Friday, December 13, 2013

Will Chope interview

After the Tohoku earthquake happened in 2011, there were many people who stood together in a charity effort and that included the MMA community. Many Japanese and international efforts helped Japan. I assisted with Tony Loiseleur’s report on how Shuichiro Katsumura stood for Tohoku earthquake charities.

On November 8, typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines and more than 5000 people became victims. The city's many structures were crushed by the storm. I know that Shuichiro Katsumura already donated to the Philippines and many fighters including Shinya Aoki and Ryo Chonan have talked about donations for the Philippines on Twitter. Mark Munoz and Brandon Vera have also tried to help their fellow countrymen.

I thought about who is the best fit to encourage people to support the Philippines and I realized that one person stood out from the rest: Will Chope, who recently got picked up by the UFC. He is the first UFC fighter ever who has a primary gym based in the Philippines. He is not Kababayan (Filipino), but he is based in South East Asia and has matured his skillset. He talked with me about his career in South East Asia and about how the people of the Philippines need help. Will has taken a new step in his career with the UFC and Filipino people need new steps for their lives as well, but they need help in order to do so.

(note: After We know Will Chope had incident when he was young, we decide close link to donate for red cross.I say there is nothing wrong with donation. But I don't want people misunderstand what we intent. We really thankful about what people did when link exist and hopefully continue to support natural disaster's damage for future. )

You are the first UFC fighter whose training is based in the Philippines. As an American, what motivated you to train in the Philippines or elsewhere in Asia when the United States has larger MMA events and bigger gyms?

I have been living in South East Asia for the last 3 1/2 years. I first came to Thailand to learn Muay Thai, then ended up traveling around and have based my camps out of Malaysia, Taiwan, as well as the Philippines also. I consider Baguio City, Philippines, my home in Asia, but I am constantly traveling around. The Muay Thai in Thailand and Boxing in the Philippines is the best in the world, so I have always enjoyed living and training in these parts. I prefer living in South East Asia because the people are just more warm, and the cost of living is low enough to where I can live off of my fight purses.

What is your life like when you are not training and fighting? Do you enjoy other sports or sightseeing when flying to other countries for training? Please talk a bit about your life outside of MMA.

Outside of training, of course I enjoy traveling and seeing the sights and experiencing the cultures in the different places I live. Also, I enjoy spending time with my family. My wife is Thai and we have a son, so it is good to travel to new places with them. She has taught me a lot about Thai culture and the language, so I feel every day I learn something new about life in Asia.

Please tell us about your team and your coaches who teach you striking and grappling, as well as your teammates whom you spar with. You, Mark Striegl, A.J. Lias Mansor and Yuji Hoshino all come from different countries. How did you meet them and form your current team?

I am originally from the United States but have spent the last 4 years living in different parts of Asia. My training camps vary, but I spend most of my time at Phuket Top Team in Thailand or training with Mark in Baguio. Here in Phuket, I have Andrew Leone who coaches my wrestling and BJJ, and I have two striking coaches. Piotr Leib, I work my boxing with. I am lucky also to do a lot of Muay Thai work with Thai trainers here, and I have Boyd Clarke who works with me to put everything together.

As far as Team Buffet, we are like family. Mark Striegl started the team and I joined when I went to live with him in Baguio City for 9 months. Then when we went to Malaysia we met AJ Pyro, and Yuji Hoshino was Mark's long-time coach from when he grew up in Tokyo. We are four very different fighters, each with unique skillsets, and we’re all based at different camps/countries. Every couple of months, two or three of us will meet up and train together and we always have at least one member helping to coach or corner us in a fight.

Who is the best prospect in South East Asia besides you, and which part of his or her game impresses you the most? 

Mark Striegl and Andrew Leone. Both guys have phenomenal wrestling and ground games. I expect them both to be signed by the UFC very soon.

You had six fights in 2011, ten in 2012, five in 2013, and you’ll have your 25th career fight when you make your UFC debut on January 4th. That is quite a large number of fights for someone still early in his career. How has that affected your skill improvement? Experience is obviously beneficial, but what about other factors such as damage taken? Also, do you need to fight that often in order to make a living in MMA in South East Asia?

When I first started training Muay Thai and MMA, it was back in 2010, and after a couple months of training I had my first fight and went pro. Looking back, I was very naïve and overeager to fight and was not ready at that time, but at the same time I believe my experience fighting has definitely made up for the time I have spent training compared to other fighters. I have had 52 pro fights total in MMA, Muay Thai, K1, Sanda, and Boxing combined. I love to fight and wanted to fight, but also living out here young and on my own with no college education, it was the only way I could earn money. I fight for mine and my family’s income. I am lucky to make my passion a career, but in doing that it also adds extra pressure. For when I lose, my whole family fills the impact. And as far as injuries, I would be lying to say that 52 fights in 3 1/2 years hasn't taken a toll on my body, but at the same time I am lucky to not have suffered any severe injuries.

In your last fight against Pancrase champion Takumi Nakayama, you showed that you could adapt well by using your frame and strength when grappling offensively and defensively, but Nakayama managed to get inside of your range and he landed some solid shots on the feet. What do you feel are your primary strengths as a fighter and which areas do you feel that you need to improve upon now that you are fighting in the UFC?

I need to improve everything, to be honest. I have won a lot of fights just by fighting awkwardly and by being the tallest fighter in the world in my weight class. I am blessed with a decent chin and a willingness to engage and always walk forward, but I do need to improve my boxing, wrestling and BJJ a lot.

Your upcoming opponent, Max Holloway, is a striker who likes to throw combinations and flying knees. What is your opinion of Max and how do you see this fight going? Without giving away your game plan, what would be an ideal scenario for you in victory?

Max is an interesting fighter. He is super tall and lanky like me and has crazy standup. Ideally, I'd like to choke him out fast and make a statement and show everyone I am ready for the UFC.

The Philippines was recently devastated by Typhoon Haiyan and the country still requires a large amount of support for citizens who were affected. As the first fighter based in the Philippines to fight in the UFC, could you please talk about what the Philippines means to you and what the MMA industry and audience can do to aid in the relief and reconstruction efforts?

I have Filipino family in Baguio City and many close friends in different parts of the country. I am grateful that none of them were affected by the Typhoon, but there were so many people who were affected and many who lost their lives. Filipino people are some of the nicest, warmest and most welcoming people you could ever meet. The Philippines to me is my home in Asia. So I ask that if anyone is interested in helping the Philippines and the affected families of the Typhoon, please donate to the Red Cross so that they can continue their ongoing support in rebuilding.

Big thanks to Robert Sargent  (MMA Rising) for English editing.