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.
On July 22nd, MMAJunkie.com broke the news that James McSweeney was to replace Buentello’s original opponent, Marcus Sursa [12-8], citing only that he had been “forced out” of the light heavyweight main event.
What does that even mean, “forced out?” Was Sursa injured in training? Did he ultimately decide a fight on August 23rd just wasn’t feasible for him at this time? More importantly, how do we go about finding out why Amarillo-born Sursa hasn’t fought in his home state of Texas since 2011?
I soon discovered that Sursa did not vacate the card on his own accord: the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration [TDLR] had not approved the fight with Buentello. Speculation as to why this happened can often get a bit carried away, so I decided to educate myself further on the regulations handed down by the TDLR [found here]. Under Chapter 61.20, it states that, “Professional combative sports contestants… who… participate in a regulated professional event authorized by the Code must be licensed or registered by the executive director.” Chapter 61.19 discusses sanctions and penalties. It reads, “If a person violates Texas Occupations Code, Chapter 2052, or a rule, or order of the Executive Director or Commission relating to the Code, proceedings may be instituted to impose administrative sanctions and/or recommend administrative penalties…”
Upon further research, I came across this 29-page chart provided by the TDLR dated March 5, 2010. Sursa is the only fighter listed as “suspended indefinitely” with an otherwise blank entry, besides a note that curiously reads “CONTACT TX.”
Was Sursa’s problem a valid license? Not according to his manager, Train, who informed me that Marcus’ paperwork was, to his knowledge, up-to-date. What I did find out, however, is that the TDLR did give a reason to Sursa’s camp regarding his dismissal from the Legacy card…but not one Train could find on the regulations. “[The TDLR] said he was ‘too volatile’ for weigh-ins,” Train explained. “That’s a matter of opinion. You’ve seen weigh-ins where guys punch each other all the time and yell at each other. It’s a combat sport. He’s never done anything at weigh-ins that I’m aware of. He’s got in some verbal arguments or some pushing matches, but so have a lot of guys.”
“We have requested to know what the basis for suspension is, legally, so we can appeal it by the book,” says Train in earnest. “We have contacted Greg [Alvarez, Assistant Combative Sports Program Manager] and the Regional Director of the ABC [Association of Boxing Commissions] Josef Mason, but have not received a response from either.”
I did confirm a suspension levied by the commission, one that Train insists Sursa completed after an incident with none other than would-be opponent, Paul Buentello, in 2011. “There is no existing suspension or code that cited for him not getting a license in Texas that I’m aware of,” he says. When I asked, Buentello confirmed that the two fighters were, indeed, in a fistfight on June 18, 2011. Upon receipt of this information, I noted that Sursa had fought that night for now defunct Undisputed MMA promotion out of Amarillo. Finally, I begin to connect the dots.
I wanted to wait a few days to see if I could get in touch with Marcus and get his side of the story. After a few tries, I was able to get several details, including what incited the blowout between him and Buentello in 2011.
“It’s complicated,” Sursa begins. “All I know is that the commission won’t accept or give me my license to fight. I’ve already done my 90-day suspension and Paul’s already done his 90-day suspension. They cleared Paul to fight, but they won’t clear me to fight. I think Paul doesn’t want to fight me.”
Are these simply the musings of a downtrodden opponent? Sursa has a different story. “[Paul] used to be my first boxing coach. I know all about him; I’ve trained with him a bunch. [That night] I was fighting Nate James out of American Kickboxing Academy. I saw Paul was in James’ corner, which pissed me off because Paul’s from my hometown; we’re both from Amarillo. You don’t corner against someone that’s your friend or someone that you’ve coached. I would never corner against Paul. NEVER.”
Sursa continues, “After the fight was over, I ended up losing a split decision. I felt like Paul was a lot responsible since he was in my opponent’s corner. I told Paul when we were going back to the locker room that I thought they hadn’t beat me and they were all, ‘Ha-ha! We beat Marcus Sursa!’ and laughing about it. So I walked over and I was like, ‘Screw you guys; you won a s****y decision and you didn’t beat me.’ Paul got in my face and was like, ‘Well, I’ll beat your ass,’ and I was like, ‘I bet you don’t.’ I told him to get out of my face and he goes, ‘Make me get out of your face!’ so I head-butted him. I split his head open and I split mine open. He knocked my dad down…knocks two of my coaches down. So I threw him in the corner and started beating on him and some people pulled me off him.”
“I did some investigation on why Paul was in his corner,” Sursa admits. “Come to find out, Paul was managing Nate James. I thought he was my buddy, my friend. He was asking me how training was going and how my weight loss was going…questions about my camp. I gave him the answers because I didn’t know he was a part of Nate James’ camp.”
“He knows I beat his ass in that locker room,” Sursa says with confidence. “He’s looking for a fight that’s going to make him look good and get him back in the show [UFC]. He doesn’t want to lose. James McSweeney is an easy win for him. If James does take Paul down, I think he could win the fight; but I think he will try and stand with Paul.
Perhaps contributing (and ultimately unhelpful to his cause) was Sursa’s previous altercation with UFC 155er, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone in October 2010. According to several reports, including one from MiddleEasy.com, the brawl took place backstage at an Evolution Combat Sports card in Clovis, New Mexico, where Sursa was to fight in the main event that evening. Sadly, the bout never came to fruition. Cerrone showed up with Sursa’s ex-girlfriend and both got heated after several choice words were exchanged. Sursa ended up with a cut above his eye and “Cowboy” with a busted lip.
“I was in my locker room, where it was supposed to only be people on the team and people that had corner passes. No family members, no friends could be back there,” Sursa tells me. “I have my phone, my wraps, and all my stuff in my hands. Then Donald Cerrone is standing inside the locker room where no one was supposed to be. I see him and I see my ex-girlfriend and they look all mad. So, I take my headphones off and I’m like, ‘What’s up man?’”
Sursa explains further, “My girl broke up with me and started going out with Donald. She broke up with Donald, came back and started dating me again and told me a bunch of stuff. So, I told him, ‘This girl was cheating on you when she was with you.’ So he’s like, ‘You talking s***t?’ and I was like, ‘What’s up?’ and he pushes me. So we got into a pushing contest. I go to push him again and he sticks me right in the eye with his right hand and it cuts my eyeball. I went crazy and I pushed him kicked him and knocked him down. I went to kick him again and knock his head off, but my dad came through the curtains and pulled me off. So that’s how that went down…Donald initiated it. He came into the locker room to look for trouble.”
I ask Marcus if he thinks this incident is being held over his head, in addition to the scuffle with Buentello. “Definitely,” he laments. “There’s another thing that gets on my nerves. They talk about how I’m aggressive at weigh-ins. Well, Jim Larsen [now deceased] and Brent Medley, the two presidents of Shark Fights…they used to tell us, ‘Get in each other’s faces; go crazy and yell at each other. It will pump the fights up for us so everyone will want to come out and watch.’ So, that’s what I would do. I would get up in the opponent’s face and build the fights up so there was some drama. I mean, we’re going to fight each other, not playing dominos. Now, I’m reaping the consequences off of all of that.”
Train recounts that Marcus has had a hard road and was very much looking forward to this fight. “He just had a kid,” he tells me. “We received the contract [for Legacy FC 22] and we were fighting in it. He had a warrant in Amarillo for some child support payments and basically, to show how responsible he is, he drove 18 hours to Amarillo and spent nine days in jail, so he wouldn’t get picked up at the fight. So, he spent everything he had to go down there and take care of that, so he would legally be okay for that date to fight. All of this happened when he was in jail, so he didn’t even know that they denied his license. When he got out, he was expecting to have a main event fight and a nice payday and he hears that they’re not going to license him. [Marcus’] position is if he’s too volatile to fight, the guy that he got into it with is still fighting,” says Train. “If they were worried about volatility or someone doing something in the back room, that’s a contradiction in itself.”
With that, the question still remains: what code did Sursa violate that prevents him from fighting under the Legacy banner, or in Texas at all, for that matter? What would have happened if Sursa had attempted to fight someone other than Paul Buentello? All questions that, for now, go unanswered.
A request to the TDLR for more information has been submitted, but no response has been received as of yet.
Marcus would like to thank: “All my family, Premier Combat Center here in Omaha, Nebraska, Jason Brilz, Houston Alexander, Anthony Smith, my coach, Kurt Podany, for helping me not only training, but getting my life back together and back to winning again!”
…Thoughts expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer….