One of the most recognizable characters in the history of mixed martial arts, Charles Bennett has long been known for both his exciting fighting style and his often-outrageous antics—both inside the ring and out.
An explosive athlete with powerful striking, Bennett boasts a resume that includes 45 professional bouts—including victories over Yoshiro Maeda, Ken Kaneko and KJ Noons. Throughout his over-decade long career, Bennett has competed in King of the Cage, Pride FC and EliteXC, amassed nearly 25 victories, and has fought in four different nations.
As outlandish a character as anyone in the sport’s history, "Krazy Horse" has long had a reputation of giving fans of the sport something to talk about—for better or for worse. Over the course of his career, a few examples of Bennett’s antics include: a backstage scuffle with Chute Boxe trainer Christiano Marcello at Pride Bushido 7, numerous instances of hopping onto the cage or ring mid-fight for impromptu celebrations, exaggerated facial contortions during pre-fight instructions, and, last but certainly not least, a number of run-ins with law enforcement.
Despite dropping three of his last four bouts, including a first-round submission loss to Drew Fickett in September of last year, Bennett is ready to make 2011 the year that he is recognized as one of the sport’s preeminent mixed martial artists—one fight at a time.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Charles Bennett.
How is life for Charles Bennett these days?
Why is that?
It’s not the boring, typical life I thought it would always be. There’s so much I’m doing right now.
What are you up to these days?
Taking fights, picking numbers.
Do you have anything lined up—fight-wise?
April 16th, but I do have one coming up March 15th also.
Who are you going to be fighting?
I’m not sure yet.
Where is that going to be?
Are you excited for that?
Any idea who you’ll be taking on in April?
No, not really.
What inspired you to get involved in the sport in the first place?
I was a drug-dealer. I had kids, so I stopped selling dope to see my kid grow up and took on fighting as a full-time job.
Did you ever think that you’d be able to make a living off the sport?
I never took it seriously when I first started. It was just something I could do without getting in trouble; it was a way to make money without worrying about the police. It ended up turning out better than selling dope. You get the same thing from selling dope, but it can all be taken away. There are higher people out there that can come and ruin your life. I don’t want my life ruined.
How important has the sport been to your life?
It’s very important and I’ve got Terry Trebilcock to thank for that. Terry Trebilcock is the guy that inspired me to take this shit seriously. If y’all don’t know who Terry Trebilcock is, he’s the owner of King of the Cage.
How important has he been to your life?
Really important. If it wasn’t for him, you guys wouldn’t know me.
Did you consider any other career paths besides MMA after you stopped selling drugs?
Acting. I think I’m pretty funny.
Are you doing any acting now?
No. I’m waiting. Like I said, I just got back in the circuit after my two-year dismissal, so I’m pretty much just getting back in the limelight. I’ve had five fights—I’ve won one of the five—so it’s kind of, like I said, this is the year. I’m 31 now, and I’m just starting to realize how seriously I want to be a fighter and to be one of the elite fighters out there.
What do you think stood in your way from realizing that before?
I don’t know—I would say the fame. It was the opportunity that I never had a chance at, yet when I did get my chance I didn’t do it right, I didn’t do anything right—I took it for granted. What’s different now is nothing has been handed to me. I have to be in the gym training, trying to find new ways to be better than my opponent, to keep the world talking and that’s the difference between then and now.
How serious are you taking the sport now?
Let’s just say that I try to go to multiple sessions of training at different gyms. You know, like Jonathan Brookins—one thing I can say about Jonathan Brookins is, before he won ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ he never committed to a gym but he was always a gym-rat; he stayed in the gym, he stayed training with different people and everything. That’s another guy that plays another part in my career right now.
Did you have any role-models in the beginning stages of your career?
No. I mean, I had fighters that I liked, like BJ Penn—I always liked BJ Penn and I always wanted to fight BJ Penn.
Could you please tell me a bit about your life growing up, Charles?
Second kid of 11. My mom had 11 kids, 11 different dads. I come from a drug-infested background. I started selling drugs because I just felt there was no other way. I was like the black sheep of my family, but look at what I’m doing now.
Did you ever think that you would be this successful?
No. Never. I just accepted the fact that I dropped out of high-school probably about three years ago, but before that, I always looked at it like I was going to be in the NFL—I was going to be the best football player out there. Then, I quit going to school and started selling dope—I just looked at it, like, “One day I’m a be famous, but how will it be?” I never thought fighting would be my key.
What position did you play in football?
Linebacker, defensive tackle and running back. Yeah, just think of me—the little guy—on the defensive line, huh?
Yeah, that’d be tough these days.
Actually, back then, because it was high school, those guys were a lot slower. All you had to do was watch the ball. As soon as the ball—and I’m on the line—so as soon as the ball is hiked, I’m a little guy, so it’s nothing to slide through those big guys.
How important were athletics to you growing up?
I was an athletic kid, so, you know, it wasn’t important I just liked doing it.
Do you think, given your circumstances growing up, it was natural for you to get into selling drugs?
No, ‘cause I could’ve went a different route. There were a lot of people that supported me in high-school because I could play football and I was good at it. Like I said, at that time I was really just a kid, so I really didn’t know how to talk, how to put shit in perspective and nothing like that. It was just—I don’t know. One thing I can say about selling drugs—the reason why I do want to reach out to these kids that come from these broken-down homes, is one thing I noticed, when people sell dope—kids are seeing this, they see the nice cars, the nice jewelery, the nice clothes, all the money—we see all that, but we don’t see the aftermath behind that.
Was it difficult for you to get out of that lifestyle?
Oh, it wasn’t hard at all, like I said, when my kid’s mom got pregnant with my first kid, I quit selling dope to be a better parent and to watch my kid grow up. It wasn’t hard at all—I went from selling dope to making easy money to fighting, making more easier money—and legal. I went from making good money selling dope to making good money fighting.
How many children do you have, Charles?
I have two and possibly one on the way.
What does it mean for you to be able to give you kids a better life than you had growing up?
It means a lot—it really does. I see kids right now with both parents or one parent and I see how they talk to them and it hurts me because I didn’t grow up with both parents. I grew up with one parent, both for like half my life; I grew up with one for five years and then the other one, HRS just gave them to me because they didn’t want to keep me in the system or whatever—that nigga didn’t do shit neither, you know? That nigga just—I don’t know. But, like I said, life is a learning experience—you can just take it an’ learn or take it an’ burn. I took it an’ learned. My kids are very important to me—they’re a spitting image of me, so they’re very important.
Are you still training with Rashad Evans?
Yeah, Rashad Evans is my mentor.
How important has he been to you?
Rashad has been very important. He’s keeping me afloat. Believe it or not, he’s a great guy to mimic. He’s keeping me afloat. He talks to me on the regular; we talk almost every day. Rashad has helped me out a lot—a lot.
Do you have any regrets about your career?
Yeah and no. A lot of these fights I gave up ‘cause I got tired and I just quit. No, because I learned from that. These guys go out here every day and perform at their top-best and then they got a guy like me—with a name for all the knock-outs and stuff that I’ve done—like I said, I’ve made history in this sport; I see a lot of people doing the back-flip off the cage—that makes me feel good. It makes me feel good because I never looked at myself as a follower; I always looked at myself as a leader. Look at how many people have followed my lead with the back-flip off the cage—seriously. The critics talk a lot of shit about me; they talk about my criminal past or whatever, but hey, I’m not perfect. Those who have so much to say, I’m pretty sure they ain’t perfect neither, they just never been caught.
Aside from the back-flip off the cage, do you see your influence anywhere else in the sport?
Yeah, the body-shot. Nobody started using the body-shot ‘til I used it on Gomi.
Is there anybody that you’ve tried to model your style after?
I don’t know—I watched a lot of Roy Jones Jr. That Roy Jones Jr. Is my idol in boxing—that’s my role-model—I’m a big Roy Jones Jr. fan. Now that I have the name that I have, I’ve been thinking about going to Pensacola to put in a little work with that guy.
Is boxing something that you’d be interested in doing?
No, not really... Because mixed martial arts is way better. Period. One thing I can say is, when I go in the gym and spar, I always instantly forget about the legs and the knees that can come my way until one is thrown at me and it puts me back in perspective—at the same time that’s something that I like.
Do you feel that you’re still improving as a mixed martial artist?
A whole lot. Like I said, I went to Orlando to train with Jonathan Brookins. The time I was there, I went to Gracie Barra of Orlando. It was my first time in a gi—I never thought I would be in a gi—with that gi training, it was nice. It was an opportunity, it was an experience, it was straight—I liked it.
Are you at all reluctant to devote too much of your time to training on the ground?
See that—a lot of people don’t think I’ve got a ground-game. When I first started fighting, that was my thing; I would slam, take you down, ground and pound. Once again, Terry Trebilcock flew me out to California to fight at one of his shows—I fought Chad Smith. The big hype was; Chad was going to knock me out, because, once again, I wasn’t training at the time. I wasn’t training and he probably was and I had a lot of street fights, and that’s pretty much how it was—it was ‘west coast versus east coast.’ From that point, it was over there—I put in the work.
If you could describe your style in one word, what would that word be?
Abundant... because I’m such an abundant person—I’ve got all types of shit. Like I said, I watch a lot of these fighters—these guys at my weight. A lot of these guys have got a lot of shit that they’re doing, but just as well as I have a brain, everyone else does too and I think my swagger is pretty good when I go in there and fight. What I mean by “abundant” is I’ve got an abundance of shit to display.
Do you feel that there is anyone that you can be compared to—style-wise?
No. I’m in a league of my own.
Where do you rank yourself among the world’s top featherweights?
Probably, I don’t know—200... Because I’ve been performing so badly, lately. I think I could be the champion. Honestly, I feel that I could be the champion. Like I said, I’m bouncing between 145 and 155. Those two weight classes—I’m gonna get myself right to dominate.
Is it safe to say that the UFC is your long-term goal?
Yeah. On March 21st I’m going to go try out for the UFC—again. But this time, I’m going to have a couple people speaking on my behalf—hopefully.
Why do you think you didn’t make it onto ‘The Ultimate Fighter’ before?
They were saying something about my criminal record.
Do you think that’s going to be a problem again?
Yeah, I do think it’s going to be a problem, but there’s no problem with saying no. The only problem is the gas and the time that I’m going to waste going up there, but the good thing is I’m going up there—it’s worth it, you know what I mean?
How big of an opportunity would that be for you to make it onto ‘The Ultimate Fighter’?
Oh, man. You ain’t seen nothing yet—I’ll just put it like that. I think I’m too “hood” for Dana White, though—that’s what I think they didn’t let me go last time.
What do you think you have to offer the UFC?
I’ve never asked anyone for an autograph, but I want Dana White’s. I don’t think Dana White ever had anyone ask him for an autograph—let me get one.
That’s what’s going to set you apart?
Yeah, I think so; you’ve got to take that into consideration. The show wouldn’t go on if it wasn’t for this man; this man is the “brains” behind it. I hear a lot of talk about Dana White, you know what I’m sayin’? But, in my eyes, Terry Trebilcock, Dana White, Don King—these guys are the shit, man. They’re the shit. I don’t know why they’re the shit, but they’ve just got brains—they’ve got brains to get money. I have a brain to fight. I need to get a way into these guys’ pockets without upsetting anyone—like the Brazilians and Chute Boxe.
Speaking of Chute Boxe, I recently read that Christiano Marcello would be interested in a match against you. Is that something that you’d be interested in?
All day. I’d take that fight all day, because these guys—I’m a little guy, I would think that a man would respect another man’s, I don’t know, fearlessness. Shit, I was in a room with 20 of you motherfuckers—20 Chute Boxe guys. The altercation that happened—everyone says I’m the one talking shit—what the hell do I have to be talking shit about, you know what I’m saying? Commonsense would tell you; I just beat a guy that you guys trained, I’m happy [laughs]. I have no problems—I beat the guy you trained, so why should I be the one talking shit? I come alone. I don’t come with a crowd; I come alone. I was born alone and I’ll come alone. Look at this shit on YouTube and you can see where they cut and edited and all that—that really pisses me off. Whatever is name is—Christian—I don’t give a fuck, but at the same time, I would like, when I win this fight, why don’t y’all just bring the real tape in. Don’t just sit there and try to take my glory. I know what happened, a couple more people know what happened, the Japanese that was there know what happened.
Do you want to take this opportunity to set the record straight?
So, once again, I had just beat Ken Kaneko in the ring in front of all these people—billions of people—with an armbar. Everyone knows I’m not a submission guy, but I beat him with an armbar. While I’m in the ring getting ready to do my celebration—because I’m an entertainer, all day—so while I’m in the ring doing my entertaining dance, fuckin’ Christina. She’s talkin’ shit to me—I really don’t speak Portuguese, so it was like, whatever. I just won and I’m gonna have some fun, so I took the referee down—I’m quite sure everyone’s seen that—and he gave me the yellow-card after the fight. The shit was, like, fucking with me mentally, so I went into the locker room—three of us shared a locker room; me, I wanna say Josh Thompson, and Wanderlei Silva—all three of us shared this locker room. Well, after the fight, like I say, dude got in the ring and said that shit, I went back to the locker room, dressed out, and all of them were in the locker room getting ready for Wanderlei’s fight. I’m in there watching the rest of the fights and Christina started talking shit, and I was like, “I don’t fight for free, I fight for the money. Let’s set something up an’ we can do somethin’.” He started talking Portuguese, I looked at him and smiled, and he’s like, “You think I’m a punk?” and when I stood up, he hit me—he hit me twice. From that point—you don’t see him hit me twice, you just see me stand up and rush in. And then I get choked out. After I woke up, Wanderlei is kicking me, he’s kicking my foot—going off like I did something wrong. So, I got up, got my leather jacket, and as I got my leather jacket, I’m screaming, “Nigga, I ain’t afraid of you!” and I’m throwin’ a right hand with it. It catches Wanderlei right on the button, he does a 180 turn, falls out, everyone’s looking, like, “What the fuck just happened?” and while they’re still looking, the nigga that just knocked the Brazilian out is trying to get away ‘cause like I said, there were about 20 guys in there. I broke away from those guys, got to the door—I couldn’t get out the door, so I probably caught two shots at the door and then I got out. That was it. Wanderlrei came out the locker room like, “Oh, I’m going to kill you mother fucker!” I was just laying on the floor, like, I just knocked Wanderlei out—laughin’ and got up and ran. I know none of those Brazilians can catch me.
Looking back, would you have handled the situation any differently?
Nah, how different could I have handled it? From what was seen on the internet, from what the Brazilians say and all this, what other way could I have handled that? When the Brazilians come out, they come out deep. All these other guys—I don’t know why—but they come out deep. If you look at what they did to Mark Coleman after he fought “Shogun”—a freak accident where “Shogun” breaks his arm and everyone rushes in on Mark Coleman. These guys are real goons—the Brazilians are the goons of MMA. I love ‘em.
What were you thinking in the moments before you punched Wanderlei?
I don’t know—I wasn’t thinking, I couldn’t have been thinking. I mean, what guy in their right mind, like I said, there’s 20 guys in there and as you’ve seen on the footage on YouTube, they let us fight. I don’t think anything happened prior to the fight—I don’t remember—but I do remember when I came to my senses, Wanderlei was kicking me. Nah, nigga, you gotta pay—if you put your hands on me we’re going to fight. If you’re putting your hands on me out of anger, we’re gonna fight—I’m in defence mode.
Do you think that there are a lot of misconceptions of you?
All day, bro.
Do any examples come to mind?
I don’t know. That’s a good question. That’s a question that I want to ask Dana White.
Do you think a lot of these misconceptions are what have been keeping you out of the bigger organizations?
Yeah, but you know what; I can’t blame anyone but myself. A lot of these misconceptions come with, “We’ve got a fight for you,” and boom; I’m in jail—can’t make it to the fight. They spend all this money promoting the event, but the star-guy of the fight can’t make it ‘cause he’s incarcerated—that’s where a lot of the misconceptions come from. However, what I’m saying now is, I’m not into any altercations; you’ve got any altercations with me, you can be tellin’ it to the back of my head or my back and the back of my ass and the back of my legs ‘cause I’m either walkin’ or runnin’. If you can run me down and put your hands on me then we’ve got a problem, but as far as altercations, nah, I’m not trying to escalate anything for nothin’.
Is there anything that you’d like to say to your fans while you have this opportunity?
Mountain Dew is good. Mountain Dew is good, guys—drink Mountain Dew.
What about Sprite or 7 Up?
Hell nah, man. I drink Mountain Dew all day. I want to take a picture and just post it up on my fuckin’ Facebook.
I thought you said you were supplement-free [laughs]?
I am—this is not a supplement [laughs]. This is what everyone says is bad for you, like, “Dude, you’re drinking sodas? That’s not good.” Like, dude, I drink sodas, I eat triple-chocolate muffins, and that’s it—I can’t use any more ammo for you guys to use against me.