Archive for tapout

STORMY WEATHER AHEAD: THE HURRICANE RETURNS TO STRIKEFORCE

Posted in Features, Legends MMA, Strikeforce with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 15, 2010 by jaytan716

Conor "The Hurricane" Heun vs. KJ Noons will open "Strikeforce: Live" this Wednesday, June 16th, at Nokia Theater in Los Angeles,

After a year’s layoff, Legends MMA / 10th Planet’s Conor “The Hurricane” Heun returns to Strikeforce action this Wednesday, June 16th, as part of “Strikeforce: Live.” Moreover, the former Division III wrestler-turned-10th-Planet-brown-belt comes in for no tune-up match, as he faces his highest-profile and possibly most dangerous opponent to date, KJ Noons.

Tickets are available at the Legends MMA / BeSpun front desk.

“KJ is a very talented fighter. Very strong, very dangerous. I’m sure it’s going to be a hell of a fight. Definitely not taking it lightly,” said Heun.

As was previously reported, Heun was scheduled to fight RJ Clifford on this same event. Noons, a former EliteXC lightweight champion, was preparing to fight Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett , in a rematch of their January 2007 bout. That first bout ended when Bennett KO’ed Noons midway through the first round.

However, when Bennett was forced to pull out of his June 16th date, Heun was reassigned to Noons. This new pairing raises the bar for Heun, as Noons comes with bigger credentials and, with victory, more potential reward.

“When I got that fight, I told them I needed to think about it. I hung up the phone and cried for five minutes. Then I called them back and said ‘fuck yeah, put me on that card’,” he recalled.

This match represents not just a professional, but also a personal climax to Heun’s past 12 months. Following his show-stealing three-round war with Jorge Gurgel at the second Strikeforce Challengers show, Heun was forced to undergo ACL replacement surgery, which found him inactive and frustrated for months. Faced with a growing pile of bills, his main gym in transition to its new location, and several important personal relationships strained, storm clouds were brewing for the Hurricane.

“I was in a dark place, sitting on my couch. . . Peaks and valleys. That was my valley, now I’m ready to hit my peak on Wednesday,” said Heun.

A victory over Noons could quickly reestablish Heun as a quick-rising star in the Strikeforce ranks. Prior to his Gurgel battle, Heun was 3-0 since 2007, with two wins in EliteXC, where many expected him to fast-track to a title shot. Unfortunately for Heun, EliteXC went under in 2008.

Ironically enough, their lightweight champion at the time was none other than KJ Noons.

“Opportunity knocks, you gotta answer the door. We’re never given anything that we can’t handle, and it’s my time.”

Tickets are now on sale at the Legends / BeSpun front desk:  $40, $65, and $100.

Conor Heun is sponsored by TapouT, Full Tilt Poker, Five Star Fight Gear, X-Pole, Fight Defense Mouthguards, One 11 Ink, Revive Energy Mints, SFGoldman.com, JoeRogan.net, Melee Fight Gear, HPE, Inc., and On The Mat.

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Jouban wins debut, Bollinger blemishes Couture’s amateur graduation in controversy

Posted in Legends MMA, Live Event Reports, Tuff-N-Uff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 7, 2010 by jaytan716

By Jay Tan

Ryan Couture and Sean Bollinger fought to an inconclusive draw at the March 26th Tuff-N-Uff amateur MMA event in Las Vegas.

The friendly rivalry between Legends MMA and Xtreme Couture, best illustrated with the historic three-fight saga between Chris Brady and Jimmy Jones, wrote another chapter last weekend, as Sean Bollinger and Ryan Couture battled to a razor-thin draw, capping off a Tuff-N-Uff event which saw six members of the combined 10th Planet / Legends MMA gym face difficult but important moral victories.

The match, a title bout for the Tuff-N-Uff 155 lb. championship, was a back-and-forth battle of wits between two celebrated ground technicians, one of whom had quickly become an affable fan favorite, and the other an underestimated but dangerous dark horse.  Fans were calling it one of the most exciting matches in Tuff-N-Uff history, although several were up in arms that a title match would be allowed to end in a draw.

For Bollinger, the victory was, if nothing else, a moral one, as he said “this fight really showed me my heart.  It proved something to myself: nine minutes of straight war.  And I didn’t quit. . . It didn’t surprise me, but it showed me something.  We both took a beating.  I just need to see that in myself, to pursue this MMA career.”

Moreover, there was much debate over whether the match should continue into the third round,  as Bollinger trapped Couture in a triangle choke and by all accounts (including Couture’s), put the second generation star to sleep moments before or right at the bell.

Teammate Tommy Gavin noted “I think Bollinger clearly won the first two rounds.  He actually put the kid to sleep, so I think he won the fight. “

In a Las Vegas Sun article that ran the next morning, Couture told writer Hepi Mita that that he was put out, saying “He did have me asleep as the bell rang. . . It’s not every day you get to pass out and then still fight another round.”

Not to be outdone, Legends MMA / 10th Planet mainstay Alan “The Jedi Knight” Jouban finally made his MMA debut, winning with a highlight reel-caliber 14-second TKO over Dustin Chevalier (Striking Unlimited).  With an 8-0 record in amateur Muay Thai, Jouban’s MMA cherrybreaker came after a series of injury mishaps.  Ironically enough, Jouban was a last-minute replacement for Eddie Jackson, who himself withdrew from the event due to injury.

“I felt like I was more hungry for that fight than I was for almost anything in my life.  It was almost two years of being sidelined, watching my peers grow and get better in this sport, and me not getting to do it.  And once I kept building momentum, I get hurt again. . . Now that I think I’ve got that first hurdle out of the way . . . that’s my biggest goal right now – to stay hungry, to keep building a career,” explained Jouban.

“Alan was, what can you say?  He went out there and took the guy out quick.  He did exactly what he wanted to do and looked like an animal with his twelve-pack, the whole time,” said teammate and pro fighter Garren Smith.

155 lbs. – Tommy Gavin vs. Jon Gorton (Team Quest)

Tommy Gavin vs. Joe GortonGavin scored two trademark takedowns in round one, and Gorton worked for submissions from the bottom each time. The second takedown was a guillotine choke, which, while tight, offered little threat to the Upstate New York wrestler.  With credit to teammate Eddie Jackson’s pre-fight head-shaving tradition, Gavin had little problem popping his head out, working for a D’arce choke to the round’s end.  Round two saw Gavin and Gorton repeat the takedown / guillotine sequence from before.  Gorton got a takedown of his own, and although Gavin worked for the armbar from bottom, Gordon was able to pass guard to full mount, throwing lefts and rights until the referee ended the match at 0:42 of the second round.  Gordon was awarded the TKO victory.

Never one to get hung up on the past, Gavin saw a silver lining in the match itself, noting “one positive thing is I’m definitely getting better on my feet.  I believe I was winning the stand-up in the fight, and my coaches told me to keep it standing, but I kind of went back to the wrestler instinct.”

Teammate Jouban added “Tommy let his hands go.  He might have discovered something, that he’s got power in his hands.

170 lbs. – Takashi Munoz vs. Warren Roberds (Wand Fight Team)

Takashi Munoz vs. Warren RobardsThis match was three rounds of Roberds keeping the pressure on Munoz with jabs and wild overhand rights.  Fists flew right from the bell, as Roberds charged and cornered Munoz, who got caught up in the ropes.  Munoz was able to retard Roberds’ pace with over/underhooks and Muay Thai knees, but Roberds broke free with lefts and overhands rights, scoring a knockdown that threw Munoz under the bottom rope just as the bell rang.  Roberds again bullied Munoz into the corner in round two, but Munoz was able to slip in some knees from a Thai clinch, as well as mounting an offense of his own with kicks.

Munoz opened up round three with a perfectly-timed head kick that could have possibly knocked Roberds out, had he not gone with the momentum, but Roberds was able to clinch up and catch his bearings.  Up against the corner, Munoz threw a controversial leg strike which the referee ruled as an illegal knee to the head, penalizing Munoz with a one-point deduction.    Munoz threw more kicks and knees in this round than previous bouts, but that wasn’t enough to stop Roberds, who looked for the trip takedown and knees.  Munoz fired another head kick, but tripped to the floor as the final bell sounded.

In a very close differential, Warren Roberds takes the match with a majority (split) decision.

Like with his teammate, Munoz indicated that despite not getting the victory, the match added another block to his mental arsenal: “I found out a lot of things about myself in this fight. I realized I’m way tougher than I thought I would be . . . You know how there’s a saying – ‘how can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?’  In this fight, I now know that I’m ready to get hit, and I’m still going to come back at you.”

Discussing the point deduction, Munoz explained “[the referee] said something like ‘I told you there’s no knees to the head.’ And in my case, I was looking at him like ‘that was no knee.  That was the middle to the top of the shin.’  If he looks carefully, it didn’t even look like I was throwing a knee.  It was a kick.  A complete kick.”

185 lbs. – Rick Borden (10th Planet Riverside) vs. Zach Conley (Xtreme Couture)

Rick Bordon vs. Zach ConleyDespite this being Borden’s Tuff-N-Uff debut, the 10th Planet Riverside rookie is no stranger to the lights and big stage.  Borden went into the event 2-0 in amateur MMA, and previously played football at Eastern Oregon University.

After the first flurry of strikes and a takedown attempt by Borden, he and Conley circled and felt each other out.  Borden pushed Conley into the corner with a punch combination, throwing left body shots as Conley tried to mar the action with over/underhooks. During the scuffle, the corner pad came loose, which led to a brief stop in the action.  Upon the restart, the two traded combinations and vied for takedowns that neither got.

Both men engaged much more gingerly in round two, only throwing single or two-strike combinations.  Conley had a chance to capitalize off a slip by Borden, but didn’t.  Borden tried for another takedown towards the end of the round, but Conley stuffed it and held him at bay, landing a big knee.  In round three, Conley opened up with a wild right, then attacked with single left hooks and low kicks.  Borden fired combos to the head.  Conley scored a trip takedown off a body lock, but was unable to get out of Borden’s half-guard.

Judges awarded the match to Zach Conley by unanimous decision.

“I wish I could have got a little more takedowns and worked my ground game, because that’s what I’ve been working on.  My jiu Jitsu game is probably my strong point. . . I knew he was gonna be a pretty well-rounded fighter.  I knew he had a lot of experience on me, which obviously showed at the end of the fight,” Borden said after the fight.

135 lbs. – Chris Brady vs. Casey Johnson (Team Driven)

Chris Brady vs. Casey Johnson

This match was destined to be a barn burner from the entrance music, as Brady walked out to “A Country Boy Can Survive,” with Johnson emerging to Justin Moore’s “I Could Kick Your Ass.”  Johnson, making his Tuff-N-Uff debut, is the 145 lb. champion in the MMA Explosion promotion, with a 7-1 MMA record and training out of Jens Pulver’s Team Driven in Idaho.

Round one was a kicking battle, as both men traded a series of low shots, one of which Johnson used to trip Brady to the ground.  Johnson chose to keep it standing, however, knocking Brady down again with straight-ahead punches.  Brady got revenge by knocking Johnson down with a high kick, but got tied up in top position and almost caught in an armbar before the round ended.  The pair traded heavy leather and furious kicks and knees in the second round.  Brady neutralized Johnson on the ground with rubber guard and mission control.  Round three saw Johnson catch another kick, pushing Brady to the ground and in the corner, but Brady escaped and engaged on the feet, brushing off a Superman punch from Johnson.  They traded combinations until Johnson got another trip.  Brady had him in an armbar in the waning seconds of the match.

Judges awarded the match to Johnson by unanimous decision, but this was one of the closest matches in recent Legends MMA memory.

For Johnson, the slugfest took its toll, commenting “I tell ya, halfway through the second, all into the third, my ears were ringing. . . Chris Brady is a tough, stacked kid. . . I appreciate him taking the fight.  It’s a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to fight him, to go three rounds with him.  Hat’s off to Chris and hat’s off to Tuff-N-Uff.”

170 lbs. – Alan Jouban vs. Dustin Chevalier (Striking Unlimited)

Alan Jouban vs. Dustin Chevalier

Jouban and Chevalier almost instantly started throwing flurries at each other.  Jouban connected with left high kick to the head, following up with a right hook that dropped Chevalier.  With Chevalier on his knees, Jouban fired off several more punches to the head before the referee jumped in.

Alan Jouban won by TKO, R1, 0:14.

Ever the perfectionist, Jouban was surprisingly disappointed in at least one aspect of his match: “I was really actually kind of jealous of [my teammates’] fights.  All of them did things that I wanted to do in my fight that I didn’t get to do.  A 14 second knockout’s great, but all-in-all, the amateur league is to get the ring experience, which I feel like I’m not getting when I was with that dude. . .  Takashi went three rounds, Brady went three rounds.”

155 lbs. Tuff-N-Uff Title Match – Ryan Couture (Xtreme Couture) vs. Sean Bollinger

Sean Bollinger vs. Ryan CoutureThis match, along with the two other title matches of the night, were three-minute rounds.  The story of the match was that Couture, a noted armbar specialist, was facing his toughest submission challenge in Bollinger, who was only the second black belt under Eddie Bravo’s 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu system.  This was also Bollinger’s second amateur MMA fight.

Bollinger set the first round off with kicks, including an unexpected headshot.  Couture got Bollinger to the ground after engaging with a combo, but opted to keep it standing, which would be the theme of the fight for Couture’s ground strategy.  Conversely, Bollinger would pull guard whenever possible, and did secure Couture in tight mission control at one point, but Couture eventually escaped.  Bollinger didn’t shy away from stand-up engagement, however, holding his own with headwork, left hooks, and overhand rights.  Couture missed several overhand rights, but did his fair share of damage with low kicks to Bollinger’s left leg.

Round two opened with a longer feeling out period, as the two traded measured combos for the first minute.  Bollinger got double overhooks and pulled Couture down, trapping him with mission control and a triangle. The controversy really kicked in with eight seconds left, as Couture, still trapped in the triangle, tried to escape by stepping over Bollinger’s head.  Sensing it, Bollinger hooked the leg and held on to the ring of the bell.  Referee Joe Sullivan, not in position to stop the action right at the bell, made contact with the fighters 1-2 seconds after the ring, by which point Couture’s arm was visibly limp.

According to commentator Ron Yacovetti, Sullivan’s hand gesture could have been interpreted as the round ending or the match ending.  After a brief celebration by the Legends / 10th Planet corner, Sullivan informed them that the match was not over.

Going into round three, both men engaged.  Couture caught a Bollinger kick and tripped him to the ground, then followed up with combos, stepping away from Bollinger’s sweep attempt.  Couture kept the pressure on Bollinger, stuffing a takedown attempt and landing rights to the body and head.  Bollinger did briefly get mission control on Couture on the ground again, but Couture peppered the body with punches and escaped.  The two traded selective shots in the last few seconds of the round.

Judges scored the entire bout evenly, ruling it a draw.  Couture won the first round by a split, with two judges scoring it 10-9 for Couture and one judge scoring it 10-9 for Bollinger.  Bollinger took the second round unanimously, 10-9 on two judges’ scorecards and 10-8 on the third scorecard.  Couture walked away with the 10-9 for the third round on all judges’ cards, ending the match with one judge scoring it 29-28 for Couture, one judge scoring it 29-28 for Bollinger, and one judge scoring it 28-28 as a draw.

Fans were visibly upset by the decision, with loud chants of both fighters’ names, as well as “one more round.”

Afterwards, Bollinger spoke about the match being an opportunity to show that he wasn’t simply a one-dimensional fighter, saying “I’m just happy that I could go all three rounds, and I can display other talents than just the grappling.  I guess people kinda know where my hands are at.”

As for thoughts on a rematch, Bollinger said “Ryan was saying he didn’t want to fight a rematch, unless we went pro.  He said he didn’t want to do that for free again, is the actual quote he said.  But I’m down for a rematch for sure.  I definitely want to fight a couple more amateur fights.  I love Tuff-N-Uff.  I love coming here and fighting at the Orleans. I’d love to see him in the future.  Maybe on a UFC undercard or something.”

In other Tuff-N-Uff action that night:

170 lbs. – Joey Angelo (TapouT) def. Jesse Bowler (Team Hollywood) via sub (triangle) R3, 1:27.

135 lbs. – Jerry Shapiro (Cobra Kai) def. Victor Henry (Strike Sub Club) via sub (rear naked choke) R2, 1:57.

155 lbs. Jimmy Spicuzza (Team Lethal) def. Oron Kahlon (freestyle) via TKO, R3, 0:21.

185 lbs. Tuff-N-Uff Title Fight – Edmond Xhelili (Warrior Training Center) def. Tim Bowman (Striking Unlimited) via unanimous decision.

145 lbs. Tuff-N-Uff Title Fight – Andrew Alirez (Top Notch MMA) def. Vince Norica (Suffer Fight Team) via sub (arm triangle), R1, 2:41.

Tuff-N-Uff returns to the Orleans Hotel & Casino on Friday, April 23rd.  Legends / 10th Planet expect to send fighters.  Check back here for details.

Legends MMA is sponsored by X-Pole, Melee Fight Gear, HPE, Inc., and Stripper 101.

Scottie “Einstein” Epstein to join Team Liddell on TUF 11

Posted in 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu, Breaking News, The Ultimate Fighter with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2010 by jaytan716

Scottie "Einstein" Epstein will be Chuck Liddell's assistant coach on the next season of "The Ultimate Fighter."

By Jay Tan

10th Planet instructor / brown belt Scottie “Einstein” Epstein will be Chuck Liddell’s assistant coach on the next season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which will debut on March 31st and run through June.

“This is a great opportunity. . . It makes 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu go to a whole other level of respect. It legitimizes it more and more,” said Epstein.

Season 11 of “TUF” begins shooting this month, and will feature 16 middleweight fighters competing for the traditional “Ultimate Fighter” three-year contract. This will be Liddell’s second tour of coaching duty, as it will be for his opponent, Tito Ortiz. Liddell coached the inaugural season of the show in 2006, against Randy Couture, while Ortiz coached season three, against Ken Shamrock.

“This show is a show that I watch. . . ‘Dexter’ and ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ are the only shows that I’ll watch every fuckin’ episode. So I get to be a part of that. So that’s exciting for me. What really will be exciting is, hopefully, guys that I’m teaching use the shit that I’m teaching. . . It excites me to corner, it excites me to fuckin’ get paid for it, and to get recognition for it.”

This won’t be Epstein’s first exposure on national cable TV, as he previously was featured on an episode of “TapouT” two years ago, in connection with his 2007 match against Sergio Quinones. This time, however, “Einstein” is all too happy to defer the limelight to Liddell and the 16 competitors, explaining “[with] the TapouT show, there was pressure on me. There’s no pressure on this. . . So this is a lot more fun for me, and I get to fuck around a lot more . . . live my life and not really worry.”

Although the announcement that Liddell and Ortiz would coach season 11 and subsequently face each other in a third match was met by many MMA fans with anti-climactic disappointment, Epstein is one of the vocal enthusiasts for the match, believing that this will be the opportunity for Liddell to reinvent himself as a ground specialist.

“I’m training him 3-4 days a week. He flies down to train with me. That makes me feel good about myself. That that guy trusts me that much. . . Which is why I want him to submit Tito immediately. I want Tito to be taking him down, he sprawls . . . smash, choke him the fuck out. That’ll be his first submission ever in his professional [fight career].”

This will be the second 10th Planet / Legends MMA member to coach on “The Ultimate Fighter,” as Chris Reilly served as striking coach for Team Rampage on season seven (Quinton Jackson vs. Forrest Griffin).

Best of luck to Einstein and Team Liddell.

Verbal Sparring: Mike “Joker” Guymon (King of the Cage)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , , , on November 24, 2008 by jaytan716

If you grew up in Southern California, you had the privilege of growing up in one of the three hotbeds of MMA (Brazil and Japan being the other two).  Such is the case with Mike “Joker” Guymon, whose life in MMA offered him the unique chance to watch and observe the sport from several different perspectives as it grew.  Of course, some may write him off as the proverbial “fifth Beatle” of the TapouT crew, but Joker’s involvement with MMA started long before that chapter of his life.  And in the subsequent pages, Joker has reinvented himself – as a fighter, a trainer, and as a businessman.

In this interview, Joker paints the picture of a self-aware man at peace with his choices and happier because of them.  He’s optimistic about his future, self-effacing about his fight career, and very comfortable about having control of his own life.

JT:  Where did you first see MMA?

MG:  I was born in Newport Beach and raised in Irvine, CA.  Went to school all through there.  Woodridge High School is where I graduated from. Then went to Orange Coast.

I saw my first UFC on a PPV when I was in high school, and it was something that struck my fancy.  I was this all-star athlete, supposed to go play baseball and make all my money there.  I was like “man, these are the baddest people on the planet.”  Seeing is believing for me.  I knew that even the guy who lost, just to have the guts and courage to step in front of all those people and do that. . . When it first started out, all the qualifications that they were listing off . . . Taekwondo, “this guy’s a third degree black belt.”  It brought my curiosity up, and I always was competitive.  I finally got enough nuts myself to go in there and train.

And I was a stand-up guy.  My friends brought me into a studio in Southern California.  They said “hey, you’re good on your feet, but let’s see you roll with one of these Jiu-Jitsu guys.”  And I rolled around with one and holy crap, I mean literally, a kid, fifteen, sixteen years old, just rolled me up into a pretzel.  And I was hooked.

JT:  Had you done martial arts previously?  You talked about having a really athletic upbringing.

MG:  I did Taekwondo, and dabbled in a bit of kickboxing.  I was alright.  I wasn’t the best in the world or anything.  You can be as good as you want in Taekwondo, but that’s like getting gold in the Special Olympics.  You’re still retarded.

JT:  Did you start out as a fighter and then get hooked up with TapouT, or what were the early days of your MMA career?

MG:  Shoot, I was just training, loved training, loved doing the Jiu-Jitsu, loved doing the striking and putting it together and trying to improve.  One day, I was over at some fights in Long Beach.  No gloves, no rules kind of fights – how it was when it first started out.  Thugs.  We were just out there street fighting, basically, in a cage with a referee.  One guy dropped out, and they were like “hey man, you’re freaking killing everybody in class. Why don’t you try it?”  I just had something to prove to myself so I went in there and did it.  And I did pretty well, so I stuck with it.

I always said every fight would be my last, and I still say that to this day.  I’m like “oh yeah, one more fight and I’m done.”  And it’s going like that for ten years.  I guess I’ve turned it into something.

JT:  Every time you try to get out, they pull you back in.

MG:  Exactly.  And I keep getting thrown back in the mix.  The money sucked in the early years.  The money’s still not great unless you’re in the top three of an organization.  But, for the guy coming up, it’s definitely going up.  My fight purses are going up, my sponsorship money is going up, so it’s like “how can I step away?  In another year, I’ll be getting paid this much.”  It’s not about the money, but it sure does help.

JT:  And that’s not a bad thing either.  If you can make your living off of it.

MG:  As long as you’re going out there and trying to compete and win, and put on a good show, I think it’s totally okay.  But the guys who go out there just to get a paycheck, and don’t give it their all . . . “Oh, I’m just gonna give up or give up my arm or a choke.”  I don’t accept that.

JT:  Are there a lot of guys out there that still do that?

MG:  There are some guys that I don’t think should be fighting.  I don’t think they’re giving 100% or training 100%.  They’re not giving the fans what they deserve.  I’m not saying all the fighters are like that.  There’s a handful.

I think all the fighters coming up right now are just hungry and want to get in that light and prove themselves.   And I hate those guys.  Those little young bastards – I cannot get them to stop.  I’m like the slow guy in there.  These guys are going 100 miles an hour.  With all reckless abandon.  I’m in there freaking out.

Age doesn’t play a factor there.  It’s just what they’re giving the fans.  It could be a young guy in there, but [if he’s] not giving it his all and just getting a paycheck.  Or just to say “hey, I’m a fighter.”  I don’t like that.

JT:  What do you see as the bigger differences in the MMA world, from when you were a young guy coming up to where it is now?  The good and the bad.

MG:  I think there’s a lot more good now than there is bad.  There’s always going to be good and bad in anything you do.  The good in the early years is the raw aspect of the sport.  I mean, it was limited rules, no gloves.  That was cool, but at the same time, all it attracted was the thuggish side of it, and we got labeled one way, and in not a good way.  That’s the bad part I saw.

Nowadays, I just think it’s really positive.  The rules have made it better for the fans.  It’s increased the level of competition and made it mainstream.  UFC had a huge role in bringing it mainstream.  Some of the bad is that you get a Kimbo Slice situation.  Some of the fighters just fight to say “hey, I fight, and I’m cool because I fight.”

But I absolutely love the sport.  I love the fans. I love fighters.  I love training.  I just hate fighting [laughs] . . . it’s not fighting as a whole, but me fighting?  I’m a pussy.  I hate it.

JT:  That speaks to a question that I normally ask later in the interview, but we’ll just cut to it now:  What’s the toughest part of fighting for you?  It sounds like it’s the part about stepping in the cage.

MG:  I’m scared of my own shadow.  I do not like fighting.  Even now, supposed to be training for so long.  I’m still scared to fight.   But I think it’s more the mental . . . the pressures, the psychological stuff, the anticipation, the training.  A lot of the fighters out there, we all pretty much know what’s out there, as far as the wrestling, the Jiu-Jitsu, the striking.  It’s just a matter of who’s gonna apply it.

Just to give you an example, today, I’m riding before I start my Jiu-Jitsu, strikes, and wrestling workout.  I did a 40-mile bike ride, which took just over two hours, and the whole time I’m riding, the only thing I could think of is the guy I’m about to fight, what’s on the line, what’s gonna happen.  I don’t think about any of the stop lights, the cars, how tired and miserable I am.  I’m just thinking about what’s gonna happen.

JT:  Well, you’d better be thinking about stop lights and cars, because thinking about the match too much when you’re biking could cause a problem for you!

MG:  I hit a bus full of nuns, almost.

JT:  You opened up Joker’s Wild about a year ago.

MG:  About two years ago, my business partner Andre Julian and I opened it up.  I’d been teaching for about three years prior.  I started out at a place called Cardiofit, and then I moved to a place called Bodies in Motion.  The whole time I’m teaching there, a buddy of mine, whom I’ve known since forever, he’s like “man, we gotta open up our own spot.  This is the time to do it.”  So I said “alright, let’s do it.”

He’s a very good businessman and training partner.  We just jumped in and did it.  And I absolutely love it.  I’ve got a great gym to come into.  We teach everything there.  It’s a total pleasure.  Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d own my own business and be this business guy on the other end of the stick, and here it is.

JT:  Who are your training partners?  Who should be we watching for in the future?

MG:  My training partners are Mark Munoz and Mitch Mellotti.  Those two are perfect for me.  Mitch is a 170-pound southpaw who can strike, can wrestle, got good Jiu-Jitsu.  Mark is a 205’er, who’s just got wrestling out of this world.  Those guys push me to my limits.

James Wilkes actually teaches at another gym, but he’s been fighting with us for awhile now.  He’s been doing well.  He just won the Gladiator Challenge belt.

I’ve got some very good fighters in there that come in and train hard.  I’ve got Babalu and Eric Apple to work with.  Babalu – I wouldn’t fight him with a machete and a flamethrower.

My under guys are like Raja Shippen, who’s one of the instructors there.  That kid, if he would listen a little bit, he’s going to turn heads.  He’s a freak.

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

MG:  Randy [Couture], I think, said something about how it’s him in the ring, but there’s this huge network and team behind him, and that’s what’s able to get me in that ring or cage.

My sponsors are Sprawl, Fairtex, Toyo Tires, Lexani RBP, Boneheads – it’s a restaurant out where I live in Southern California.  I have a new clothing company named Labeled Insane, so they’re going to be my main sponsor now.  Legacy Farms, Mike’s Tickets.

All these people have made it possible for me to get in there.  Some of them don’t even give me money.  Some of them, like Boneheads, just take care of my meals and get me ready for my fight.  And that means all the stuff in the world to me.  And when I’m not getting ready for a fight, they take care of my family and different things like that.  I could not do it without those people.

JT:  It seems like in MMA, with sponsors and the sport, a lot of these guys grew up knowing each other as friends and now everybody helps each other mutually as they can.  But yet it’s also grown into this larger industry where the deals are based on business relationships, as opposed to longtime friendships.

MG:  It’s hard to explain, but it’s just a big machine driving everything.  The organizations bring a lot of attention.  Look at how much exposure you get in the UFC.  The fighters, they have their little areas where they live, and people who want to see them do well.  My area, I’ve got all these people just trying to push and help me get my dream.  But at the same time, I’m trying to help them out, get them more marketing and exposure.  It’s just one symbiotic relationship, I guess is the best way I can put it.

I can’t believe I came up with that word.  Where the hell did that come from [laughs]?

JT:  Has maintaining relationships become more difficult, as the sport has grown?

MG:  Some aspects, yeah.  With the TapouT situation, anything that deals with them, I just steer clear of it.  I don’t like being around the guys.  My fighters, if they got sponsored by them, hey, just do it.  I want my fighters, my friends, to make money, take care of their bills, and succeed in life.  If they get sponsored by them, hey, great, man.  At least you made some money from them.

JT:  Was it bad from the get-go?  There must have been warning signs at some point that it wasn’t the right road for you.

MG:  No, I actually love and miss the guys in some respects.  When we were together and in a group, we owned rooms.  We were all good at our particular spot and aspect, and it was just fun.  When we were traveling on the road and talking about stuff and goofing around and all the different antics that would happen and situations that arose – I wouldn’t trade that in for the world, when I think about it.

But the business end of it, putting so much work into someone’s company and not getting anything in return just sucks.  It was right before the TV show was coming out, we were actually filming for it, and I just one day said “I’ve had enough of it. You guys can take this show and have fun with it. I’m going to go my merry little way.”  They’re all “you sure?  The contracts are on my desk.”  I said “I don’t care. I’m gonna go do my thing.”  And that was pretty much the end of it.

JT:  Have you had second thoughts on your decision?

MG:  I had every thought in my head.  I was scared, nervous.  I had anger.  I had all these different feelings in my head.  I’ve definitely come to grips with the whole thing, more so than ever of late.

It’s funny, Steve Moreno from Sprawl called me up out of the blue one day.  He said “I gotta ask you something – do you realize that you could be a millionaire right now?”  I said “Steve, I would be lying through my teeth if I said I couldn’t use that money, or that wouldn’t be the neatest thing in the world.  But I sleep great at night knowing that I did the right thing.  I don’t like being taken advantage of, or putting time into something and not getting rewarded for it.  There were also some other issues at the time in my life when I left.  I said “Steve, I did the right thing, and I sleep well at night knowing that.”

JT:  At that point, I’m sure you were going to have to go through a bit of reinvention.  What was that like?

MG:  Interesting.  I had my haircut before the TapouT thing, and I eventually started to scrap the haircut, because I didn’t want people associating me.  I still get it every now and then if I’m hanging out somewhere.  I’m just Joker, the fighter from Joker’s Wild.  I’m quite happy.  I’ve got the gym.  The clothing line – Labeled Insane – coming out.  I’ve got our fighters in training.

It’s been a cool trip, and I would do it all over exactly the same.  I would still do the TapouT thing; I would go through that crap again, because it’s all led me to where I am now.  And I’m happy at the end of the day.  I’ve got a great wife, I’ve got a good house, good cars, and most importantly, good friends.  And that’s what it all comes down to.

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

MG:  Watch TV; watch movies, music, and people-watch.  I’ll go to the beach, I’ll go to the mall, or I’ll sit on a bench at a restaurant there and watch people. I’m a quiet, have-fun, hang-loose kind of guy.  Even when I’m in at an event, if I’m on the radio station, I’m a pretty big yahoo, so I gotta balance it out.  I gotta hit that off-switch.

JT:  From a fan’s perspective, who are some of your favorite fighters?

MG:  Geez.  I have so many, but a big one for me are Jeremy Horn.  That guy’s my idol. You look at him and you wouldn’t think he’s anything special, but he can roll, he can strike – just a nice guy.  So many of my friends, they’re awesome to watch.  Randy Couture – I saw him last week before he fought, and when he lost to Brock, my heart broke.  He’s such a great guy.  And everybody else sees it too.

Everybody in this sport is somebody I look up to.  It could be the kid that’s just starting out, like he’s 0-0 or 0-1, or 1-3. . . I respect everybody and there’s always something fun to watch.  Like Urijah [Faber], his loss to Mike Brown – it was crazy.  After he loses, he was like “ho-hum, what can I do?  I’m just gonna be me.”  I love fighters like that.  Humble, respectful.

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

MG:  How about this answer:  TapouT and TapouT.  Like I said, when we were all together, it was so freaking fun.  It was a blast.  Part of the reason why I stuck around without getting paid a dime, literally, was that.  Just the camaraderie and how fun it was to go walking down the street as a group, or go into a room and go talk to a fighter and see Chuck Liddell, Vitor, or Randy, just before he goes into a fight.  And to get in the back door and sit there, easy access into everything, all the fighters, all the camps.  That’s a huge experience.

But the worst is doing all that and still getting screwed.  So it all balances out, I guess.

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

MG:  The first goal I had was to actually step in the cage and have a professional fight.  I’ve done that.  The next one – I really never thought I’d go for a world title anywhere or be the best in the world at anything.  And that would be what’s in front of me now.  Just to win the world title in something.  I don’t care if it’s a backyard fight.  I want to win a world title.  That’s something which not a lot of people in the world can say at all.

Outside of fighting, it would be just to be successful in teaching and business and helping fighters out.  Make some money and make a living at it.  Even if I don’t have that, I just want to have the students and train and teach and roll with them.  Help them out, and get them into good shape.  Grow the school and hey, maybe God willing, maybe open up another one and have some guys under me, in a gym, that are employed. I’d be providing work and help out this crappy economy.

Mike “Joker” Guymon challenges Anthony “The Recipe” Lapsley for the King of the Cage Welterweight championship on December 11th at San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in San Bernadino, CA.