Archive for Verbal Sparring

Verbal Sparring: Caros Fodor (AMC Pankration)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: How many brothers and sisters do you have?

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

JT: What was that like growing up?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: And you were in Iraq?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CF: Absolutely. That’s totally the truth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: What about mentally?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CF: Oh God, I hope so!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CF: Matt Hume. No question

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

CF: Probably knockout with a knee to the head.

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

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

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Verbal Sparring: Eddie Jackson (Legends MMA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: You were on some Kimbo Slice shit.

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

JT: When did you get serious about fighting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: What was the guy’s excuse?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: He goes Incredible Hulk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verbal Sparring: Chris Brady (Legends MMA)

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: What city did you grow up in?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: Did that tattoo get you laid much?

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

JT: How long have you lived out here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: Do you have to cut weight much?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JT: You still skateboard, right?

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

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

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

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

JT: Who are some of your favorites?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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: “Bad News” Ben Lagman (King of the Cage)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , , on February 5, 2009 by jaytan716

“Youth is wasted on the young.” Although that saying applies to many, Ben Lagman is one of the exceptions. For the man they call ‘Bad News,’ “carpe diem” is more apropos. At 22 years of age, Lagman is wasting no time in learning the MMA ropes firsthand. Having recently made the jump from amateur to professional MMA fighter, Lagman has also established himself as a referee for amateur fights.

In this round of Verbal Sparring, “Bad News” spoke out about MMA in unregulated states, the lifestyle balance of partying and training, and his strategy to build a career he hopes to look back on.

JT: Tell us a bit about where you’re from and how you got into MMA.

BL: I’m from McCull, MI, and I didn’t wrestle in high school. I was just someone who loved watching fights. I liked watching boxing, or anything. Even professional wrestling. One day, a buddy of mine asked me if I wanted to learn how to do it. He took me to a gym called Martial Arts Unlimited, and I met Chris Malgari, who pretty much changed my life.

Before I saw it, I was a knucklehead, man. I was getting in trouble. I used to smoke cigarettes and drink all the time and things like that. I started doing MMA and my first day of grappling was my first day of striking. So I just started training with Chris for awhile and I started noticing that I was advancing much faster than anybody around. So my trainer Chris got me an amateur fight in Northern Michigan and I think it lasted about 28 seconds before I rear naked choked him.

I never started this gig thinking that I was going to be a professional fighter. I was working full-time when I started training. I did MMA as a hobby that I just kinda started getting a lot better at.

Towards the end of the amateur career, I was working in residential construction. I had a pretty good job, but when the housing market crumbled, they couldn’t keep me around anymore. So I just decided “fuck it, I’m going for it.” So I’ve just been trying to pay my bills through fighting, training people, and refereeing these amateur fights in Michigan. Basically, any way that I can get paid through martial arts.

JT: How did you get into refereeing?

BL: I fought in a couple different local amateur organizations, and just became networked through them. I basically just asked them if I could do it. And I did, and everybody seemed happy with the job I’ve been doing. And it just kinda flowed from one organization to the next. I pretty much referee for five or six of these local amateur organizations that they have around here.

JT: Have you ever faced conflict of interests or a scenario where you’ve had to referee one of your students?

BL: I haven’t refereed any students of mine, but I’m the type of guy that gets along with everybody. I train with some of these local fighters, so I’ve had to referee my buddies, you know? To be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve ever been booed by the crowd. I see a lot of referees get booed about their stoppages and things like that.

JT: It’s definitely one of the more thankless jobs.

BL: To me, when I’m in a fight, I’m not really concerned about the other man’s well-being. Because it’s my job to take ‘em out. Yet, if I’m a referee and somebody gets hurt, it’s on me. I’m there for the fighters’ best interest. To keep them safe. Especially in these amateur organizations where, to be honest with you, a lot of these fighters shouldn’t even be in there.

JT: Did you have to go through any licensing for Wisconsin or any of the states?

BL: Wisconsin is unregulated. I’m all about getting licensed, but really, there’s no way to do it in this state. I’d have to go down to Ohio to do their thing, and that’s actually something that we were talking about doing. I’d have to shadow the other referees one time. And then I’d have to go through a little bit of a process and get myself licensed. And I plan on doing that, definitely.

JT: Talk about your team and training partners.

BL: James Lee is my manager and one of my trainers. MASH, which is his gym, is my fight team. But I’m still with my first trainer, Chris Malguiri. Because I’m a loyal person and I’m not just going to leave somebody who helped me get on top as soon as I’m getting there. He corners me in all my fights and I train with him a couple of times a week. He and James get along real well.

As far as Michigan goes, MASH is the premiere fight team around. We have the majority of professional fighters in the metro Detroit area. The King of the Cage Middleweight Champion, Brandon Hunt, is my training partner. So I’m training every day with the champion of my division. And I do just fine against him.

JT: That’s access to some good insider information on the champ.

BL: I would never fight him. He’s a good friend of mine and I don’t want to steal any of his glory. That’s all for him, and I’m happy for him. The King of the Cage belt is definitely something I want to see down the road. If anybody beats him, I want first crack at whoever beats him.

JT: Who are some of the guys in your stable that we should be watching for?

BL: You’ve got Don Richard, who is basically James’ first guy who started MASH. He’s a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and a pro fighter who’s helped me out a lot. Tony Hervey, a 145’er, should be fighting for the belt real soon. Myles Jury, who is an absolute stud at 170. Undefeated pro, undefeated amateur. All-around sick athlete. Daron Cruickshank, who’s an amateur still, but the kid’s got unlimited potential with his wrestling pedigree and his striking abilities. John Tolth is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt under Saolo Riviero, who trains at MASH. He just won the Grapplers’ Quest a couple months ago. He’s not an MMA fighter, but he’s a great grappling partner for me.

JT: Do you have a certain approach or philosophy behind your training?

BL: Yeah, train hard, win easy. I think that’s shown so far in my professional career. That means being disciplined. It means not going out with the boys. I’m 22-years old. You can only imagine the distractions, from friends and things. When my friends are all smoking weed and going out all night . . . shit, I’d like to go out with them all too, man, but I just can’t. I’ve got bigger fish to fry in my life, and I feel like if I let this opportunity go, I’ll never forgive myself. And I’ll always be wondering “what if I didn’t party so hard.”

Don’t get me wrong, after my fights, I love to go out and have a good time, but then get right back to it.

And training hard means being disciplined and not just sparring hard. You have to train smart. You have to listen to your body. If you’re too sore to spar, do some cardio. Or roll. Do other things. And that goes with eating right, the right supplementation of vitamins, and just proper preparation fully. Physically and mentally.

Because this sport is hugely mental, which people can’t even contemplate. They think it’s just a big physical thing. But I think a positive mindset breeds positive outcomes. I don’t ever walk into a fight thinking I’m going to lose. There’s been times where I’m in a good fight and I’m thinking “holy shit, this guy might actually get me” but you should never walk into a fight thinking you’re going to lose. Why even show up?

JT: Being at the age you are, with all those distractions, what was it that triggered you to develop that kind of dedication?

BL: I would say Chris Malgari has had a lot to do with all that. He just showed me a better way to live. The priorities of my friends are not my priorities. I have two sets of friends – I have my friends from, I guess I could call it, my previous life, right? Of high school, and growing up. And then I have my friends through MMA. And the priorities of my friends in my other life, they’re just not conducive with being a professional athlete.

It takes somebody to show you that. He really made me believe that I have an opportunity to be really great in my life. And I didn’t really have anything going for me in the sense of being that I could be great. Schooling wasn’t for me. I was working these blue collar jobs ever since I graduated. Not really going anywhere. This is my opportunity to do something great with my life. And to be remembered as somebody who was a stand-up guy, a brave, honorable man. And I think all the bullshit is not worth taking that from me.

JT: Are your friends from your previous life supportive of you as a fighter?

BL: Aawww, hugely supportive. When I have fights in Michigan, I have a crowd. And they’re all hugely supportive and they all understand, when I tell them “yeah, fellas, you’re not gonna be hearing from me for about three weeks. I got a fight coming up.” They’re all “alright man, we’ll see you when it’s all over.” Then, after the fight, call ‘em up. We meet up, go out to the bar, have a good time, do all that. Then, next week, we’re back to business.

JT: It’s good to have that balance, to have those guys, even if they’re not walking down the same road as you, they all support and understand it.

BL: They’re all real proud of me, because I’m doing something positive with my life. I think at one point, some of them thought I wasn’t going to be doing anything positive with my life. There have been times where I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble. I’ve been arrested a couple of times. A couple of years ago, man, people probably wouldn’t expect to see me doing big things.

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

BL: The hardest part about fighting, to me, is definitely the dedication involved with being excellent, and the repetition off doing these things day-in and day-out. It’s not a hobby. It’s a lifestyle you have to live. It’s an everyday thing. I have to go into the gym and get punched in my face every day. And get choked, or choke somebody, or hit something. It’s very demanding, physically and mentally.

But I have such a passion for this . . . it’s like my mom told me when I was younger. She said “if you find a job that you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” And that’s kinda where I’m at right now. It’s exciting. To me, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

JT: Even if you’re able to do it and make a living at this sport, MMA is still one of those things that’s very much a labor of love.

BL: If you’re getting into MMA for the money, you’re in for a rude awakening. And anybody who tells me “yeah, I wanna get in it to make the money” and that. . . I tell them “what money? What money are you talking about?” Unless you are the minority, which is the guys in the UFC, or the guys who are lucky enough to fight in Japan, you’re not getting paid dick-squat!

JT: As a fan of MMA, who are some of your favorite fighters?

BL: To be honest with you, I don’t have a favorite fighter. There’s guys that I respect, and each part of their game, I try to model mine after. Guys like Randy Couture, for the fact of all his accomplishments and things he’s done. I think Georges St-Pierre is a great role model for up-and-coming fighters like myself. I try to knee like Anderson Silva, I try to do takedowns like Couture. Just try to model myself off a little piece of each one of them.

JT: What would you say are your best and worst memories in your MMA career?

BL: I would say my best memory would be going out to California, training at Team Quest for two weeks, and fighting and winning at San Manuel Casino. I’d never been to California before, and for me, to cross the whole country to go fight – it was my pro debut, so it was big for me.

My worst memory – I fought in an amateur show, down here in Michigan, in a tournament. I got to the finals of a tournament, and I fought this named Eddie Sanchez. Not the one from the UFC, but another one. Within 40 seconds, I dropped him with a head kick, and I started bouncing his head off the mat with right hands. One of the guys on the outside of the cage blew the horn, meaning the fight’s over. I pull off him, hop on top of the cage, and I’m the new middleweight champ for such-and-such organization. Well, I guess the referee is not the one who stopped the fight. He said he was the only one who could stop the fight. They restart the fight after I clearly booted this guy in the head.

I continued to kick this guy’s ass. I mean I beat his ass hard. For two solid rounds. The third round, I come out; man, I’m gassed. It wasn’t even a physical – I mean emotionally. The emotions that are involved in a fight are crazy. The highs, the lows, the nervousness, the excitement. So there were a lot of chemicals being released in my body. It was crazy. I’ve been exhausted physically through training. It was a feeling I’d never felt before. And I ended up getting choked unconscious.

I did a little bit of research on this guy the next day. Turns out he’s been a professional for like 10 years. He’s fought Dave Menne and all kinds of guys.

JT: And they allowed him onto an amateur show?

BL: This was this promoter’s first show. He didn’t do proper background checks on people. I don’t know why Eddie did that. . . I was supposed to fight him in the last King of the Cage, but he dropped out of the fight. And this was my fifth amateur fight. Fighting a guy who’d been a pro for like 10 years. And I still kicked his ass.

That was my worst experience, but at the same time, I learned so much from the whole thing. It was the worst physical feeling ever; waking up, puking, your face is in shambles. It was a bad feeling that night, but in life, I think it made me a lot better of a fighter; I learned so much from it.

JT: A lot of fighters take pride in embracing the bad experiences. They follow the credo of “that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

BL: And I really believe that, too.

JT: What’s your downtime like? What do you do to take a mental break from training?

BL: I’ve got a girlfriend that I hang out with all the time. She’s very supportive of the whole thing. I spend a lot of time with her. It’s my life, so my downtime – even if I’m not training for a fight, I’m still at the gym and teaching my class . . .

JT: Let me rephrase it: what does your girlfriend make you do, when you’re away from the gym?

BL: She makes me work on having sex with her constantly. I don’t know if that’s downtime or if you want to call that “uptime”. . . .

JT: It’s a good time, for sure.

BL: For sure. But we go to the movies, hang out or whatever. When it’s nice out, I like to go out to the park and do a lot of outdoor activities. Or go out on the lake and go fishing, or go out on the boat. I like doing all of that.

JT: Talk a little bit about your sponsors. Who are some of the guys that support you, and why should the fans know about them?

BL: Booyaa is really my only sponsor. They hook me up with gear, and put me in all the programs, and they give me great exposure. All those guys – Romero, the Godfather . . . We all hang out and have a good time at all the fights.

The problem is that around here, professional MMA is unregulated. So what kind of exposure can I get these companies? So I see where they’re coming from too.

JT: With Michigan being unregulated, it’s bad all around. You’ve got promoters, fighters, and managers who get away with bending the rules. And subsequently, you can’t draw real sponsors because you don’t have real promotions working up there.

BL: Any kind of sponsorship or any kind of promise that’s . . . talk is cheap. I’ve heard a lot of shit from a lot of people, but nothing’s ever come through. People have made me a lot of promises, but haven’t come through.

JT: What are some of your goals, within fighting and outside of fighting?

BL: My goal in life is to live my life how I want to live it, and not be dictated from other people how to live it. To be able to make my own agenda. I wake up when I want to wake up. I set my own schedule. To be able to set my own schedule and have to clock in and answer to some dickhead supervisor. I would probably want to kick their ass after a year anyways. Just to live my life how I want to live it.

As far as fighting goes, if I can make a life out of being a professional athlete, and I’m not even just talking about the money – the perks of being a professional athlete – being in great shape throughout life, and setting my own schedule. That’s my biggest goal.

I want to fight in Japan. I’m gonna fight in the UFC one day. I truly believe in all those things, but my goal on top of all that is to be able to make a decent living and live my life how I want to live it.

Ben Lagman fights Uber Gallegos at King of the Cage: Hurricane, on February 21st, at the War Memorial Auditorium in Ft. Lauderdale, FL.

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: Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela (King of the Cage Junior Welterweight Champion)

Posted in Interviews, King of the Cage with tags , , , , , , on January 26, 2009 by jaytan716

Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela is a paradox of a fighter.  He doesn’t like his nickname, despite that 1) he’s known by that name almost as much as his own name and 2) it describes a style of fighting he’s trained in all his life.  His team, Millennia MMA, is particularly recognized for their jiu-jitsu game, and he’s won at least half of his victories by submission, but he’ll be the first to acknowledge that he prefers a stand-up slugfest.  And he’s the champion of a weight class above the one he’s fought at throughout his career.

But few names are more synonymous with King of the Cage than “Joe Boxer.”  After a stuttered MMA start in 2003, Valenzuela went undefeated from 2006 to mid-2007.  His feud with Charles “Krazy Horse” Bennett was already KOTC’s equivalent to the Ortiz-Shamrock legacy, and when both he and “the Horse” were called up to EliteXC, their bitter rivalry continued on a national stage.  In August 2007, Valenzuela beat Krazy Horse by submission from punches, and one year later, he would become the King of the Cage Junior Welterweight championship.

In between training sessions for his upcoming title defense, I caught up with “Joe Boxer” and got his thoughts on his infamous rivalry, what it means to win championship gold, and the key to giving fans a good fight.

JT:  Let’s start with your background and how you got involved with MMA.

VV:  I grew up in Covina, CA.  I’ve been boxing pretty much since I was probably around eight or nine years old, when I started training with my uncles.  They used to box, so they would teach me how to throw a punch and stuff. . . I married my high school sweetheart, had a couple of kids, worked, and stopped fighting for a little bit.  You know how that goes.

I got back into boxing in my early 20’s.  Just amateur stuff, because I liked to fight.  I didn’t think I was going to turn professional or anything.  I just liked training and stuff.

JT:  Did you go pro with boxing?  Win any championships?

VV:  I won a Golden Gloves by a walkover one year.  There were no opponents in my weight for that one.  I was supposed to go to Colorado for the finals, to try to get into the Olympics, but I never made it there, only because of work and stuff.  I had a mortgage payment and I had a family to take care of.  I was a runner-up in another Golden Gloves tournament.  I turned pro when I was 30 years old.  I tried it out and went 0-2 as a professional; only because I couldn’t really train the way a professional boxer has to train in a fight.  I was working 70-80 hours a week and trying to box and it just wasn’t working out for me.  So I retired.

A buddy of mine – my son used to play baseball with his son – said he knew some guys that grappled and did MMA.  And because he knew I boxed, he wanted to know if I was interested in checking that part of fighting out.  I was interested from watching Royce Gracie do his thing.  I said “yeah man, I would love to learn how to grapple.”  So that’s what got me turned on to Millennia MMA.

We were Millennia Jiu-Jitsu, back when it was a straight jiu-jitsu academy then.  I started training there back in 2002.  And everybody there was grapplers and wrestlers.  I was the only boxer coming in there.  That’s how I got my nickname “Joe Boxer.”  Nobody knew my name, but I was the only boxer in the gym. [Some guy said] “I guess his name is Joe” so they just started calling me “Joe Boxer.”

JT:  That’s one of the more unique ways to get a nickname.

VV:  Yeah, they still clown me about it.  ‘Cuz I hate the nickname.  I told them I didn’t like it, so after that, it was over.  They ran with it and that was my name.  I train with a bunch of clowns.

JT:  You should have known that was going to be the final nail in the coffin.  If you could pick a nickname, is there another name you would want?

VV:   I used to be called One-Punch back in the day, in high school, when I did street fighting.  One punch and I would knock people out.  I wouldn’t mind having that nickname now, but “Joe Boxer” has stuck, so I just roll with it.

JT:  You talked a bit about the street fighting.  I always like to ask fighters if there was anything in particular of their upbringing that they think led them to MMA. Obviously, with you, there was the boxing and the adrenaline rush of competing.

VV:  Honestly, I’ve been fighting since kindergarten.  My first fight was in kindergarten, over a girl.  I don’t even know the guy’s name, but I remember that he liked the girl and I was sitting next to her and he wanted my seat or whatever.  One thing led to another, we got into a fight, and I beat him up.

Ever since then, I guess I had a bulls-eye on me, because guys are always trying to pick fights with me.  I’ve never started a fight in my life.  If we had YouTube back in my day, I’d be Kimbo Slice in the 80’s.

I didn’t even plan on fighting.  I just wanted to learn how to grapple, actually.  I was infatuated by that stuff.  The guy at the gym actually talked me into doing a King of the Cage fight when I fought Shad Smith back in 2003.  I was basically just a boxer fighting Shad Smith, and I almost beat the guy.

JT:  What do you remember of that first fight, as you prepared for it and when you were in there?

VV:  At Millennia, we had a downstairs area we called “The Dungeon,” where all the fighters practiced.  Since I was a boxer, all the fighters wanted to get ready for the fight, they wanted me to go down there and spar with them all the time.  So I never really got a chance to grapple for the first six to eight months.  I was always down with the guys, getting them ready for their fights.

I was doing pretty well sparring with the guys, beating everybody up, dropping people with body shots and hurting people with hooks and stuff.  One of the co-owners from Millennia says “Terry Trebilcock is looking for an opponent to fight Shad Smith.”  I said “hell now, I’m not even in this to be a cage fighter.  I’m just a retired boxer who wanted to learn how to grapple.”  I wasn’t even expecting to be a fighter.  I just wanted to learn a little bit of jiu-jitsu.  Just in case I got into a fight on the street or something.  If somebody took me down, I’d know how to ground fight a little bit.  So he hit me up and I told him “no, I’m not a fighter.”  They kept pushing it, saying “we think you can beat this guy.  He’s a pretty well-known name.”  I slept on it a couple of days, came back, and said “let’s do it.”

All I basically did was box for that fight.  I tried to learn how to sprawl a little bit.  And the guy there told me that Shad Smith is a stand-up fighter.  “He’s not gonna take you down or anything.”  And I’m like “cool, we’re gonna fight.”

And even the rules were changed for that fight.  It was a no-submissions match.  He wouldn’t fight me unless submissions were thrown out.  So we fight and the next thing you know, I crack him a few times and hurt him.  I almost knocked him out, and he turns into an Olympic wrestler.  I lost that fight on a decision from a takedown.  If you watch the fight, you hear the commentators saying “we’ve never seen Shad take anybody down.  This is the first time” and blah blah blah.  Well, what’s he doing taking me down in the first place?  It was his idea for no submissions, and the next thing you know, he’s taking me down.  I didn’t really get it.

JT:  So he wanted to prohibit the submission skills that you hadn’t really had a chance to develop at that point?

VV:  I didn’t even have any submission skills yet, but he didn’t know that.  I guess he knew Millennia, so he probably thought that I had some pretty good submissions.  Which I didn’t [laughs].  He probably would have won if it was a submission fight.

JT:  For the fans who don’t know, talk a little bit about Millennia MMA.

It’s awesome, man.  All the coaches, and the fighters, and students – it’s like a big family there.  I can’t say enough about them.  They brought me from being retired and got me a belt around my waist.  They molded me into a champion.  You’ve got Romie Arum, Javier Vasquez, and Betiss Mansouri.  Chad Davis helps me out a lot.  All my training partners.  There are so many people there.  I’m going on seven years with them now.  If it wasn’t for those guys, I don’t know where I would be.  I would be just working and nobody would know who I was.

JT:  And now you’re a champion and at the top of your game.

VV:  And that’s all because of those guys.  They’re the ones that talked me into fighting.  They saw something in me.

I’m looking at this fight to keep my belt.  The guy’s coming into my backyard. He’s from New Mexico.  This is my stomping grounds, bro.  This whole West Coast right here. . . I was knocking people out before the guy was even born; you know what I’m sayin’?  If he thinks he’s gonna come into my backyard and take my belt, then he’s got another thing coming.  It’s gonna be a dogfight.  I’m not gonna lay down for nobody.

Especially in that this is my hometown right here.  And if he thinks [because] he’s from New Mexico, New Mexico this and New Mexico that, he’s got another thing coming.  Because my whole family is from New Mexico, so you’ve got nothin’ on me.

JT:  You pretty much got both sides covered.

VV:  I got both sides covered.  The guy says he’ll stand and bang with anybody and then he fights my guy, Will Sriyapai, and ends up taking him down and ground-and-pounding him.  Don’t tell the world you’ll stand and bang and then go in there and shoot and take the guy down. . . To me, if you shoot and take a guy down and ground-and-pound him, that’s not a fight.  People want to see guys standing up.  They want to see guys punching each other.  They don’t want to see guys shoot, tackle, and watch guys roll around on the ground.  It’s boring.  I mean I’m an MMA fan my damn self, but when I see guys do that, it’s boring to me.  I wanna change the channel.

JT:  What’s the toughest part of fighting for you?  Is it the preparation?  The mental part?  The rules from one state to another?

VV:  It’s just the preparation.  Getting ready for the fight sucks, bro.  That’s where you get injured.  You get up every day and go to the gym, and bust your ass for four, five hours.  It’s tough, but that’s a part of being a fighter, dude.  The day of the fight, I don’t get nervous or nothing.  I just can’t wait to get in there and do my thing.  It’s like going to an amusement park for me.  I love the adrenaline.  Like I said, I came out of the womb to fight.  I’ve been fighting since I was a kid.  My ancestors must have been some great gladiators down the line.  Some good stock, I guess.

JT:  Some Aztec and Inca warrior blood going on there.

VV:  Sometime like that.  I feel like I was born to fight.  I’m almost 40 years old and I’m still hanging with these younger cats, you know what I mean?  I’m fighting a guy 14 years younger than me next month.  And it’s like I said – to me, it’s like a man fighting a child.  To me, a child can’t beat a man; you know what I’m saying?  I’m almost old enough to be his pops.  And I’m old school.  I can’t see a kid whoopin’ me.  Can’t see it.

JT:  Let’s step back in time a bit.  Your first match with Krazy Horse was your second fight.  It led to a scheduled match in EliteXC, which didn’t happen.  You finally got your match and revenge on a ShoXC event in August 2007.  Now that that whole thing is a year and a half in the past, do you have any new thoughts on it?

VV:  Honestly, as soon as he gets out of jail, I’m ready to get back in there with him.   You guys don’t see it, but behind the scenes, the guy has the biggest mouth.  I mean he talks so much crap.   “Hate” is a bad word, I really don’t hate anybody, but I really can’t stand this guy.  He gets under your skin.  He talks a lot of stuff.  If you go on YouTube and you punch in ‘Krazy Horse,’ he’s got a bunch of stuff talking about my kids, talking about how he’s gonna beat my ass.  The guy doesn’t shut up.

When we fought in Mississippi, we stayed at the same hotel, and he had camera crews following him around like he was a big superstar.  When we would pass each other in the lobby, he would just talk so much shit.  You know how ghetto the guy is.  Just imagine him in your ear for two or three days talking about how he was going to whip you, how you’re too old for him, how he was gonna kick the senior citizen’s butt.  I just can’t stand the guy.  Hopefully, when he gets out of jail, I can whip his ass one more time for everybody.

JT:  Seems like you just wanna make that part of your career.  Every time he comes up, knock him down again.

VV:  The guy’s an idiot.  They guy’s got so much potential.  He’s making a lot of money fighting, but . . . the guy’s actually got talent.  If he trained and got into a good school, he’s probably be pretty damn good.

And EliteXC was paying him so much money.  Same thing with Kimbo.  He’s a smaller version of Kimbo Slice, I’d say.  Kimbo was another guy they spent all this money on and he gets knocked out in what, 14 seconds?   I’m over here training my ass off every day doing this and doing that and I’m not making that money.  It’s kinda discouraging.

JT:  Let’s talk about personal triumphs.  You won the King of the Cage Junior Welterweight championship.  You had a big smile on your face.  That must have meant a huge deal to you, to achieve that kind of championship status.

VV:  It’s like going to college and getting your Master’s degree.  I’ve been fighting for so long.  Since I was a kid, I’ve always thought I could be a champion.  I thought it was going to be boxing, but it happened to be MMA.    This sport gave me an outlet, another option to be a champion.  I’m grateful to MMA bro.  I got my Master’s degree finally.  You go to school for so many years, and I’ve finally got it.

JT:  You got that at 160 lbs.  Most of your career, you’ve been fighting at 155 lbs.  Would you feel comfortable going down to 155 lbs. and chasing after that title or would you rather focus on defending?

VV:  That’s another thing I’ve been thinking about.  I just jumped into this 160 lb. weight class because EliteXC didn’t have a 155 lb. weight class.  But no, 155 lbs. is my weight.  That’s the weight I like to fight at.

I just jumped into this King of the Cage 160 lb. weight class because it was made to order for me.  Joe Camacho was the champion.  I’d trained with him a few times and I knew I could beat him.  Terry asked me if I wanted to fight and I’m like “let’s do it.”

Actually, after this defense, I’d most definitely want to jump back into my more comfortable weight class, which is 155 lbs.  Because the guys that are coming down to 160 lbs. now are welterweights that are coming down from 170 lbs. to cut another 10 pounds to come in at 160 lbs.  If I stay at 160 lbs., I’m gonna be fighting guys that are a lot bigger than me still.  I think at 155 lbs., I’ll be fighting guys that are my size, or a little smaller than me, but I’ll have the advantage, you know?  After this defense, I’m definitely coming after the 155 lbs. champ.  That’s my goal.

JT:  The current champ [KOTC Lightweight champion] is Rory McDonald.  Do you know anything about him?

VV:  I don’t know, but I heard he’s like a 19-year old kid.  So it’s like beating up my son.  I got an 18-year old son.

JT:  You’ll use him as a training partner?

VV:  Probably.  He needs to get his ass kicked.  [Laughs].  But that 155 lb. belt, that’s actually another goal of mine.  So let’s just see how this fight turns out, but 155 lb. weight class is a legitimate weight class.  I’m pretty sure they made the 160 lb. weight class for Nick Diaz, because they had all their plans with Nick Diaz and EliteXC.  He couldn’t cut to 155, so I’m pretty sure they made that 160 lb. weight class because they thought Nick Diaz was going to be the next superstar.  And then KJ Noons too.  He couldn’t cut to 155, but he’s their 160 lb. champ.  You know what I mean.

JT:  What would you say is your best and worst memory in your career?

VV:  Losing in 47 seconds to Edson Berto on the Strikeforce card (“Strikeforce / EliteXC:  Shamrock vs. Baroni”) up in San Jose.  That was the first fight of that main event and I got heel hooked in 47 seconds.   That was the worst. . . I felt like retiring right after that fight.

I was supposed to fight Krazy Horse that night and he went to jail again.  [EliteXC] was supposed to bail him out, so the whole time I was out there in San Jose, I would hear every hour, half-hour “oh yeah, Krazy Horse is getting bailed out.  You’re gonna be fighting Krazy Horse . . . oh no, you’re not.  You’re gonna fight such-and-such.”  So I didn’t know who I was going to be fighting until that day.

I’m not making any excuses, but I really didn’t do any grappling for that fight.  It was all just basically stand-up.  Because when you fight Krazy Horse, you’re not gonna really grapple.  It’s just throwing punches as hard as you can and it’s basically a street fight.  So I did a lot of sparring, a lot of boxing for that fight, and I go in and fight a guy that, I guess his best move is an ankle lock.  So I got caught, bro.  Shit happens.  But that was pretty much the worst part of my career.

JT:  At first, I would assume that your best memory is winning the title, but the way I hear you talking, maybe it’s also knocking Krazy Horse out.

VV:  Yeah, they both pretty much running neck-and-neck.  I gotta say winning the belt.  I mean that’s why I got into the sport – to be a champion.  I’ve fulfilled my dream there.

JT:  Who are some of your favorite fighters or the best matches that you’ve ever seen?

VV:  I like the stand-up fighters.  I like the guys that just stand-up and just bang.  I’m a Wanderlei Silva fan.  Just the way he fights; he’s an animal.  He doesn’t take a backward stance.  He comes at you.  He tries to kill you with every shot.  I like BJ Penn.  He’s one of the best, I gotta say.  Anderson Silva’s another one.  Guys like that.

But yeah, in this sport, people are evolving, dude.  You can’t just go out there and think you’re a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and you’re gonna go out there and tap everybody.  Guys that are well-rounded in every aspect of the game. . . It’s tough now.  Like I said, I thought I could just go out there and punch people out, but these guys – they know they’re fighting me, they’re working on their wrestling, their grappling, they’re working on tying my punches up.  I gotta extend my game now.  Next fight, you might see me throw some kicks, bro.  You never know.

JT:  What do you like to do in the downtime, when you’re trying to get away from fighting or training?

VV:  Nothing, really.  If I’m not fighting, I’m working.  I basically just hang out, chill, and watch TV.  I got pretty much a boring life.  I’m basically a loner.  Which ain’t bad; I mean, no stress, man.

JT:  Besides the Horse, is there anybody else you’d like to put your skills to the test with?

VV:  I’d like to fight Nick Diaz before I retire.  Or KJ Noons.  Guys like that.  I think KJ and I would be a good fight, because we’re both boxers.  We both have boxing backgrounds.  I think it would be an exciting fight for the fans.  Nick Diaz the same thing.  He likes to stand and please the crowd too, so I think that would be an exciting fight also.  But actually, before I retire, I would like to fight some of the best of the best.

JT:  You’d go in there with BJ?

VV:  If the money was right, you better believe I would!

JT:  How about if the money was wrong?

VV:  I’d probably fight him just to say I fought him.  When I was older, I could say “hey, I fought that guy.”  It would be an honor to fight that guy.  Probably wouldn’t last a few rounds, but it would be spectacular.

JT:  Who are some of your sponsors and why should the fans know them?

VV:  I got MaxMuscle here in Rancho Cucamonga that helps me out with all my supplements, keeping me young.  I got Warrior Wear taking care of all my fight gear, my shorts and stuff like that.  I got AA Glass & Mirrors.  He’s my uncle, his name is Armando.  He gives me money monthly to help me live and stuff, to train.   I got Chronic Cantina, over in Upland.  It’s a nice little place to go chill.

Victor “Joe Boxer” Valenzuela defends his KOTC Jr. Welterweight title for the first time on February 26th, at the San Manuel Indian Bingo & Casino in Highlands, CA.