Archive for Pinnacle MMA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT:  Tell me about your background getting into MMA.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verbal Sparring: Dave Cryer (King of the Cage)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , on February 4, 2009 by jaytan716

The Dave Cryer story is one we all know well – to never judge a book by its cover.  It’s one that many fans find to be the truth about MMA fighters – that despite tattoos, shaved heads, threatening muscles, and the habit of looking you right in the eye, most fighters are easygoing, approachable, unassuming, friendly guys (and girls).

He’s the fat kid who didn’t like sports, but ended up training to be an MMA fighter.  He has no arrest record, but looks like many guys who do.  And despite standing at a meaty six-foot even and sporting more ink than a Sharpie factory (including where his eyebrows used to be), Dave Cryer is jovial and self-effacing, almost to a fault.  In this interview, we discussed male role models, the meaning of team loyalty, and life as “the tattooed guy.”

JT:  Tell us about where you’re from and how you got into mixed martial arts.

DC:  I’m from all over Southern California. I was born in Anaheim, but I’ve lived everywhere.  I went to high school in Orange County, and then on weekends I hung out in Norwalk.  But I’ve been all over the place.  I’ve been to 30 different schools, just from my mom moving all over the place.

JT:  Did you have brothers and sisters or anything?

DC:  Yeah, it was me, my mom, and my sister.  And my stepdad came around when I was about ten.  That’s when we settled into the one home.

My stepdad showed me a lot of good worth ethic.  I’ve been working with him since I was 10 years old as a diesel mechanic.  Then I stopped working for him when I went into the military for awhile.  I was in the Marine Corps for four years.  Then I came back and worked for him.  He was definitely a father figure.

JT:  Did you go overseas or anything?  What was that like for you?

DC:   September 11th happened, and everyone got motivated after the Twin Towers.  I figured “hey, there’s a reason to go into the military now.”  And I went in on December 11th, hoping to go to war, but it never actually happened.  I just did my time and that was pretty much it.  I can’t say it was the best experience but it was an experience.  I put it on the line.  I just didn’t get to go over there.

JT:  Tell me about your martial arts training.  Did you do anything either in the military or high school?

DC:   I was a big fat loser in high school.  I played football for two years and then I decided I didn’t like sports.  I remember the wrestling coach was like “hey, you wanna wrestle?”  I was like “nah that looks like it’s a lot of work.”

Then there was this old fighter from King of the Cage, Dave Step.  He fought on a very early King of the Cage, he was at 145 pounds.  We were working on the same construction site together.  Someone told me that he was a cage fighter.  And I didn’t really know much about it.  I said “hey, you’re a cage fighter.”  He said “yeah.”  I said “there’s no way you’ll kick my ass.  I’ll whip your ass.”

And thank God he didn’t kick my ass on the job site.  He says “hey, come over to my house.”  And he and his old man beat the shit out of me.  And I remember going “wow, you’ve gotta be kidding me.  Can you teach me some of this stuff?”

I trained with him for five or six times and then I went in the military.  The military martial arts are garbage.  You gotta teach thousands of people, and you can’t really teach them too much.  It doesn’t matter when you have a rifle anyway.

I did some Muay Thai down in San Diego, and then I met John Munoz at Team USA, now Team Pinnacle.  I came to him and said “hey, I want to fight.”  He goes “You should learn first.  We’ll wait until you get blue belt [in jiu-jitsu], then fight.  Do a lot of tournaments.”

And I just started competing.  And I got tired of getting my ass whooped.  Then I started winning.  I won Grappler’s Quest.  Got third in the Pan-Ams, got second the next year, made it to the semis at the World’s, won the Copa-Pacific Open.  Before my first [MMA] fight, I think I competed in like 40 different jiu-jitsu tournaments.  I had never wrestled, so that really helped me out with the ability to compete in front of everybody.  I really thank John for that.

Then John started to teach me some striking.  He called Terry [Trebilcock] and I did my first fight with Uber [Gallegos].  I had so much support, it was amazing.  I think I sold like 250 tickets my first fight.  I was so damn nervous; I don’t remember any of it.   I think that was my first time in a cage, but it went good for me.  That guy was pretty tough.

JT:  Talk about the guys you train with.

I’ve been fortunate.  Now I train at Millennia [MMA].  John still manages me.  I’ve got “Concrete” Chad Davis.  He took me under his wing and put me through the ringer.  I’ve got Ryan Munday, he wrestles.  Then I’ve got Romie [Arum], Betiss [Mansouri], Will [Sriyapai], Reggie Orr.  All those guys help me out a lot.  I still train once in awhile over a Pinnacle.  Those guys helped me out a lot to get me a good solid base, and they still support me and they’re still solid friends of mine.  It’s all about team.  I know it’s an individual sport, but man, without a team, you’re crap.

JT:  Neil Cooke (also a Pinnacle MMA fighter) recently said the same thing.  Even though you’re the one guy that steps into the cage and performs, it’s all about the support network you have around you to get to that point.

DC:   That’s exactly it.  I’ve had so many people help me out, that, if someone didn’t show up, I [had] a big hole in my game.  Because if you’re not getting pushed by your teammates, then you’re gonna lose.  You can’t do this sport on your own.  Some of the guys that are training, they don’t get nothing out of it sometimes.  They just work their ass off every day, for you.  And then you’re the one getting all the money and the glory.  I feel kinda bad for them in that way, but it’s a special breed of person.

JT:  You spoke about it a bit just now, but how would you describe your approach or your philosophy behind your training?

DC:   A lot of people say I abuse my body and overtrain.  I think, just annihilate yourself in the gym, and it comes back to you when you fight.  Because a lot of times, when you’re fighting, you can’t think.  It just comes out of reaction. And if you just murder yourself in the gym, I think it benefits a lot.

I’m a big fan of wrestling.  I never wrestled in high school, but I’m a big fan of Dan Gable, and all those guys just murder themselves in the gym, and they become Olympic champions.  That’s my philosophy.  Not everyone agrees with me.  I don’t think it’s necessarily the right way or wrong way.  It’s just kinda . . . that’s how I train.  But I still think there’s more levels I gotta reach.

JT:  What’s the toughest part for you?  Is it the training?  The mental?

DC:   The hardest fight is all the time away from my family.  I got two kids and an old lady.  I wake up in the morning, I train, I got to work fulltime, I come home, and I train.  So my day starts about six and its ends around eleven o’clock at night.  Sometimes, when I’m leaving, my kids cry because they want to hang out.  And I’m just hoping that it picks up to where I don’t have to work and I can just fight full-time.  But that’s probably the hardest part, being away from all them.  It kinda sucks.

JT:  Tell us about your family life.

DC:   I have an 18-month old and a two and a half-month old.  Both boys.  I can’t handle having no girls. My old lady has five sisters or something like that.  It’s insane!  But my old lady is so supportive, I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.  She’s real responsible, loyal, and good-looking.  Maybe I’ll have three or four more [kids].  I’m pretty good at it, so I might as well stick with it.

JT:  When did you first watching MMA, as a fan?

DC:   Didn’t watch it very much.  I remember the first UFC happened.  I didn’t see it.  One of my stepdad’s friends brought over a tape and I saw 30 seconds of some guy getting elbowed in the head.  I went “oh my gosh, are you kidding me?”  I was young.  Then I just put it to the back burner, never saw fighting again.  I met Dave, still didn’t watch fighting.  Started training jiu-jitsu, still didn’t watch fighting much until about six months before I started fighting.

JT:  So you’ve only been watching it on TV for about two years or so.

DC:   Yeah.  Like when you start talking about the old shows, there’s people that I don’t really know.  Everyone’s bringing people’s names up and I had no idea who they were.  Now I gotta pay close attention because I might be fighting some people some day.

JT:  Let’s switch gears here and talk about your artwork.

DC:   I do plan on covering myself.  No more on the face, because it really hurts the kind of job you can have.  Almost all my work is Celtic and Viking work.  The one on my eyebrows: “Valhalla Bound.”  Valhalla is this belief where the Vikings, when they would die in battle, they would go to Odin’s Valhalla.  And there’s a symbol on each side – one stands for life, one stands for death.

A good friend of mine, Jeremy Huckabee, died in a car accident, and that was his saying.  And I have it tattooed on my face.  A good friend of mine, Mark, had it tattooed on the back of his head, and Jeremy’s wife has it tattooed on the back of her arms.  I think I got it a week after he died.

I got “Hooligan” tattooed across my throat.  Before I had my kid, I was kinda a knucklehead.  Everything else is pretty much all Celtic and Viking. I’m not a big fan of tribal style.  But I wanted to get something meaningful.  Like the big one on my chest is a Thor’s hammer.  And the ones on my shoulders is for Odin the Viking God.  I have Vikings on my arm and Viking boats and stuff.

Tattoos don’t make you tough.  Sure, there’s a lot of guys covered in tattoos who’ll stab you, but tattoos don’t make you tough like people think.  I don’t have tattoos because I want people to think I’m tough.  And most people who are covered in tattoos don’t know how to fight.  They get tattoos because they don’t want to get in fights, and sometimes it intimidates people away.  But if you watch the heavily-tattooed people specifically, most of the time, they’re the ones getting their ass beat.  

JT:  I’m always curious to hear from fighters why they got into the sport.  Do you ever look back and contemplate how far you’ve come and what drove you to fighting?

DC:   When I was a kid, I was always going to punk rock shows, and I really thought I was tough.  But really, I was just big, fat, and dumb.  I had no idea.  And maybe being dumb helped me think I would be tougher, but ever since I really started training, I haven’t been in a street fight.  Which has been about four years.  I haven’t thrown fists with anybody on the street for that long.  And now I never go out anyhow.  Because every drunk guy wants to fight the guy with tattoos.  And I’m not that small of a guy, so everybody wants to fight me.  So I don’t really go out much for that.

But I do look back and I say “man, I’m lucky I never really got hurt too bad.”  Because I did not know how to fight.  And I still have a long way to go now, but back then, I REALLY didn’t know how to fight.  I look back and say “wow, I was an idiot.  I got lucky.  Thank God I never came across anybody who knew what the hell they were doing. ”

JT:  What would you say is your best and worst memory of your career so far?

DC:   The first fight is the most emotional fight ever.  Luckily, I won.  I had people coming up to me, taking my picture, and shaking my hand for the next hour.  That was insane.  I’m so happy I never have to do my first fight again, because I was so nervous.  I just wanted to get it over with.  There was just so much emotion in that.

My worst one was when I fought the guy from Holland [Noufel Amellouk] from last December.  He punched the hell out of me.  Busted my nose in the first round, and I got gassed.  And that is the worst feeling in the world, to get gassed.  I think it had something to do with all the blood going down my throat [after the nose was broken].  We went all the way to a decision, and I ended up winning, but that was one of my tougher fights.

JT:  What’s your downtime like?

DC:   There’s not much of it. I work six days a week.  We (the family) just hang out; take the kids to the park.  My oldest one is walking and somewhat talking.  He’s happy as long as he’s outside and someone’s playing with him.  We’re trying to buy a house, so a lot of times, we’re shopping for a house.  Once in awhile, I go out and see my buddy’s band, Brassic, play.  But really, I have a good time just hanging out with the family.  I don’t need to go to the bars.  I don’t drink.

JT:  Did you never drink, or did you give it up for family or fighting?

DC:   I drank a lot when I was a kid, up until I turned 21.  And since I’ve been training a lot, I’ve had a lot of good influences.  John [Munoz] said “hey man, there’s no point in doing that.”  He was kinda a big role model for me, and John still gives me a lot of good advice.  I look up to him and this old man Jeff, and my buddy Matt.  They gave me a lot of good advice.

Now, I probably drink once a year. I’m getting older now.  I’ve never done a drug in my entire life, and I’ve never been arrested, contrary to what everybody thinks.  I know I look like a convict-tweeker-dopehead, but I’ve never done any of them.

JT:  How do you deal with that dichotomy?  With all the tattoos, you throw a certain image that everyone stereotypes when they see you walking down the street.  But you’ve got this otherwise clean family life. You’ve [gotten tattoos] voluntarily, so did you just accept that this is the price you’ve paid for it?  Or is there anything more to it?

DC:   Well, the cops love me.  Man, they’ll pull me over.  Luckily, it hasn’t happened with my family in the car, because that’s real embarrassing.  Once, they pulled me over and had me half-naked, taking pictures of all my tattoos.

And I know a lot of people decide “man, this guy looks just like some prison white supremacy prick.”  I know some people think that and I’m like “whoa, that’s not how it is. I just have a bunch of tattoos.”  I’ve got a Mexican manager; I’ve got an Afghan trainer.  I just ended up being covered with tattoos.  And once people get to meet me, they’re like “oh, shit, this guys pretty funny.  Not just funny-looking, he’s actually funny.”

That’s why a lot of people support me.  People are really nice to me, but I do get the “man, this guy looks like a dickhead.  He thinks he’s a badass.”  No, I don’t think I’m badass.  There’s a lot of people out there I know who would kick my ass, but I’m working on getting better [laughs].

JT:  Tell us about your sponsors.  Who are they and why should the fans know them?

DC:  I just picked up by Toe-To-Toe clothing.  My good friend Jeremy from Focus Victory hooked me up.  Jeremy’s been with me since my very first fight.  Focus Victory has helped me out with tournaments and everything.  309 helps me out.  Shameless Ink out of Riverside – they help me out a lot.  C&D Pumping, JTS Insurance.  There’s so many; Nutrishop Norco, Sub Q tattoo, my family, everyone at Pinnacle Jiu-Jitsu –  Matt Curl, Jeff Stiller, Ken Knapp, Ryan Mundy, Chad Davis, John Munoz, and the Millennia Fight Team.

I also want to thank San Manuel for letting me fight, because they almost cancelled my fight last time.  They got me confused with Melvin Costa. [Editor’s Note:  At a King of the Cage event on October, 7th, 2007, at Soboba Casino, Dave Cryer lost to Roch Worthy.  After the match, fans that were mistakenly identified as Dave Cryer’s fans racially harassed Worthy as he walked backstage.  They were later identified as fans of Melvin Costa, who was scheduled immediately after the Cryer-Worthy fight.] When I went to San Manuel, I explained the situation [that Dave’s ringside seat fans got in a bar fight the night before and missed the event altogether].  She said “well, if any of your fans say anything racial, we’re gonna pull the fight.”  I said “yeah, that’s not a problem.”

But I understand where they’re coming from, because you don’t want a bunch of fights [in the crowd].  Then nobody’s gonna show back up.  You don’t want a rough crowd.  The sport’s evolved for that too much anyway.  At least they weren’t there to see me get knocked out [laughs].

JT:  What are your long-term goals, with fighting or without fighting?

DC:  I think I’ve got about 10 to 12 years left.  I love fighting.  As much as I can.  I’ve got a good manager, a good team.  John takes care of me.  If I’m ever doing something wrong, he’ll let me know.  Same with my team.  If I start getting 35 and I’m getting my ass kicked all the time, they’re going to let me know “this is a good time to retire.”

My main dream is that I’d love to fight in a King of the Cage event in Japan.  I wish someday King of the Cage would go to Japan, and I’d love to fight over there.  The Japanese are the greatest fans.  They love martial arts, and I think they’d get a kick out of me.

Terry’s helped me out.  He’s been loyal to me and I’m not going anywhere.  King of the Cage is my home.

Dave Cryer steps in the cage against Lucas Taber at King of the Cage: Immortal, on February 26th, at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highlands, CA.

Verbal Sparring: “Rhino” Mike Bourke (King of the Cage)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , on December 10, 2008 by jaytan716

The Super Heavyweight MMA neighborhood is not a big one, as any resident of that community will attest.  Subsequently, it should come as no surprise for fighters above 265+ to might meet each other in the cage more than once.  So when the first meeting between Mike “Rhino” Bourke and Chance “King of the Streets” Williams ended in no-contest controversy, after Bourke was unable to continue due to strikes in the back of the head, setting a rematch was inevitable.

This will be Bourke’s fourth rematch (and Williams’ second) in his career.  In this interview, we discussed the factors involved, such as the age and experience difference, as well as how last-minute opponent changes affects the heavyweight weight class differently than other weight classes.  Bourke also reflects on his memories of the very first King of the Cage, and how things have changed for the better, and for the worse, since then.

JT:  If you can, give me a little background on you and how you got involved with martial arts.

MB:  Well, it’s gotta be about 10 years ago now.  I was working out at the gym and I met a guy who was taking judo classes with Ted Mollenkramer.  He said “you want to come try this?”  I said “sure, I wrestled for two years in high school.  It sounds like fun.”  So I went down there and the instructor, Ted Mollenkramer was only like 190 pounds.  I was, at the time, 250, 260, and he choked the crap outta me. I was like “what’s going on, this isn’t supposed to happen.”  Because I was pretty much manhandling him, but I just couldn’t stop the submissions because I didn’t know what I was doing.   I got really interested in learning.

Probably my first five or six years of my career, I was only training one day a week.  Ted Mollenkramer was using the high school in Long Beach and they only let him use it on Wednesday nights.  Even to the point of when I went to PRIDE in Japan, I was only training on Wednesday night.

Now I’m training four or five days a week with Mollenkramer, since he has his own gym.  I also train with John Munoz at Pinnacle Jiu-Jitsu in Norco.

JT:  What was your football career like?

MB:  I’ve played football for about 16 years, from Junior All-American, all the way through high school, college, and the semi-pro now.  I almost made it to the Big Show.  When the Arena League first came out, I got offered to play in that.  But it wasn’t enough money when they first started.  I went to a Rams & Raiders scout camps as a longsnapper.

JT:  You were on the very first King of the Cage.  What are your thoughts on how the company’s changed throughout the years?

MB:  They started out at Soboba [Casino].  I remember the first show was an indoor show, actually.  It was before they put slot machines in one of the casino areas.  It was pretty small.  Then they moved it to the outdoor event.  The shows really grew out there.  It went from probably 1,000 people to 5,000 or 6,000 people in a couple of years.  They put on a good show.

JT:  Where the indoor shows a lot more roughneck than the outdoor ones?

MB:  No, I think the outdoor shows made it a bit rougher.  Because it sat a lot more people, so you got a much bigger crowd.  A lot of different people from a lot of different areas come in.  I think at the smaller shows, they couldn’t let as many people in.

The crowds get into it pretty good.  It’s unfortunate that you see a lot of really good technical fights where you see a couple of good grapplers going at it for the distance, or a couple of good stand-up guys going for the distance, and sometimes the crowd expects a street fight.  They don’t really understand that there’s a lot of technique and skills involved.  Sometimes they’re booing and roaring “this is boring” or “that’s B.S.”  Even when a fighter gets hurt, they boo.  And it’s really uncool, because they don’t understand the whole sport.  You just can’t drag somebody off the street and say “hey, go ahead and fight,” because it’s just not how it is.

JT:  Sometimes, in the heat of the moment, and they want their entertainment.  Did you see a big change in the fans between the beginning shows and the shows that are going on now?

MB:  I think since the sports been televised now and it’s blowing up so big in the last couple of years, there’s a lot more people that have come to really understand the sport.  They are learning the rules and they are learning what high caliber athletes most of these fighters are.  Of course, you’re always going to get your thugs in there that are just there to see blood, drink beer, and watch people fight, but I guess that can happen at any type of fighting event.  But the sport has evolved.  It’s blowing up, all over TV, and PPV.  And it’s good for everybody, especially the athletes that are fighting these days.

JT:  Your upcoming bout with Chance Williams is a rematch from a no-contest result back in May.  Tell us about the first match.

MB:  I was supposed to fight Brian Sesma, and 10 days before the fight, something came up with Brian, and he couldn’t take the fight.  So I had actually lost a lot of weight to fight Brian, because I wanted it to be a fair fight.  Because I knew he was around 240-250, and I got myself down to 256 pounds. That’s what I weighed in at the fight.  So now I lose all this weight and I get down to 256, and all of a sudden I’m fighting a guy that’s 330 pounds.  So it kinda backfired on me.

JT:  There’s a big difference between fighting Brian Sesma and Chance Williams.

MB:  Oh definitely.  If me and Brian would have fought, there would have been only a 15 pound weight difference.  There was about 80 pounds when I fought Chance.

Well, we came out and shook hands.  I think I threw a left jab first, and then a right hand that connected with him pretty solid.  I don’t think he wanted to stand up with me.  He kinda came in and grabbed me.  So we tied up and went to the ground.

Now I was trying to sit up so I could get up.  And he elbowed me in the back of the head as I was getting up and then threw a couple of punches.  I got a little dizzy, a little lightheaded.  You get hit in the back of the head, it kinda rings your bell.

JT:  Do you think that was his way out, or was it errant shots?

MB:  I don’t think he did it on purpose, but I couldn’t really tell ya.  But being a professional fighter, you gotta know that you can’t hit somebody in the back of the head.  If you’re on top, there’s no reason you can’t bring your punches in from the side.  I’m not gonna say “he used a cheap shot” and this and that.   He apologized afterwards and I said “it happens, you know.  Whatever.”  But in a sanctioned fight, you play by the rules or just don’t play.

JT:  Obviously, you’re approaching this fight differently, since you know you’re fighting Chance.

MB:  I gained some weight.  I’ve been drinking a lot of protein drinks and eating good.  I’m not going to come in 285 or 290, but I’m going to come in around 275.

JT:  What’s your normal walkaround weight?

MB:  Between 265 to 280 pounds, depending on what holiday it is [laughs].  I can lose 10-15 pounds in a day.  If I just didn’t eat, or cut back on the water and trained hard.  It’s amazing how quick I could lose weight.  Or I could gain 4-5 pounds if I just eat like a pig.

JT:  I see that you’ve had your fair share of rematches, such as with Steve Treadmill and Eric Klepper.  As a fighter, do you think about stuff like that as you go into a rematch?

MB:  I’ve actually had three different rematches.  The first match was with Treadwell, and he knocked me out at the first King of the Cage.  I trained real hard for that and I was upset.  So I begged Terry for a rematch, and at King of the Cage III, I beat the crap out of [Treadwell].

The Klepper fight – I think it was in an eight-man heavyweight tournament, and beat the crap out of him then.  And he wanted the rematch.  I had already proved myself.  Ted Williams over at the Gladiator Challenge said “hey, he’s training with me now.  Will you give him a rematch?”  I said “yeah, if he wants one.”  I’m fair, I think everybody deserves a second chance.  Sometimes you feel in your heart that you’re a better fighter, or if you’re not as good, you can perform a little bit better.  So I gave him a rematch and beat him again.

And then with Roger Godinez, that was a rematch too.  The first time we fought was a draw, and I won a decision the second time we fought.  That guy was really heavy too.  He was probably close to 400 pounds.

JT:  And you pushed him to a decision?  Poor guy.

MB:  Back then, King of the Cage matches were only two rounds.  I think it stayed on the feet most of the time.  Staying on the feet is a lot less work than being on the ground.  I think it’s a lot less tiring than grappling.

JT:  Well, you’re doing pretty good with the rematches.

MB:  Yeah, I’m hoping for a good day.  It’s funny, because I think Chance is in his early 20’s, and the way he carries himself – his attitude, his persona, the way he carries himself – he just reminds me of myself when I was at his age.

JT:  How so?

I think he’s a little cocky.  I think he’s a little arrogant. I think he thinks he’s unstoppable.  He’s only lost one or two fights, but he hasn’t fought a whole lot of good guys, either.  I don’t think I’ve fought guys that are a whole lot bigger than him, but I know I’ve fought guys that are a lot tougher.

JT:  What are your thoughts now, reflecting back to how you were at that age?

MB:  I might have been cocky, and maybe a little arrogant, but I wasn’t in the sport at 23.  I was playing football or something like that.  That’s more of a team sport.  Sure, you’re part of a fight team, but when you’re in the cage, it’s one-on-one.  And I think regardless of whether you win or lose, or how you carry yourself, you still need to be respectful to your opponent.

Even people out in the crowd; it takes a lot of balls to get in that cage.  They have no idea what the feelings and the nerves are like.  To me, I don’t care if you’re the worst fighter in the world.  If you can get in that cage and they lock that door behind you, you gotta fight in front of a few thousand people.  Even if you lose, you’re the man.  Get in there and give it a whirl, tough guy.  That’s what I like telling people.  You’re thinking it’s that easy, alright, go for it.

JT:  Tell us a little bit about your approach to training.  Obviously you’ve been able to up your game a lot, in terms of being able to work out four or five times a week.

MB:  Yeah, I’ve got some really good training partners.  I’ve got some bigger guys now.  I’m training with Neil Cooke.  He’s one of the up and coming King of the Cage heavyweights.  He’s undefeated, and I think he’s going to be the next big dog in the heavyweight division.  There’s a few other big guys here in Norco at Pinnacle Jiu-Jitsu.  They give me a helluva workout.

I’m putting a lot of time and effort into this, and I’m looking to perform well.  He can take a good punch, but I figure if I hit him 50 or 60 times in the face, they’re gonna stop the fight.  I’m gonna turn his face into hamburger.

JT:  What’s the toughest part of fighting?

MB:  It doesn’t mentally affect me to get in the cage and fight anymore.  The hardest part is training four to five days a week and then getting up and going to work.  At my age, it’s tough.  I go to work all day, and then go train for a couple of hours, then come home and try to spend time with my kids and my wife.  And I’m just sitting on the couch like a potato because it hurts to move.

I’m getting my son into the sport a little bit.  He’s starting to train here and there.  He comes with me to class once in awhile.

JT:  How old is he?

MB:  He’s seventeen.  He’s a big boy.  He’s about 6 foot, 225 pounds.

JT:  He’s gonna be a training partner for you!

MB:  Yeah, but he doesn’t have his man-strength yet.  I can still have my way with him.

JT:  As a fan of MMA, who would you say are your favorite fighters?

MB:  I like Jon Fitch.  I think he’s a great fighter.  When PRIDE was around, I loved watching Igor Volvchanchyn fight.  I’d say my other two favorite fighters are Quinton [Jackson] and Wanderlei [Silva].  I’m friend with Quinton, back from when he was fighting King of the Cage fights.

JT:  What’s the best and worst memory of your MMA career?

MB:  The best memory was when I stopped [John] Matua. I was pretty excited about it back then.  Just because he was so big, and he didn’t want to continue the fight.  And I smacked him around pretty good.

JT:  The worst memory?

MB:  This is something that’s haunted me.  I think I’ve been knocked out twice.  Once was in that [King of the Cage] “Wet and Wild” show, and I fought in the rain against Shungo Oyama.  I was all over him, kicking his ass.  And I slipped the same time I got punched.   I wasn’t unconscious, I was getting up, but they stopped the fight and said he knocked me out.  I didn’t even go face-first.  I just hit a knee and came back up.  And the guy that he came over from Japan with was the referee.  And then he went on to PRIDE after that.  He knocked out Mike Bourke, he got to go on and fight in PRIDE a few times and get his ass handed to him.

That was a real disappointing fight for me, because it was a fight or two after I’d fought in PRIDE, and I really wanted to get back over to Japan.  So I figured if PRIDE had sent him over here to fight, if I could beat him, I could get back over there.  When all that happened in the ring, I just figured “enh.”  That was real disappointing for me.

JT:  What’s your downtime like?  What do you like to do when you want to stop thinking about fighting?

MB:  Me and the family, we got to the river a lot in the summertime.  We got a boat, we got a place in Parker.  In the wintertime, we go riding.  We got quads.

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

MB:  I’ve had some pretty good sponsors.  I’ve got Altman Insurance Agency in Norco, and Shane Lewis Clothing Company, and Platinum Audio in Corona.  But for this fight, I haven’t been doing anything but training.

JT:  When you look back in retrospect, what strikes you about your career up to this point?

MB:  I’ve never been in this sport to hurt anybody.  I’ve never fought anybody that I didn’t like, I’ve never hated anybody.  I’ve always just gone out there and tried to do the best that I could.  Whether I’ve trained or didn’t train properly.  It’s just like “well, alright, let’s do it.”  I’ve never had time to, like these guys that can train fulltime and they train 6-8 hours a day and they do cardio all day and they work out then they go train in the evenings.  I’ve never had that opportunity.  I’ve got kids, and a wife, and a family.  I just do the best I can do.  I think, this fight right here, I’ve put more effort into it.  I’m training 4-5 days a week, I’m training on my days off, I’m hitting the gym as much as I can.  I think it’s going to be a good day for me.

Mike “Rhino” Bourke will be challenging Chance “King of the Streets” Williams for the King of the Cage Super Heavyweight championship on December 11th at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in San Bernadino, CA.