Archive for March, 2009

Verbal Sparring: Caros Fodor (AMC Pankration)

Posted in Genesis FIGHTS, Interviews with tags , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2009 by jaytan716

Caros Fodor with Trevor Jackson (left) and Matt Hume (right)

Caros Fodor with Trevor Jackson (left) and Matt Hume (right)

Life rarely turns out how we envision it to be. Whether we achieve our goals sooner or bigger than we anticipate, or if we lose direction, wind up in a different world, and fill our lives with people, places, and priorities that we never thought possible, more often than not, we realize “this is how it was supposed to turn out.

Caros Fodor was not a wayward soul who spent time looking for his direction in life. He identified his vision of it at a young age, committed to a life in the military, and pursued it. When he discovered that it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Caros found himself another path. Ironically enough, he found it in mixed martial arts, a sport known, ironically enough, for giving direction and purpose to wayward, angry, confused young men who never had the discipline or dedication that Caros demonstrated in his adolescence.

Going a few rounds of verbal sparring with me, Caros talked about growing up as part of a “team” of adoptees, the disillusionment about life in the military, and how mixed martial arts has given him direction and a clearer definition of self.

JT: Tell us a little bit about where you’re from and your martial arts background.

CF: I’m from Shoreline, WA, just north of Seattle. I wrestled just my senior year, JV. It was pretty much pointless. I didn’t really even do anything. I just did it for the exercise before I went to boot camp.

JT: Did you know you were going into the army?

CF: Yeah, when I was twelve years old, I signed up with this auxiliary military group and I made up my mind that I was going to do the whole military route. When I turned 17, my mother signed for me to go in underage, and I went into boot camp about six days after high school graduation. I did the reserves to help pay for college and stuff like that. But then, while I was in boot camp, 9/11 happened.

JT: So you knew you were going to be a military man since age 12?

CF: Yeah, I was planning on making a career out of it until I got in and went overseas into the war and stuff. I was in it for six years and it really wasn’t what I wanted to do.

JT: Can you talk us through the formative years? I’m really curious, because making a decision like that at such a young age is somewhat unusual.

CF: Me and all my brothers and my sister were all adopted. It was just my mother. There was no father figure. So I went into a military group and a lot of my peers . . . they were all going straight from high school into the military. Everybody I looked up to was doing it; and ever since I was younger, watching RAMBO and stuff, it was what I was into. So I just made up my mind really young that that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a sniper and wanted to be a drill instructor. I was planning on making a career out of it, until I got in and saw what it was really like. It’s still great. It just wasn’t for me.

JT: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

CF: Adopted, I have two brothers and one sister. And then, biologically, I have two sisters and one brother.

JT: What was that like growing up?

CF: It was pretty cool. . . The home I was adopted into was a foster home for autistic kids. My biological sister is autistic. My real mother [had me with my father, who is Caribbean]. Her parents are extremely racist, from Nebraska. So instead of dealing with that, she put me up for adoption. She knew my adopted mom through my sister, so I kinda went over to that side. But growing up, they kept me around my blood brother too. We were like best friends, and then around age 10, they told us that we were brothers, not just friends from the neighborhood. So that was pretty cool. We’re still pretty close. . . I see them for the holidays and stuff too.

JT: If you can, tell us more about your relationship with [adopted brother and Alderwood MMA fighter Ben Fodor].

CF: Growing up, me and Ben were just totally opposite people. We absolutely hated each other. We could not even be in the same room. We went after each other and got into fights. . . My mom would always cry trying to separate us. I was bigger, but genetically, he was just a specimen of life. He’s really big, so it was a fair fight then.

It wasn’t until I left for the war that we even actually said goodbye to each other. I came back and we were still not close at all, until I started competing in MMA. He came to my first fight and six months after that, he was training at a separate school. Because we couldn’t be together in the same school. So he started training in Charlie’s Combat Club, and he started fighting. . . [now] he’s at Alderwood MMA. And through MMA we’ve developed a relationship now. We’re definitely closer than we ever have been in the past.

JT: When he went to your first match, was he rooting against you?

CF: I don’t know. Secretly, I’m sure he was [laughs].

JT: Was boot camp as hard as you envisioned it to be?

CF: Physically, it was really hard, but mentally, the hardest thing for me was being away from my family. First time being far away from home. . . I was 17; I was the youngest marine, like, three years in a row in my platoon. . . That was more challenging than the actual physical and mental drain down there.

JT: And you were in Iraq?

CF: I was there for the invasion. They called and I got sent over to Kuwait in February of 2003. We invaded, I believe, March 19th. Then I came home about a month after we took Baghdad.

JT: You didn’t have to go back and do other tours?

CF: No, I was actually very lucky to only have to do one tour over there. . . I came back in the summer of 2003. That’s actually how this whole MMA thing started. Growing up, from one year old to 19, I had never once been in a physical fight ever in my life. And I came home from the war and I was all pissed off. I was drinking a lot and, just, being this shithead for quite awhile. And then, from June of 2003, when I came home, until about September of 2004, I had been in 20 street fights. Just in that one period. We had this kind of crew that we were running with, and we would all just get obliteratingly drunk. And we used to do the stupidest things ever, like going to frat parties and picking fights.

That went on for quite awhile, until January of 2005. I remember there was like eight of us, from the little crew we had. Because we were fighting so much, we were like “well, maybe we should start learning how to fight for real, so we can finish these fights quicker, instead of having them drag out.” And that’s how we ended up at AMC.

I’m sure [Matt Hume] will remember when . . . because we all came in together. We all sat up in the loft and he walked up. In reality, we were just a bunch of punks trying to figure out how to end the street fights quicker, but it just took a couple months of being around them and a lot of it changed. Matt and Trevor [Jackson] were just really good influences in my life. And I saw how responsible men are actually supposed to act. I’d gotten into thinking that I wanted to compete and I started.

Pretty much all eight of my friends whom I started with quit, but I stuck with it. I’ve been there for over four years now. I think I was involved in one fight after since I’ve been there.

JT: Was there a frustration in that the armed forces wasn’t what you wanted it to be, that drove you, when you came back?

CF: I guess I had a pretty bad case of PSD [Post-traumatic Stress Disorder] after the war. I was only 19 and I was drinking more than you ever should. It was just a shitty time over there, for sure, and I was just confused in the head and taking it out. . . I was full of anger, I guess, and just got into a fight. The summer I came home, I enjoyed it quite a bit. The rush of it, and the aftermath – and with drunk people, it just spreads and it turned into bullshit.

The armed forces wasn’t . . . I’m definitely glad I did it. I learned so much about life and people and reality. I took a lot from it. It’s just that the experience over there, and the games that happen, and all the bullshit – it’s definitely not for me.

JT: I think that’s one of the big lessons in general about life: you realize that things are often 180 degrees from what you envision it to be as a kid. Loss of innocence is a son of a bitch for anybody.

CF: Absolutely. That’s totally the truth.

JT: What do you remember about those early years training and the first couple of matches?

CF: [My first opportunity to fight] was nine months into my walking into AMC. I was really nervous, because other than that one year of wrestling, I’d never really competed on a one-on-one level in front of an audience. . . And I was fighting a guy from our school. He was bigger, and I knew who he was. . . I’ve never even seen footage of it. No one recorded it. I ended up losing a split decision. And that was devastating.

But the fight was on Saturday, and I was in the gym Monday training. Matt said I could fight again on his next card. I signed up and fought against a guy who was a wrestler. He beat me in a unanimous decision. The first fight was really close. It was real controversial and I could have won. The second fight, he got me in the nose in the opening round and it just totally freaked me out. I just got my ass whooped my second fight, straight up.

And this phobia kinda started, because I’d lost my first two fights and I was really starting to think. But I was in the gym again on Monday after the fight . . . training and trying to get better. Trevor, the secondary coach, he kinda . . . took me under his wing, and started working with me. And I haven’t lost ever since he started that. . . I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m on a seven-fight win streak.

JT: Four years of training – that’s a long time, and it’s certainly a great establishment. Tell us about the changes you’ve seen in yourselve.

CF: As a martial artist, it’s unbelievable. I’m ten times what I was in my first fight. And now Matt has all these real famous pros coming over; I’m able to test myself with them. I’m just so thankful to be able to be with Matt at AMC. To have him and Trevor as coaches, because they’re just world class. It really shows when I get to go with the pros who come in. I’m not where I want to be, but I’m definitely on the right track, I think.

JT: Matt [has always been known as] one who always let his actions speak louder than his words. It seems to be a running theme with AMC guys.

CF: Absolutely. He never talks shit ever. He’s just an animal. He runs through absolutely everybody that ever comes to the gym. It’s amazing to watch him. And he’s got answers. I’ve never seen him stumped by a question. He just flicks his finger and he has an answer right away.

We always joke that people have one thing that they’re supposed to do in life and he’s definitely found it. That’s just what he is, a fighting machine.

JT: What’s Trevor like as a coach? What’s he helped you develop in your game?

CF: He’s great too. He’s Matt’s #1 student, so he has the whole AMC style. Tutoring-wise, he’s a little different. You think of Matt like the father and Trevor like the older brother. . . Matt’s the head dog that handles all the pros. Trevor’s teaching the class and the up-and-coming amateur fighters.

JT: Kinda like Yoda and Obi-Wan Ben Kenobi maybe?

CF: Yeah, kinda. You have the master and the second master. That’s pretty much exactly how it is.

JT: What about yourself? Tell us about your own approach and philosophy to training. What’s your belief, whether it’s about visualization or a lot of guys subscribe yourself to the approach of “kill yourself in the gym so it’s easier in the ring?”

CF: Yeah, that’s pretty much the mentality I take with it. I train like how Matt has instructed us to train in the past. That’s pretty intense. In training, to make the fight easier, you sweat . . . and fight it out in the gym. I take everything extremely serious. Especially losing my first two fights, I know what defeat feels like, and I’m definitely not trying to feel that anytime soon. I put a lot of work into getting ready for a fight. . . People don’t need to sit there and tell me to do my cardio. I do it on my own just out of fear of. . . I don’t want to get tired in a fight. I like to go real hard, getting ready for a fight. I don’t want to get in a fight and get shocked, so I’m going to spar pretty hard and try to avoid injury . . . That’s pretty much Matt’s way, that’s pretty much the AMC way of training.

JT: What would you say is harder, boot camp or training for a fight?

CF: I mean, there’s different aspects. Physically, training for a fight, without a doubt. But boot camp is a little different. You have sleep deprivation and food deprivation. And then the stresses of combat and stuff. So it’s a little bit different, but truly, getting ready for a fight, like a professional should . . . training for a fight has to be by far the hardest.

JT: What about mentally?

CF: It’s almost right about the same levels, because I always get really nervous for fights. Because I know anything can happen in a fight. I trained hard and I don’t want to let people down. But compared to boot camp, it’s probably about the same.

JT: Have you gotten used to performing in front of crowds?

CF: Yeah, just about three fights ago is when, finally, for the first time, I remember going in the ring and touching gloves and actually thinking. . . about my opponent; and when a punch comes, I can start doing planned moves, instead of, before that, like my first five, I swear, it was just instinct. When you get hit, you just counter back, just out of instinct. But now, I’m to the point where, when we’re across from each other, my heart rate’s down. I remember seeing people in the crowd. I’m actually focused, and my game plan is right there. I think I’ve reached that point. I hit that about on my fifth fight, and it’s still been there ever since. So hopefully it never goes away.

JT: Would you say it helps you to enjoy the fight a little bit more?

CF: Yeah, definitely, because I’m not so wigged out. And performance-wise, it’s amazing. . . I’m able to focus; that’s just absolutely a necessity. I don’t know how I made it through my other ones without it. I think it just comes from time, being in front of an audience and just stuff like that. I’ve got it now and I don’t want to lose it.

JT: What would you say is the best and the worst memory of your fight career?

CF: The worst would be, probably, losing my second fight. Because that was an utter beating. I was held down, my face was all messed up, and I had all my family and friends there. It was my second loss in a row and everyone was telling me I shouldn’t do this sport, that it wasn’t for me, and what was I doing. That was pretty tough to get over.

If I win [my next match], that’s going to be my biggest moment, because there’s a lot riding on this fight, and I’ve been working hard. This is one of my toughest opponents, so if I win, then on March 21st, it’ll be my happiest moment.

Besides that, probably, when I beat Taurean Washington for the second time and I got my third belt. Matt and Trevor were in the ring with me and we got a picture of all three of us together with the three belts. That was probably one of my happiest moments.

JT: Tell us what you know about Blaine, and your thoughts about this match.

CF: Normally, I never try to look into it, but I broke down about a week ago and I tried finding out a lot about him. But there’s nothing really out there about him. I taped his last fight on our card out of Bellevue, so I have that footage. I think he’s 5-0; he has to be close to that. He’s a submission guy; he’s from Team Quest. Just based on his last fight, I think he thinks he has descent hands, because he wasn’t afraid to throw ‘em, but I don’t think that’s his specialty. He has a pretty good guard. He does a lot of rubber guard. . . He had at least five catches of submissions on the ground . . . So he’s definitely very flexible. Likes to use his hips and is always flinging them around, trying to catch whatever he can.

JT: What about downtime? What do you like to do when you’re away from the gym and you’re trying to decompress?

CF: I work, so my schedule is that I wake up around 7:00 in the morning. I take a lunch at 11:00. I go lift weights or I run. Do my sprints. Come back to work at 2:00. Get off at about 4:30, and I got straight to AMC. We start training at 5:00 and we get out of there about 9:00. So my only downtime is on the weekends and off-season. I’m still kinda stuck in that rut of going out, clubs and drinking. But it’s nothing like it was; my mentality is completely, just totally different than how it ever was. But I still like to go out and have a good time. Fight time, I kinda cut back on that and just hang out.

Now the [AMC team], we’ve got a pretty tight group and we see each other almost every weekend and hang out, watch fights, or talk about our up and coming fights. Stuff like that.

JT: It strikes me that AMC seems to keep tight together away from the gym, as well as inside the gym.

CF: It wasn’t like that in the beginning, but it’s turned into a real tight group. Especially since Matt’s got these cards coming. We’ve got a pretty good circle of about eight guys that really try to pull everybody in, and its turning into a really great thing.

JT: Besides Matt and Trevor, who would you say pushes you the hardest at AMC?

CF: Probably myself. There’s another trainer, Brad Kurtson, who’s absolutely amazing. He and Trevor are pretty much on the same level. When Matt’s there, even when he looks across the room and I can feel his eyes on me, I start going as hard as I can. I don’t know what it is about him but I always try to go 110% for him. But other than that, I push myself pretty hard mentally. I think I’m more judgmental on myself than most people are.

JT: Educate us on the Pacific Northwest fight scene. MMA has been up there for a long time, obviously.

CF: There are a lot of famous fighters around. There’s Josh {Barnett}, Jeff Monson, Maurice Smith, Matt . . . There’s a bunch of sister schools who came up from Matt, who went out and started their own schools, like Charlie’s Combat Club and Aldenwood, and stuff like that.

I think the amateur circuit is really big. . . . I’ve heard of other places that don’t have that good of one and fighters are short. There’s cards going on all the time, from Spokane to Olympia. . . I can’t really say. . . because I’ve never been somewhere else to look at the fight circuit, but from what I’ve heard from other people, Seattle’s got a [comparatively] pretty big circuit.

JT: Do you think that we’re going to see an influx of that on the national and international scene pretty soon? Guys getting signed to Zuffa or over in Japan

CF: Oh God, I hope so!

JT: [Laughs] Of course. You plan on being one of them.

CF: I’m just kinda rolling with Matt. I have total faith in him. We’ve never even had a real conversation about what the plan is, but I know that whenever he decides I’m ready, hopefully it’s going to be something big. And he’s got really good connections. I know he’s got good plans.

JT: If you had to make a living where you would never throw another punch or another kick, or you couldn’t do submissions, what do you think you would do?

CF: Actually, I wanted to be a homicide detective. I applied to a couple different agencies, and I was real close, but all the stuff I did when I came back from the war, being stupid, actually disqualified me for quite awhile. I was disqualified a week before I fought Taurean the second time. Neither department was going to hire me, and they both told me to go back and straighten myself up and come back in a couple of years. And that’s when I kinda made a decision to – I was with Matt, I’m training at a great school. I’m young, have no real big injuries, and can recover, so I’ve decided to try and make a run at this and see how far I can take this. But if something happened, whatever, bodily injuries, I couldn’t fight anymore, I’d definitely want to be a homicide detective.

JT: That’s both an adamant answer and a serious job too. You don’t rest too much during life. It doesn’t sound like that’s your style.

CF: Yeah, well, we’re only here once. Again, I watched a bunch of movies when I was younger and it got me hooked. I’ve seen THE WIRE too many times.

JT: Give me some of your top movies. You’re clearly an action / Jim Belushi / Schwarzenegger kind of guy.

CF: When I was younger, MISSING IN ACTION, RAMBO, a lot of horror movies, like FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH, Freddy Krueger. Growing up as a real young kid, there was no rules as to what we could watch. So I was on those since six years old. HEAT is a big one. THE WIRE is awesome. GENERATION KILL, about the Iraq war, is great. All the great action movies.

JT: Who would win in a fight, Chuck Norris or Matt Hume?

CF: Matt Hume. No question

JT: [Laughs] For the record: “which he said with no hesitation whatsoever”. . . How would he beat him?

CF: Probably knockout with a knee to the head.

Caros Fodor squares off against Blaine MacIntosh of Team Quest on March 21st, at Genesis FIGHTS: Hostile Takeover, at the Shoreline Community College. The winner of that match will go on to fight in the lightweight Unified World Grand Prix, facing challengers from Shooto (Japan), Golden Glory (Holland), and Adrenaline MMA (Midwest U.S.).

Tickets are on sale at http://www.GenesisFights.com.

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Strikeforce, Showtime Launch “MMA 2.0” With Shamrock-Diaz Fight

Posted in Strikeforce with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2009 by jaytan716

LOS ANGELES, CA – Showtime Senior Vice President Ken Hershman dubbed it “MMA 2.0” as the cable premium and Strikeforce, the San Jose-based mixed martial arts promotion, unveiled their future plans and main lineup for their April 11th event, “Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Diaz,” at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

The event, which will air on Showtime live from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, CA, is headlined by the self-proclaimed “Legend,” Frank Shamrock vs. Stockton, CA bad boy Nick Diaz. Keeping in tune with Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker’s M.O. of promoting fights based on local grudges and rivalries, the pairing sets Diaz up to avenge the March 2006 loss of his mentor, Cesar Gracie. Shamrock knocked Gracie out in 21 seconds in the main event of Strikeforce’s debut MMA show, which, at the time, set a record for the largest MMA attendance in North America (18,265). It also pits Stockton and San Jose against each other in something of a “Battle of Northern California.”

“We’re starting over again. I can’t tell you how excited I am. . . I feel invigorated and refreshed,” Hershman commented. “Just in the few short months that we’ve been dealing with them, everything has come together perfectly for April 11th.”

“Today is a great day for the MMA industry, and today is a great day for Strikeforce,” said Coker. “I really feel that at this point there is no better company in the world to do this than our company. We are built for this, we are suited for this, and we’re going to get the job done.”

As both Shamrock and Diaz were introduced to the press for photos, neither was at a loss for visual communication. Diaz, moving towards Shamrock for the traditional fighter pose, motioned for a handshake, only to raise his hand up at the last moment and salute Shamrock with a middle finger. Shamrock smiled at the gesture, returning the sentiment by grabbing his crotch towards Diaz. The visual exchange popped the crowd, which seemed to be anxious for fireworks.

Perhaps sensing the winds of fan sentiment painting Diaz as the rebellious anti-hero, Shamrock shifted into straight-man mode, criticizing Diaz’ behavior and demeanor as being a poor representation of mixed martial arts. For his part, Shamrock painted himself as the modest martial artist, announcing “I apologize to my fans in advance. You’re not going to see any more antics from me. No more sleeper moves, no more crazy-looking stuff. I’m just going to smash people and make a few dollars, and put my girl through college.”

Complementing the marquee grudge match will be a championship bout for the Strikeforce lightweight title, as champion Josh “The Punk” Thomson and Gilbert “El Nino” Melendez meet in a rematch from June 2008. In their previous bout, Thomson controlled Melendez at will in a five-round war that saw “The Punk” walk away with the belt. Quite unlike the showmanship and antics that color the main event, Thomson and Melendez share a strong mutual respect for each other, due in no small part to their previous years together as training partners.

Thomson predicted “I think the first fight was something where we showcased all of our skills. I think the second fight is going to be something where we’ve tweaked it and we’re going to showcase our new skills . . . Both people have a lot to prove. . . Gilbert, I’ve said this 100 times in every interview, is somebody I admire, I look up to.”

“I’m really actually dreading this fight,” he joked.

Melendez was all business as he discussed the match saying “my goal this fight is to show everybody that I’m better than my last fight. . . Josh fought great, but I just want to walk in, I want to look across and I want to let him know that he’s gonna have the toughest fight of his life. I’m gonna prove to everyone that I’m a real warrior and I think I’m gonna be the champ again.”

In total, ten matches are scheduled for the night, with five matches expected to air that night on Showtime. Besides Shamrock-Diaz and Thomson-Melendez, Showtime viewers will see Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith vs. Benji “Razor” Radach and Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos vs. Hitomi “Girlfight Monster” Akano. A fifth match had yet to be solidified, but Coker commented that he was circling a match for Brett “Grim” Rogers to fill out the card.

Looking towards Strikeforce’s May event, Coker also announced the main event of Jake Shields, moving up in weight, to fight “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler at the 185 lb. division. Ironically enough, both Lawler and Shields were reigning EliteXC champions when ProElite, Inc. closed its doors in October of last year, with Lawler at middleweight and Shields at welterweight. Both men were part of the 42 different EliteXC fighter contracts which Strikeforce bought from ProElite, Inc. last month.

“I’m super happy to be a part of this. I think some really big things are going to happen with this. With all the new fighters he’s signed, the TV deals. . . I think Strikeforce is going to be the next big show. I’m glad to be a part of it,” Shields commented.

Hershman also confirmed a revised announce team for Strikeforce events, reuniting several familiar faces (and voices) from EliteXC and ShoXC. CBS and Showtime play-by-play veteran Gus Johnson leads a team that includes EliteXC / ShoXC commentator Mauro Ranallo, “The Fight Professor” Stephen Quadros, Frank Shamrock, and decorated MMA veteran “The Croatian Sensation,” Pat Miletich. For April 11th, the team will consist of Johnson, Ranallo, and Miletich, who has done commentary on Fox Sports Net and HDNet.

When asked about the status of two of the larger stars included in Strikeforce’s purchase of EliteXC fighter contracts, Kimbo Slice and Gina Carano, Coker summarized that talks with the respective fighters’ managers were ongoing, and that he hoped to solidify deals imminently.

Also on hand to show support for the upcoming Strikeforce event was Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champion Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Strikeforce Middleweight champion Cung Le.