- Shad D. de Guzman
Kindly give us a list of names of fighters that you have interviewed since you began in this field, or maybe just your favorite ones.
Ever since I started working as an MMA writer, interviews were what I liked to do the most, and my focus was to cover the Brazilian scene. Therefore, I had the pleasure of interviewing some of the most important fighters from this country, such as Wanderlei Silva, Royce Gracie, Murilo Ninja, Vitor Belfort, Renzo Gracie, Mario Sperry, Rodrigo Minotauro Nogueira, Murilo Bustamante, Anderson Silva, Wallid Ismail, Pele Landi, Royler Gracie, Ricardo Arona, Mauricio Shogun, Paulo Filho, Pedro Rizzo, Marco Ruas, Ebenezer Braga, Carlos Barreto, Alexandre Pequeno, and the list goes on and on.
I believe the only famous Brazilian fighter I haven't had the chance to interview yet was Rickson Gracie, but he rarely gives interviews nowadays. Every now and then, I also do some interviews with international athletes, such as Peter Aerts once, but there are other people in Full Contact Fighter (FCF) that covers that area, so I leave it to talented writers such as Loretta Hunt, Keith Mills, Joe Hall, and others, who usually do a better job than I do anyway! I believe I would say that Wanderlei Silva is likely my favorite fighter to interview, because he is a smart guy and knows how to attract attention to the interview with his answers, plus he is a friend and this makes things easier, as I tend to know exactly what to ask to get the best answers. For the technical side though, guys like Sperry or Nogueira will always mean great interviews, as they are also smart and go into lots of detail with their answers, not trying to hide anything. In the end, I would say a good interviewer has to be able to make for a good interview with any possible guest!
Who was the first fighter you have interviewed, and how did you meet up with him?
This is an interesting question, as I have to say that both Royce Gracie and Wanderlei Silva were the first fighters I ever interviewed, and I'll explain! When I first thought about doing interviews with MMA fighters, before my FCF days, the first name that came to my mind was Royce Gracie, because he was my first idol in this sport and the guy that really made me a fan of "No-Holds-Barred (NHB) Fighting." So, I sent an e-mail to his academy in Torrance before he and Rorion split up, and I really didn't expected an answer from him. Much to my surprise I got an e-mail back agreeing with the interview, and I then sent him a bunch of questions.
However, it took him long to answer them, and those were some tough times for the Gracie Family, as short after I sent the questions, Rockson Gracie, son of Rickson passed away. Since I had small hopes of getting the answers back at that point, I then decided to interview Wanderlei Silva, as he was my favorite fighter back then, with his aggressive style and fearsome looks, I went for it. I knew where he was teaching Muay Thai in Curitiba, his hometown back in those days, and I found the academy's phone number in the yellow pages here. I called his academy during his class time, and spoke with him who was kind enough to give me his cell phone number, so we later appointed the interview and did it over the phone, in more than two (2) hours of talk, and it turned out as the best thing I could've done!
At that point no one could read an interview with Silva in English, as he doesn't speak the language and he had that image of a savage guy. The interview was featured at both ADCC News and MMA.tv, and was very interesting and truly something new at that point, as Wanderlei was on his way to his first fight with Sakuraba. That gave me a good reputation and also helped Wanderlei in some sense to gather some more fans abroad. Later, after my interview with Silva was already on the Internet, Royce answered the questions and his interview also went up, so I would have to say that both guys were my first interviews in some sense!
Were you ever nervous that you might ask them the wrong questions?
I guess on my very first interview I got a bit nervous, but you can't let this hinder your work. With time, of course you'll get used to it and learn how to approach the toughest questions in the proper way. It's important to follow certain ways, like you never start right ahead with the toughest questions, you have to make the fighter comfortable at first, with easier and friendly questions, and turn the interview into an open and honest conversation, so then you can start to approach the more controversial points. Fighters are usually very good people, so if they trust you and know you won't change or edit what they say, they will answer all kinds of questions you may have. In the end, I think a good interviewer must find ways to ask all the questions the readers want to know about, and take the most out of each answer.
Do you also practice MMA? If so, at what age did you first learn martial arts?
As a kid, I was much more into Soccer than martial arts. I first turned into an MMA fan to then find the curiosity to go ahead and train. Also, when I started working with MMA, I felt the need to train at least a bit, because it'll only help your understanding of the game, and make your articles better for sure. I mean, it's easy to sit on a chair and criticize a fighter's performance, without having ever stepping inside a ring and taking some punches to the face, even if it's at least in sparring sessions. That's why I went to train Kickboxing, and have been doing it for around two (2) years and something now. I have trained a bit on the ground and in MMA as well, but nothing really serious, and Kickboxing would be what I do a bit better. Unfortunately, it's tough to always find time to train as much as I would like, but I plan on one (1) day, some years from now, compete at least once in Kickboxing or MMA, to see what it feels like. One thing I can tell you, after I started to get my ass kicked and leave training with a bleeding nose, or a swollen eye and stuff like this, I learned to respect and value every fighter out there, and I believe people should respect those guys more, just for their guts alone of stepping into a Professional MMA fight, because it's not easy at all.
How did you get to become an MMA journalist?
This was one of those things that sort of happen out of the blue in your life, but as you see, it was really meant to be I guess. When I was in school, I always like to write, and I always thought about working with journalism. Later on, I didn't know what to do; I had worked as a Weight-Training Instructor and was kind of lost on what to do in life. My girlfriend back then pressured me into going to college, and I picked journalism because it was something I always liked, as I was one of those guys that have an opinion for everything. (laughs) Anyway, back in the end of 2000, early 2001 MMA.tv opened up a Portuguese language forum, and I was chosen as one of the moderators. I wanted to help out the space to grow, and I felt MMA interviews in general were lacking, mostly with Brazilian fighters, so I thought about doing some interviews for the Portuguese forum, to promote the place.
Then, like I've said previously, I've tried to interview Royce Gracie and Wanderlei Silva, and to my surprise ... things went well. Due to the feedback I got, I decided to put the interviews also in English on the main forum at MMA.tv, with the help of my friend Kirik. Things got bigger than I originally thought, and Andreh Anderson, who was writing for ADCC News back then, got the interviews on their page, and then things really got going well! Back then, I was doing it for free, and I was trying to promote my name, so I would get Eduardo Alonso in every possible part of the interviews, (laughs) so if I wasn't getting paid any, at least people were knowing who was behind the article. Also, I was doing some really long interviews, as I still like to do, and those were somewhat new back then, at least with Brazilians.
Later, I interviewed Mario Sperry and Vitor Belfort, and after those four (4) interviews I got invited by Full Contact Fighter (FCF) and started working with FCF in April of 2001. I love Full Contact Fighter (FCF), and I plan to write there as long as it exists, and I feel I have friends in Joel Gold, the owner, and Tom de Fazio, my editor. When I look back in time, I feel I truly believed in my capacity and was never ashamed of reaching out for any fighters or fighting for my space. What makes me proud is that before I had those ideas, I had never met a pro fighter before and had to start from nowhere, so it makes all more worthy. It goes to show that since MMA is a new sport, if someone has confidence in himself and talent, anyone can still reach something in this business.
For how long have you been in this business?
I have been working with MMA for a bit more than four (4) years now, and with FCF for three (3) years and some months, but I feel I have been really involved with MMA since 1998 when I first joined "The Underground Forum," and started to surf the net avidly for news and such. One (1) thing I try to do is to always keep going forward and evolving. Although I plan to always keep writing at FCF, I have been gradually adding new jobs related to our sport in my life, always looking for new goals.
Where are you currently residing? Does this give you an advantage for your work?
I currently live in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Sao Paulo is something like the 3rd biggest city in the world, or at least is among the top five (5)! It's the biggest city in Brazil, and the most important economic wise in this country, although it isn't the most famous. I was born in Rio de Janeiro though, and lived there for thirteen (13) years before my parents split, and I had to move to Sao Paulo. Most of the top fighters in Brazil live in Rio de Janeiro, mainly the Jiu-Jitsu guys, and others, such as Chute Boxe fighters' lives in Curitiba. This is interesting because Sao Paulo stays right in the middle of those two (2) cities, with Rio being to the north, and Curitiba to the south, both at like a four and a half (4 1/2) hour drive from Sao Paulo. This gives me an interesting advantage, as I keep somewhat neutral, although this is something you can conquer with your ethics, and at first I was considered somewhat of a Chute Boxe writer. (laughs) However, I'm happy to have friends in all camps, and I do think living in Sao Paulo is good for those matters.
Most of your articles can be seen at FCFIGHTER.com especially in the "Brazilian Beat" column, is there a particular event that you really love to promote?
The Brazilian Beat is a column that was born out of an idea I had that my editor Tom de Fazio helped to develop until we found a good format. It started because; at FCF we have the policy of only posting important facts and news, and no rumors. Plus, I was never happy to milk my news as I see elsewhere in writing plenty of small pieces one per day, and make more money this way. Therefore, as "The Beat" started, it got bigger and bigger, as I try to put in the column as many news as possible. Usually, the feedback is good and people seem to like it, so I'm very happy with it and it's something that truly makes me proud. As for the shows, not many people know, but I promoted my own MMA show that I own with two (2) partners called Heat FC. I've tried to not use my job as a writer to promote it, and always gave other shows the same space as I would give to mine in "The Beat," or in any other of my articles.
I'm a huge Pride FC and UFC fan, and most of the top athletes are there, therefore, I have obvious pleasure into talking about both, but I focus more on the fighters themselves than the shows, and in the end, everything else is in a consequence, as I will end up talking about the shows were the top fighters are performing. But I did a lot of promoting for Meca and Storm from Chute Boxe when I was starting out. I have to admit it, but I didn't do it just to help anyone, I did it because I felt they were good shows, and people abroad knew little about them, plus the athletes there deserved more attention, and to see fighters like Murilo Ninja, Anderson Silva, and Mauricio Shogun among others emerge from those shows and achieve huge goals abroad, makes me feel I was right into giving those shows the attention I gave them.
Murilo "Ninja" Rua will be getting married around first week of October, you and Wanderlei will be there to attend as best man in his wedding. How did you first meet with the Chute Boxe Academy's top athletes?
Ninja will be getting married on the 8th of October in Curitiba. Other important figures such as Chute Boxe Masters Rudimar Fedrigo and Rafael Cordeiro will also be best man, as it's going to be a huge wedding. I'm really happy to have this honor as I think Murilo is a great friend and someone I consider as a brother nowadays. I first met the Chute Boxe crew through Wanderlei Silva, who was the first friend I made there. After my first interview with him, we did several others, and this led us to build a friendship, so we went to numerous parties together and the likes. Wanderlei introduced me to all the Chute Boxe guys, and everybody there treated me great, so I can only say good things about them. With time, besides Wanderlei, I built a good relationship with Murilo Ninja and his brother Shogun, maybe because we're close in age and use to hang out together, traveling to beaches in Brazil, going to parties, dating girls, well, you know how it goes. (laughs) Most people see Chute Boxe as a closed group where no one is welcome, and this is not true. They can be serious people at a lot of times, and strict in some senses, but they are all good people and will treat anyone that treats them well with respect.
Are you also an interpreter for Murilo Ninja, and the guys at Chute Boxe? What is your relationship with them in terms of conducting seminars around the world? Kindly give us your thoughts.
I'm not a translator for Chute Boxe, as the team has their own great professionals working with them, such as Master Rudimar Fedrigo managing the team in what comes to fights. I do however, work with Murilo Ninja and now his brother Mauricio Shogun, managing their seminars, arranging the tours, negotiating the details, booking everything and also translating and working on the actual seminars not only as a translator, but also as an assistant. It's important to explain though, that I have nothing to do with their fight's negotiations, as this is up to Master Rudimar Fedrigo. However, with Master Fedrigo's busy schedule and numerous fighters to take care of, I feel more than happy to work with friends such as Ninja and Shogun in their seminar affairs, as I feel this is important for the fighters so they have an extra income, since their careers are short and no one can keep fighting forever, and it's also important to help spreading our sport worldwide, as some countries rarely sees famous fighters in their academies. And this kind of interchange will help our sport grow and develop everywhere! We had the pleasure of touring Europe, going to several countries in 2003, and we're now heading to Europe again right after Ninja's wedding, in our biggest tour ever, going to nine (9) cities in the old continent teaching seminars. We're also working on a USA seminar tour for early 2005, and hope to hit Asia soon as well, it's always great to meet the fans everywhere, and I really mean it!
What is Wanderlei Silva like outside the ring?
This is a question I got asked a number of times! I can tell you one (1) thing, Wanderlei is a completely different person outside the ring than he is inside! Although, he is very aggressive and even violent, sometimes scary when he is fighting, he is a nice guy and totally friendly in his regular life. You'll rarely see a fighter more willing to sign autographs and take pictures with fans than Silva, he is always smiling and treating everybody well on the streets, and seems to not forget his roots. Even though he is achieving money and fame, he is still down to earth and is much of a family guy who treats his friends very well. I can't say anything bad about him, as he is truly a funny guy to be with and helped me a lot in a number of situations in the past! But he doesn't like to spend money that much, (laughs) what can be considered a quality, as he knows how to save for the future.
Do you think that some of the MMA writers out there are being biased in terms of publishing an event or a fighter?
This is a very good question! Maybe I shouldn't comment on that, as I have my own faults and it's always easy to criticize. However, let's say that I truly believe that with time, some years from now, the level of MMA journalism will go up and not many people that are working right now will keep working on this sport. Maybe I won't! (laughs) Who knows? (laughs) Anyway, what I believe as since this sport is still young, and somewhat underground in some places, there are people unskilled and unprepared doing the work, and you often see some horrible pieces of writing in some websites. This kind of unprofessional approach of some vehicles leads to this kind of stuff, and sometimes it's not even a matter of promoting a fighter or a show, but the fact that MMA journalism in some places and countries, like maybe in Brazil, only serve to say good things about fighters and shows, like as if everything is always perfect, and the readers sometimes won't get the real notion of what took place in a show. I have been to MMA shows, or watched MMA shows on TV, and later read reports that seemed to be talking about a totally different event, where everything was perfect like in a Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Disneyland. (laughs) However, I made my share of mistakes in the past and I believe we all do make mistakes every now and then.
The important thing is to learn from them and try to evolve as what I have been trying to do, thanks to Tom de Fazio who always bugged me about that (laughs) and reading some true journalists like Josh Gross talk about our sport. Like I've said, in the future, as more money and bigger companies come to the field, a natural selection will occur and the level will go up, so those things will happen less. There are though, some very good people working in MMA journalism nowadays in my opinion, such as Josh Gross, Stephen Quadros, Loretta Hunt, Joe Hall, Eddie Goldman, Keith Mills, Tom de Fazio, and others, without forgetting the FightSport 24/7 guys, that gives a different approach, and although some people hate them, I believe it's interesting and it's just a matter of seeing it from the right perspective!
What's next for Mr. Eduardo Alonso?
Well, my life went sort of upside down some months ago, with some problems I had in all fields due to some of my ventures. This affected even my work as a writer, so right now my goal is to soon get back to writing as much as I used to do in the past, doing big interviews again and covering more shows for FCF. Besides that, hopefully we'll make Heat FC-03 in early 2005, as I would hate to see the show disappear, after all the effort me and my partner Conrado Carlos had put into it, and after all the problems that show gave in many aspects. Well, but it's all a learning experience, and that's the approach you have to use in life, so hopefully we'll get Heat FC back in early 2005. Other than that, I plan to intensify the seminar plans, hit the USA with Ninja and Shogun, and later go to places like Canada, Mexico, and mostly Asia, as well as help some young Brazilian fighters to find their way into some international fights to help their careers. You'll never know what's going to happen next, but those three (3) goals are the ones I'll work hard to make them come true.
Any statements to our avid FCF readers in the Philippines?
It's always nice to know that our work is being read in many places around the world! I'm sure this pleases everybody at FCF, and I certainly am very happy to know we have readers in the Philippines! I've heard great things about your country, and it feels even better to know that we're helping our sport to grow, at least to a minimum extent. I look forward to be hitting Philippines with Ninja and Shogun in the future, so we can try to help MMA to develop even a bit more in this lovely country, so in the future we'll see bigger shows in the Philippines, and a new market will be open both to local fighters to show their skills and find their way into Pride FC or the UFC, and international fighters to go and do their work and earn their well-deserved money in this part of Asia as well. Keep training hard and keep checking our work; because you have to believe it, almost anything is possible in this sport! It's just a matter of trying hard!
Thank you very much Bro for your time.
Thank you Shad! It's a huge pleasure, hope to see you soon!