 of the third round, giving the TKO victory to Michael Brown, due to Westbrook being unable to continue.

KOTC Light Heavyweight (205 lbs.) Championship – Keith “KO Kid” Berry vs. Tony “Kryptonite” Lopez

In an interesting juxtaposition, Tony Lopez dropped down from heavyweight to win the light heavyweight title at KOTC: Misconduct, in October.  Keith Berry is two-time former KOTC middleweight (185 lbs.) champion, moving up to light heavyweight to challenge Lopez for the title.

The name of the game here was a kicking strategy vs. combinations right up the middle, as “Kryptonite” Lopez used high, low, and even side kicks to gauge “The KO Kid.”  For his part, Berry took his time, circling about and measuring Lopez up, firing straight combinations down the pipe.  Berry got stunned by a right head kick in the middle of the first round, giving Lopez the opening to pounce on him with brutal right punches, but Berry amazingly survived, shrimping out from under and getting to his feet.   By this point, the crowd roared their approval for this match.  Berry returned the favor with a combination that almost looked to be Kryptonite’s kryptonite.

Berry opened up the second round with straight punches from jump street.  Several times, Lopez would turn away, at which point Berry charged for the kill with rights from behind.  Engaging face-to-face, Berry used a lot of head movement to avoid Lopez’ shots.  Just at the end of the round, Lopez dropped Berry, who worked from bottom for a triangle choke.  By round three, both men were visibly exhausted.  Lopez was content to steadily chop the Berry tree down with his kicks.  Pun intended.  Right around the four-minute mark, Berry turned on the steam, but Lopez knocked Berry down with a punch combination, following up with more rights until referee Doc Hamilton called the end of the match at 4:29 of the third round.  Lots of cheers and booing.  Both men were well represented outside the cage, as they likewise represented inside the cage also.

KOTC Junior Welterweight (160 lbs.) Championship – Donald Sanchez vs. Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela

This proved to be a classic striking clinic, as “Joe Boxer” lived up to his name and stuck to his strategy of keeping the fight standing, attacking with combinations to the face and body at will.  Conversely, Sanchez utilized a kicking arsenal, shooting in for a takedown whenever Boxer threatened a knockout.  Towards the end of round one, Boxer caught a high right kick, pushing Sanchez to the ground, then letting him stand back up.  This happened again in round three.  Sanchez scored a trip takedown in the second round.  Boxer worked for a kimura from bottom before referee Herb Dean stood them up again.  By round three, Sanchez’ nose was visibly broken and leaking blood over both fighters.  Again, Sanchez scored a takedown, which Boxer used to work a submission from the bottom.  The fourth and fifth rounds were more of the same, with Sanchez shooting in for takedowns as Boxer chose his shots.  In the waning seconds of the match, Sanchez caught a very close armbar, but Boxer rolled with it and ended up in Sanchez’ mount as the bell rang.

Judges award the match to reigning champion Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela by unanimous decision.

King of the Cage returns to the San Manuel Indian  Bingo & Casino in April.  Go to www.KingoftheCage.com for further details.

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Verbal Sparring: Eddie Jackson (Legends MMA)

Posted in Interviews, Legends MMA with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2009 by jaytan716

If you’ve ever seen a cute little five-year old running around the gym, mischievously tumbling and wrestling with one of the exercise balls, you know Legends MMA fighter Eddie Jackson is in training.

Eddie Jackson with trainers Jimmie Romero (left) and Chris Reilly (right).

Eddie Jackson with trainers Jimmie Romero (left) and Chris Reilly (right).

Granted, proud poppa Eddie is several feet taller, with a shaved head, chiseled physique, and tattoos, but as his younger son, Jason, has become a fan favorite of many Legends MMA members, so has Eddie in his budding fight career. Having represented Legends successfully at numerous local amateur Muay Thai events, Eddie Jackson thrives on a competitive challenge. As such, he has turned to MMA to satisfy that hunger, fine-tuning his striking skills and adding an Eddie Bravo-styled ground game to his arsenal.

Taking a moment out of his training, Eddie discussed his Inglewood roots, the lesson learned from a dubious debut, and why he prefers individual competition over a team effort.

JT: Tell us about your background and how you got started in MMA. Did you do other combat sports before?

EJ: I was born and raised in Inglewood. I have a boxing background. I was boxing right after high school. Maybe 17 or 18. . . Just to keep me away from everything else, all the troublemakers I hung out with. . . I got into it and really pushed up into it in my 20’s. Had a couple of amateur fights. I wasn’t too consistent in it, because I kinda got in trouble, but every time I had a chance, I’d go into the gym and start hitting the bag.

JT: Did you start with Chris and the Bomb Squad?

EJ: No. I used to train at Hollenbeck in East LA, Crunk’s Gym in Santa Monica, and the old county jail in Cypress. They’d turned it into a boxing facility. I jumped into the Bomb Squad a few months before they moved and became Legends. I wanted to add more artillery to the arsenal by getting into MMA.

JT: Was boxing the escape from the streets like it is for a lot of fighters?

EJ: Just running with the wrong crowd. I was a kid, too. I got caught up in a bunch of stupid things. I had to deal with the consequences, of course. But luckily, I was able to focus and see the downfalls of that path. I quickly jumped out of it.

JT: Did you have your first fight by that point?

EJ: I had a lot of little amateur smokers and that. About a year after high school, some of them were real backyard ghettoish situations. It wasn’t like how these smokers are set up now, with the crowd. It was just word of mouth.

JT: You were on some Kimbo Slice shit.

EJ: [laughs] Yeah man, it was some backyard little bullshit. It was cool. The experience was there. You had guys showing up, fighting in jeans and shit. That’s how it was. But it was cool. It wasn’t like what it is right now. I know how it is to get hit and brush it off.

JT: When did you get serious about fighting?

EJ: Probably in my mid-20’s. Actually, when the sport started growing, like the whole UFC thing. The competitiveness. Any kind of one-on-one combat. Not to knock off basketball or football, when you have teammates, but any one-on-one combat is always been it for me.

JT: It’s different mentality, where you’re in it for yourself.

EJ: Exactly. I mean, you’ve got your corner to help you out, but you’re in there. Nobody else in there, just you and him. Kinda like “his skills and your skills.” Let’s match ‘em.

JT: It takes a certain personality. When you started boxing, did you see yourself going down that road, as a serious boxer?

EJ: I didn’t take it too seriously, but then, when I realized “man, I’m kinda running through these guys here”. . . From when I thought I had skills, and when my trainers and everybody else thought I had something they could work with, I took it more seriously. . . They kept telling me that I had something there that most cats don’t.

JT: When did you start working on your ground game? Was it through Eddie Bravo, or other dudes as well?

EJ: Yeah, mainly through Eddie, and the various fighters that come in and out of Legends. I was picking things up quick. I messed around with world class Brazilian jiu-jitsu cats. I was like, “this isn’t going to some regular little dojo.” These dudes knew what they were doing. I was learning top-of-the-line techniques quick. It was pretty intense.

JT: Your last fight, at Tuff-N-Uff in November, was your amateur MMA debut. You had a guy at 170, and then they fed you somebody at 185. What did you get out of that experience?

EJ: It was a good, but bad experience. It wasn’t the kind of experience I wanted to start off with. The dude I was supposed to fight backed out at the weigh-ins.

JT: What was the guy’s excuse?

EJ: He said something about his wrist. I said “well, you know, I’m banged up too.” My wrist, my back. I’m throwing all kinds of excuses just to get him to fight. But he was just too much of a vagina to do it. So I’m like whatever.

So they threw this other cat at me. He was 185 lbs. You know, 15 pounds weight difference in MMA is a huge thing. You get that weight on top of you; that makes a difference. . . They’re like “well, you don’t got a fight. He don’t got a fight. You wanna go at it?”

So I came out doing what I do, which is stand and bang. The fight went to the ground. I guess he had a wrestler background, so that was to his advantage. Plus, with the extra weight he had. . . The ref stopped the fight and that was it.

It kinda fucked with me, how they threw it at me. I had to make a decision right there on the spot, to take the fight or not. But I believe in Chris [Reilly] and he wouldn’t put me in a situation where I was gonna come out real bad. I know what I can do with my skills, so I didn’t feel too bad about it. The outcome didn’t go in my favor, but . . .

JT: You got that first defeat out of the system. And now you know. . . is there any of that?

EJ: A win’s a win, and a loss is a loss. I can’t take it too hard because they switched it up at the last minute and I fought someone who was 15 pounds heavier. My whole game plan. . . went right out the door. So it was kinda one of those Kimbo and Shamrock situations, where they switched it up at the last minute. And it was a choice too, so I didn’t have to. But I’m not gonna head all the way down there and not fight. I had teammates that fought that night too. . . The spontaneous things happen and you just make a decision and make the best of it.

JT: Is there a little less pressure on this fight coming up, now that it’s not the first one? Does it feel different to you?

EJ: I feel a lot more comfortable and a lot less pressure going into this fight. . . Now that I know what I’m going up against, the mental part of it – I know what’s going to happen. I know what to look forward to. . . Because of what I went through last time, I’ve been training ten times harder, going through everything. Starting off getting mounted and how I’m gonna get out of that. Just ridiculous ways of how the fight would end up and how I’m gonna get out of it. I feel comfortable, and I’ve got Reilly’s training, so I feel good.

I’m a game-day player. Even since high school, when I played football, I’d slide off. During training, during practice, I’d half-ass it. But come game-day, I showed up. I was all over the place. I did my job like how I was supposed to. That’s kinda like how I am. I’m that game-day player. I don’t want to build too much hype, because then my nerves get the best of me. Just play it cool, and come game-day, the minute I’m getting taped up. . . it’s like the point of no return.

JT: What would you say your record is in boxing and Muay Thai?

EJ: I didn’t know when to start keeping track of it, but. . . when I started getting serious, I’m probably about 20-5 in boxing. In Muay Thai, I’m 10-1 since I’ve been at Legends. My only loss in Muay Thai was a decision. I lost to a heavyweight. It was kinda like the same thing that happened in my MMA fight. The dude I was supposed to fight didn’t show up. I fought at 180 that night, but the dude I fought, he was at 205 pounds.

JT: What’s the toughest part of fighting for you? Is it mental? The repetition of it all?

EJ: The mental part is definitely something. . . because you figure everybody’s tough. Everybody can hit. It’s like, when you’re already tired, you’ve got nothing left, and you’ve got to go that extra round. That’s fighting. That’s when you feel like what you’re really made out of and what you really have. That’s when your heart comes out.

I think mentally, and probably the conditioning, the repetition, the repeated coming in and knowing you’re going to get your ass kicked. That’s the toughest part of fighting.

JT: How do you combat that? When you start to wear down in the training? Either you’re fatigued, or you’re bored?

EJ: With me, certain sparks ignite during training. Because there’s times when I’d go in there like “aagghh.” Sluggish – I don’t even want to be there. Or I’m sparring with somebody and he goes and hits me in a certain way, and I’m like “oh, okay.” Wakes my ass out of it. Or if he’s being competitive, I kinda want to push to start rating myself above that. It’s like, if he goes here, I gotta match him. That spark kinda helps how training goes.

Or there’s time with Chris when he’ll bring a certain people, like Jeremy Williams or Jason Mayhem [Miller], if he tells me “we’re gonna be sparring with these guys today,” I’m like “oh, shit.” That kinda does it for me too. That kinda lights it up.

JT: What would you say is your best and your worst memory of your combat sports career?

EJ: Worst memory [Long pause] . . . probably my MMA debut. Because it was the biggest show for me. The biggest real deal. And to have it go down like the way that it did. And I was telling people about it, hyping it up. Probably more than I should have. And the way that it went down, it was like “aagghh.” I didn’t feel too bad about myself, but what they did. . . it was like “aahh, shit.” I didn’t like that at all. It was really discouraging.

And then I guess – most of my other wins in Muay Thai, because I kept winning. Taking my first loss, that first one that I had up there; I felt bad, but I didn’t feel too bad, because I fought someone whom I wasn’t even supposed to be with in the ring. So I don’t really want to count that, but my first MMA debut. It was really a hard pill to swallow. Because of the way it went down, and it was right there. I didn’t allow myself to do what I know I can do. It ended the way that it ended. I didn’t like it.

JT: What’s the next steps, five years from now or where do you see it going?

EJ: I’m still young, I can still do this right now. I’m gonna take it as far as I can take it. . . As long as I don’t suffer any long-term permanent injuries that stop me from doing it, I’ma do it. I’m gonna take it as far as I can take it. I can turn it off anytime. I got a lot of love for this sport.

JT: From a fan perspective, who are some of your favorite fighters? In boxing and MMA. . .

EJ: Boxing would be Roy Jones, Jr. Just, his fighting style, his mentality. Like, that whole one-on-one combat. He shares the same mentality about that. The way he described it – that’s my mentality too. For MMA, I would say Wanderlei Silva. He’s got this monster-beast thing about him. I try to come out like that. Just really aggressive. I want to spend the least amount of time in there. He goes in there, he does his job, and he just goes balls-out.

JT: He goes Incredible Hulk.

EJ: Some guys want the finesse and want to run around looking pretty. I’d rather go in there looking like shit, come out. I’m in there to do one thing. I’m not trying to be in there longer than I need to be. The way he comes in, the mentality. He just has that killer instinct. And it’s the best killer instinct that I can think of. And when I see him, it’s like “man. . .”

Ruthless Robbie Lawler. He’s like a little Wanderlei to me. He just goes in there and doesn’t fuck around. He gets the job done.

Anybody can be strong, anybody can throw a punch, a kick. But if you’re not here mentally, you can take yourself out in the first seconds of the fight. Just go in there, relax, and be calm. The guy’s human, just like you. He bleeds red, not green. He’s got two arms, two legs. He’s been training as much as you have. What are you worried about? What’s the worst that can happen. He’s got gonna stab you. He’s not gonna shoot you. If you really think about it, you train for whatever he can throw at you. You’re above the average person already.

It’s not him that I’m fighting. It’s everybody else that’s watching. Because if you turn the lights off, and it’s me and him in the ring, oh, it’s on. No problem. But if you fill up that whole arena, you’ve got thousands of eyes on you, and that’s when the nerves kick in. Because everybody’s watching. That makes the whole difference.

JT: You think you can ever get over that, or is it something that’s there for every match?

EJ: I’ve been fighting long enough to where I should be calm and cool now. I’ve learned how to control it, but I think it’s just my personality. On my first fight, I was like, shit, I wanted to throw up. I know I’ve come a long way in learning how to control the nerves. But it’s natural to get nervous. It’s human nature. It’s a feeling of knowing you’re alive.

JT: What about your downtime? What do you do to rest your head mentally?

EJ: Shit, play a lot of video games. A lot of Playstation. I spend time with my kids. I go riding with my boys. I’ve got a motorcycle. We go down Canyon or head down Malibu. . . . I just do everything that I can’t do when I’m training.

JT: You get done with a fight. Your hand is raised? What’s that first thing you’re going for? What do you get your grub on?

EJ: If they have a Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffles, I’m there. I’m headed straight to Roscoe’s. And I got a sick sweet tooth. Anything deep fried, chocolate, greasy, that’s my thing.

Shortly after this interview, Eddie Jackson fought in an eight-man tournament at the Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA event in Las Vegas, beating Johnny Batres of Team Fubar via TKO at 0:08 seconds of the third round. He is expected to next fight Joshua Morgan (CTKD) in the next round of that tournament.

Verbal Sparring: Chris Brady (Legends MMA)

Posted in Interviews, Legends MMA with tags , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by jaytan716

Conor Heun (left), Chris Brady, Chris Reilly (right)

Conor Heun (left), Chris Brady, Chris Reilly (right)

While many aspiring fighters aim high and want overnight success, Chris Brady is a cat of a different breed. Not to say that he sees a glass ceiling for himself in MMA, but he knows that on his path to proving himself, gaining match experience, and becoming a pro MMA fighter, the journey is the destination.

For Brady, Legends MMA is his life. If he’s not training with the fight team weekday afternoons, he’s teaching the beginner and regular Muay Thai classes. If he’s doing neither, you might catch him working the front desk or even joining in on classes.

In this interview, Brady gave his thoughts on an array of topics, from the professional (his transition from Muay Thai to MMA, his technical strategy, the effects of cutting weight) to the more personal (life as “the angry kid,” how he became a part of Legends, and his aspirations of becoming the “professional student of MMA”).

JT: What city did you grow up in?

CB: I grew up in Knoxville, TN. They had a lot of wrestling. Where I went to school, I knew kids that wrestled, but I never really thought about doing it. Now, looking back, I wish I had. Because now, I like it. I think its fun. But at the time, I was on some punk-rock, “fuck that.” I thought it was stupid. I wasn’t really athletic in school.

Wrestling is a tough sport. Doing it now, doing the fighting, with all this, I really wish I had. It just wasn’t the group of kids I hung out with. The group of kids I hung out with partied and just hung out and didn’t want to do anything. That’s all we did.

JT: You had to be a big music buff, rocking a Black Flag tattoo on your chest.

CB: Yeah, the whole punk rock thing was a really big influence in my time.

Growing up, I was the older brother. I was taking care of my brother, and helping my mom. So I didn’t have anybody else to look up to. So the kids that I knew – that was what we listened to. It was just something I kinda fell into. Going to shows all the time.

See, I wasn’t an artist. You’d think I’d really get into it. “Oh he plays guitar.” I don’t play guitar [laughs]. I just like partying, I like the music, and I like having a good time.

So its kinda one of those silly things you do when you’re younger. You’re like “fuck yeah. Black Flag tattoo. That’ll be hardcore. I’m gonna get laid.”

JT: Did that tattoo get you laid much?

CB: Uhhh, it did. I was good at being the kid in high school with the tattoo. Girls like that, I guess. “oh, he’s bad.” But now I’m thinking I could have put something way cooler than that. But you don’t think about that shit. You’re just like “dude, must do it. Let’s do that right now!”

JT: How long have you lived out here?

CB: About four and a half years now. I moved out here with my girlfriend [at the time], who I met in high school back home in Tennessee. She was from out here. I came out here with her. We’d been together for awhile. When we broke up, I had a lot of time on my hands. So I wanted to start training.

JT: Did you do any martial arts as a kid or anything?

CB: I did a little bit of Taekwondo as a kid but it was one of those strip-mall Taekwondo spots. I started doing it for a little bit, but at some point my mom couldn’t afford it anymore. So we stopped going and that was the end of that.

JT: And Legends was the place where you fell into fighting?

CB: Yeah, I came down to Chris Reilly’s old gym, The Bomb Squad. Originally I was looking for, like, Kung Fu. Just because a buddy was like “oh, that would be cool.” I didn’t know anything about it. So I came in there and I was asking him. . . where I could find that. He said “well, I don’t really know of any places, but if you want to check this place out, try our Thai boxing. You might enjoy that.” So I took a class with Paolo Taka, who was the trainer there at the time. I liked it a lot and I just started doing it.

JT: So you were training in Thai boxing and Paolo. Then, from there, you started messing with Eddie too?

CB: No, I actually just recently have been training with Eddie seriously. I didn’t start my jiu-jitsu MMA training until a little bit before Tuff-N-Uff. That’s one of the reasons why I feel like my first fight went the way it did. I got subbed in the first round with a rear naked choke. Many other factors contributed to that too, but when it comes down to it, I just hadn’t had enough ground training. I just got my blue belt from Eddie two days ago.

JT: Talk me through your amateur Muay Thai matches and your amateur MMA.

CB: The amateur Muay Thais I started doing when we were at The Bomb Squad. I had my first fight at USKO in Riverside. I did really good. I can’t really remember now if I won or lost. But from there, Chris . . . said “that’s the way you gotta do it, if you want to get good at Thai boxing.” And at the time, all I wanted to do was Thai boxing. I wasn’t trying to do MMA.

It’s like, if you wanna get good at this, just like anything else, you gotta fight all the time. And not so much because it’s the number of fights, but it’s the experience of doing it over and over. You become comfortable, and once you’re comfortable with things, then a whole other level allows your skills to come out. All of a sudden, you’re not tense anymore, so you throw that combination. You’re not tensing up. You’re thinking and using all your weapons.

So he just took me to . . . MTA in North Hollywood. We’d go to Kru X’s gym in the Valley. Basically, for the first couple of years, that’s what I was doing – Thai boxing.

Slowly but surely, I just kinda started to turn Thai boxing into MMA. First I was doing both; I was trying to learn a little bit of it. But now, it’s like MMA is all I do. I still train in Thai boxing and I’m still down to do Thai boxing fights. But the focus right now is on MMA. Where I’m really gonna make money, hopefully.

JT: What’s your philosophy or approach to training?

CB: My approach to training – a lot of people say that I’m a real technical fighter. . . especially with my striking. . . I like to punch and brawl a little bit too, but I’m very technical. That’s one of my big strengths. But at the same time, I feel like as much as putting in reps and learning something. . . you gotta work hard to and push hard. Push push push. Train hard, train longer than everybody else. That’s the only way you get good at something. By just doing it constantly. Every day.

JT: Would you say you’re letting fighting and training take over your life right now?

CB: Yeah. And a lot of people feel like that would be kinda a problem for them. That would bother them, or they’d get bored with it. Yeah, I get bored sometimes, but this is what I want to do. I want to go and train today. At three on Saturday. And I want to go on Monday and train at 4pm, then go to jiu-jitsu. I want to do those things. So it doesn’t make it that hard for me. I want to go and put the time in. I don’t want any distractions. I want to just do what I’m doing.

JT: It sounds like this was something you had intended to do for a long time; that you just never got around to it.

CB: I always liked it. I just . . when I was at Chris’, with the Thai boxing at the Bomb Squad, they were like “you’re pretty good at that” and I was like “yeah?” Having something that is actually fun, that you’re good at. . . that really did a lot for me. For my self esteem. I can tell you right now that I’m a totally different person than I was [before]. I’m still me, but it does something to you. It changes you.

JT: Do you have to cut weight much?

CB: Not really. I walk around at 145 or 148 lbs. I fight at 135, so it’s pretty easy. If I have a month to get ready, I can come down to about 140, just from dieting and training. And then I just cut the last five pounds in the sauna. So I don’t make a huge cut.

JT: Doing a cut at that weight is that much harder. You have less to cut.

CB: Yeah. Ten pounds to me is huge. Twenty pounds is ridiculous. That’s why I see so many guys at 135 and I’m like “how do you fight at 35, man? “ This dude that walked in the other day, this dude that Shu [Hirata] brought in. He’s walking around at like 160. I’m like “really?” You know, I’ll take you five rounds and see if you can go five rounds after cutting that much weight.

I’d much rather have the gas. There’s a certain degree of cutting that you have to do. Otherwise, you’re just going to be somewhat smaller than everyone else. So you just kinda have to do it to even the playing field. Wrestling’s the same way. They wouldn’t do it if there wasn’t a reason why.

JT: It’s hard also to maintain that, because there’s always going to be some level of trying to get the advantage. If you move the weight classes up, there’s going to be guys who will try and cut one weight class down. If you move them down, then the guys that are at whatever level will still try and cut lower, to be the bigger guy in the weight class.

CB: They should make it same-day weigh-ins. It’s just healthier for people. It’s already a tough sport. There’s no reason to make it tougher. You’re already getting punched in the face. You can only do that for so long. I think the weight cut has a similar effect, to not only performance, but eventually, it shortens your career. Eventually, you’re gonna run out of steam. That takes time off your career, I think.

JT: For you, what’s the toughest part of fighting? The training? The mental? The rules?

CB: I think the training is probably the toughest part. . . I love going to train, but sometimes, when you’re getting close to the end of your training phase for a fight, then you’re just fucking tired. You just want to go home and eat a big fuckin’ pizza. That’s the worst part. The repetition of it.

And every once in awhile, you’ll have those glimpses and breaks of new stuff that you learned. Then you get inspired. “oh, I just learned that. I just caught so-and-so in this new submission.” And then you get inspired, so you start training even harder. You’re just like “I just want to do it again and again.” And the better you get, the slower the learning comes, because now you’re learning the intricacies of this sport. It takes a lot longer to land that right hand than it does to throw that right hand. How to actually make that punch land. So you get inspired, but sometimes, you just get tired and hungry. You want to go home [and] do something else. Because you’re just. . . .like. . . out of it.

JT: How do you balance that out? How do you keep yourself afloat?

CB: I like to go home and watch TV. That relaxes me. I like to watch the news. I like to read magazines. I like to read. I like to go to the beach. I like to do the normal shit that everybody likes to do.

JT: You still skateboard, right?

CB: No. I used to. I would go and train and I’d go home and be like “oh, let’s go skate.” Then I’d go to sit down and do a trick and I’d be like “ooohhh, I don’t have any power.” I just worked all my legs out. So it just came down to choosing what I thought was more important. And too, the injury thing, man. I’m not trying to tear my ACL on some stupid shit and then be out for months at a time. That’s the worst, to me. Being stuck. Not being able to do anything.

Like Conor [Heun}. I don’t know if I could handle that. Conor had his jaw wired shut. Couldn’t fight for months. Couldn’t train for months. That would kill me.

JT: Would you consider yourself more of a Muay Thai fan or an MMA fan?

CB: I’d say I’m more of an MMA fan now.

JT: Who are some of your favorites?

CB: I’d say [Lyoto] Machida, Anderson Silva. Machida’s game is so tight. Not tight in the sense of cool, but tight, in the sense of technically sound. His background is crazy. He’s a black belt in karate. He’s done sumo wrestling. He’s a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He’s so good at all these things and he’s so technical. He puts Tito Ortiz on his back and makes him look like a fool. But his style is what a lot of guys don’t get. . . The matador and the bull. He’s the matador. Tito Ortiz was the bull and everybody else. . . he’s showboating, and when he’s ready, he stabs that motherfucker and he’s done.

That’s what I like about him. He’s just waiting for you to make that one move. Just waiting for it. You can just see it, and it’s like boom, crack. I like guys with pinpoint accuracy. I think because I want to be like that. I want to be like Anderson Silva. I want to be that good, and that technically sound and that professional. Because I feel that those guys are real athletes, and real fighters. They’re not about some bullshit. Real martial artists.

JT: You’re the first person to mention Machida. Most of them go straight towards the Anderson Silvas, and the Wanderleis too.

CB: Yeah, well, I don’t care how hard you punch or how strong you are. Eventually you’re gonna meet somebody that’s gonna punch harder or be stronger than you. So it’s good to have that killer instinct, but you also need the technical prowess to change your game up. . . There’s always a way to beat somebody. And that’s why I like Anderson Silva and the Machidas. I feel like they’re good at everything, but it’s not like they’re ten times better than everybody else. They use this [points to head] and that’s what I respect.

And a lot of guys in MMA have that wrestling mentality. Go, go, go, go! And that works on a lot of guys, but you’re not going to beat Anderson Silva like that. You’re not gonna tough him out. He’s gonna [feigns, ducks, and punches] – bop, bop, bop. Wear your ass out. I like that style. When you’re ready, just take somebody out.

JT: What’s the best and worst memory for you?

CB: I think the best was the last fight I had. It was a good memory because all of us had gone up there to fight and everybody had gotten stopped. We were taping for the pilot for that reality show. I think I was the third fight out of our guys. It was just like “man, I can’t let us go home like that. I don’t want to get beat and have it be on this show. That would ruin our whole shit.”

That’s my best memory, because under pressure, I was able to go out there and perform. I don’t care how good you are in the gym. If you can’t fight in front of all those people, under the lights, you’re not worth shit.

JT: Because that’s where the real test is.

CB: that’s the real test. Whether or not you can do it on that day at that time, that you said you were gonna step in the ring and get in there with that guy. If you can’t handle it then, I don’t care what you can do in the gym.

And worst – I think the worst is when I was in one of my Thai boxing fights. I fractured my arm. I was blocking, but I was being a lazy showboat. You’re supposed to get two hands up there and make it nice and tight and solid. Instead, I was like “go on, kick.” And just put my arm up. It was all loose and I fractured my arm. I won, but it was hard, because I was out for a really long time. I felt like that injury took awhile to get me back into where I was at before.

JT: What do you think you would do if you weren’t fighting? Or when you don’t fight, later on down the road?

CB: If I wasn’t ever going to fight, if I’d never done this, I’d probably be a mechanic. My grandfather is a diesel mechanic, and he’s always wanted me to come and work with him. To learn the trade. I still see him to this day and he’s always like “well, you can always leave and come to Ft. Valley, GA and learn all this stuff that I’m doing. . . “

After fighting, I just want to open my own gym. I have all the goals besides being a great MMA fighter. I want to get a black belt in jiu-jitsu. I don’t just want to be a great kickboxer. I want to be a great fighter and a great martial artist. Just to be good and know a lot of different things about fighting. . . to be able to teach people everything.

I feel like, okay, you’ve put all this time in to learn this stuff. You can’t do it for the rest of your life, so you gotta pass it on and use it to help. Otherwise. . . you’re not taking full advantage of what you’ve learned. Because part of it is the fighting. That’s personal. But giving back to other people, or helping other people learn what you’ve learned. That’s probably what I’d do after fighting.

Chris Brady teaches the regular Muay Thai classes on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 12pm, and also on Wednesdays at 6:30pm. His beginner Muay Thai classes are at 12pm on Saturdays. He anticipates returning to the ring on March 24th at Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA, at the Orleans Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

Finland, South Korea, and USA West ignite M-1’s 2009 Challenge

Posted in Live Event Reports, M-1 Challenge with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2009 by jaytan716

After debuting their team-based round robin tournament last year, M-1 Global held the first round of the 2009 M-1 Challenge this weekend at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, WA. The event pitted six teams in best-of-five “dual meet” action, ending with redeeming wins for Team South Korea, Team USA West, and Team Finland.

Marketed as the “World Cup of MMA,” the M-1 Challenge resumes this year with an expanded roster of 16 teams from 10 countries split into four groups.  New additions are teams from Brazil, Turkey, England, China, Bulgaria, and a second team from America, Team USA West. Last year’s rendition saw ten teams split into two groups of five, each team fighting four times within that group.

Coincidentally, the two name changes this year – Team Imperial and Team Benelux – met in the 2008 M-1 Challenge finals as Team Russia Red Devil and Team Holland, respectively.  The Red Devil’s beat the Dutch 4-1 to become the inaugural M-1 Challenge champions.

Ironically enough, redemption was the theme of the night at the Emerald Queen, as all three winning teams had a point to prove off of last year’s respective performances.  In 2008, Team Finland placed second in Group A to Team Russia Red Devil. They returned this year to beat 2008 Group B champions Team Holland by an individual fight score of 4-1.

Team South Korea also came up short last year against Team Russia Red Devil, losing early in the season and going 1-3 in team challenges for 2008. In this rematch, Team South Korea claimed victory 3-2 over the renamed Team Imperial, spotlighted by workhorse performances by lightweight Do Hyung Kim and middleweight Myung Ho Bae.  But it was Jae Young Kim’s second round head kick KO of Mikhail Zayats, one of M-1’s top stars, which surprised many.

In the third and final team challenge, two new teams, Team USA West and Team Brazil, debuted, with the Americans winning 3-2.  Although Team USA West is a new addition to the M-1 Challenge, their victory was something of a response to Team USA’s 2008 performance (1-3 in tem challenges and 6-14 in individual fights), the worst the entire season.

TEAM FINLAND VS. TEAM BENELUX

Lightweight (154 lbs. / 70.3 kg.) – Danny Van Bergen (Team Benelux) def. Juha-Pekka Vaininkainen (Team Finland) via unanimous decision.

Round one saw Vaininkainen use his significantly longer reach to his advantage, tagging Van Bergen at with jabs and right straights, but Von Bergen was a house of fire, working a triangle choke. Van Bergen, seemingly the better conditioned of the two, continued the ground assault in round two with a side triangle and an armbar. Van Bergen’s win gave Team Benelux the 1-0 lead.

Welterweight (167 lbs. / 75.7 kg.) – Janne Tulirinta (Team Finland) sub. Tommy Depret (Team Benelux) at 2:30 of round one.

Depret and Tulirinta started out trading shots on the feet, and then traded top position on the ground after a Tulirinta takedown. Making their way back to the feet, in what is a sure rarity, if not a first, Tulirinta slapped on a standing D’Arce choke, pulling back hard enough that Depret actually threw his legs up in the air, tapping out at 2:30 of the first round. The submission win tied things up 1-1.

Middleweight (185 lbs. / 83.9 kg.) – Lucio Linhares (Team Finland) sub. Kamil Uygun (Team Benelux)  at 1:22 of round one.

Linhares scored a takedown early in the round, briefly getting caught in Uygun’s half-guard. He eventually got the back and proceeded to pound Uygun’s side with fists. As Uygun tried to turn to his back, Linhares grabbed the left arm and sat back for the armbar submission. Team Finland pulls ahead 2-1 in the team challenge.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs. / 93 kg.) – Marcus Vanttinen (Team Finland) def. Jason Jones (Team Benelux) via unanimous decision.

Although he came alive at the end of the first round with a hip toss takedown and heavy right hands, for the most part, Jones didn’t have the answers to Vanttinen’s right kicks or ground game. In round two, Vanttinen stuffed numerous takedown attempts, later punishing Jones with 50+ ground-and-pound shots from top position. Vanttinen’s victory secured the team challenge victory for Team Finland, 3-1.

Heavyweight (265 lbs. / 120.2 kg.) – Toni Valtonen (Team Finland) KO Sander Duiyvis (Team Benelux) in 0:18 of round one.

In the “freak accident” win of the night, Duiyvis was knocked unconscious as the back of his head hit the mat off a Valtonen takedown early in the first round. Valtonen fired three more shots before the referee was able to pull him off Duiyvis. This win added insult to injury as Team Finland finished the night 4-1.

TEAM SOUTH KOREA VS. TEAM IMPERIAL

Lightweight (154 lbs. / 70.3 kg.) – Do Hyung Kim (Team South Korea) def. Mikhail Malyutin (Team Imperial) via unanimous decision.

Malyutin scored two takedowns in the first round, although Kim worked from rubber guard below. In the second round, Kim turned on the heat, forcing a ground-and-pound strategy on the ground and standing over Malyutin. Team South Korea got on the board first with this victory, 1-0.

Welterweight (167 lbs. / 75.7 kg.) – Myung Ho Bae (Team South Korea) sub. Erik Oganov (Team Imperial) at 2:12 of the second round.

Myung Ho Bae showed charisma and skill over Oganov, dominating him with ground-and-pound punishment for most of the first round. In round two, Bae brought more of the same until getting a tight rear naked choke for the submission, which put Team South Korea up 2-0.

Middleweight (185 lbs. / 83.9 kg.) – Dmitriy Samoylov (Team Imperial) def. Hyungyu Lim (Team South Korea) via unanimous decision.

Fans were firmly behind this match, as Lim and Samoylov traded shots with bad intentions in round one. Despite Lim’s reach advantage, Samoylov connected with his jab. The Russian continued the standing assault in round two, in addition to body shots on the ground. Samoylov’s win kept Team Imperial alive, 1-2 in individual fights.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs. / 93 kg.) – Jae Young Kim (Team South Korea) KO Mikhail Zayats (Team Imperial) at 4:02 of round two.

Zayats had a sizeable reach advantage over Kim, which benefitted the Russian both standing and working submissions on the ground. By round two, however, both men were exhausted, Zayats even showed his cards by putting his hands on his hips in fatigue. Kim followed up with a left head kick that dropped Zayats backwards like a Nestea plunge and gave Team South Korea the team challenge and vindication for their loss to Team Russia Red Devil last year.

Heavyweight (265 lbs. / 120.2 kg.) – Oleksiy Oliynyk (Team Imperial) sub. Sangsoo Lee (Team South Korea) at 4:27 of round two.

Oliynyk controlled Lee from bottom position during most of round one, working for a rear naked choke. Lee fought back with combinations and knees in a Greco-Roman clinch standing in round two, but Oliynyk catches Lee with a front / Ezekiel choke to claim the last laugh of the night for Mother Russia.

TEAM USA WEST VS. TEAM BRAZIL

Lightweight (154 lbs. / 70.3 kg.) – David Jansen (Team USA West) def. Flavio Alvaro (Team Brazil) via unanimous decision.

Jansen worked the D’Arce choke several times throughout the match.  Round one saw Jansen stick-and-move on the feet, as well as taking Alvaro down almost at will. Alvaro escaped from several submission attempts in round two, but Jansen claimed top position and ground-and-pounded his way to the end of the match. The crowd fervently embraced Jansen’s victory with loud “U-S-A” chants as the hometown favorites started the night off with a 1-0 lead.

Welterweight (167 lbs. / 75.7 kg.) – Eduardo Pamplona (Team Brazil) TKO Dylan Clay (Team USA West) at 2:48 of the third round.

Clay and Pamplona traded heavy leather in the first round, as well as forcing each other to the mat – Clay with a takedown and Pamplona with a knockdown. Clay scored two more takedowns in round two, also amid fists of fury from both combatants. As judges each gave a round to Clay and Pamplona, a third round was ordered. Pamplona gained top position off a Clay takedown attempt and rained rights down until referee Marco Broersen stopped the match. With this, Brazil tied the team challenge at 1-1.

Middleweight (185 lbs. / 83.9 kg.) – Reggie Orr (Team USA West) def. Juliano Belgine (Team Brazil) via split decision.

Belgine looked to take the fight to the ground, as he attempted numerous unsuccessful takedowns in round one. He did get Orr to the ground twice in round two, but each time, Orr dropped hammerfists in the guard until he could escape. Orr’s victory allowed Team USA West to maintain the lead 2-1.

Light Heavyweight (205 lbs. / 93 kg.) – Raphael Davis (Team USA) TKO Jair Goncalves, Jr. (Team Brazil) at 4:05 of the first round.

Davis was not afraid to engage on the feet with the taller Goncalves, who caught Davis with a standing guillotine. Goncalves pulled guard and worked for an armbar, but Davis escaped the lock and made his way to side mount, where he leaned into the felled Brazilian as he fired rights. Finally, referee Marco Broersen called the match, much to the protest of Team Brazil. Team USA West pulled ahead and claimed the team challenge, 3-1.

Heavyweight (265 lbs. / 120.2 kg.) – Jose Edson Franca (Team Brazil) def. Carl Seumanutafa (Team USA) via split decision.

Both fighters were on the higher side of the heavyweight limit, at 243 and 260.  Round one saw Franca shoot and pull guard several times, to which Seumanutafa answered with body shots.  After some jockeying for position against the ropes in round two, Franca got the mount on the ground and tenderized Seumanutafa’s body with shots until the end of the round.  Although Team Brazil won the final match of the night, Team USA went home with the team challenge win, 3-2.

M-1 Challenge’s next event is currently scheduled for March 21st in Sofia, Bulgaria.  Anticipated team challenges include Team Bulgaria vs. Team USA East, Team China vs. World Team, and Team Turkey vs. TBA)

Like Father, Like Son, Naturally

Posted in Live Event Reports, Tuff-N-Uff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2009 by jaytan716

While the Shamrocks and Gracies feud over who is the “First Family of MMA” like the Hatfields & McCoys, many MMA fans will point to the Couture clan as equally deserving of that

Second generation fighter Ryan Couture

Second generation fighter Ryan Couture

honor.  Ironically enough, as a household which is known for its quiet humility, they’d probably be the last ones to lay claim to it.

But amidst a capacity crowd of near 2,500 at Sunday night’s Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA event, at the Orleans Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, Ryan Couture, son of Randy “The Natural” Couture, took the family name one step farther down that path, as he scored a second-round submission win over Art Martinez of Team Fubar in the lightweight (155 lbs.) division

“I really enjoyed myself out there. . . I got to work my standing a little bit.  I got to show I’m pretty slick on the ground too.  I’m happy with the way it went,” Couture said after the match.

In the first round, Martinez had no problem pushing the attack on Couture, firing with hard punch combinations.  Couture tried to keep the distance with low kicks before the fight went to the ground.  From there, Couture worked for both a triangle choke and armbar, surviving a short slam by Martinez.

“I thought I’d get the tap with the triangle, but he was tough.  I kept debating back and forth between the arm or the triangle – I think if I’d have gone with one or the other, I would have got the tap.  But you live and learn.”

Round two opened up with a flying knee from Martinez, who followed up with a takedown attempt.  Couture was able to mount Martinez’, sinking his hooks in and claiming a submission victory by rear naked choke at the 29-second mark.

Ryan Couture feels his skill set differs drastically from his father's.

Ryan Couture feels his skill set differs drastically from his father's.

Couture’s Tuff-N-Uff win takes him to 2-0 as an amateur, as his debut match took place late last year at an amateur event in Bellingham, WA.

Carrying such a family name and deciding to compete in MMA, it’s inevitable that a certain parade of media buzz and hoopla would follow.  But this isn’t the first time that father and son have faced this scenario, as Ryan dealt with the same pressure during his high school wrestling career of following in the footsteps of his highly-decorated father.  As such, it should come as no surprise that the family has treated Ryan’s foray into MMA with the same discretion and humility.

“[Wrestling] was too hard of a sport to get in and feel pressure from me, especially with the accomplishments and things that I’ve always achieved, so I always stayed out of it.  If he was gonna wrestle, it had to be because he wanted to.  If he came to me with anything, I was always there, but I stayed away from coaching.  I wanted him to have the same passion and fun that I had, and didn’t want to be a distraction for him.  And I feel the same way about fighting,” said the elder Couture.

As for Ryan, he notes that although his own MMA aspirations and accomplishments will inevitably reflect on the family name, he’s perfectly comfortable with creating his own legacy.

“I’m doing this 100% because it’s something I’m passionate about, and that I enjoy.  Hopefully I’ll have my own legacy some day to look back on.  Obviously that’s going to be part of my dad’s legacy, and I’m proud of that too.  I’m 100% proud of everything he’s accomplished.  I can only hope to do a fraction of as much as he’s done for this sport.  Really, I don’t spend too much time thinking about that, because I’m doing this for me.  It’s something that feels right.”

If anything, Ryan’s sense of self-awareness may be the trait he’s inherited the most from his father.  Throughout his career, Randy, while being a world-class wrestler and six-time UFC champion, has continued to demonstrate an easygoing, assured confidence under even the most personal of public headlines.  As such, it should come as no surprise that even as comparisons between father and son come up, Ryan considers them more of a coincidence than a pre-ordained destiny.

“I definitely inherited a lot of personality traits from him.  I see it all the time.  Some of that has led to a similar world view.  I think we both think in similar terms.  But I feel like I’ve come to all these conclusions on my own.   I haven’t spent a ton of time sitting down and talking about it with him.  It’s all just kinda happened naturally,” he explained.

That “Natural” progression began almost three years ago, when Ryan was working as a bank teller in Bellingham, WA and training in MMA part-time.  He moved down to Las Vegas in late-2007, taking a job in the front office of Xtreme Couture and dedicating more time to training.  In November 2008, Ryan fought his first amateur MMA bout, winning by submission about two minutes into the first round.

“It was a hobby up there and it had to take a backseat to my day job. . . I’d wanted to compete at some point, but I wasn’t dead serious about it at that point.”

None of this is to say that the Couture’s aren’t having fun with making MMA the family business.  Randy’s wife Kim, herself a fighter who debuted under a barrage of media attention, noted that having both Ryan and Randy’s daughter, Aimee, at the gym has been a blessing both personally and professionally.

“The whole family dynamic, with Aimee working at the gym. . . Ryan’s one of my best training partners.  It’s fun because we go at each other pretty good.  It’s cool, because we have

Ryan Couture wins by submission in the second round.

Ryan Couture wins by submission in the second round.

Randy over there cheering for both of us,” she commented.

As for father and son training together, Kim noted “the first time they ever sparred, the whole gym was peeking out of the corner of their eye.  [Everyone] were sparring too, but nobody was really throwing punches, because they were just watching Randy and Ryan.”

For the night, Xtreme Couture went 3-1, as teammates Nick Fekete (heavyweight) and Kenny Marazolla (middleweight) also notched wins.  Marazolla, who spends his time between Xtreme Couture and Warrior Training, scored a first-round knockout over Ernesto Martinez, while the debuting Fekete went to a unanimous decision against Shawn Fyre.

Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA action returns to the Orleans Casino & Hotel in Las Vegas, NV on March 27th.

Legends Team Redeems at Tuff-N-Uff

Posted in Legends MMA, Tuff-N-Uff with tags , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2009 by jaytan716

With Valentine’s Day falling on a Saturday this year, Sunday night was alright for fighting, as Legends MMA fight team went 3-0 at Tuff-N-Uff’s February 15th amateur MMA event, at the Orleans Hotel & Casino. Victor Henry, Christian Palencia, and Eddie Jackson all finished their opponents in dominating fashion.

Jackson’s drive for victory was equally personal and professional, as his previous Tuff-N-Uff match was a difficult loss to 185-pound Chance Torres (Xtreme Couture). Jackson, normally a welterweight, agreed to the match after his and Torres’ opponents dropped out at the last minute. This time, Jackson’s match at welterweight was secure, and redemption was the key word of the day.

Conversely, Henry and Palencia were making their Tuff-N-Uff debuts, and both were game to make a triumphant first impression.

“I’m feeling great. I’m excited to fight this guy. . . I’ve done my work at the gym. It’s the easy part now. Go in there and have fun,” said Henry at the weigh-ins.

For Palencia, his fight marked the end of a long road of recovery, as his last fight dates back to July 2007. Unfortunately, a string of injuries shortly thereafter prevented him from returning any sooner, but according to Palencia, that hiatus gave him time to mature as a fighter.

“My last two fights, I didn’t have a game plan. This time, I actually have a game plan, and now I just gotta do it. I got a Plan A, I got a Plan B. I pace myself a little bit better now, and I look more for weaknesses, instead of coming out and putting out everything I’ve got. . . Before, I would just come in there and be the same every day. I’m trying to fight smarter,” he reflected.

Victor Henry won by impressive first-round knockout

Victor Henry won by impressive first-round knockout

145 lbs. – Wayne Wrath (Nation Kenpo / The Pit) vs. Victor Henry (Legends MMA)

After the fight, teammate Chris Brady noted “At first, I was kinda scared, because dude was big and was throwing over Victor’s jab. But Victor saw an opportunity and capitalized on it. You can’t teach that. Victor is a tough kid and very talented. He’s gonna be a bad dude.”Victor Henry fired the first salvo of the match with a left, but Wrath was quick to retaliate with combos. Henry circled and looked for his shot, which came quicker than anyone expected, as a low right kick set up a wicked left high kick that sent Wrath crashing to the ground. Henry followed up with two hammerfists before being pulled off by the referee. The packed arena of 2,500 fans went bananas approval as Henry leaped onto the ropes with “kid-at-Christmas” hysteria. Victor Henry was awarded the win via KO at 21 seconds of the first round.

170 lbs. – Johnny Batres (Team Fubar) vs. Eddie Jackson (Legends MMA)

Coming out to Redman’s “Time 4 Sum Akshun,” Eddie Jackson could not have been more ready to get busy. This was the second match of the first round of a four-man welterweight tournament.

Round one started out like two bulls clashing, as Batres charged Jackson with full force. Jackson vied for control with a Muay Thai clinch and knees, but the two threw each other around the ring, both deadset on gaining the upper hand. Batres eventually forced a takedown, but Jackson escaped deftly, ending up with a standing front headlock in the corner. Batres continued to try and force the takedown, coming very close several times, but Jackson remained notably composed and unfettered.

Trainer Jimmie Romero said “I was yelling at him to rest there, because when you’re up on the corner like that, it’s all the other guy’s energy. Eddie didn’t want to try for the guillotine, because he couldn’t have slipped it in fast enough. It was better to let that guy expend his energy.”

Eddie Jackson kept control of his opponent throughout the match.

Eddie Jackson kept control of his opponent throughout the match.

In round two, Jackson stunned Batres with an overhand right. Shortly thereafter, Jackson was on the receiving end of a groin shot that briefly stopped the action.

Upon the restart, Batres charged again, but Jackson deftly matador-stepped to the side. They ended up in the same corner position as in round one, but Jackson powered Batres to the ground, keeping the front headlock. Batres continued to strive for a single-leg takedown, but Jackson kept the front headlock, peppering body shots. The referee stopped the action and penalized Batres for holding the ropes. Again, Batres charged at the restart, only to rendezvous with a locomotive right hand to the face. Jackson went on to ground-and-pound on Batres to the end of the round.

Batres’ strategy finally caught up with him in round three, when, charging once again, Jackson delivered another right to the face. Batres dropped, followed by a pouncing Jackson, followed by a referee who pulled Jackson off for the TKO win at 0:08 of the third round.

Analyzing his fight, Jackson commented “he didn’t want to stand toe to toe and swing the hands. He figured by trying to keep me in the corner and go for the takedown, he was safer. I tried to get him off, but he was just bulldozing, so when he took me down, I just kicked him off me. Them wrestling classes are paying off at the gym!”

Jimmie Romero took particular pride in Jackson’s match, saying “I was real happy with his performance. He even used a butterfly sweep like I showed him two months ago.”

Jackson is expected to meet Joshua Morgan (CTKD) in the next tournament round. Morgan beat Michael Ryan McNamara (Nation Kennel) by split decision.

Christian Palencia was all business at Tuff-N-Uff

Christian Palencia was all business at Tuff-N-Uff

155 lbs. – Chaz Mulkey (Warrior Training) vs. Christian Palencia (Legends MMA)

This was the final match in the first round of an eight-man lightweight tournament.

Round one saw Palencia chasing Mulkey before getting the clinch and taking him down for top position. Mulkey was able to get to his feet, but Palencia slapped on a guillotine and forced him to the ground, quickly getting the tapout from top position at 1:09 of the first round.

Romero commented “after his teammates’ fights, it really pumped Christian up backstage. It was pretty impressive. He was calm, but he was ready to do business. We didn’t think he was going to get that submission off him, but it was just there, and it’s kinda hard not to take it when it’s just there like that.”

On the night in general, Jackson summarized “we cleaned house. Victor set the bar real high with that knockout, so when I came out, I knew I had to come with it. And Christian’s jiu-jitsu game is crazy, so you can’t be mad at that.”

Chris Brady was also scheduled to fight on this show, but due to injury, was forced to withdraw from competition and instead corner.

“I’ve never really gotten to corner guys and get them ready for fights, because I’m always fighting. So it’s good to get in the other position and support guys, instead of being the focus. It’s all about y’all. It’s important to do that and humble yourself, because now it’s got me hungry,” he commented.

Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA action returns to the Orleans Casino & Hotel on March 27th. Legends MMA representatives will be announced shortly.

Verbal Sparring: Neil “Chaos” Cooke (King of the Cage)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , on February 13, 2009 by jaytan716

With only three matches and less than two minutes of total fight time under his belt, the career of Neil “Chaos” Cooke is just getting under way, but there’s already a wealth of knowledge and wisdom behind it.  At six-foot-four and 260 pounds, the man they call “Chaos” is a towering powerhouse even in his own 265 pound neighborhood.  And although lesser fighters might rely on those physical attributes to get by and power their way to victory, Cooke knows better.

He continues to compete in Jiu-Jitsu tournaments.  He’ll travel to spar and roll with fresh faces, but he believes in sticking with his original trainers.  He relishes the challenge of pushing himself to the limit, if only to see where it is.  Because he thinks he can push it a bit farther.

In this interview, we sparred over the benefits of training under a healthy lifestyle, the role of being part of an MMA team, and the relief of life outside of the fast lane.

JT:  Let’s start out with the basics and discuss your background.  Where did you grow up?

NC:  Generally, I lived in Mission Villejo, which is a real upscale area.  Kinda yuppity-yup.  My parents split, and I kinda stayed there, but I really wasn’t finding the right path.  Just kinda rebellious and stuff.  I bounced between my two parents, in and out of trouble.

That’s what made me shoot over to Santa Ana, which is like a major inner city right now.  That was like a big change.  You [go from seeing] people that have everything to people that are striving with nothing.  It’s a big shocker, but it kinda gave me equal sides.  I ended up graduating out of Santa Ana.

JT:  When you say Santa Ana, it doesn’t have that ring of Compton or something.

NC:  I wouldn’t say it’s like a Compton, but it was pretty rough.  We had metal detectors on campus.  We had cops on campus.  The year I went, there were two homicides on campus, a couple of stabbings.  But that’s just the lifestyle there.  A lot of gang population.  There’s like five different street gangs in a one-block radius.

It’s too bad.  You grow up and you see things different.  It’s kind of a wasted life.  There’s a lot of good people and a lot of different ways.  But it’s just real weird what gang life will do to some people.  The value of life is very little, you know?

JT:  Tell me about your background getting into MMA.

NC:  Santa Ana had a real good wrestling team, so all my friends – all they did was wrestle, fight, and mess around with each other.  I just did it because I enjoyed it, but I really didn’t train in it or anything like that.

Some of my old buddies were training.  Like my buddy, Jake LaRoche, my best friend from high school, he was around Rob McCullough and a lot of those guys from HB Ultimate Training Center. . . John Lober, one of the old guys from MMA, and a lot of other people.  I used to see them all the time and they’d always say “come in,” because they always thought “hey, this guy could be pretty good,” but I never really focused on it.  I was always really athletic, but I was too busy partying, man.  Hanging out with guys that thought they were tough guys, you know what I mean?

And then, later on, I moved out into Corona, which is right near Norco.  I had a son and just wanted to stay away from the environment and stuff I used to be around.  And that’s when I met up with John Munoz [with Pinnacle Jiu-Jitsu].  I started training there, and I actually started getting serious into it.

JT:  Is it what you envisioned four years ago?  Where your career is now, and / or what the training was like?

NC:  I don’t know.  The training is pretty rigorous.  I’m a pretty humble guy, but I always knew I was pretty tough.  And I always knew I was pretty strong for my size.  But I didn’t know how far it would take me until John started pushing it on me.  And I didn’t know how much it would really take, because I started winning jiu-jitsu tournaments at intermediate, with less than a year’s experience.  I’d never wrestled a day in my life, and I was like 42-3 before I blinked.

I didn’t really train that hard, and then when I started to lose. . . I’m one of those people who hate to lose.  So that’s when I said “dude, you can actually do this. You need to shape up.  You’re looking like a sack of shit out here.  You could actually push yourself to do something better.”  Pretty much quit drinking.  Cut it down to where it’s very, very rare when I drink.  And now the training is a lot harder, and it’s a lot more of a mental game to keep the body going, as far as being sore and tired.  As opposed to being hung over and being exhausted from partying and trying to go to work.

JT:  The sore and tired is typically a little bit easier than hungover and having a headache.

NC:  For sure, because you don’t wake up and say “what happened?”  You don’t wake up and have to figure out who’d you get in a fight with, or what girl were you with.  It’s a lot more of a stable way of living, which you can actually relate to a normal human, instead of being like a zombie that’s just like drunk all the time.

JT:  Do you still compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments or are you straight MMA now?

NC:  I’ll compete in any tournament I can.  I think competition’s the way of life.  Win or lose, I think to remain steady and tough, you should compete.  I think a lot of these guys that are winning MMA fights; they’re like “I’m a badass MMA fighter now. I’m not gonna compete.”  But I think differently.  I think constantly competing just gives you that edge.  You’ve got your Monsons, your BJ Penns.  These guys are winning Mundials.

JT:  That actually leads into another question I had about your approach or philosophy behind training.  It sounds like part of it is to always stay on point, test your skills, and to push yourself.

NC:  Totally.  For me, I’ve been blessed by God or something.  Because in four years, two years of real hard training, I’m actually doing pretty good for right now.  I’ve been to numerous camps; I’ve trained with the best guys in the world, and am constantly trying to stay the best I can be.

A lot of people don’t push the limits, and if you’re not pushing or striving to do something that other people aren’t doing, you’re just going to end up happy where you’re at.

I think a lot of the people that say “I can’t do that” or “I couldn’t do this” – honestly, I think it’s their fear of losing.  You really can’t have fear.  You can have anxiousness.  Get your God or something, but you can’t really think like that.  You have to think “hey, I’m going to do my thing.  And whatever happens happens.  I’m putting it on the line.” You’ve got my respect just for putting it on the line in general now.  Win or lose.  I hate to lose, but I’m down to put it on the line.

JT:  What’s the toughest part of fighting for you?

NC:  That’s a tough question.  For me, it’s mental.  It’s just saying “hey, let’s do it.”  I think I possess some things that have gotten me pretty far.  Because out in the street, you fight, boom, it’s on.  But in [the cage], it’s the game plan, it’s the thinking, it’s the control and the nerves.  You’ve prepared for this and you know what’s going to happen and it’s inevitable, but you have to stay hungry.  You gotta stay focused, you know what I mean?  The training is way harder than the fight.

JT:  It seems like the mental challenge is that you want to peak at that moment in the cage, as opposed to days before that or hours before your match.

NC:  Exactly.  And I leave that in the hands of my trainer.  I trust him.  I see a lot of people who think they’re getting stagnant.  They think “oh man, I’m not doing as well as this” or “I’m not getting money like this guy, and he’s with this guy” or “my hands aren’t getting as good.”  They jump around and get lost, instead of staying with one camp and focusing.

You gotta find where you’re weak at and you gotta talk to your trainer / manager.  Once in awhile, get out of the box.  Meet other bodies.  That’s what tournaments are for.  You got to other gyms; that’s what sparring is for.  But a lot of people jump around and forget who’s taking care of them, and who’s preparing them to get them on that schedule.  And when they jump around, they get lost.  And I think that’s why they lose, or they try to go too fast too far.  And they get caught, and they get beat up real bad or they’re not ready for what they’re going into, or they’re getting knocked out.

JT:  It really makes you realize in what way this is such a team sport and how important it is to have a support network for you.

NC:  Totally.  The loyalty to everything – to the organization you’re fighting for, to the team, to your manager, to your friends.  Everybody loves you when you’re on top.  But somebody knocks you out, where are all your friends at?

JT:  And sometimes it’s hard to stick with that – when you’ve taken a knock and you’re on your way down, it’s gotta be hard to give that trust.  To remember who really does care about you and who’s in it for the long term.

NC:  That’s for damn sure, and I don’t want to be that guy.  I don’t want to be that clown, just saying “I’m knocking your head off.  I’m gonna kill you, this and that.”  And then I’m on the highlight reel with that guy knocking me out.  Anybody can have their day, you know?

JT:  Now in December, you were supposed to fight Tim Williams, but his wife went into labor the night before.  Are you getting a rematch?

NC:  I asked for a rematch, but I think he went and fought somewhere else.  I don’t know what exactly happened with that.  The fallout from there, I just know something happened with his wife, which is understandable.  But if he wants a rematch, no problem, man.

JT:  Switching gears for a moment, as a fan of MMA, who are some of your favorite fighters, or favorite matches to watch?

NC:  Guys that really impress me are guys that put it out on the line every time.  Somebody comes to fight and you know “man, this is gonna be a bad fight” [not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good], that’s somebody you want to watch.  Wanderlei Silva.  The guy keeps his style.  He gets knocked out, and he does the same thing.  BJ Penn’s a phenom.  St-Pierre’s an incredible athlete.  Rampage is cool to watch.  Fedor.  He can be getting beat, and then he throws just one bomb, and that fight just changed.

JT:  Who would you like to fight in the future?

NC:  I guess that’s up to the organization that I fight for, and John [Munoz].  I just love the sport.  Whoever the fans want to see me fight [laughs].  Whoever has the belt in my weight class.

JT:  Right now it’s Tony Lopez.  Have you watched him much?

NC:  Yeah, I’ve trained with him.  Yeah, I’ll fight Tony, no problem.  Let him know that [laughs]. . . Actually, right now, the answer to that question is the guy I’m fighting on the 26th.  One fight at a time, man [laughs].  I’ve got a long way to go.  I want to fight the guy in front of me next.  After that, whatever they want me to do, I’ll do.  I feel that my skills are gonna do the talking and hopefully I’ll get to where I need to be, as opposed to another way.

JT:  How far away would you say you are from being ready for a title shot?

NC:  Well, I’m a fighter, you know?  Personally, if you ask me, I think I can win the title right now in the first round.  But the question is “do I think I’m ready right now?”  I’d like to get some more fights under my belt.  But am I down to fight?  Hell yeah, you know what I mean?

It’s kinda like a catch-22, because you ask a fighter that, and a lot of them are going to say this, say that.  But then again, when you’re the champion, you got that bull’s-eye on your chest, you know what I mean?  So it all changes.  And I give Tony a lot of respect.  He fights with a lot of heart.  He’s been in some wars.  I haven’t had that chance.  But as far as my ability and my mind?  I could fight right now for the title.

JT:  That’s a self-aware answer.  I think you need to have that kind of mentality, to feel like you could do it anytime and every time.  And then you have your coaches and trainers to guide you with a more realistic voice.

NC:  People come and go, but I’m pretty tight with the guys and I keep cool with everybody.  I try to be positive.  Try to be there for them. . . You’re never too big for an organization, or for the people you’re around.  Your team, or the people who help you.  I think the guys who are the best have proven that.  Georges, BJ, Fedor.  They stay tight to their guys, man.

JT:  What’s your downtime like?  What do you like to do to unwind?

NC:  I spend time with my son and hang out with my buddies.  Just cruising.  I go down to the beach a lot with my buddy.  I’m a pretty simple person.  I’m not around the violence and the partying anymore.  I really like the mellowness.  You forget about that stuff, when you’re living fast.  You forget how it is to just to chill and cruise, you know?

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

NC:  I got Iron Fist Manufacturing.  My buddy Mako Mike’s from there.  He does a lot of board shorts for fighters.  I got Shameless Ink Clothing, with Vic Morris, out of Riverside.  They’re coming up in some big stores, and make some cool stuff.  And my buddy Dave is with a company called Hotskins, who are out of Riverside as well.  They do jerseys, and life-size posters and banners.  Rick from Nutrishop Corona sets me up with all my supplements monthly.  That guy’s been a blessing.  He’s also with Big Game Hunters, who are a group of cops who put together a clothing line of shirts, hats, jackets, and beanies.

A lot of these guys I got a hold of are because they heard of me through word of mouth through guys around.  Or there are some of them at the gym I train, or just from hanging out one day.  I kinda got blessed.

JT:  It seems that you place a lot of value on making sure there’s integrity among the team and support network you have contributing to your fight career.

NC:  I think that’s how everybody should live.  I’m real big on karma and loyalty.  This is a game where talking trash is cool, and don’t get me wrong, you wanna start it, I’ll finish it.  But a lot of our talk is gonna happen when that bell rings.  And there’s no reason to be too cocky, no reason to think you’re a superhero and no reason to do people wrong.  I mean, it’s all gonna come out in the wash, man.

Editor’s Update:  Neil Cooke challenges Chance “King of the Streets” Williams for the King of the Cage Super Heavyweight title at King of the Cage: Immortal, on February 26th, at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highlands, CA.