Interview with American Top Team Charleston’s 145 lb Champion
You are currently the Conflict MMA 145 pound champion. First off, congratulations on that. First question, how sore were you after that fight?
Thank you very much! This fight wasn’t so bad as far as recovery goes or feeling injured. The fight before this took a couple weeks to recover from, this one went much smoother and I didn’t take much damage.
Joseph Coker – I’ve known you for a couple years now, and I think 80% of the time I see you, you are wearing a sweaty shirt and hand wraps. Some athletes seem to take long breaks in between big events but it seems like you always stay ready. Have you always been an active person and that just extended into martial arts?
Really the busiest I’ve been as a fighter has been these last couple years I’ve been in Charleston, but I have always been working hard at developing my craft and expanding my abilities as an athlete and martial artist. This really is a way of life for me. I think that hard work ethic is just something I’ve always had, when I put my mind to something I want to do it to the best of my abilities.
Joseph Coker – How did you get your start in martial arts?
Well in 2006 I had heard about a local mma program that was operating out of a tang so do dojo in my hometown. The training was….not great. We did our best with a hard-nosed crew of local tough kids, but our gym and its owner didn’t have the best reputation. The local mma promotions would regularly feature fighters from Team Quest, American Kickboxing Academy, Cesar Gracie, etc. I started to notice that there was a difference between top level training and what I was receiving and so I started to look elsewhere to train and bring up my level.
Joseph Coker What brought you to Charleston?
Well I was sick of where I was living and what I was doing so I contacted a friend who told me that Charleston was borderline amazing so I took him up on visiting for Thanksgiving 2012. When I came back home I told my wife we were going to move to Charleston. I don’t even know if I was that impressed with the place at first I just wanted change and I wanted it then. So a couple months later we packed everything we could into a Honda Civic and moved across the country like a couple of gypsies. It’s been a pretty amazing experience.
Joseph Coker – haha What was your life like before martial arts?
Well how far back do you want to go? Immediately before I started training I was like a happy middle ground between jay and silent bob. I didn’t have a whole lot of purpose I knew I wanted something to be passionate about but I didn’t yet have an outlet. Of all the things about myself being a martial artist is what I’m most proud of. The last ten years have been the most formative of my life.
Joseph Coker – thats a good answer. In your time in Charleston, there has been so many changes in the MMA community. I met you at CMMA before that changed hands, what was it like for you making the change from CMMA to American Top Team Lowcountry (ATT Lowcountry)?
Well it had occurred during the lead up to the fight I had with Damian Gaskins so I had to stay focused on the task at hand. As CMMA changed hands I could see the program was falling apart and it wasn’t a good time for that to happen. Right at that time (Att) American Top team Lowcountry opened its doors and it seemed like the right move to make. It’s great to have such a comprehensive program where I can develop my entire skill set. Boxing, jiu-jitsu, Muay Thai, wrestling, Judo and MMA all come together there and we have the classes to build up the individual aspects of MMA as well as a place to put them all together
Joseph Coker – Martial artists take relationships very seriously and it can often be awkward to start somewhere new. What was it like working with Coach Malachy Friedman for the first time ?
It was refreshing. I new what good training looked like and even though the individual programs of my old school were strong there wasn’t much cohesion between the disciplines. I like Malachy Friedman’s approach to martial arts and it aligns with my own. More a series of interwoven concepts than concrete “truths”. Angles, proper positioning, body structure and deception. Things that are pervasive in the highest level of all martial arts. So when Malachy started applying the same concepts I try to embody in my striking into my grappling and blending them together I could see we were on to something.
Joseph Coker – nice. Ok, you’re coming off a high, winning the title at long last, take us into that fight
Well coming off of a contentious loss in a title fight with Robbie Collum, I was very motivated for this last fight. I knew I wanted a finish and that it would be tough against a guy like Jose, a collegiate wrestler with a good submission game and top position grappling. I trained very hard and had a game plan of keeping on the outside and lighting him up with long punches and moving. We ended up in a grapple heavy fight where I took top position every round. We stifled his jiu jitsu and took him into deep waters. In the fourth round he appeared fatigued. I started opening up with my strikes and hurt him with a clean straight left hand, after a scramble I ended up on top and passed into mount. When he gave his back I flattened him out and sunk in the choke for the finish. I feel like it was an intelligent fight I’m very happy with the performance
Joseph Coker – Now that this fight is over, what are you aiming at now with your training? Specifically what classes do you train at?
My main training consists of boxing, no gi jiu jitsu, Muay Thai, and they all tie together in the mma classes. Now that I’m out of fight camp I’m excited to expand my gi jiu jitsu as well as well as my conditioning. I’m excited because when you’re in fight camp, you are sharpening the tools you already have. There isn’t much room for the accumulation of new techniques. Competition training is different than normal training in that sense. So I’m looking forward to expanding my craft, and getting better as a complete martial artist.
Joseph Coker – What advice would you give to people thinking about starting in Jiu Jitsu or striking arts?
I would tell them the faster they set their ego aside the faster they will grow. That you will fail over and over again in this path and that is okay. And finally that the journey is made in little steps, and it has no end.
Joseph Coker – Thank you for talking the time to talk with me, good luck with all your training and goals!