Archive for the Interviews Category

New Matt Horwich Interview for “War on the Mainland” PPV!!

Posted in Interviews with tags , , , , on August 3, 2010 by jaytan716

“The Limit Smasher,” Matt Horwich, did this interview in anticipation of his next match, a middleweight championship fight against UFC veteran Thales Leites, which is scheduled for August 14th at the UC Irvine Bren Events Center in Irvine, CA.

Horwich is being brought in as a last-minute replacement after Falaniko Vitale was forced to withdraw.

This is the co-main event for Powerhouse World Promotions and Integrated Sports’ “War on the Mainland,” airing live on pay per view. Also appearing on the card will be Tim “The Maine-iac” Sylvia, Paul “The Headhunter” Buentello, Jens “Lil’ Evil” Pulver, Jason Lamber, Allen Goes, and Terry Martin.

Tickets are available by calling (949) 824-5000. Or watch on pay-per-view.

Hope to see you at the fights!

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Matt Horwich Interview for 4/23 Rematch against Jason MacDonald, Let’s Get It On MMA (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada)

Posted in Interviews, Legends MMA on April 19, 2010 by jaytan716

“Sabretooth” Matt Horwich is one of the most recent additions to the Legends MMA Fight Team. And while most people know him from his 2006-2008 matches in the IFL, where he won the promotion’s welterweight title, this Oregon-native is an MMA veteran, having fought in the UFC, Strikeforce, WEC, and Bellator Fighting Championships, among others.

Horwich faces off against Jason MacDonald on April 23rd, at the River Cree Resort & Casino in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, as the main event of Linda McCarthy’s Let’s Get It On MMA promotion. For MacDonald, this rematch is long in the making, as he and the “Sabretooth” previously fought in 2004, when Horwich submitted him with an armbar in the first round.

For those of you in the Edmonton area, tickets are available here: http://www.ticketmaster.ca/event/1100446FA80C7018. Show starts at 8pm.

Verbal Sparring: Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson (AMC Pankration)

Posted in Genesis FIGHTS, Interviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2009 by jaytan716

If you do a YouTube search for Demetrius Johnson, you’ll see footage of him wrestling Alan Calahan at the USA Wrestling National Junior Duals.  You’ll also find a highlight reel from his college basketball days with the Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) Mastodons.  And you’ll find his “I’ve Got My Strength Back” sermon, based on the story of Samson and Delilah.

None of these are the Genesis FIGHTS / AX Fighting / Rumble on the Ridge bantamweight MMA champion Demetrious Johnson.  With an ‘o.’

Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson, with his girlfriend, Destiny, after another victory.

Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson, with his girlfriend, Destiny, after another victory.

Known to his friends simply as “DJ,” Johnson is another young star on the rise from the Pacific Northwest.  As the reigning 135 lb. king of three different fight promotions, Johnson has a legitimate claim to be the toughest bantamweight fighter in the Pacific Northwest.

In January, Johnson broke his hand in a match where he claimed his Rumble on the Ridge 135 lb. MMA title.  At the time of the first part of this interview, he was waiting for medical clearance to begin sparring.  He has since been cleared to train and is preparing for a match at Genesis FIGHTS’ next event, “Rise of Kings, Emperors of MMA,” which takes place on June 27th at the Shoreline Community College.

In a two-part phone interview, Johnson offered insight and reflection on his passion for running, how it translates to fighting, and of course how he deals with being “the smallest guy on the scene.”

JT:  Tell us a little bit about your high school wrestling background.  Have you been wrestling all your life?

DJ:  No, I started wrestling in eighth grade and I did very well in that season.  I only lost one match the whole season, and then I took first in districts, which is the highest level you could get in middle school.  After that I went to high school and my freshman year, I got tore up.  Just mop the mat with me.  Sitting there with a black eye, bloody lip. And it was because I weighed 109 lbs. and I was wrestling 118.  I didn’t want to wrestle JV [Junior Varsity] 112, because I couldn’t beat the 112-pounder, but I could beat the 118-pounder.  So I wrestled my whole high school freshman year at 118, and got beat up, didn’t go nowhere.  My sophomore year, I started peaking a little bit. . . I took fifth [place] in state.  And then my junior year, I dominated and I took second in state.  And my senior year, I was supposed to take the whole state tournament and everything.  Went undefeated throughout the whole tournament season, and then I lost in the third round, to the semi-finals, to get to the finals, to a kid from Sedro-Woolley.  He pinned me.

JT:  That must have been a hard pill to swallow.

DJ:  No, I wasn’t that – I think we were both good.  I think I was better than him, but the whole season, I never fought off my back.  I’d never been taken down the whole entire season of wrestling, and I’m about to go against a freshman that has a very decent record, that’s wrestled all throughout the state and all this other stuff.  And then when I went against him, he took me down. . . And once he got me there, it was like “oh my God, I’ve never been here before.  How do I fight out of it?” . . . Because I had no idea how to fight from there.  It basically broke me, mentally.

I got up and approached my coach and he was like “well, oh well!”

And that’s just like MMA.  If you don’t train your ground game, when you fall to the ground with the guy, the first thing in your mind is “oh shit, I’m on the ground.  What do I do?” . . . And I told myself from then on there, if there’s anything I can do [to keep from] losing, I will do everything in my power not to lose. . . Because I’m not going to repeat that.  I’ve already had my loss, in my career, and as an amateur, I want to go through this circuit as 14-0.

JT:  After wrestling your senior year, you ended up at Vision Quest.  Were you just looking for a workout or how did that pique your interest?

DJ:  Well, I got into MMA right after high school. . . I never knew about MMA until right after the first “Ultimate Fighter” came on. . . I saw how they were training hard.  I said “damn, they’re kicking the bag, [they’ve got] tough bodies.  I think I’m gonna try it.”

So I walked into a gym, Vision Quest, which I no longer go to . . . I’ve always been working out at Vision Quest, ever since they opened. . . since my junior year.  My wrestling coach thought it would be good for me, because there’s a lot more wrestlers that go there.. . . And I just started punching the bag, kicking it.  And (former IFL / UFC fighter) Reese Andy looked at me, he said “hey, can you kick?”  I was like “yeah.”  He said “can you punch?”  I started punching.  He goes “you wanna do MMA?”  I was like “I’ll learn.”  And he set me up with AMC when the classes were at Vision Quest.  And I’ve been with AMC since then.

JT:  Was it the glitz and glamour that got you [interested], or did you know you were looking for release for your sense of competition after wrestling?

DJ:  I’d say competition.  I wanted to keep on competing.  I didn’t want to stop doing a sport and being fat and lazy on the couch.  And go to my 10-year high school reunion and be like “hey guys, I gained 80 pounds, and I’m fat.”

JT:  Was college in the decks for you, or were you going to work a scholarship for wrestling?

DJ:  I did have a couple of scholarship offers for wrestling, but I didn’t want to leave my family behind and go off and do my own thing. . . If I wanted to go to college and wrestle, I would have to go out of state.  One college that I went to was Southern Oregon Community College, but they didn’t have dorm rooms, so I’d have to rent an apartment out there and work out there and I didn’t want to do that.

So I went to Pierce College and I was working a job there too and working out part-time.  Just lifting, trying to get bigger, since I didn’t have to stay at 118 pounds in high school.  I didn’t take any scholarship offers.  I don’t regret or anything, because I’m in a better place now [with fighting than wrestling].

JT:  If I remember correctly, you spend part of your time at AMC South and part of your time at Kirkland, right?

DJ:  Yeah, usually . . . what people don’t understand – there’s AMC Kirkland and there’s AMC South, which is AMC Pacific.  When I train, basically, my instructor, my teacher, was Steve Skidds and Luke Pitman.  And basically Drew [Brokenshire], Taurean [Washington], Brian [Roberge], us little core guys, we basically taught ourselves – not to fight, but that’s what training was like.

Usually, when I go up there on Saturdays, I try to get beat up a lot.  From Caros [Fodor], Trevor, Daniel [Eng], Matt [Hume] – basically, the big dogs, up there.  Because that’s the best thing you can do.  I think you learn from getting beat up. . . I was up there a few weeks ago and I was getting my hard sparring round in.  Me and Caros were just banging away.  Here I am, 140 lbs., and he’s a 180-pounder.  And we’re just going at it.  And after the fight was done, I asked Matt “tell me what I did wrong.”  And he just told me everything that I did wrong.  And I understood him.  That’s why I like going up there on Saturdays, up in Kirkland.  So I get beat up, basically.

'DJ' and Drew Brokenshire, in the midst of high-impact lightsaber training.  Note the raised platform for high-altitude conditioning.

'DJ' and Drew Brokenshire, in the midst of high-impact lightsaber training. Note the raised platform for high-altitude conditioning.

JT:  I talked with Drew and he said the same thing.  That you guys drill with each other and beat each other up as the team down south, and then go on Saturdays and test your skills [in Kirkland].

DJ:  Yeah, and it’s funny, because you’ll see me and Drew – we’re main training partners.  I like him to hold mitts for me, because he holds them just perfect, the way I like it.  And same as for him for me.  When we fight, we fight a little bit similar; we have the same pressure, but he’s more stand-up, and he’s developing his ground game.  But me, I like to pressure in fights.  I used to be slick fighter, like “I’ll fight you when I want to fight you.”  So we’re both trying to get adaptable to our styles.

JT:  Am I right in remembering, you guys have a 10-pound difference?

DJ:  Yeah, there’s a 10-pound difference, but when he’s not cutting weight, there’s a 30-pound difference.  If I walk around, on a good day, at 144-145.

JT:  So you keep it down and he does the whole Ricky Fatton [Hatton] thing.

DJ:  You could say that, but [laughs] he walks around like 167, which is really good, and I walk around 140.  And I’ve cut down to 125.  I’ve fought twice at 125, but Matt wants me at 135, just to get used to the weight class up there.

JT:  Tell me your thoughts about being a part of AMC and training under Matt.

DJ:  It’s awesome.  It doesn’t get better than this.  One thing that I love about AMC is that there’s always somebody that can beat you up.  And what I mean by that is an instructor – I really don’t get a chance to spar Matt, Trevor, or Daniel, or Brad [Kurtson] as much as I wish I could, but I know that if I go up there and I’m like “shit, I want to spar,” if they want to, I know they’ll just mop me up.  Even though I mop all my opponents up.

JT:  There’s always somebody higher on the totem pole, right?

DJ:  Yeah, there’s always someone higher on the scale.  Granted, they’re not my same weight, but I’ve been dealing with that my whole life and that’s just what [propels] me.  Five-four, 145 pounds.  There’s just not a lot of guys around here that weigh that much and are at my skill level.

JT:  How long have you been training at AMC?

DJ:  I’d say I’ve been training MMA, like, four years now.

JT:  And coupled with wrestling training, which certainly is no joke either. . .

DJ:  Oh now, so then you’re going back to wrestling.  So you got four years of MMA.  I started [wrestling] when I was in eighth grade – so about nine years total.

JT:  So that said, I would think by now you’ve developed your own kind of training philosophy or style.  What’s your outlook on training?  How do you approach it?

DJ:  Okay, so, it’s like, I think you train hard and the fight’s easy.  You train like a champion, you fight like a champion.  You train like shit, you fight like shit.  With us being down at AMC Pacific, where it’s just us little core guys, we have to learn to train ourselves hard, because we all don’t live by each other.  Like I’m in University Place, Drew lives in Piala, Taurean lives in Covington.  So does Brian.  And Steve – he’s an Alaska Airlines pilot.  So when we train, we’re not always together.

I don’t need a coach behind me, yelling at me, like “run your sprints.  Do this, do that.”  That actually irritates me a little bit.  I went to college and I could have finished school and got my higher education and went off and done something else, but I decided that I wanted to fight.  And I know what fighting comes with.  And it’s a job to be in top shape when you fight . . . You don’t need to babysit me.  But sometimes I feel that guys are in a world where they need babysistters.  Even pro guys.  If you don’t tell them what to do, they’re just going to sit at home like “oh, I’ll wait until the next time I’m fighting and not do whatever I gotta do.”

JT:  You’re really a self-started and you have to kind of make your own training and regiment, really.

DJ:  As a regimen, Steve Skidds tells me what my lifting should be and what I should be eating and stuff, but as for somebody calling me, waking me up out of bed, and telling me to go to the gym, I don’t need it, and that’s how it’s been my whole life, ever since I was in elementary running.

JT:  What pro fighters has Matt brought in that you’ve trained with?

DJ:  I’ve trained with Rich [Franklin] and Chris Leben.  I got to wrestle with Jens Pulver.

Rich was pretty fun.  He’s a lot heavier.  I was trying to keep up with my pace and try to choke him out.  When I trained with Chris Leben, I didn’t roll with him, but doing stand-up with him, it was a little bit difficult with him, because it was when I was first starting, so I really didn’t understand the southpaw position, but. But he’s beef.  He’s huge.

JT:  Was it difficult to get over the size difference there?

DJ:  No, I’ve been dealing with that my whole life.

JT:  Tell me about that part, always being the smaller guy.  Did you deal with bullying as a kid?

DJ:  When I was growing up, I didn’t really get bullied, but I was an easy target.  So everybody makes fun of me.  When I was in elementary, it wasn’t as bad.  Then when I got to middle school, I had a temper and I was one of those bad kids who stayed out late at night and did bad things.  Just to prove that – you make fun of me at all, ‘cuz I’ll beat you up.  Then, when I got into eighth grade, when I started learning, when I started maturing, nobody messed with me.  When I got physical, in ninth grade, the seniors, nobody messed with me.  They make fun of me, because I was short and I had big ears.  Like a mouse.  But nobody really picked on me at all.  Just being the smaller guy in the room, when I got ahold of them, I could wrestle them and they’re like “oh, you’re a small guy, but you’re not weak like a small person.”

JT:  When did you get blessed with the Mighty Mouse nickname?

DJ:  [Laughs] That came, probably, during when I had been training with Skidds and those guys. . . I’m the smallest guy at my gym right now, besides Scott McDonald, who is one of the new guys.  So I’ll roll with Brian, Taurean, Skidds, Drew, and I’ll give them fits.  . . . And so Skidds gave me the nickname “Mighty Mouse” because I’m small, but I always bring the fight.  I’m always gonna be there, wherever you’re gonna be at.  I’m not just gonna keep it on my feet, because I’m better than you, but I’ll beat you to the ground and submit you even though that’s your aim.  And so he nicknamed me “Mighty Mouse.”  And the way my ears are too, and my structure.

JT:  I was gonna say, it really fits in there.  The whole thing about good things coming in small packages, right?

DJ:  Yeah [laughs].

JT:  For you, what’s the toughest thing about fighting?

     Casualty of War - Johnson broke his hand while en route to winning his third 135 lb. MMA championship.

Casualty of War - Johnson broke his hand while en route to winning his third 135 lb. MMA championship.

DJ:  Honestly, I love training hard, I love running, I love lifting hard.  I’d say the toughest thing about fighting is the sparring hard. . . Because when you spar, you get hurt, you get bruises, and you can potentially tear something.  Or anything.  But people believe that you need to spar hard to get in good shape.  And I totally disagree with that, because yes, people say that I’m a freak when it comes to cardio, but I can tell you that I don’t spar hard when I get ready for a fight, because you get hurt that way.

When I jump in the ring and I have to fight, I know that I gotta be in perfect condition, and I gotta make sure I train my body to be ready for that aggravating throwing and to work hard and not [get] tired when I throw hard.  And some people don’t train their minds to do that. . . My training is very strict.  I know what I need to do to get ready for a fight, and it’s the same thing what I did for wrestling. . . I [want] to make sure my whole body’s recovered, and make sure, when I fight, I’m at 110%.  Not with all the aches and bruises.  Because you don’t want to walk into a fight with aches and bruises.

Now, when I train, I take care of my body.  I pop my fish oil and my multivitamin.  I make sure I wrap my hands.   I wear kneepads.  I wear shinpads.  Because if I get hurt in practice, let’s say I break my hand in practice. . . That’s a huge setback, because now I gotta have surgery.  There’s another 40 G’s down the drain, because of surgery.  And now that’s the main rule.  When me and Drew spar now, we spar hard, but we spar with our heads.  We don’t try to hurt each other and break our legs.

This body has to last me until I’m 39 or 38, because this is my career.  I stopped going to school, and if I don’t make it like this, it’s gonna be McDonald’s or Jack-in-the-Box, and I don’t want to go to any one of those.

JT:  Well, they also got Dick’s Burgers up there on Broadway too.

DJ:  [Laughs] Dick’s Burger are not a go either.

JT:  I guess that kinda answers my next question.  If you had to make a living outside of fighting, what would it be?

DJ:  If I was to do something, it [would] be in the athletic department.  That would probably have to be it.  Honestly, I would like to be a high school coach, probably wrestling or cross country.

JT:  Is running or fighting more your passion?  Do you still have that same passion for running?

DJ:  Oh no, it really hasn’t taken away from running, because I use most of my running for my training for MMA . . . I used to run half-marathons and street races and stuff. . . Fighting – I look at it as my hobby and it’s my job.  So I take it very seriously.

I ran ever since I was little, and in second grade, I ran [in a group] called track club.  Nobody coached you how to do it; nobody [said] you shouldn’t do it.  You basically go out on the track and you run the whole recess.  So while people were on the swings swinging or playing the monkey bars, I was running laps.  Constantly.  Every recess, for five years.  Every school year.  At the end of the year, the goal [was] to get 100 miles.  At each 25-mile mark, you get something.  25 miles you get something, 50 miles you get something, 75 miles, I remember you get a big pizza party, and 100 miles, you get a medal.  My last year, I had like 117 miles at the end of the year.  So I beat my old personal record. . . And that became a passion for me when I got out of high school.

My mindset in running, it kinda rolls over to MMA for where I go in a long run or I’m running sprints for MMA training.  My technique comes back in running, and it’s like “oh man, I’m so glad that I love running, or this would be a pain in my ass.”

JT:  As a fan of MMA, who are some of your favorite fighters, or some of the best matches you’ve seen?

DJ:  My favorite fighter, hands down, would be Thiago “Pitbull” Alves.  I think his last fight with Josh Koscheck was really good.  How he didn’t get taken down at all, and he controlled the center of the ring. He had a pretty good game plan.  Rampage, he’s another one of my favorite fighters, just because of his attitude.  He keeps it real when he’s fighting. . . He has his fun.  He enjoys his life.  George St-Pierre, he’s one of my favorites too.  He’s more of a game-planner, but at that level, the UFC competition, you have to have a game plan.  You just can’t go in there and try to fight your way like that.

JT:  Who do you like in St-Pierre vs. Alves?  You looking forward to that fight?

DJ:  If I had to put down $100, I’m gonna pick Alves.  And the reason why is because Thiago Alves is a bigger guy and I think he’s gonna come up with a good game plan against Georges St-Pierre.  Because Georges St-Pierre does have a weak chin.  It’s been exposed.  Thiago Alves has real good power in both hands and his knees and in his kicks.

JT:  Run me through your fight career, as far as matches goes. I believe your AMC site said you were 8-0 in MMA and 4-0 in Muay Thai?  When was your first match?

DJ:  It would have to be Brawl at the Mall III, so that was back in 2006. . .

Yeah, I remember how they went.  The first match was mixed martial arts against Oren Ulrich.  After that I did a kickboxing fight against Mike Richardson.  And the reason I did that was because Matt was like “okay, we know you can wrestle, but we gotta work on your stand-up.”  I did that one.  And then my third fight – it was actually a forfeit, so I don’t count that.  It was against Michael Aries, and I remember him showing up nine pounds overweight.  I said I’d still fight him, but he didn’t want to fight.  I think my next fight was at AX [Fighting], at 125 pounds. And this was when I first tried out 125 pounds.  I knocked out my opponent, Brandon Fields in 17 seconds.

I won the Axe [title] first, then the Genesis Muay Thai title.  Then I defended the Axe title.  And then I fought for the Genesis [MMA] title.  And then I fought for the Rumble on the Ridge title.  And [that’s] all four belts that I have now.

JT:  Did you defend the AX title at all?

DJ:  Yeah, I defended it against Jorge Garza, and I armbarred him in the second round.  Because after I fought a kickboxing match, against Scott McDonald, I broke my rib.  And when I came back, Matt told me “You’re already exciting to fight.  You go out there and you bang, but now you have to start finishing people.” So right after Matt said that, I started finishing people in MMA.  I armbarred Jorge Garza.  And that was the first fight that I finished somebody.  After Matt said that comment to me.

JT:  So you’ve fought steadily four times each year, since your debut.  You’ve been busy, man.

Sometimes I’ll fight more in a year, and take it less [next] year.  But if you do a ratio, yeah, it’s like four times each year.

You’ve gotta stay busy.  Because I’m the type of person that, if I’m not hurt or not strapped for cash or anything, I just keep on training. . . Because I want to get to the next level where I’m fighting overseas or anything.  I basically told Matt “what do I need to do to get to Shooto,” and he said “you need to do this and this and this.”  And so far I’ve kept on doing that.

JT:  What’s the next milestone for you?

DJ:  My next goal is to become pro and fight overseas in Shooto.

JT:  Thus far, what has been your best and worst memory of your fight career?

DJ:  Probably when Drew lost his belt to John “Prince” Albert.  Even though it had nothing to do with me, that’s probably my worst memory.  And the reason why I would say [that] is because John came in, and we didn’t overlook him, but the way he came in, and he did everything right; it’s like, that pisses me off because Drew should have been there.  And yes, things happen and stuff, but that’s my worst thing. . . because they never got a chance to fight.  Just like Caros and Taurean.  Caros beat Taurean twice with the same move, and the same sequence.  Guillotine.  But they never got a chance to fight.  Those are my worst memories – Drew losing his belt to John “Prince” Albert and Taurean losing to Caros.

JT:  What about good memories?

DJ:  My best one was probably when I defended my belt at AX and I armbarred [Jorge Garza].  And the reason why that’s probably my best memory is because of two reasons – one, that’s when Matt was saying “in order for you get to that next step, you need to start finishing people.”  And what did I do?  I finished that person.

And the second one was, that whole week, Skidds – we’re working on armbar from side control with the knee ride.  Over and over and over.  And once the chance popped up, I did everything perfect. Pushed the head down, circled around, armbarred him, pulled through, sat on my butt.  Had to break the lock, so I hammerfisted him in the face.  Once he let go, pop the hands up, and finished the armbar.  And then me and Steve had a big hug.  We were like “oh yeah, that’s what we worked on, baby.”  And it was just perfect.  Because we worked it and I wasn’t tired at all.  I could have fought somebody else that night, because I was in such good shape.

Even when flanked by his girlfriend and best friend, 'Mighty Mouse' is still all business.

Even when flanked by his girlfriend and best friend, 'Mighty Mouse' is still all business.

JT:  Tell me about your downtime.  What do you like to do when you’re trying to step away from the pressure of training and the ring?

DJ:  All I do is I come home and I chill with my girlfriend Destiny.  I like to dance a lot. . . Now that me and my girlfriend have calmed down, we don’t really go out.  But if I ever get a chance to go to an after party and dance, best believe I’ll be on the floor cutting some rug.

When she’s not here, I’m usually playing video games or working out.  And the video games I play are fighting games.  And zombie games too.

JT:  What’s worse – the 28 Days Later zombies or the remake Dawn of the Dead ones?

DJ:  I’m liking the Resident Evil zombies.  I know now, in Resident Evil 4 and 5, they’re not really zombies.  They’re the Lost Project, which is a whole different story.  But I like the whole background, how it’s a bioweapon.

JT:  How many zombies does it take to succumb Matt Hume?  How many before they turn him into a zombie?

DJ:  I’d have to say 24.

JT:  How about Matt Hume and Resident Evil zombies?

DJ:  That’s a good one.   If Matt Hume has the virus that Albert Wurtzker has, I think Matt Hume would destroy anybody in the zombie world.

JT:  Who do you think would win in a match between Matt Hume and the cartoon Mighty Mouse?

DJ:  Umm, Matt Hume. . . I think he’ll take his back and choke him out.

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is scheduled to fight at the next Genesis FIGHTS event, “Rise of Kings, Emperors of MMA,” on June 27th, at the Shoreline Community College.

Verbal Sparring: Drew “The Eternal Fire” Brokenshire (Genesis FIGHTS)

Posted in Genesis FIGHTS, Interviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2009 by jaytan716

Drew Brokenshire (center right), with his team.

Drew Brokenshire (center right), with his team.

“The Eternal Fire” may seem like an unusual nickname for a fighter, but for Drew Brokenshire, it actually fits quite well.  With his red locks of hair that reflect the “fire” to his appearance, Brokenshire commented that “the Eternal” mirrors my passion and work ethic.  Moreover, that term indicates a sense of continued lineage, particularly fitting for a young man who looks to take his family name to the next level in MMA.

As the youngest of four boys, Drew Brokenshire had no dearth of male family members to look up to.  All three of his brothers were wrestlers, so it came as no surprise that “Drewdown,” as his friends know him, would follow in his brothers’ footsteps.  But competition has a way of showcasing those with a natural talent, and in the three years since his transition from collegiate wrestling to MMA, the youngest Brokenshire has risen to the top.

Splitting his time between AMC Kirkland and AMC Pacific, Brokenshire is a former Genesis FIGHTS featherweight champion and Rumble on the Ridge II Superfight champion.  Having lost his featherweight title earlier this year to John “Prince” Albert, Brokenshire is driven to turn things around, rebuild a series of wins, and reclaim his championship belt.

In this round of Verbal Sparring, Brokenshire broke down the role that wrestling and fighting plays in his family, his transition from one discipline to another, and which mutants Matt Hume would fare better against – the X-Men or Ninja Turtles.

JT:  Tell me what you can about your background and how you got into MMA.

DB:  Basically, I started wrestling in high school.  Before that, I did baseball and stuff.  My brothers were really into wrestling when they were little, so finally I got hooked into it in high school.  It was a lot of fun for me.  I had my oldest brother, Bobby, coaching me, and I had a good time with that.   I was never that good at wrestling, but I developed a good work ethic there, and I enjoyed it.

After high school, I wrestled a little bit up at Highland Community College, and while I was training for college wrestling, I got hooked up with AMC, Steve Skidds, and everybody at the [Pacific] gym, working out for wrestling.  That was because my brother Bobby Brokenshire was fighting.

JT:  How many brothers do you have?

DB:  I have three older brothers.  One passed away five or six years ago.  And I have one younger sister. . . My brother Bobby has wrestled his whole life.  He’s still coaching high school wrestling now.

JT:  What was it like growing up with three older brothers?  Were you the one that constantly got picked on and was the takedown dummy?

DB:  I don’t think we wrestled too much, but I definitely got picked on a bit. . . Me and my brother Jesse, who’s the one right above me in age, probably got the worst of it from our two older brothers.  But it was never too extreme; we never got into too many fights or anything.

JT:  Do you remember when you first match was, or how soon after you started training?

DB:  It’s kinda a cloudy area, because I don’t really remember how long I was helping other guys train.  Basically, when my brother started doing a little bit of the grappling, ‘cause I was already at the gym wrestling and whatnot.  So I’d be kind of the wrestling dummy, and just worked with those guys.  Of course. . . I kinda got caught up into it.  So I started learning as I was helping them, even though I wasn’t really planning on fighting anytime soon.  It was probably six months or something before my first fight.

JT:  Did you feel game-ready?  Was it a different kind of nervousness?  Or the same, for that matter?

DB:  Before the fight, I was supremely confident.  When I found out who I was going to me matched with, which was somebody who worked out at the same gym where we were at; we hadn’t really gone with each other with anything, but I knew enough about him where I was pretty confident.  And I ended up actually losing the fight to him by decision.  But the first fight, there wasn’t too much nervousness, because I knew my opponent and it wasn’t too big a deal.  There were definitely first fight nerves in the ring, where I just wasn’t thinking, basically.  The main thing in the first fight is to do what you trained over and over again.  So basically, a jab-cross over and over and over again, and that was about it.

JT:  You’re training out of AMC Pacific.  Do you go to the Kirkland gym as well?

DB:  I go up there usually on Saturdays.  They have the fighter training there.  I usually leave my house around 11am, and get up there about 12.  And then there’s about an hour where I just do my own thing with whoever’s there.  Get ready for fighter training and do that there.

JT:  What’s your philosophy to training?  You’ve had a long time, certainly, to develop a certain mentality for it.

DB:  Really, it’s just, with AMC, there’s just so many good coaches. I’m never afraid to ask a question and I just take all their opinions to heart.  We’ve got Matt Hume, Trevor Smith, Steve Skidds, Luke Pitman.  All these guys help me tremendously in every way.  A lot of what I do, I just ask them what I should work on and they give me one or two things and I just work on those. . . A week or two down the road, I ask them again, and we go from there.

JT:  How was the transition, of going from wrestling to MMA, for you?

DB:  It was good because with wrestling, I wasn’t very good.  I really enjoyed the striking aspect of mixed martial arts, and it’s just a lot more fun to me, to be able to do everything.  Grappling and striking.  So it was just a breath of fresh air, after doing wrestling, which I wasn’t very good at, to something that I feel I can be great at.

JT:  Walk me through when you won the title.  Around when that was and what that felt like to you, beforehand and after.

DB:  That was February of 2008. . . It felt great.  I knew Jesse [Davis] was a tough opponent.  He actually fought my brother Bobby and beat him by decision before we had fought, so there was a little extra there to save the family name and not let him be the Brokenshire Killer or something.  He trains up at AMC and he had a couple of fights under his belt. . . So it was a great feeling to be able to go out there and give the display that I did.  Especially after the fight I had before that, which was against JJ Lopez, and I got TKO’ed.  It was a good way to bounce back.

JT:  Did the loss to John Albert sting a lot?  Certainly that’s not how you anticipated the match going down.  Do you have other thoughts on the match, looking back?

DB:  Definitely.  I think it was a great experience for me, because the mistakes I made in there, and the kind of mental errors that I made right off the bat, were something that you can’t experience in the gym. . . . It definitely hurt, but I knew, as soon as I stepped out of the ring, after losing, everything that I’d done wrong.  And I identified it then, so it was good in one way.  Of course it sucked in a lot of [other ways].

JT:  What do you like to do in the downtime?  How do you decompress from the training and fighting?

DB:  Geez!  I mean, there really isn’t too much decompression time.  Right now I just hang out with my girlfriend when I’m not at the gym and stuff.  Other than that, I’m just working and working out.  That’s pretty much it.

That’s one thing that is great about mixed martial arts for me, is that it’s kind of my decompression and it’s truly fun for me.  So it’s not that hard for me to go out there and work hard.  My best friends are my training partners.  It’s where I like to be.  It’s not like work for me.  It’s just I go to hang out with my friends and have a good time.

JT:  I saw the tribute to your brother, Keith, on your MySpace page.  I’m curious to hear about your relationship with your brothers.  What’s that like, having all those guys behind you?

"The Eternal Fire," with his youngest fan.

"The Eternal Fire," with his youngest fan.

DB:  As far as my family life goes, I was raised up in a great home.  We had five kids and my parents.  They’re always supportive of everything. . . Anything that any of the kids ever needed, my parents are always more than willing to give. . . It’s definitely great to fight and have my family in the stands and stuff, and to come home and say “good job” or “get ‘em next time” if I lost, or anything like that.

JT:  Do you think a lot about your brother when you go into the ring?  Do you use him as a motivation or inspiration for victory?

DB:  At times.  I try not to dwell on it too much, but I definitely feel like he’s always looking out for me.  I definitely wish that he was around to see what I’ve done.  He came to a couple of my wrestling matches back in the day, and I’d won.  Like I said before, I was never that great at wrestling.  It would be great to have him know that I’m actually better than average at something, and I think I’m better than average at fighting.

JT:  I’d say so!  The fan following and the matches that I saw – you had a fantastic slugfest with Anton Tsiberkin there, and fans were eating that up.  Certainly your performance against Butch McGavern didn’t look too shabby either. . . Did Keith wrestle when he was alive?

DB:  Yeah, when he was younger, like junior wrestling.  He didn’t continue it through middle school or high school.

JT:  Do you and Bobby have your own side competitions on who’s training harder or who’s got the better win streak going?

DB:  Probably an unspoken one, I’m sure.  We always give each other crap.  He had fought Zach Mukai for the title and lost, and I came up later and beat Jesse for it, so I have that up on him for awhile.  And then I lost to John Albert and I’d hear about that all the time.  There’s always that little rivalry going on.

JT:  Talk to me about you as a fan of MMA.  Who are some of your favorite fighters or best matches that you’ve seen?

DB:  I love watching all of it, really.  Anybody that goes out there and just really goes for the finish, and pushes it to the limit, I can respect.  Spencer Fisher, I’ve actually sparred with him a little bit, so I love watching him fight, because he’s always so aggressive and never stops coming forward.  So he’s real exciting to watch.  Anybody with that kind of style.  Anderson Silva and most of his fights, when he’s just coming forward and just destroying people. . . Anybody that really just has that kind of ruthless offense to where they don’t stop and they aren’t worried about what their opponents are doing. . . I love watching stuff like that.  Or even just the slugfest wars.  Those are always exciting as well.

DB:  You’ve got guys like Randy Couture, who are really fun to watch.  Because he’s an older guy who always comes back to show these young guys up. . . People think, after 40, guys are done. . . I’m really just excited to see Matt Hume hopefully get back in the ring.  That’ll be an exciting thing to see.

JT:  Do you guys put pressure on him and try to rib him about making a comeback?

DB:  Well, it’s not really a ribbing.  It’s more like “please, Matt, get back in there so we can watch you fight.”  But that’s not a guy we really put a lot of pressure on.  He kinda intimidates most of us, so we kinda try not to put pressure too much.

JT:  What’s it like training under Matt?

DB:  It’s awesome.  Because you just know there’s no ceiling on where you can go.  And with all his connections and everything, I feel like I’m in the best place that I could possibly be as an amateur fighter coming up.  I know that I’m getting better constantly, and it’s through his system and all the trainers at AMC.

JT:  Describe his coaching style, in your words.  How he motivates you, the good and the bad, the scary and the inspiring.

DB:  Well, the real thing is just, you roll with him or spar with him or whatever and you just see how effortless it is for him to just pick you apart if he wants to.  And yet, anything that you ask and he’s always got an answer.  And he hardly has to think about it. He’s just got so much knowledge, it’s great to know he’s on my side [laughs].

JT:  What’s your best and your worst memory, of your career, so far?

DB:  It’s probably all the same one – my fight with JJ Lopez.  It was a real slugfest and I had to dig deep.  I was pretty sick that night . . . but we ended up just going back and forth.  And I thought it was a great fight, in watching it.  And just hearing the crowd and all that was a pretty awesome experience.  To have everybody on their feet and all that.  But at the same time, I lost a fight, so. . . It’s one of those things where you show a lot, but in the end, it wasn’t quite enough.  So I guess it was a double-edged sword where it was great, but at the same time, it sucked.

JT:  It seems to be a common mantra in MMA where some of your best memories or best lessons are learned when you lose.  You grow more through that than through the wins.

DB:  Definitely.  I mean, I lost my first two fights.  I was kinda glad to get them right off the bat.  Learn from them then, rather than have a ten-fight win streak and have two in a row.  Definitely learned a ton from my losses.  I do my best to learn from my wins and my losses, but definitely, you learn quite a bit more when you’re losing.

JT:  Were you facing some confidence issues, or were you having second thoughts, with those two losses?  Were you thinking “maybe this isn’t for me?”

DB:  No, definitely not.  My first fight, I lost a controversial decision, and my second fight, I just was making some mistakes, mainly on the ground.  Just going for things that weren’t working, and I just kept going for them . . . Right after the fight, I was really disappointed and upset.  But after talking with my coaches and understanding everything that I did do wrong, it’s just one of those things where you just gotta work harder and learn from your mistakes.  That’s one of the fun things for me, is seeing what my mistakes are and just being able to keep learning.

JT:  So you lost your first two matches and then you came back and won two matches and then the JJ Lopez fight?

DB:  Yeah, I lost my first two, then I fought Ken Daviscourt, won by TKO.  I fought Josh Chinchen on the first Genesis card, won by TKO, and I fought JJ and lost by TKO.

JT:  What goals do you have, within and without fighting?  Is this the thing you want to make your life, or are you seeing how far you can take it?

DB:  I definitely want to make a living by fighting.  I want to become a professional and make it to the top level, even be a world champion some day.  Right now, I’m just taking the steps that Matt and my coaches think I need to make to do that, which is to keep improving and fighting.  Also, on the side, I’ve been going to school. I’ve pretty much finished with my Associate’s Degree.  I want to go to a four-year school . . And probably get a degree in nutrition or something along those lines.  Personal training.  Something to keep me in the gym, because I’m truly happy in the gym, whether it be working with other guys or training myself.  Definitely the kind of core of my life right now, and it’s where I want to be.

JT:  Being in a place like AMC, where you train with local guys, but then you see these guys from the big leagues come in – names like Rich Franklin, Jens Pulver, and Spencer Fisher – what’s it like getting to work out with these guys?

DB:  Being able to talk to them and train with them is cool.  They’re just guys, like everybody else.  As far as how AMC trains and everything, it’s amazing.  The first time I sparred Jens and Spencer, I was expecting to just go in there and get dominated, but I went in there and was able to hold my own.  And it’s just a good feeling to know that the gap between amateur and professional really isn’t that large.  The ladder to your goal isn’t as big as I once thought it was.

JT:  It’s gotta be a good confidence booster.  I would think it also helps your skills, in that, for example, a coach was telling me how one of the tougher things can be to have that confidence to let your hands go sometimes.  But to feel like you can handle it against a Rich or Spencer, somebody, it gives you that confidence to let your hands go, and then your hands go.

DB & DJ - Two brothers from another mother.

DB & DJ - Two brothers from another mother.

DB:  I think it definitely plays a part.  When you go in there and you’re like ‘wow, I’m pretty good.  I can hang in there with these guys,’ yeah, it definitely does help with the whole confidence thing.

One thing with me and DJ [Demetrious Johnson], who’s my main training partner, we’ve never had a problem with letting our hands loose and stuff.  I think part of that is some of the mantra that Matt and Trevor and everybody has kind of instilled in us, which is ‘don’t worry about what your opponent’s gonna do to you.  Just worry about what you’re gonna do to them.’  Because if you’re doing what you want to do to them, they’re not going to be able to do what they want to do to you.  So I’ve never had a problem letting my hands go.

JT:  That’s another good question to ask.  Besides DJ, who are some of the other guys that really push you?  Your core team of guys that help you improve?

DB:  Basically, we have a group of guys down here at AMC South.  We’ve got Taurean Washington, Brian Roberge – they’re both amateur title holders now.  They both fight at 175 lbs.  They’re two top-ranked guys in Genesis FIGHTS, and those are two of my main training partners as well.  And Steve Skidds is our head coach down here.  And he of course pushes us and teaches us constantly as well.  Also [Luke] Pitman, who’s just coming off of a knee injury himself.  In the beginning, he was one of my core guys that really helped me with my basics and my base for fighting.

Between Taurean, Brian, DJ, Steve, and my brother Bobby, they’re basically the main core down here, and those are the guys I work with the most often.

JT:  Is there anything else about Drew Brokenshire that we should know about?

DB:  I’m a fan of superheroes.  I’m an Eagle Scout.

JT:  Are you a big comic book fan?

DB:  I don’t have a ton of comic books, but I definitely have been a fan of X-Men and everything.  Since I was little, I had all the action figures and played X-Men with my friends in the backyard.  We had a trampoline.  We were always on that playing around.  Any kind of superhero type stuff.  Ninja Turtles.  Anything like that.  You’ll probably see me wearing the shirts all the time.

JT:  Who wins in a match between Matt Hume and Wolverine?

DB:  I don’t know.  I gotta give it to Wolverine, because he’s got the rejuvenation powers.  Even if Matt beats his ass, he’s gonna keep coming.  Unfortunately, Matt doesn’t quite have his healing powers up to that rate yet.  Although he is a freak of nature.

JT:  And Matt doesn’t have the adamantium steel for the striking.  He doesn’t have those claws, so he’s really gotta work on the knockout.

DB:  Yeah, exactly.  The adamantium claws and skeleton is gonna hurt Matt’s chance of breaking his arm.

JT:  Wolverine’s gonna cause more cuts, certainly, above the eyes . . . what about which Ninja Turtle is gonna give Matt more a run for his money.

DB:  I don’t know.  I think Ninja Turtles would be in trouble against Matt.  I don’t think they can handle Matt.

Following this interview, Drew recently fought Colby Hoffman at Brian Johnston’s NW Fight Challenge VII.  He defeated Hoffman with by rear naked choke submission in the second round, becoming the new 145 lb. USAMMA champion.

Verbal Sparring: Takashi Munoz (Legends MMA)

Posted in Interviews, Legends MMA, Tuff-N-Uff with tags , , , , on April 20, 2009 by jaytan716

Kyokushin brown belt and Legends MMA fighter Takashi Munoz

Kyokushin brown belt and Legends MMA fighter Takashi Munoz

Just the name “Takashi Munoz” alone speaks volumes of his story, but that’s merely the tip of the iceberg for this mature young man.

Born of Japanese and Mexican parents in the City of Angels, Munoz has been a fighter almost all of his life. He currently has a brown belt in Kyokushin karate, one of the more notoriously brutal and violent of the Japanese fighting arts. He took second place in the Kyokushin World Junior tournament at the age of 12, after only a year of training. At 15, he was invited to compete in the adults division – three years before normal eligibility. In 2005, Munoz placed in the Top 16 of 2,300 competitors at the World Junior Division Kyokushin championships in Tokyo. Having joined Legends MMA team just over a year ago, Munoz has jumped into the amateur MMA game and already started to make waves.

But behind those accomplishments is a lifetime of sacrifice. And behind that sacrifice is a clear understanding and maturity that few other men at his age or level possess. Moreover, Munoz is the first to acknowledge that the life he’s lived isn’t the best for everybody – just the best for him.

In this interview, Munoz opened up about the pressures as a child martial artist, his vision and definition of success, and what he thinks about kids looking to walk in his footsteps.

JT: Talk about your training background.

TM: I come from a full-contact karate background. Kyokushin karate. I trained out of Los Angeles. There’s one right here in Little Tokyo. I’ve pretty much been there my whole life. That’s like another place for me to be. I started at 12, on my birthday. . . I got my ass kicked pretty bad, and I was like “man, maybe I should come back again.” So I did, and then, like even though I was getting my ass kicked every day, little by little, I started to learn. . . It took me awhile to get used to it. All the bruises that I had. Then, little by little, I was getting used to it. . . So then I stuck to it and I’ve been doing it for like nine years already.

I teach kids sometimes too. And I sometimes teach fighters class [to kids that want to learn how to fight]. The funny thing is that they don’t want to go through the hard training. That’s one some of them don’t understand. I tell them “right now, as you’re a kid, it’s okay. But sooner or later, you’ll come to realize that you gotta do a lot of stuff to reach for the top.” Some parents, they’ve seen me go through that stuff too, because I grew up with some of their kids too. So they’ve seen what I had to go through. And they tell other kids “hey, listen to him. He knows what he’s talking about. We’ve seen him go through that suffering.”

And then, finally, my big thing in karate – had the first World Jr. Division tournament. There were kids from all around the world coming in. I fought in the open weight division. So you see light guys fight against heavy guys. And only two kids represented from the US. Me and another guy from my dojo.

JT: Did you grow up in California?

TM: Yeah, I grew up in Alhambra, a small town over there. And pretty much, almost everybody knows each other. It’s funny, because, it’s like, you might not have seen them before, but they know you. That’s how it is. People are like “hey, I know you” and I’m looking at them like “umm, alright.” I guess I know you too.

JT: Let’s talk about your name. You don’t see a name like “Takashi Munoz” too often. It sticks out when you hear it.

TM: [Laughs]. I get that a lot. . . My dad is Mexican. . . He was from Texas and came out here. . . And my mom is Japanese. . . She’s a teacher at a language school for Japanese. . . My dad gave me that name, Takashi. Because he had a friend that fought too. His name was Takashi.

JT: When you grew up, was it mostly one culture or another?

TM: I had a little bit of both. It kinda raised me to “hey, y’know – every culture is the same. Or everybody’s different, but to me, it’s like the same.“ I could pass internationally, everywhere.

JT: Your mom raised you to speak Japanese?

TM: Yeah, she did. From what I hear, my first language was Japanese. So it was a pretty surprising thing. She made me go to school for it, in elementary all through high school. . . At first I didn’t like it, but little by little, I was just like “you know what? It’s helping me where I’m at, right now. I know I’m going to be going to Japan here and there.” I visited my family in Japan . . . And sure enough, it did.

JT: What was that like growing up, with your dad as a boxer?

TM: It was good because he taught me a lot of tricks that a lot of fighters don’t really see that much. . . He was pretty much, [did] a couple of smoker fights, but he knew what it’s about. He also competed elsewhere. . . He was a hard hitter, so he knows what to do and stuff like that.

He always told me that he was small, and he is. He was shorter than me . . . but he was smart, he said. Because [he] knew they were gonna put him up with insane guys. . . And he knows that these guys aren’t in shape. One thing he always said, “I was always in shape. That was made me smart about it.” He knew that they were gonna pound on him. The only thing is that

Takashi Munoz, victorious at Tuff-N-Uff Amateur Fighting Championships.

Takashi Munoz, victorious at Tuff-N-Uff Amateur Fighting Championships.

he could last. That was the whole point.

He’s passed away, but he was always there for me, every step of my fights. In the karate tournaments, I’ll be like “hey, I won my first round.” He’ll be like “yeah, good.” He doesn’t smile, but he tells me that, y’know, “you still got another one. Stay in the game.” I know he’s proud. My first tournament, I came out second place. And that was with only one year of karate, and I was surprised that I came out second place. I told him “I wonder how I did it,” and he said “you were just more prepared than anybody. That was it. Not everybody could pull that off.”

JT: How did you fall into the mix at Legends?

TM: My friend Tyler knows Chris [Reilly] through K-1 fights. He’s interviewed the fighters for martial arts television. So he introduced me to Chris and from there it happened. Chris told me “hey, come to pro training then. Work your way up.” I started from pro training, so I got my ass kicked. . . I didn’t really talk to anybody. I just stayed quiet and focused. Little by little, I was like “hey, man, this is the home for me. Everybody’s friendly. . .” Chris is a great guy. I trust him a lot. And then Jimmy [Romero], he’s a nice guy to train with too. I started feeling a team spirit here.

JT: What’s the transition like, going from Kyokushin to MMA?

TM: I wasn’t really used to the face hits that much. . . It’s not for everybody, the transition. . . I think after all the years of doing one thing, you have to think another way. It’s like a shock to them. . . I did kickboxing too, between karate. Before I started at Legends. So I kinda got used to the face hits.

JT: Was the ground game a new thing to you? That doesn’t exist in Kyokushin, does it?

TM: No, it doesn’t, but in some karate organizations, it does. A lot of them, the head directors of those organizations, come from Kyokushin backgrounds. They put throws and everything. . .Like Sambo, for example.

JT: Was that a difficult part of the transition for you?

TM: Yeah, it was. Because what I learned – I did most of the pushing. Punching, kicking, you have to kick out. But ground game, you have to pull. It’s the opposite thing. It’s a different kind of muscle. Oh man, I got tired quick. At first, I thought maybe it’s not for me, but I stuck to it to see if I could do it. And little by little, I started getting it.

JT: Did you start with Eddie [Bravo’s] class?

TM: No, I started with the pro team, actually. And then little-by-little, with Conor [Heun].

And then a friend of mine from EliteXC, Jamie Fletcher – I used to train with [him] before I started with Legends. He used to tell me “hey, why don’t you check out Erik Paulson?”. . . He was one of those first generation Shooto fighters. . . I go once in awhile, to see where my ground game is at. The good thing about it is he’s got a lot of guys that fight at my weight. He has me rolling with them for like an hour and a half straight. . .

JT: How far out do you start your training camp?

TM: I start like all year long. It’s better to be prepared for something than to wait for it. It’s better to be prepared ahead of time. My dad. . . he said “fighting – there’s really no day of rest. You gotta constantly keep going. . .you gotta be ready all year long.”

JT: For you, what’s the toughest part of fighting?

TM: I say the butterflies before training. . . And the butterflies before the fight too. . . Because then, really, I get nervous when something new is going to happen. . . I like to be alone before any fight. Be separated from everything. Just by myself. Quiet. I believe that’s the better way of concentrating.

JT: Does it get easier when you step inside the ring?

TM: Yeah, it does. I feel calm once they say my name. And I know “alright, I’m here now. I’m finally here. Thank you.”

JT: Does it help you that you’ve been through that before? Do you go “okay, it’s just another fight?”

TM: Yeah, it does. A little bit more. It helps me more, because in the karate tournaments, in Japan, they were like in stadiums. So you have the crowd looking down on you. You’re in the middle of the whole place.

JT: What’s the biggest crowd you’ve ever competed in front of?

TM: At least 60,000 people. In Tokyo Stadium. Not the Dome, but . . . That was my first time . . . on the big screen . . . [that was about] two or three years ago. The World Junior Division tournament. 2,300, and I made it to the top 16.

JT: Was that the highlight of your Kyokushin career?

TM: Pretty much. . . My teammate lost in the round before. My division was hard. I had nothing but Russian dude after another. The first guy, I knocked him out. The second one, he went through two extensions. This kid was tough. And it’s a tournament, so you have to rest as much as you can. Now I’m going into two overtimes with these guys and it’s like “shit!” Finally, at the top 16, I got a long-legged Russian guy. He was just beating me down with his front kicks. That was it . . . that guy that I lost to, he ended up being the first World Junior champion.

JT: Would you go back to Kyokushin again?

TM: Yeah, I would. I wouldn’t mind doing it again. Just to keep the tough spirit up. That’s what Kyokushin is all about – spirit and mental toughness.

I believe that helps me in my fighting now.

JT: That leads into another question – Having fought for as long as you have, being a fighter really is a part of who you are as a person. That said, you’ve got to have some kind of a philosophy or outlook on training and fighting.

TM: I really don’t. . . I’m still learning as I go, right now. What I’ve learned, fighting is like an art. You sketch it during training, and then you paint it at the fight. . . Even though I’ve been fighting for nine years already, I still haven’t figured it out. Like everything, every day, you never stop learning.

JT: What do you do for your downtime?

TM: I just hang out with my girlfriend. Or hang out with friends. Or just relax. Sit at home and watch TV. Be like the next Al Bundy. Just sit there, lazy. Remote control, hands in the pants. It’s like “wow.” Because training takes a lot out of you. It’s like shit, you don’t want to do anything after a hard day. And MMA especially, you’re using your whole body. It just breaks down. I just sit there sometime and watch a movie at my girlfriend’s house and relax.

JT: Was she at your last fight?

Wanderlei Silva awards Takashi Munoz with "Knockout of the Night" honors.

Wanderlei Silva awards Takashi Munoz with "Knockout of the Night" honors.

TM: No, she wasn’t. She doesn’t like to see me get hit. And she worries that this is what I have to do. This is my life. It’s not part of it. It is my life.

I sacrificed my whole childhood for fighting. I didn’t party. I didn’t get to go out. I sacrificed all that, just to fight.

JT: Who are some of your favorite fighters?

TM: Cro Cop. Because he had that striking, and that “nobody can take me down” mentality. And that’s like mine. I don’t want to be taken down, but I’m gonna knock you out standing up. It’s better to knock out than tap somebody out. Because when you knock them out, they’re not gonna come back up. That’s my mentality.

Shogun was another favorite. He was always that hustle-hustle kind of guy. Always in shape, too.

JT: What do you think about his performances recently?

TM: I didn’t really care, because I know he’s recovering from his knee injury, and it’s been awhile since he fought. I know everybody [says] “hey, Shogun looked horrible,” and I’m like “hey dude, how you would look if you came back from a knee surgery.

JT: What is the best and worst memory in your fight career? Either the whole thing or just MMA.

TM: Getting my ass kicked. . . Every day is an ass kicking. I get beat up, and to me it’s like I’ve always got to be hard. For some reason, I was always hard on myself. Even though Chris [Reilly] tells me “no, don’t be so hard on yourself.” To me, I have to do well, then I know I’m in the game. If I don’t do well, I feel like shit.

JT: It sounds a bit like what you described your dad instilled in you. No matter how good you are, keep it hustling. Keep the pressure on.

TM: Right. And best memories are, like, being up there, in the ring, finally. To even think that “oh wow, I’m in the ring now.” A lot of people don’t even dare. . . and then, knowing that one hit could end your life, pretty much. Knowing that, it’s like “oh, wow” . . . you gotta really be in there.

I remember what the movie 300 says. In the beginning, he says “give them nothing, but take from them everything.” And I’m like “oh wow, that’s exactly like fighting.” You’re not gonna give them nothing, but you’re gonna take everything from them. Their pride, their glory, everything.

JT: What are your goals, either within or away from fighting?

TM: Be the best that I can, pretty much. Be who I can be. The world title feels like something for me. But then, on the other hand, being up there is at least an honor. . . Of course, belts are nice. But I don’t think so high above yet. Always think low, because it’ll lead to higher things. That’s what I think.

JT: “Think low” meaning what exactly?

TM: Don’t think too proud. Don’t think “oh, I’m the winner.” In fighting, you never know what’s going to happen. You have that mentality that you want to win. Of course, you have to have that, but always remember “be prepared.“ Because it takes that one lucky shot, and that’s it. That one lucky shot.

JT: Some people will say that the winner of a match isn’t necessarily the better guy. It’s more that [the winner] was better than the other guy that day.

TM: My dad told me, when I won my tournaments, “you’re just a winner today. Tomorrow, everybody’s gonna forget about it.” So you gotta constantly be the best every day. That’s why I’m saying I’m trying to be the best that I can be – inside and outside of the ring. Because outside of the ring, I’ve learned that kindness comes from strength. When you’re strong, you’re more kind. Because you don’t need it. Only when you have to.

To me, I say be the best you can be every day.

JT: When the match is over and the bell is rung, you’re going to your victory dinner. What’s the first choice?

TM: First choice will be fast food [laughs]. In-N-Out or Carl’s Jr. It’s like “finally! I can at least pig out for this day.” Cutting weight, you’re disciplining yourself by not eating so much bad stuff. You gotta be healthy. And finally that day comes and it’s like “ugh, finally!” You get to eat something good now.

JT: Talk about being a teacher.

TM: I love kids! Because, working with them, it shows me different perspectives. It shows me more patience. It’s like, you know they’re little. They’re not gonna understand it. If its adults, it’s like “c’mon, you gotta fuckin’ understand.” You’ll be yelling at them. But with kids, it’s like “ok, do it this way then.” If they can’t do it this way, then you gotta break it down a little easier. And then, yourself, you’ll start seeing “oh, alright. I guess maybe I’m not doing this either then.” You learn from kids. . . and you find your mistakes.

Kids are fun. But to everybody who walks around that has kids, I wouldn’t suggest that kids fight as a career. If they want to do it, I’ll help them, but I wouldn’t suggest them doing it because I’ve seen the suffering that I’ve had to go through, the sacrifices. And when you see these kids – “oh, I’m willing to do it” . . . that came to me for their karate tournaments, to help them, and they never followed through. And I learned – I tell these kids that this is a long road. Are you willing to sacrifice everything? Your fun, everything? To be the best?

JT: What was the toughest sacrifice for you?

TM: No fun. I’m a little kid. I didn’t get to play. . . I didn’t really get no laughs when I was a kid. Getting my ass kicked was depressing every day.

JT: Would you have traded it?

TM: Nah. I wouldn’t have traded it at all. Now that I see different things. It was worth it. Hard work does pay off.

Shortly after this interview, Takashi Munoz scored a first-round TKO victory at Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA event in Las Vegas, NV. He hopes to fight again as early as May.

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.

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.