He was recently in Singapore to work as a commentator for ONE Fighting Championship's inaugural event and took time out to answer some questions for Bleacher Report.
What did you think when you were first asked to come and commentate for ONE FC?
I thought to myself, ‘Singapore? Okay, I have never been to Singapore so I might as well check it out…’ They said they want to become the new Pride, what’s not to like?
Did you know much about the ONE FC fighters before you saw the show?
I didn’t have the time to do a lot of homework on the fighters because I just shot a movie and a TV show. I liked Colossa a lot, he impressed me, heavy hands, really good and he won with a jab which surprised me. I liked Folayang, the Filipino, and his opponent (A Sol Kwon) was good, that fight was back and forth.
I liked Yoshida, he was very calm and relaxed. I liked Eddie Ng, I thought he (Yuan Chun Bo) had him in the armbar but Ng did well to escape, and he was fortunate because it was early in the fight and he wasn’t sweating. The power that he showed for the one-punch knock out… BOOM! It was Benji Radach style.
I really liked the fight between Chilson and Kelly, it went back and forth. Kelly was the grappler but he wanted to stand up, and Chilson was the guy with a one-punch knockout on his record but he went for the takedown. That was a good fight.
Yoshiyuki Yoshida vs Phil Baroni was probably the most interesting fight from the point of view of a Western audience, what did you think of that?
Yoshida did what everybody does with Baroni. They look at all the big muscles and he decided to just shoot and start hanging, holding him up against the cage and putting weight against him to put lactic acid in those muscles.
When Phil walked in, he was punching in the air and you saw how fast that was, but after 2½ minutes of Yoshida doing that his whole timing and everything was off.
I think Yoshida had a very smart game plan and was very relaxed, and he didn’t get caught up in the antics. Those Judo guys are tough guys. They are always tough, name me one Judo guy who fights who’s not a tough guy?
When I look at Phil I think he cuts too much weight and there lays the problem. I never did weight training, I did a power training circuit with a minimum of 30 repetitions.
Once you start heavy lifting you are training your muscles to do something five or six times, but you need to condition them for longer periods of time. I think that’s the problem with him.
Were you surprised to see so many good fighters coming from countries which people in the US wouldn’t traditionally associate with MMA?
I was surprised to see so much talent because you don’t know what is going on with these countries, but now it all depends on the character of the fighters. If (Radeem) Rahman can put his stuff together he could be great and have a really good career.
Some people get side tracked and start partying and I hope it doesn’t happen to these guys. I don’t think it will because they all have their eye on the prize and want to become great fighters.
How did the fights at ONE FC compare to the fights in top tier shows in the US?
I enjoyed the ONE FC fights. The UFC and the WEC put on great shows with great fighters, but you tend to get a lot of decisions because the fighters are so close together. I think One FC is a bit more unpredictable.
ONE FC is at the beginning, and it is great because you have the striker versus the ground guy, or you got two ground guys who brawl it out or two strikers who go to the ground.
Like in the fight between Yodsanan (Sitydtong) and (Daniel) Mashamaite, they were both strikers but they went to the ground, and in the fight between Zoro (Moreira) and Andy Wang, they are both BJJ black belts but they stood up almost the entire time. It’s like they didn’t want to lose in their style so they said ‘let’s brawl it out!’
Commentators in the US are often speculating about what it would be like to have a world class boxer start training MMA seriously. Yodsanan Sityodtong is a former WBA Super Featherweight champion with 47 knock outs, what did you think of him?
I enjoyed seeing a great boxer like Yodsanan in the cage. He had trouble finding his rhythm to start off with, but once he started hooking to the body I knew it was not going to last long, because I knew he had really hard body shots.
I was surprised to see him taking his opponent down and, being a boxer, finishing a fight with a knee was surprising. Although I supposed he is from Thailand, which is the home of Muay Thai, so it’s not that surprising.
How did the commentary go?
I liked working with the TV crew, and with (co commentator) Steve Dawson from ESPN Star Sports. The dynamic between us was awesome because he is very relaxed and I start going over the top and singing songs.
There were some things I did and he thought I was crazy and he didn’t know what was going on, but I really like him and he is very relaxed.
Some commentators act like it is radio and call every shot, for me that dumbs your public down because you can see what’s going on. You don’t need to call a jab, it’s not radio, people can see it.
What did you think of the ONE FC show?
I was pleasantly surprised by the show, it was like Japan, you come here and they give you a list of what to do and give you a phone which is smart, although you have to make sure fighters can’t phone America because fighters are like strippers and they will take advantage of that!
The organization was perfect and everything seemed to go smoothly behind the scenes.
There were almost 7,000 fans in the arena for the show, were you surprised by how popular MMA is in Singapore?
I walked around in Singapore and a lot of people recognize me, which means a lot of people are watching MMA and they love it. There is ONE FC advertising everywhere, they are doing a great job.
I don’t like companies that say we are going to be like the UFC and they go gunning for the UFC, that’s not the way to work. ONE FC put on a quality show with a good producer and it’s a quality event, that’s the way to do it.
Now it’s just a question of building a guy who comes from Singapore like Rahman. Every country in the world needs a local champion, like a Sakuraba. If he hadn’t been there, Pride wouldn’t have been there, I truly believe that
In the past, people there never had anybody to cheer for, but now you have someone fighting for Singapore who represents them. They need a local guy who is going to beat up the rest of the world, and if they find one it’s going to be the biggest thing ever.
It’s like with K-1, they say ‘K-1 never broke through in America’ and I say ‘yeah because they have no American champions.’ People need someone to root for, you want your own country being represented.
ONE FC has been described as the ‘natural successor to Pride.’ Do you agree with that?
The music they used between rounds sounded the same as the music that Pride used, which was really cool, and that sort of thing gives you the illusion that ONE FC wants to be the next Pride. But I think they are smarter because they are putting their event on normal TV.
When MMA started there was Pay-per-view, I said ‘they should just put this on regular TV, that’s where the big bucks are, not PPV’. That’s what ONE FC is doing, there’s no PPV, it's going to be on regular TV and everyone's going to be able to watch it.
That’s the smart thing because that’s where the sponsorship money comes in, and it makes people household names. I’ve been preaching this for 10 years.
Do you prefer the Japanese style judging to the Western style judging and what did you think of the combined rule set which allowed knees and elbows to a grounded opponent?
MMA evolves all the time, and if I have to choose a weapon between knees and elbows I say knees, because they actually knock people out, whereas elbows are more likely to cut. But knees AND elbows is perfect. I love these rules, and I also love the way the fights are being judged.
There have been fights in America which I thought ‘the other guy won’ but that’s because I am used to the Pride rules (for judging), which are the better rules.
Who finishes strongest? You have a three-round fight and for the first two rounds one guy is kicking the other guys ass, but round three the other guy comes back, I give it to the guy who comes back.
In America, they say the guy who won the first two rounds wins and I say ‘no, that’s not true’ because in a street fight the other guy would have won because he kept going. I like that much better.
Will you be commentating at the next ONE FC event, and can we expect to see ONE FC featured on Inside MMA?
I’m really looking forward to the next event, I don’t know if they are going to have it in Thailand, Taiwan, Beijing or Malaysia, but I have never been to these places and I am happy.
They also gave me the OK to have the highlights for their show, and it was the first thing that Inside MMA asked me, they said ‘please can you get us the highlights?’
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