“This is the sport I love, and if I die in the ring, then so be it. I am going to die doing what I love, but not before I am champion.”
It takes barely five minutes with Mike “The Greek” Bronzoulis to know what’s in his heart. The Bellator MMA Fight Master finalist has had his fair share of trials and tribulations trying to climb his mountain, but he’s finally near the top. On Saturday, November 2nd, Bronzoulis will take on Joe “Diesel” Riggs in the welterweight division in hopes of being crowned the Spike TV reality show’s first ever winner and earn the title of “Fight Master.”
In the final week leading up to his fight, the former Legacy champion sat down with me in our hometown of Houston, Texas, to discuss the show, his roots, Riggs’ injury, and his newfound relationship with mentor and coach, Randy Couture.
SJ Sports: Tell us how you got started training MMA.
Mike Bronzoulis: I got into mixed martial arts when I was about seven or eight. My dad had a restaurant here in Houston and there was a Shotokan karate place next door. Since my dad was Greek, he wanted us to train martial arts and be into the whole “Spartan,” “300” stuff. He was really proud of [his heritage.] I fell in love with [MMA.] I did Taekwondo, karate, Shotokan, Shito-Ryu, American freestyle, American kickboxing, Thai boxing. When I was 16, I moved to Chandler, Arizona, and went to Fairtex Thai boxing camp. I came back when I was 17 and met Saul Solis. I’ve been training with him ever since. About two years ago, my gym and I moved over to Paradigm Training Center. Now, I am also training with Randy Couture at Xtreme Couture in Vegas.
SJ Sports: How did the opportunity come up for “Fight Master?”
Mike Bronzoulis: It’s a funny story. I called my manager and I was like, “Hey, man. I need a fight. Is there anything on the table?” He said there wasn’t and to just keep training. I said, “What about that Bellator reality show I heard about?” He told me that he didn’t think I wanted to be on it and he had already sent two guys on there and that it was too short notice. I was upset; what does he mean he doesn’t think I wanted to be on it? I’m not really sure what he meant by that, but we hung up. I took it in and had faith; I asked God to help me through this. Later on that day, Drew Ratichek called me and said the producers were looking for me to see if I wanted to be on the show. They called me that same day and Skyped an interview with me and said they wanted me on the show.
SJ Sports: What was the experience like living with the other contestants?
Mike Bronzoulis: There are always going to be problems when you live in a house with a bunch of guys. Most of them that are married are used to having their wives do everything for them. When you take away their wives, they don’t know how to act. They don’t know how to cook for themselves, they don’t know how to clean; they’re pigs. It’s not fun.
There weren’t too many problems as far as altercations, except for that one incident with Chris Lozano and I. We were really good friends and hit it off big time. When it came down to it, he told me we weren’t going to pick each other and then he picks me. So, that’s what pissed me off, but there is nothing but respect and love now. I know, one day, he wants to work his way back up and get a chance to fight me, so if that happens, it happens, but I still love the guy and I’ve got no problems with him.
I think that people had the wrong impression of me when I first got there. I was ranked last the whole time. They see the tan skin, they see my hair, they think I’m this “Jersey Shore” guy fist-pumpin’ around… I can see why they wanted to pick me, but I already knew that they were looking at me like that. They had no idea what I was capable of. I wasn’t cocky about it; I was very confident and you can see in my interviews; I called it, like Babe Ruth. I said I was going to do this, this and this, just because that’s what I know I am capable of doing. I’ve fought the best fighters around, the best wrestlers, the best jiu-jitsu guys, the best stand-up guys and I know where I stand. I’m good everywhere.
SJ Sports: Going in to your first fight on the show, had you already picked out who you wanted as your coach?
Mike Bronzoulis: I knew exactly who I wanted. I was trying to find out any information related to the show. I saw Randy Couture’s name and it was a done deal; no brainer. This guy was world champion eight times in two different weight classes. He started when he was 36 and finished when he was 47 and captured another title. This is “the man.” In my eyes, he’s the best in the world, and no one will ever be able to do what he did. I wanted nothing more than to be on his team.
SJ Sports: Had you ever met him before?
Mike Bronzoulis: One time, when I was in Strikeforce… it was either me or Brian Melancon who was on the card… with his son, Ryan Couture, and Randy was backstage. I was like, “Oh my God, there’s Randy,” and I couldn’t get the words out of my mouth to say something!
SJ Sports: You’re now living with Randy in Las Vegas. How did that come about? Obviously, not everyone who Randy trains gets to have that opportunity. How did you become so close?
Mike Bronzoulis: Randy and I have a really strong bond. I think he admired my work ethic and my heart and determination. I think he sees something in me. He took me under his wing and moved me into his house, I train at his gym, he has mentored me, we spend time together, talk about stuff. I pick his brain, he tells me all kinds of inside information that he experienced as far as fighting goes and his experience and what made him so great. It was a dream-come-true. It gave me a lot of confidence on the show knowing he was in my corner and that he believed in me and it gives me even more confidence now that he took me in like that and has done so much for me. The man has been there for me like a brother, like a father and has shown nothing but love for me. That guy is a great guy. I just want to make him very proud.
SJ Sports: Regardless of the outcome this Saturday, are your plans to stay in Vegas at Xtreme Couture?
Mike Bronzoulis: I’m always going to stay here in Houston; I am going to keep my place here. I am always going to train here at Paradigm and with Saul Solis. I’m always going to train at Lou Savarese‘s Main Street Boxing Gym and with Bobby Benton. This is my team over here [at Paradigm,] but also, that’s my team over there now [at Xtreme Couture.] Randy is my coach, all the coaches over there are my coaches. I love Xtreme Couture with all my heart. I am going to finish out my career getting ready for my fights with them.
SJ Sports: When Riggs got injured, were you disappointed the finale had to be postponed?
Mike Bronzoulis: No. When Riggs got injured, I wasn’t disappointed at all, because actually my back went out and I was going to fight the way I was. I wasn’t going to tell Bellator. The whole team wanted me to pull me out, but I wasn’t going to do that. I wasn’t going to give the opportunity to somebody else. [Riggs’ injury] gave me time to get injections in my back and my neck and now I’m healthy.
Mike Bronzoulis: I think Rampage would have ended up knocking Tito out. It’s good that the fight fell through because now it’s live on Spike, which it should have been in first place. I’m happy about that.
SJ Sports: Tell me what you know about Riggs and what type of competitor he is.
Mike Bronzoulis: Riggs is a good dude; I like Riggs. He’s a very well rounded fighter; he’s been in the game. Everybody knows everything about him. He had an opportunity to become a UFC champion and Strikeforce champion. His mental strength isn’t that great and his heart’s not that great either and I am going to exploit both of them. Those are both my strong points and we are going to see what he’s made out of. We are going to test him.
SJ Sports: Has he been in camp at Jackson/Winklejohn’s?
Mike Bronzoulis: Greg Jackson was his coach on the show, but now he trains at The Lab in Arizona with Ben Henderson and his coaches. As far as I know, Greg was his coach just for the TV portion of the show. His stuff was fake and all for TV; mine was real.
SJ Sports: After this fight, will you be locked in with Bellator?
Mike Bronzoulis: I have a two-year contract with Bellator and Spike TV. Who knows what will happen after this fight; maybe they will renegotiate my contract. Hopefully I will win and they will lock me down for longer. I want to stay where I am going to get paid. I want to become champion and I want to get paid. This is a very hard life to live. You can’t do it for cheap.
SJ Sports: Tell us about your experience fighting for Legacy Fighting Championship.
Mike Bronzoulis: Legacy is an awesome organization, by far one of my favorites. Mick and Andrea Maynard are awesome people and good friends of mine. I love them to death. I am a former Legacy champion. They have a great show and have some of the best fighters in the world fighting for them. He’s right up there with the big dogs; Mick’s done great and I am very proud of him.
SJ Sports: Tell us about your dad and how he was such an integral part of your life and still remains to be even after his passing.
Mike Bronzoulis: My role models have always been my parents. My dad was this big Greek guy, this foreigner that could barely speak any English when he moved to America. He went from being a dishwasher to owning his own restaurant; he was a serious workhorse. I admired that my whole life. This man came from nothing. I always wanted to be like my dad and always wanted to impress him, but I had some big shoes to fill.
My dad passed from cancer six years ago. His last wish before he died was that I become champion and take care of my mom. That’s what I am trying to do right now; make good on my dad’s last wishes. This week, before the biggest fight of my life, my brother was moving into his new house and uncovered this letter that my dad had written for me that I hadn’t seen until just now because it was hidden amongst some things. It couldn’t have come at a more important time. It’s like he’s talking to me from the other side. I could have gotten that letter any time in the last six years, but the week before my fight? It’s unbelievable. The chances of that happening are one in every billion.
SJ Sports: You had a couple of really rough years…
Mike Bronzoulis: I was in an accident in 2004. A Ford Expedition hit me from behind. The last words out of my mouth were, “Mom, I think I need to get back into church,” and then, bam. God wanted in my life. You know how people ask for signs? My mom said to me that she has never seen God in anyone’s life more than me. I was hospitalized and couldn’t walk for six months. The doctors said I would have problems walking and would never fight again. I got better and believed in myself and believed in God to give me strength and here we are. I still have back and neck problems, but I am working through them. The doctors say if I get injured one more time, I will probably be paralyzed for the rest of my life. This is the sport I love, and if I die in the ring, then so be it. I am going to die doing what I love, but not before I am champion.
SJ Sports: Is there anyone you would like to thank?
Mike Bronzoulis: I want to thank everyone at Xtreme Couture and Randy Couture, Metro Fight Club and Saul Solis, Paradigm Training Center, Reed Shelger, Grant Johnson, Brian Melancon, Jeff Rexroad, Lester Batres, Angel Huerta, all my teammates, George Parker, Main Street Boxing Gym, Lou Savarese, Bobby Benton, all the guys over there. I want to thank my sponsors Innovative Pain Care Center, Lexani, KO Dynasty, XCAP Athletic Pharmaceuticals, Blu Medical, RBP, Trap Fighter, Formula Med, and International Garage. I also want to thank my neighbors, Tara and Damien Gaffney. They went and got me this beautiful St. Michael’s pendant from Italy that was blessed by Pope Francis. I want to thank my brother, my nephew Dylan and my mother, Barbara Bronzoulis. The woman has spilled nothing but encouraging words into my heart and into my mind since I was a child. I wake up and I see this encouraging signs that she leaves me. I see encouraging phrases about never giving on and staying strong. Believe. No Fear… She is my rock.
Tune in to Spike TV on Saturday, November 2nd to watch Mike Bronzoulis take on Joe Riggs at Bellator 108.
On June 19th, War Machine [né, Jonathan Koppenhaver] made his first appearance in the cage since November 2011. He faced BJJ black belt, Blas Avena, under the Bellator MMA banner. After pulling off possibly the most talked-about crucifix of the entire year, the ref stepped in to stop the fight before the end of the first round, and War Machine was victorious. Now, just a few days before his next fight in the Bellator tournament (to be held on Friday, September 20, 2013), Koppenhaver is more determined than ever to silence any opponent that would stand in his way.
Quite possibly, there has been only one interview in SJ Sports history that continues to get hundreds of views per day, and that’s War Machine’s. Love him or loathe him, he does only what he knows how to do best: winning. Or perhaps more importantly, maintaining an utterly spellbound audience.
Last time Jon and I spoke, I mentioned that these interviews are not for the faint of heart. Once the first question leaves my lips, anything goes. In this particular interview, we talk about his first fight back, how his current opponent has fought only “Kung Fu dorks,” his opinion on Matt Riddle’s retirement from fighting, and his and girlfriend Christy Mack‘s salacious new business endeavor.
Read on if you dare…
SJ Sports: Tell me about your last appearance at Bellator against Blas Avena. How did it feel to be back in the cage? There wasn’t any apparent “ring rust,” but did you feel any?
War Machine: At first, I was a little more nervous than usual because I hadn’t fought in so long. It was my first fight back on TV. I felt a little bit weird the first 30 seconds or so, but once I got in the mix of it, I settled in a little and I felt perfect. I thought I performed very well for my first fight back. I won the first round. I did well on the feet and on the ground. He’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu; I beat him on the ground. So, I was proud of my performance.
SJ Sports: Did anything surprise you about Avena once you were in the cage with him?
War Machine: I wasn’t surprised. He fought the way I thought he was going to fight. Anything could happen, but I knew I was going to win. You never know if it’s going to be in the first round, the second round, how it’s going to happen. I thought maybe I beat him a little easier than I expected. There were no surprises.
SJ Sports: What has been going on since the last fight in terms of training and camp?
War Machine: Actually, in that fight, I cracked one of my ribs. He got me with a couple good knees. I couldn’t really train for about a month. I got back into the gym and I have been training hard with my boxing coach, Joe Vargas and my jiu-jitsu coach, Baret Yoshida. I’ve been training, training, training; sharpening up my skills and getting my cardio ready. I feel like I am in great shape and my skills are sharpened. I have been dieting; since I was in jail the first time, I have been on an 80% vegan diet. I’m lean and I’m hard. I’m happy with everything. I am excited to f*cking fight again.
SJ Sports: Your opponent, Vaughn Anderson, is relatively unknown in the states, but he is obviously the real deal: 16-1, finishing eight of his past nine fights…have you learned anything about the caliber of opponents that he has faced recently? Were they quality?
War Machine: No, he sucks. I mean, he’s 16-1 against a bunch of chumps. He basically is going to Taiwan and picking on little Kung Fu dorks that don’t know how to fight. He has a great record. I wasn’t saying anything bad about him. What I was saying was that I was going to win…because I am going to win…and he started talking all this sh*t. Talking about how he’s better than me at everything, that I’m more of a striker and he’s more of the jiu-jitsu guy, that I have no skills, that I suck, that all I do is lift weights and have sex. He’s talking a lot of sh*t because no one will give him a chance, no one knows who he is, he’s a nobody and he wants to make a little bit of noise to get some attention. All it’s doing is making him look dumb. He should have went into this fight humble and gained some fans out of it. Instead, he’s talking like he’s going to smash me. He’s delusional. Unless I slip on a banana peel, they can’t beat me. Realistically, I have better hands, better wrestling, better jiu-jitsu. My jiu-jitsu coach trained with him a year ago in Taiwan, so firsthand I know for a fact that I’m way better than he is. He’s telling people he’s going to submit me in the first round? He’s crazy; there’s no way he beats me. He’s tripping, man. He’s going to see. I can’t wait to go in there and smash him.
SJ Sports: Have you seen video of him?
War Machine: I watched a couple of fights just to get an idea real quick. From what I saw, he’s one of those guys that thinks he’s a Muay Thai kickboxer, but he’s not. He throws kicks, but he has no hands. When he gets hit in the face, he flinches. He has a crappy single leg [takedown] he shoots. He’s not real athletic. He’s kind of a chubby guy. For me, I’m not impressed at all. I’m going to smash him and move on to the next fight.
SJ Sports: How did Anderson get into the tournament?
War Machine: I know Bellator recruits all around the world trying to find new talent because they don’t want to rely on only UFC rejects. They want to find their own talent. On paper, you look at this guy and he’s 16-1; that’s a great record, you know? Fighting overseas, no one’s ever seen him fight before, so [Bellator] said, “Hey! Let’s give him a shot on the big stage and have him show us what he is made of.” It’s unfortunate for him that he drew me first.
SJ Sports: Are you doing anything to prepare differently for Anderson than you did for Avena?
War Machine: I don’t care what my opponent does. I make my opponent fight me; I don’t fight them. I always train the same. The only small adjustment I made was that he’s a southpaw, so my coach holds the pads [accordingly]. I have several southpaws on my team, so on sparring days I’m trying to go mostly with them just to get used to that stance, but besides that, no other changes.
SJ Sports: Do you have difficulty with southpaws?
War Machine: Southpaws are always tricky, but the thing is, [Anderson’s] not a good southpaw. If it was a really, really good southpaw with great boxing, they give you a lot of trouble. Everyone they’ve sparred is always orthodox, you know? But, he doesn’t throw a lot of hands; he throws kicks. These guys, they move to Thailand and they think they’re going to come back and be Muay Thai experts. Roger Huerta moved there for a year; I fought him and he didn’t Muay Thai me. He didn’t do shit to me. Roger Huerta is 10-times the fighter that Vaughn is.
SJ Sports: What do you think about Matt Riddle’s statement about Bellator and not being able to afford to fight anymore?
War Machine: It sucks that Matt Riddle hurt his rib; that’s a sh*tty injury. I don’t blame him for pulling out of the fight, but saying he is going to retire? I think that’s weak. As far as him saying he can’t afford to fight anymore because he can’t fight now, fighters don’t make a lot of money. I know he has a kid and maybe he needs a regular job or whatever. I don’t like him; I think he’s a dork. He’s a good fighter though; he’s tough. I don’t think he should be retiring.
SJ Sports: Tell me what happened with your former sponsor, Saint Apparel.
War Machine: My last fight, they contacted me. I didn’t look for them. They started telling me, “We’re from Canada. We want you to represent us. What would it take for you to wear Saint Apparel at your next fight?” I told them, “If you want me to wear a t-shirt and wear a patch on my shorts, it’s $4,000.” They said, “That’s no problem, we got you. We’re going to give you $4,000 for this fight and then if you win that fight, the next fight we will try and give you more. Every fight you win, we will try and bump it up some more. We want to see you do well.” They made it really sound like they were rich as sh*t and they were just starting a business. I was really excited, so I went ahead and had the shorts made up and wore their tank top for the fight, took pictures and tweeted about them and everything. When the time came to pay, they had a million excuses. They didn’t pay me anything and kept beating around the bush and ignoring me. I finally called them out on Twitter and caused a big stink about it and they finally sent me $800. They promised to make me a payment every month, like, $500 till they pay me off and told me they had gotten over their heads. I said, “Fine, that’s cool, whatever,” and I stopped talking sh*t about them. Then, after the $800 bucks they gave me, they stopped texting me back, they stopped communicating at all and that’s it. They owe me $3,200 bucks. They disappeared; they’re crooks. They deleted their Twitter. They had a Facebook; I don’t know if they have it anymore.
SJ Sports: Are you going to make the decision to get payment upfront now, instead?
War Machine: I don’t know, man. I’m an easy guy to f*ck over because I’m very honest and I don’t think that people are going to be dishonest in these kind of situations. This fight, Future Legend is sponsoring me. I don’t see the need to get their money upfront. In the future, if I ever get a new company that’s not well-established, then I’ll ask for the money upfront. I don’t think it’s fair for me to do my end of the bargain and not get paid for it.
SJ Sports: Let’s talk about you and Christy. Tell me about the tattoos that you both got and how that came about.
War Machine: I don’t know how it came up, but we both have a lot of tattoos. We were going to get tattoos for each other and it kept escalating and escalating and I had the idea for the stamp because I have a stamp on my collarbone that says ‘Product of Baret Yoshida.’ So, I said jokingly at first, “Why don’t you get a stamp on you saying, “Property of War Machine?” I was half joking, but she was like, “Alright!” I was like, “No you won’t!” and she said, “Yeah, I will!” So we got to the tattoo shop when we were in Vegas and she was kind of chickening out. She wanted to change it and get some script somewhere else; something less crazy. I was like, “Whaaaat…” She’s like, “Well, you were only going to get a small ‘Mack’ somewhere.” I said, “I don’t give a f*ck! I’ll get f*cking ‘Mack’ on my throat.” Again, I was joking, you know? Or half joking. She was like, “No you won’t.” I said, “Oh, I won’t?! I f*cking will!” So she’s like, “Alright, then do it.” So, I got ‘Mack’ on my throat and she got ‘Property of War Machine’ on her back. We went pretty gangster with it.
SJ Sports: How are you splitting your time between Vegas and San Diego?
War Machine: I have my fight coming up, so I have to be in San Diego for training. She’s been here with me a lot. We go to Vegas on the weekends when we can to see her mom and her other dog, but we’ve been in San Diego for the most part.
SJ Sports: You posted the other day on Instagram that you are looking for girls that would be interested in hooking up with Christy while you film it for her website.
War Machine: She has her own website that pulls in ‘x’ amount of dollars per month. I was just thinking of ways to increase traffic for the site and get more money. The longtime porn thing is always like, they’re driving and you see a girl on the side of the road. “Oh, what’s your name?” and they pick her up and they f*ck them, you know? People always want to see civilian regular girls get f*cked. Everyone knows that that girl is really a porn star; she’s not really a civilian. So I said, “Dude, Christy, you’re popular enough where these f*cking girls, they’ll come and they’ll f*ck you or us or a threesome for free because they’re in love with you.” She’s like, “No they won’t.” I said, “Trust me, they will.” So, we start posting that thing and we’ve been getting tons of emails from girls. We got emails from girls across the country that are willing to fly in and f*ck her for the website or have a threesome with us. We actually have two sisters; one is 18 and one is 19 and they’re going to fly in from way somewhere in the midwest and they’re going to have a foursome with us.
SJ Sports: Whaaaaat?!
War Machine: Yeah. This is going to bring, I think, a lot of extra traffic to her site. People are going to actually watch the evolution from the post on Instagram, the comments on Instagram, to watching us and those girls actually flying in to where we live and watch us f*ck them. Regular, normal girls. Hopefully, we make some money off that. I would rather us make money off her site f*cking girls than have Christy go out there and f*ck dudes in porn and risk getting diseases. There was an HIV scare recently and it’s getting a lot harder to see my girl with any other guy. At the same time, it’s fun for me because I’m a guy. Guys are horny bastards, so if I can f*ck a couple chicks with my girlfriend…and Christy likes girls, too…it’s a win-win.
SJ Sports: So, what kind of criteria are you guys looking for exactly?
War Machine: We want girls that are pretty, obviously, but not super fake, hot looking girls. We don’t want girls to look like “porn” girls, really. A cute girl that lives next door or a cute girl in the gym, not with giant fake tits or super, super hot. We want more of the super cute girls. All they have to do is come to us, take an STD test (we reimburse them for the test), sign some paperwork and we film it and have a good time.
SJ Sports: Is there anyone you would like to thank before this fight?
War Machine: I want to thank my coaches, Baret and Joe. I want to thank my teammates. I want to thank Moya, the gi company that sponsors me. I want to thank Future Legend for sponsoring me. I want to thank Garden of Life. I want to thank ChristyMack.com. There’s a reggae artist named Collie Buddz; he’s one of my favorite reggae artists. He’s in the process of making me my own custom song from scratch. For this fight, he did a remix of one of his current songs, so he’s sponsoring me in that form. He’s a great artist and I’m excited for my song.
Photo Credits: War Machine & Christy Mack.
Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal is as well known and highly acclaimed in combat sports today as this famed and equally classic Mel Brooks’ one-liner. Currently, the Bellator warrior and Strikeforce veteran stands 11-2-1, with Roger Gracie, Gegard Mousasi and Seth Petruzelli representing only a handful of the peers he has slain in his path.
The best thing about Mo? You never know what’s coming next. Whether it’s a vicious knockout blow in the Bellator cage, an insightful look into MMA politics, shedding light on steroid use, or the fact that he recently signed with TNA Impact Wrestling, Lawal never fails to keep his fans on their toes.
With an arsenal of talent, a sharp wit and a game plan like Mo’s, how can one fail when they are already destined for greatness?
King Mo: Personally, I hated it because he’s so young. There’s a lot that I was saying for him to do but he couldn’t do it because he had no idea what it was. So, I was getting frustrated. I was proud of him, but at the same time, he only trained five months for this. He’s a basketball player, so he had no contact experience whatsoever. Most people that wrestle, they’ve been wrestling for a while so you kind of know what to do, but hell, he’d only been wrestling five months. So every time I yelled something for him to do, he said, “What’s that? I don’t know what that is.” I’m like, “Keep on; just take him down!” It was just frustrating and nerve wracking because he’s my little brother. It was good to see him win and fight through, push through to get that W.
King Mo: Here’s the thing: they’re not trying to directly compete. It’s just like when Strikeforce was around; years ago, Dana White said, “Hey, Strikeforce is doing a great job; they have a reasonable promotion.” As soon as Strikeforce started saying, “Hey, we’re going to go nation wide,” and just have shows nationally, UFC was like, “’F’ Strikeforce; they’re wrong; they’re our enemy.” The thing is, UFC wants to be the only show; the only big show. With Bellator, you don’t ever hear Bjorn Rebney talk about UFC. He doesn’t say anything about the UFC. You hear Dana White talk about Bellator all day, every day. Bellator does things different: we have a tournament system to determine who gets a title shot. The UFC, all you have to do is just look good and say the right things and you’ll get a title shot. Bellator’s more ‘sport’ and the UFC is more ‘spectacle.’
SJ Sports: Is mixing a “real” sport like MMA together with pro-wrestling dangerous for integrity or are some people overreacting?
King Mo: I think people are overreacting. For one, pro-wrestling, the objective is to pin somebody, one, two three, or make him tap out with a move. You don’t ever see anyone jump to the top rope in MMA. You don’t see anyone poking people in the eye in MMA, because it’s against the rules. The organization I fight in, we fight in a cage. In pro-wrestling, it’s usually a ring and if it’s a cage, the rules are to climb up the cage to get out the cage. In MMA, if you grab the cage, you could be disqualified or lose a point. There are big differences. There’s no way to get them mixed up unless you’re new to both sports. If you watch pro-wrestling and you watch MMA, you can see the difference right there. Big-time difference.
SJ Sports: There has been a lot of talk lately in sports media regarding PEDs and suspensions. Seeing as you have also been recently suspended for steroid use after your fight with [Lorenz] Larkin, what is your stance now on using them?
King Mo: When I fought Larkin, I wasn’t, like, injecting anything; it was over the counter. It’s like a pro-hormone. It’s like if you go to Wal-mart and buy something called ‘DHEA.’ That’s illegal; you couldn’t use that. It’s illegal in sports all across the board. I’m hoping to do year-round drug tests; I’m open to it. I’ll be drug-tested by Bellator and TNA. I’m cool do to whatever.
SJ Sports:When people think of PEDs, they think of athletes sticking big needles in their necks. Is that a huge misconception?
King Mo: Yeah, it’s a big misconception! You could get nasal sprays that have performance-enhancing drugs [in them.] Too much caffeine and you could fail a test. Alcohol. Marijuana. People say marijuana is a performance-enhancing drug because it calms your nerves and gives you a steady hand. It’s pills, it’s injections, it’s nasal sprays. Even IVs. When I used to wrestle, last year, IVs got banned because they were considered performance enhancing. You have to be careful what you buy. I don’t take anything in pill form besides Iron, Vitamin C and B-Complex. Everything else is powder or oil. Omega-3s and Fish Oils. I don’t take any type of pre-workout pills. None of that stuff. I don’t mess with no crazy supplement companies. Things pop up here and there. I saw something on Twitter; this company was sponsoring the Olympics, or the governing body for the Olympics, or a sport like USA Wrestling, or something like that. I don’t know which governing body, but the supplements they had had some type of pro-hormone in it, so they had to can the whole supplement because it had an illegal substance in it. It happens all the time. BodyBuilding.com had stuff they were shipping out that had traces of illegal performance-enhancing drugs in it. There’s no regulation for it. It’s not FDA-approved. There is no governing body that oversees the way supplements are made or if they even work. Now, I’m thinking they don’t really even work because if they did work, they’d be banned.
SJ Sports: So you obviously disagree with the fact that the commission overturned your win into a no-contest?
King Mo: Well, yeah. You’ve got to decide: what did I do? The dude had no ground game, but it’s the rules. At the same time, I’m not going to go out there and use some kind of steroids to defeat somebody that had no ground game. I could have taken him down anytime, at will. It is what it is. I’m passed that, but at the same time it’s just bitter; it’s bitter in my heart.
SJ Sports: Speaking of the Olympics, do you think a lack of Olympic wrestling will affect MMA?
King Mo: Yeah, I think so. You’ll get more sub-par wrestling. How can you determine what world-class is if you don’t have the Olympics or world championships? There are four or five world-class wrestlers in wrestling: me, Joe Warren, Ben Askren, Daniel Cormier, Yoel Romero, Alexis Vila…and that’s about it. No one else there competes at the world-level in amateur wrestling. There’s college wrestling. College wrestling is tough, but it’s not world-class wrestling, in my opinion.
SJ Sports: Who, in your opinion, is the most “overrated” fighter?
King Mo: I think we all are. It’s true; everybody talks about fighting like it’s the biggest and baddest thing, but it’s just fighting. It takes a lot of training and work, but it’s just fighting. So, in this instance, we are all overrated. It’s just entertainment. It’s nothing earth shattering.
SJ Sports: More important for a fighter’s career: winning or being an entertainer?
King Mo: I think winning. You could be a good entertainer, but if you you’re losing, you’re a loser. In real sports, how many football games you been to where you’re like, “Man, that was a boring game.” Or you see the commissioner saying, “Hey, you know what? Buffalo Bills, you guys win, but you’re boring, so this year you’re not going to be playing football.” Let’s be real; let’s be honest. In true sports…MMA is not a true sport, really…it’s more of a spectacle, but in true sports, people don’t care about ‘boring.’ They care about winning. If the game goes to overtime, all they care about is the result. “Oh man, it went into overtime. It was a great game, even though no one scored. It was all defense.”
SJ Sports: Then again, football is a team sport; MMA is not.
King Mo: No, but at the same time, it’s a sport. It’s like tennis. The result is winning. To me, tennis is boring. Same with golf, but people watch it for the result. Tennis and golf are bigger sports than MMA.
SJ Sports: So you would say MMA isn’t really considered “mainstream” yet?
King Mo: I think it’s real mainstream, but I don’t think it’s a true sport just yet. There are a lot of things lacking. There’s no true ranking system…true media. It’s controlled by certain people in the sport. Say you were in the UFC and you put me on the cover of your magazine, they might be like, “Guess what? Just because you did that, you’re not going to get your credentials anymore.”
SJ Sports: Has MMA reached its money-earning potential for fighters, or will it get better?
King Mo: I have no idea. I think it’s oversaturating right now if you look at it. The clothing companies are falling by the wayside. They’re doing too much. The Ultimate Fighter and all the reality shows have fallen off. The reason football never gets oversaturated is because you have seasons. When football season’s over, you got a long break. That’s why everybody’s like, “Man, I can’t wait till football season.” Same thing with basketball. Same thing with baseball. The seasons keep it fresh.
SJ Sports: Who were you most impressed with and what shocked you about your experience calling Invicta FC?
King Mo: It’s not the fighters that shocked me, because I knew they’d be good. The women always bring it. It was how much momentum Invicta has garnered within a year. The first show had a little hype. The second show had a little bit more. By the third show? I was like, “Damn, we got something going here.” After that, it just got bigger and better.
SJ Sports: Cris Cyborg is ‘The Terminator.’ She’s amazing.
King Mo: Not many women are going to beat her. There are not many women that can match her skill and athleticism and wrestling.
SJ Sports: Have you heard a timetable of when you are getting your title shot?
King Mo: I’m hoping it’s November. We’ll see what’s up. I’m open to fight whenever; I’m always in shape.
SJ Sports: What’s the dumbest rule in MMA?
King Mo: You can’t knee a down opponent. That’s it.
King Mo: I don’t know. You never know what’s going to happen. Anything could happen in MMA. Silva could win and Silva could lose. We all have opinions until something happens. I could believe what happened. To me, the biggest upset in all sports, to this day, was when Mike Tyson got knocked out. Mike Tyson was a 30-1 favorite. Anderson Silva was only like a 2 or 3-1 favorite. MMA is such a new sport that everyone’s trying to figure out, “Oh, he’s the greatest-of-all-time!” The sport’s only been around for 20 years. They do that for marketing purposes so people will go and watch. When I first started watching MMA, the greatest of all time was Royce Gracie. Then, after that was [Kazushi] Sakuraba, then after that it was Wanderlei Silva, after that it was Chuck Liddell, then after that it was GSP, Matt Hughes, Randy Couture. The first one came out was NHB, No Holds Barred. So, since I’ve been watching the sport, or the entertainment, we’ve had like eight greatest-of-all-times. There’s Fedor [Emelianenko]: greatest-of-all-time. Then it’s Anderson Silva. Jose Aldo. Jon Jones. Nope! Cain Velasquez. Nope! Brock Lesnar. Every three years, we have a greatest-of-all-time. People try to say that the greatest woman fighter of all time is Ronda Rousey. She’s good, but then you’ve got Megumi Fuji smashing girls with submissions, all sorts of submissions for years, but she’s got no recognition because she’s Japanese. Megumi Fuji’s been fighting for a long time. Thing is, greatest-of-all-time in women’s MMA…women’s MMA has only been around for about 15 years, if that. Megumi Fuji is revolutionary because she was doing what Ronda Rousey is doing now, back then. She fights a different weight class, but people don’t know that. People have forgotten about her, but she’s an all-time great. People didn’t grow up fighting. They probably saw MMA for the first time on TV, so they will believe whatever people tell them. They’ll say, “Okay, he’s the greatest-of-all-time because Joe Rogan said so on TV.”
SJ Sports: Who do you think is the best promoter in MMA?
King Mo: I don’t know. People say boxing is a dead sport. Boxing is not dead and boxing will always be a bigger sport than MMA because of the way it’s run. There’s more money and more match-ups. A guy like Shane Mosley could lose four fights and still make big fights and make big money. In MMA, you lose two fights? You’re done. That’s what’s kind of stupid. In MMA, the promoter is the organization, so they just promote their fighters. Let’s say all the fighters in the world fight for Bellator. They could take a bum from the street, clean him up, get him the right match-ups and people would think he was a great fighter. Anybody could turn pro. Bull turned pro after five months! The right promoter could make you into a star.
SJ Sports: Let’s talk about wrestling. We know you’re signed with TNA. When can we expect to see you get in the ring?
King Mo: Well, I’m hoping this year. I’ve been doing this pro-wrestling school in Ohio Valley and people don’t understand how hard pro-wrestling and pro-wrestling school is. One practice would be anywhere between three to five hours getting slammed with hitting the ropes or something like that. The typical guy that’s a pro-wrestler in TNA or the WWE will spend six to ten years at the pro-wrestling school before you make it big. I’m on the accelerated route. I’m in wrestling matches for OBW and I’ll go back and wrestle more matches within the next few weeks.
SJ Sports: What is more physically demanding? Training for pro-wrestling or training pro-MMA?
King Mo: That type of training [pro-wrestling.] MMA, I can take people down; I can block stuff. In pro-wrestling, you’re doing stuff for the sake of entertainment. You’re like a stuntman. You get body-slammed. You get thrown over the ropes. You fall. You’re taking chair shots. You’re getting power-bombed. If you look at the average wrestler, at 40-years-old and you look at an average MMA fighter of the same age, the MMA fighter looks much younger and much fresher than the pro-wrestler. An MMA fighter fights three to four times a year. A pro-wrestler is kept on the road doing wrestling matches four days a week. You put on a show; it’s brutal. I see Hulk Hogan. Hulk Hogan can barely walk. Pro-wrestling is like a soap opera. It’s drama-filled. You’ve got a bigger stage. You’re still using talent and skill like in MMA, but you take it over the top.
SJ Sports: Did you get support from your MMA fans when you announced your deal with TNA?
King Mo: Yeah! The ones that didn’t like it were the fans that were one-type minded. They didn’t understand that I could get paid from many areas instead of one area. Many MMA fans think this is ‘life’ when it’s just a job. To me, [MMA] is a job in my style. It’s cool to watch. I like to watch more boxing. I’ll go watch the guys I know, but I can’t just go to a UFC fight or Bellator and just sit down and watch a card. I do it every damn day. I need a break from it.
King Mo: What! Nah, I’m going to do my whole thing. Maybe I’ll tag team partner with Rampage, eventually, but I’ll do my own thing.
SJ Sports: That being said, who wins? Tito or Rampage?
King Mo: If Rampage is hurt, I give the match to Tito. If Tito is hurt, I give the match to Rampage. The training camp is what counts. You can go into a training camp feeling good and leave beat up. Depends, though. Eventually I think maybe Rampage has the advantage, but as far as them two? They trained together, so somebody knows what’s up or the secrets. Somebody knows more than the other guy. I just don’t know who. That’s all.
SJ Sports: Do TNA obligations ever interfere with MMA obligations or training?
King Mo: Nah, not right now. TNA knows that MMA comes first and they allow me to let that come first. In between camps, and here and there during camp, I’ll go to pro-wrestling school to do a few matches here and there.
SJ Sports: Do you think you will continue with both or eventually choose one sport over the other?
SJ Sports: Is there anyone you would like to thank?
King Mo: First, I’d like to give a shout out to my boy, Frankie. That’s my dawg. Lana’s Egg Whites, Nutrition Zone, MMA Elite, Ohio Valley Wrestling, FightHype.com and TNA Impact Wrestling.
SJ Sports: Who would you want to play you in a movie?
King Mo: I’d like my little bro to play me.
SJ Sports: Biggest pet peeve?
King Mo: Keyboard warriors.
SJ Sports: Movie that if it comes on you have to watch it, no matter what?
Photo Credits: Special thanks to King Mo
Part I: Rebuttal interview with Nate James:
SJ Sports: I don’t know if you got a chance to read the article. I know Paul [Buentello] wanted me to talk with you and get your side of the story. I would be really grateful if you could tell us what you would like to say about the situation.
Nate James: I had the fight offered to me. Paul’s not my manager, by the way. He’s just my friend and teammate. I think Marcus probably met Paul earlier in time than I did, but I doubt he’s spent as much time as I have with Paul. I got zero coaching about how to fight Marcus from Paul. In fact, everybody I talked to out here was telling me not to take the fight with Marcus, because he’s bigger than I am. I was coming off of a loss in Bellator and was released. I kind of had this hope for myself; a little bit of a kamikaze mindset, like, “I know this guy’s bigger than me, but you know what? I don’t care. I just want to start fighting.” So, I took the fight with Marcus and I won and that got me into Strikeforce.
So, we get out there, we go to weigh-ins. We’re fighting at a catch-weight; it’s been so long now, that I don’t even remember what the catch-weight was, but Marcus was overweight. So, we had a big fiasco at the weigh-ins. The Boxing Commission asked me, “Hey, what do you want to do about that? Do you still want to fight?” I said, “Yes, I still want to fight, but if you’re able to negotiate a penalty. $200 a pound.” But then [Marcus] was like, “Woah, wait! $200 a pound? I’ve got a baby on the way,” and all this stuff. I said, “I don’t care about the $200 a pound, I just want you to make weight!”
For about an hour, we went back and forth negotiating. This is something that I’ve told very few people. Marcus brought my coach, Andy Fong, and me into the back room where we had the weigh-ins and for about a half hour, pleaded with us not to take the fight. I really could not believe what I was hearing from him. He was confessing that it wasn’t a good fight for me, that it wasn’t a good fight for him because he doesn’t do well against little guys. He also asked us if we would just take the show money and leave. I didn’t come all the way to Texas from California, make weight and not fight. I love fighting and I love the sport. So, after about a half-hour, I told him that I needed to take some time to talk with my coach to figure out what to do. At that moment when he stepped back out the door, I took one look at my coach, like, “What the f**k? What the hell just happened?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Basically we were like, “There’s no way we’re not going to take the fight now; he was basically groveling.” We decided to take the fight, so we said, “Okay, $100 a pound; let’s do it.” So I got $100 for every pound that he was over. I think it was like four or six pounds or something.
So, we had the fight. In the article it said, “split decision.” I guess it was? What sticks out to me was in that third round, he was really trying to rally: a lot of moving around, a lot of head movement, but it became really predictable for me. It was like child’s play. He was almost running his head into my chest and things like that. So, he was coming forward and I was able to maneuver around it. It made it easy in that third round.
After the fight, we are in the back room and I was about to do a radio interview. Marcus was walking right next to my coach and my coach said, “Good job; good fight,” and Marcus said, “F**k you!” So, Andy says, “F**k me? F**k you!” Marcus and Andy go into the other room and I’m giving this interview. All of a sudden, I hear tables flying. I think to myself, “Oh, it’s just a bunch of huffing and puffing; it will blow over; nothing’s going to come out of it. Marcus is just a theatrical kind of guy.” But, it continued so I stopped the interview and go into the back room; all I see is my coach, his back foot planted, ready to drill him. As far as the altercation, I didn’t see it because I was in the other room, but the way I understand it is that Marcus was trying to fight my coach and as he went to other room, Paul got in the middle to separate them and Marcus took a swing at Paul, telling him, “You set me up!” So then Marcus threw a punch at him and Paul slipped it and hit him and then they got in a wrestling match after that. The fight was really between Andy and Marcus. Paul did probably hit him, but it was in retaliation of Marcus throwing a punch at Paul. Paul went in to be a mediator, trying to say, “Hey, fight’s over, let’s pull back,” and Marcus felt like he was set up on the fight. After the scuffle, there wasn’t a scratch on Paul, though. He was right as rain. He looked like he didn’t fight at all.
SJ Sports: Have you talked to or seen Marcus since that time?
Nate James: No. I’m not really trying to paint him in a bad light, but I’ve never heard anything positive about him. Even that negotiation in the back at the weigh-ins, I told my coach that I would be embarrassed using my son as an excuse to get out of a fight that you had already agreed to. A lot of people applauded me after the weigh-ins and said, “You really handled yourself professionally.” Undisputed MMA was probably very disputed [laughs]; there were a lot of rubber checks that they gave us; mine included. But, everyone complimented me on my professionalism. I’d heard this is how [Marcus] does; he has the “lowest common denominator of the sport” type of mentality.
SJ Sports: What is your opinion on why the TDLR wouldn’t grant Sursa this fight against Paul?
Nate James: I don’t know all the legalities; for one, I’m not the type of person to have to worry about that kind of stuff. I think he’s proven to be a bad element; more of a hassle than anything and maybe that’s why they don’t want to deal with him.
Part II: Rebuttal interview with Leon Aragon (Witness to Sursa’s scuffle with both Paul and Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.)
SJ Sports: Sorry that we have been playing phone tag! Definitely wanted to get your side of the story as a witness to what happened with regards to Sursa’s altercations with Paul and Donald.
Leon Aragon: It’s nothing like the way I read it. I was there when the incident with “Cowboy” happened and I was there for the incident with Paul. Me and Paul go back a long ways, so it’s not that I’m sticking up for either one of them, but I know the way Sursa is and how it’s laid out.
SJ Sports: Yes, absolutely. Go ahead. Let’s start with Paul first.
Leon Aragon: It didn’t start at the fight; it started at the weigh-ins. Me and Sursa go back a ways. Every weigh-in, he’s going to cause some kind of problem. Always. We were at Shark Fights and we were at the weigh-ins and he had words with his opponent. He wound up head-butting the guy and kicking him. Doing a favor for Sursa, I was cornering him at the time; I almost got a one-year ban because of it.
SJ Sports: You were cornering Sursa?
Leon Aragon: Yes; we used to be friends. All the stuff that he’s done, I threw him out of my gym. He ended up saying a bunch of nasty stuff on Facebook about me and my gym and I lost a lot of customers. This is what kind of character he is. As far as the Paul fight goes, he was mad at Nate James over the not-making-weight situation. Well, Paul and Nate James go back because they both train out of AKA out in California. So, that’s where that came from. It wasn’t that Paul was trying to do Sursa in or anything like that.
Anyhow, going into the fight…Sursa was actually yelling at Andy [Fong,] who was another cornerman for Nate James. Excuse my language, but I am going to tell you exactly how it went down: Marcus came out and said, “F**k you!” and I was like, “Who the hell is he talking to?” because he’s coming out of his locker room and Nate was giving an interview. Andy says it back to him and Paul comes up and is like, “Hey, hey; what’s going on?” Sursa was like, “F**k you, Paul! You did this to me!” Paul’s like, “I didn’t do anything to you. You need to calm down.” He grabs Paul by the shirt and pulls him back into the locker room. That’s when Sursa took a swing at him, Paul hits him back and it turned into a big brawl. That’s when Sursa head-butts him and so Paul says, “Oh, you want to head-butt me?” and head-butts him back. It just kind of escalated. Sursa’s dad had to pay a fine for Sursa because he was overweight of $700.
With Sursa, I think the kid has so much talent; believe me, he has a lot of talent, but his head is just not there. I’ve seen him pull a lot of stuff at weigh-ins, where he causes fights and he will take his show money and not the fight money. That’s what he tried to pull with Nate James. Nate was like, “I did not travel all the way from California to Amarillo, Texas, just to take some pocket money. I came here to fight.” So, the fight almost didn’t happen because of the way Sursa acted.
The Texas Commission afterwards kept calling me and I wouldn’t answer them. They said they needed to talk to me about the incident with Paul Buentello and Marcus Sursa. So I called Paul and I said, “Hey bro, what do you want me to do?” Paul told me to drop it and just not to answer them. One of the questions that was posed to me was that by pulling Paul into the locker room and holding him there, Marcus would have been looking at up to two years in jail for false imprisonment. Even though Sursa had done me so wrong and lost me a bunch of customers, I never said anything.
SJ Sports: What happened with Cerrone?
Leon Aragon: [Laughs] Okay. So, we were in Clovis, New Mexico. Sursa had been dating the girl that “Cowboy” is dating now. Sursa came down to where we were at; he was the main event. It was kind of like a “rodeo” arena. There was a big room, but there was a curtain between us: red corner, blue corner. The main event guys actually had their own rooms. Sursa comes out of his room, clear across the rodeo arena and walks up to “Cowboy.” I was standing right there. He’s like, “What’s up? What’s up?!” starts cussing and “Cowboy” never said a word to him. Sursa throws a swing, hits him in the mouth. “Cowboy” gets up to defend himself, but Sursa got the short end of it. That’s how that brawl broke out. So, “Cowboy” walks away and he was supposed to help me corner one of my guys that night. He said, “Forget this; I’m going to go sit down. Come and get me and I will walk out with y’all.” Marcus comes up to him again and keeps talking crap and keeps stirring it up. “Cowboy” never said a word to him; totally ignoring it. Finally, the guy that was running the fights came up to them and said, “Both of you guys, get the hell out. Y’all are both done.” They both got kicked out of the building. I know for a fact that “Cowboy” did absolutely nothing to start that fight. It got out and he had to explain to Dana White what had happened.
A few notes:
1) At this time, still no official response has been received from the TDLR.
2) You can find Paul’s personal rebuttal HERE.
Photo Credits: Paul Buentello Nate James MMACarnivale.com
By: Mark Carrillo
MMA fighters are a sexy species. Am I right? With their chiseled bodies, ass kicking ability and sweet tattoos, one must admit: they are modern day gladiators and chicks dig that sh*t. Trust me, I know. I have my first MMA fight coming up in a couple weeks and the amount of attention I have been getting from girls is crazy. Just the other day I had to get a physical for my fight. As soon as I get to the doctor’s, I see a girl and she wants to check my blood pressure and temperature. Then, I go to the store and I walk in and this older lady is all, “Welcome! Have a nice day!” Then, I’m standing in line and this other girl screams out, “I can check you out down here!” She totally crossed the line, but you see what I mean. So how do you tame one of these tigers and make him your boyfriend? I got all the answers ladies, so read on and take notes and get ready to bag yourself an MMA fighter.
First off, if you are not a fan of violence to some degree don’t even try. Dating an MMA fighter will only cause a rise in blood pressure and the risk for a heart attack. That being said, you don’t have to be crazy into violence, so don’t go joining a fight club. You just can’t mind seeing a little blood and people getting knocked out. No fighter wants a girlfriend that’s going to have some kind of meltdown in the crowd if he gets knocked out; tough skin is a must.
Secondly, you have to be patient and ready to deal with the mood swings that come with cutting weight. This is where a man can become a boy; you can easily make him mad enjoying a cookie in front of him. Next thing you know, he’s telling you how you don’t care and that you never say, “I love you” first. It’s horrible, taking away a man’s food and water.
Third, you should be good at doing laundry. This is not a must, just a plus because when your boyfriend works out twice a day he goes through a lot of underwear. It’s ridiculous I mean I’m doing laundry four times a week now; this could also be because I don’t own many pairs of underwear but should still be considered.
Fourthly and lastly of all, you have to know how to be supportive. Your boyfriend will get his ass kicked some days and needs a strong woman by his side. Ready to get his pain meds when he can’t walk, ready to eat like a rabbit in front of him while he cuts weight, and ready to refrain from any funny business leading up to a fight: and by funny business I mean sex.
It’s a tough job being an MMA fighter’s girlfriend, but it is worth it, because they all make love like Picasso. It’s a fact, I saw it somewhere online once a few years ago… scientist said so.
Buy tickets to Mark’s upcoming ammy MMA fight HERE.
He will face Ramon Nanes on August 31st at EAC 6 – Lonestar Showdown II in Bryan, Texas.
Special thanks to Mike Calimbas Photography.