JS: Right, so you mentioned that Raphael Assuncao was your first MMA muse. How did you go about initially approaching him with the offer?
GC: I shot a few small commercials for American Top Team out here in Atlanta, which is ran by Roan Jucao. I met Raphael at the gym when I was filming a BJJ tournament in which he was competing, and I asked him if I could possibly film some of his training. Without even requesting evidence of my previous work, he liked the idea so I started filming the documentary of him training with his Muay Thai instructor Manu Ntoh.
From there, it just developed naturally, and I ended up capturing his entire training camp, which involved a rigorous training schedule. When I compiled the footage, Raphael loved it, so we put it out there immediately. I thought it looked impressive, so I used this documentary to showcase my work to other fighters. At this stage, there was no financial assistance for the videos. I just did it for the love of the game.
JS: Your story seems to adhere to the popular notion of MMA fighters being most accessible in professional sports?
GC: I agree with that for sure. They grant you access, allow you to film them and reveal all their preparation. That’s virtually unheard of in other sports.
JS: Very true. Do you have plans to branch out from purely MMA documentaries and make films in other areas?
GC: Well actually, I’m planning now to start shooting two different movies pretty soon, one drug movie and one horror movie. Both feature length. The horror movie (a slasher-type movie) is being financially backed, though I can’t really discuss that yet, whilst the drug one I will fund myself on my independent film company (GenghisConFilms). It’s kind of like a Guy Ritchie movie. I’d love for them both to go national, even international. Initially I’ll take the movies to all the local festivals and attempt to get them distributed.
JS: Sounds good. What are the best perks afforded to you by your role as MMA filmmaker?
GC: The best part is travelling and visiting the different states within the US. You do encounter sh*tty accommodation, but depending on the show, you can sometimes be comped really nice, first class hotels. So you can end up chilling, having fun and living for free for a long weekend. When I travel with the South Miami team, we are pretty much part of the same entourage, all staying in the same rooms, for example.
JS: Immense, so at what stage did you contact the South Miami boys with your proposition?
GC: Well, after I filmed Raphael Assuncao, then I filmed some stuff with Douglas Lima, another Atlanta ATT fighter. From there, I contacted Jorge Masvidal; he invited me out to Miami, so I went and hung out, and connected with the South Miami guys, including coach Juan Carlos. That’s where I met JZ Cavalcante and Jorge Santiago, and we started to film Santiago in the build up to his 2010 fight of the year with Kazuo Misaki. At that stage, we decided to produce videos regularly as opposed to it being merely a one-off. “Miami Hustle” was born.
JS: Ok, and I notice on your Facebook profile that you are now in partnership with Santiago, Masvidal, Vila and Faraldo with your film company?
GC: Yeah, that’s right. We started up “Hustle Productions” together. We all fund the show together. It was pretty expensive at first to produce the shows, but now we are starting to get a little bit of help from MMA-brand sponsors, so it’ll be a lot easier for the second series which is coming soon. I’ll be able to move to Miami for filming.
JS: Ok, so how did you actually make the initial contact with “Gamebred” Masvidal?
GC: Yeah, I hit him up on Facebook, and he remembered me from a highlight video I had made of him from a long time ago. He immediately invited me down to Miami to go party with him, so I got in the car and headed straight to Miami, about a 10 or 11 hour drive. We hit the clubs, he showed me Miami and I filmed some of his training. I have plenty of footage that we didn’t even end up using, because we decided to go ahead and do a proper show and make it something bigger.
JS: So hang on a second, I’m still trying to get my head around this. It’s crazy to think of an elite professional sportsman being so accessible.
GC: I know, huh? I didn’t expect it to be that easy. When I found out it was that easy, I realised that I could potentially hit up anybody to work with.
JS: And so in Miami, he took you out partying?
GC: Yeah, he took me to a couple of strip clubs and some other clubs. I stayed out there in a hotel for around a week, and we were going out every night. Masvidal likes to party a lot, but he’ll still get up to train early. It was great fun.
JS: And with the South Miami boys in particular, it appears that the fighters are super comfortable around you to give you such access-all-areas insight? So evidently, you spend time with them socially also to create this good rapport?
GC: Yeah, I’m great friends with Masvidal, Juan Carlos and Alexis. I’ve stayed at all their places for a while. We’ve travelled together, stayed in the same hotels. So we are friends now also, outside of our working relationship. As part of the entourage, you share in the emotions with the fighters and trainers. So far, it has been all victories, so there’s a happy vibe, and long may it continue.
JS: They must view you as a good luck charm in that case. So Jorge was partying at night and training in the mornings. Was this during an actual training camp for a fight?
GC: Yeah, we captured a lot of that type of footage before he fought Evangelista. He was bit all over the place. For his last fight with KJ Noons is when he started getting everything together and focusing more.
JS: It was highly amusing witnessing him eating an ice-cream sundae for breakfast before training, subverting all the conventional wisdom about wholesome nutrition.
GC: Yeah, Jorge is the opposite of what you’d expect of MMA fighters. Most of them are super-disciplined. Having said that, when Jorge got the call about the KJ Noons fight, he began to change everything around and started seriously training, probably for the first time ever.
JS: OK, and what are your long term goals with “Hustle Productions?" Who knows, maybe one day you can merge the two passions for film and MMA and produce a mainstream blockbuster like “Warrior”?
GC: Yeah, that’d be cool, to do a Lee Murray movie or something, if they don’t come out with it already. And I’m looking forward to seeing “Warrior;" Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy are both exciting actors. I loved Tom Hardy in that series “The Take” by Martina Cole.
JS: Yeah, I agree with that. OK, so was there any funny off-camera stories involving any of the fighters from your films? Any of them have any other talents?
GC: Ermm, let me think. Not really, everything would be too controversial. In terms of talents, Jorge Masvidal could be a comedian. Everything that guy says is funny. And he doesn’t even have to try to be funny. I don’t think he’s intentionally trying to make you laugh; he’s just very naturally quick and spontaneous. Jorge Santiago is one hell of a surfer, as you see during one of the documentaries. If he wasn’t in MMA, he could probably be in the X-games.
JS: Yes, Masvidal’s personality really shines through in the documentaries. Any random facts about any of the fighters that you have filmed which not many people know?
GC: Well Masvidal loves his McDonalds, a Big Mac meal. I think we captured that on film. Conversely, Alexis Vila hardly eats. He’ll eat like once a day. He’ll go until midnight and then eat some chicken wings, or pizza, then he’s straight, full of energy. He fights at 125, and he only walks around 131. He’s stronger than everybody up to 155. I’ve wrestled with the dude.
JS: Sounds ridiculous. Just returning quickly to “Gamebred," there’s that scene in which we see him spitting game to the cage girl at MFA. Is he a smooth operator with the “chicas”?
GC: Yeah, he’s always after the ladies. With a pretty overwhelming success. That girl had a nice a*s.
JS: Yeah, she did indeed. She mentioned she had a boyfriend in reaction to Jorge’s advances. So, can I just get your opinions on the future of the fighters you have filmed?
GC: Well, Alexis Vila is about to fight in Bellator’s Bantamweight tournament against Joe Warren. It’ll be a tough fight for Alexis, especially with him moving up from the 125 to the 135 division, but I think he can win and then go on to win the tournament outright. Originally, Alexis planned to remain at 125, especially when he was being informed through his manager that the UFC was on the brink of establishing a 125-pound division, but in the end, it is yet to materialise. Alexis also attempted to get on the latest TUF, but for whatever reason, he wasn’t accepted, probably because of his past (sidenote: Alexis was charged with committing a terrorist act in 2004 and sent to prison for three years).
Alexis needs to make money, so the Bellator option was the most viable. And as soon as he signs with Bellator, a mere two weeks later, the UFC announces that they will set up a flyweight division. When his Bellator contract expires, he hopes to head over to the UFC. I think he’ll dominate this division for sure. When he spars with guys that are ranked in the top five or 10 of the 145lb division, he dominates them. He’s a different species. There is a lack of real talent at 125, and most flyweights avoid Alexis the best they can. Even three of the top five ranked flyweights turned him down. So, he had to move up a weight category to start making money.
JS: WOW, Vila sounds like a beast. And your boy Masvidal is set to face Gilbert Melendez for the lightweight strap?
GC: Yes, this has now been announced officially, but he’s been training for a while already as if he was going to receive this opportunity. I’ll be filming Jorge’s preparations for this fight. Obviously I’m a little biased here but I think it’s a horrible matchup for Melendez to be honest. I think Jorge is the superior striker, and his wresting is insane right now. I think Gilbert will struggle to take Jorge to the mat, and Jorge will pick him apart on the feet. Gilbert seems hard to finish so I think Jorge will take it via decision.
JS: Ok. And are you still following the careers of ex-ATT boys who you've filmed, such as Santiago and Cavalcante?
GC: I went up to Imperial Gym for a couple of days and filmed some stuff on Santiago and the rest of the team prior to his fight with Brian Stann, from which I put out a short video entitled “24 Hours with the Champ”, in which Rashad Evans also features. Santiago’s manager wanted me to film it for his sponsors. I ended up putting it on the internet because I liked that one, so I didn’t just want to leave it for Santiago’s sponsors. I have more footage of Santiago and Rashad which I will probably release soon.
I think Jorge will turn it around after the defeat to Stann; I think he was possibly nervous or something. And I’m not sure if “JZ” will have a rematch with Justin Wilcox. “JZ” has been getting screwed around for a long time, as you see on the first episode of “Miami Hustle." Strikeforce would keep telling him he was scheduled to fight the following month and then cancelling the week prior to the event, and all that type of bullsh*t. Strikeforce had promised fights with KJ Noons and Ryan Healy, both of which never came to fruition. I’m still on good terms with Santiago and Cavalcante, and still talk to them every now and then.
JS: Good stuff. Do you find it complementary that, having pioneered this genre of MMA documentary, others globally are now beginning to emulate this? (I noticed an Italian dude called Alessandro post his vid about Sakara to your Facebook wall). Must feel good to inspire others.
GC: Yeah, it’s pretty cool. It helps promote the sport and the videos when people are looking for this style of video. It also feels great when people compliment my videos and the music I use. Many people have told me that I inspired them to try and produce some highlight-reel videos, which is cool. Anybody who has asked me for information, I’ve always been willing to give tips.
I look up to Robert Rodriguez, who did the same thing. He started out on his own, made his own films, built up his own empire and gives out tips to everybody. I wanted to be the same, remain accessible to the people who’ve been watching my videos from day one. Just like how the fighters helped me by giving me access. I’m a regular dude, so I don’t want to act aloof because my films have proven quite popular. I respond to everyone on Facebook.
JS: I like your philosophy. Have you ever received any interest/attention off anyone notable, not even necessarily from within MMA?
GC: Generally, I get positive feedback from MMA celebrities. But since we released the “Miami Hustle” trailers last year, we met with a lot of prestigious labels from Hollywood, including “Lin Pictures”, but a deal wasn’t able to be struck. We also sat down with the Executive Producer from the “Survivor” series. And some TV company in Texas. Ultimately though, nothing materialised, and that’s why we ended up putting everything out online.
JS: Well, thanks for the interview, I enjoyed chatting with you.
GC: Cheers man, same here.
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The release date for Season 1, Episode 3 of “Miami Hustle” is yet to be confirmed