LONDON SHOOTFIGHTERS talk to SFUK 8 June 2000
Alexis and Paul are the instructors at London Shootfighters. They have built a reputation as the top MMA instructors in London. Here's an interview with both of them after a heavy afternoon's training.
Paul coaching James Zikic (on top) and Jon Thorpe
SFUK: A lot of people have come to SFUK.net, asking about London Shootfighters. So let's start from the beginning and tell us a bit about your background.
Paul : Right in the beginning, we used to be involved in traditional martial arts, and like a lot of people we saw the Ultimate Fighting Challenge (sic). The time I watched it, I was in Japan training Aikido, doing an instructors course. Dropped out of it (smiles). I got interested in it over there. I wasn't training but I was cornerman for quite a few fighters.... Chris Haseman....I went to RINGS tournaments and Vale Tudo tournaments and got an interest. When I came back to England, both Alexis and I started getting involved in it.
Like a lot of people we just started watching videos and training ourselves. That was the beginning of it for us.
SFUK: Youve always known each other ?
Alexis: Yeah, we went to school together.
Paul : From 12 years old we've known each other.
Alexis: Basically we jumped into a couple of tournaments blind without knowing anything about grappling or groundwork. We just jumped in over our heads and just sort of managed to scrape through them and come up with the goods in some lucky ways (smiles). We decides we just had to....
Paul : ....learn it properly. Our first trip we decided to learn....erm, I jumped out of university...
Paul : ...and we went to America to train with Royce Gracie. At the time you know it was Royce Gracie Royce Gracie Royce Gracie....
Alexis: around the time of Ultimate IV
Paul : ...we went to the Gracie Academy in California. Spent 3 months training there.
Alexis: The classes there were quite expensive, but when you actually get to know the guys there though, the trainee instructors, American guys, maybe 2 Japanese guys...
Paul : ..They give you a lot of their own time.
Alexis: You're sparring you know, like 3, 4 hours everyday and that's without the classes. You end up learning a hell of a lot more through trial and error, than through paying like 30 bucks a class.
Paul : The first time also at Rickson's. We trained there quite a lot, which was again a good experience.
Alexis: The difference between schools as well, between the way they train was interesting. A lot of the Rickson guys were triathlete's like real fitness fanatics. They were real tough guys. Whereas Royce's school being more commercial - the guys were different .
There was like 7 challenge matches while we were there! Jason Delucia came down....remember the Gracies were famous for taking challenges. Back in the early days when we were there, the challengers were coming in...
Paul : ...these were taken on by various purple belts. There was one where this guy looked semi homeless. Got beaten up by one of our friends, Eric, a four stripe blue belt.
Alexis: Basically they give the guys who walk in off the street a trainee instructor or anyone who wants to fight. If the guy beats them, then he'll get Royce. 9 times out of ten they're not getting past a blue belt.
Paul : ..To move things on. After that, we came back, we started training. We met Jamie (Zikic) at the KSBO, and we started, myself, Alexis, his brother Marios and Jamie, we used to come to West Hampstead Yoshinkai Aikido School and train there a couple of times a week. Just among ourselves. Word got around, a few more people started turning up and then it started turning into a class. After that we decided to take trips back to America again. Where we mainly trained at Beverly Hills JuJitsu Club, and again at Royce's.
Alexis: You get a lot more attention when you walk into a class as a fighter rather than a student. When we walked into Beverly Hills JuJitsu Club there were like 5 different fighters training in one place and if you make a point of saying you are a fighter - you have to prove yourself to be a fighter - which means you actually have to fight - they put you against all their fighters. So, Pedro Rizzo, Marco Ruas, ....they were all out there training for their fights and we got to train with them. They helped us train which gives a different element to training. It puts you in a different league. I mean you're not training with their students, you're training with them. That sort of upped our training a hell of a lot. We found out what worked and what didn't.
Paul : We came back, that was the beginning of the turning point, moving away from just Gi based JuJitsu. This is when we started bringing what you see today. Things we learnt from Bas Rutten, Mark Kerr. I mean we started bringing in wrestling takedowns, thai work, clinch work and a lot more strikes into it.
Then for our next trip aboard we'd made a decision, we weren't into doing Gi work anymore. After witnessing the more recent fights, we saw the Japanese fighters were coming up leaps and bounds for no Gi work and Vale Tudo. We decided to go to Japan. It was a return trip for me, so I knew a bit, so it was easier for us to live there.
We trained at Enson Inoue's and Rumina Sato's KZ Factory. It was it really, really good experience because it's just filled with fighters. Japanese guys are crazy, all the guys there basically just live in the gym, they have no other life.
Alexis: We're talking 9 in the morning till 9 in the evening. Full time training. It's not just it's strict, it's HARD. We walked into KZ Factory are they thought we wanted to fight Sato.
Paul : ...they thought we were there to come and have a go....
Alexis: Well we came off a 16 hour flight, jet lagged to f*ck, and we walked into K's Factory and basically 4 fights, off the bat, just full on let's go for it. I mean some of the guys were in the Japan Vale Tudo. The standard was SO GOOD. And it was just a shock to our system how good they were. I mean they lack strength but their technique is awesome and their stamina is...
Paul : ..incredible yeah...it was really relentless kind of fighting. And we learnt a lot there. Again, everytime we go forward, if you speak to the guys in our class and we come back, and there's new elements in our class and methods of training change as well.
Alexis: Sort of taking a bit of everything. Also we ended up training with like Kato, he's ranked number 1 shootfighter, middleweight. Below Sakurai. What is he, 21, 22?
Paul : Yeh he's only about 22. Same size as Alexis so they had some really good fights
Alexis: And he's an awesome althlete. Awesome. I mean the guys relentless, he just doesn't stop training, doesn't stop working. And also we were out there when Enson was training to fight Mark Kerr. So we had that element as well.....he's ...er, nutcase, real crazy (smiles).
Paul : ...Everyone treads lightly round the gym when he's training hard.
Alexis: Excellent, excellent.
Paul : .After that out next trip out was.... well James (Zikic) who had been training with us, had already been out training with Frank Shamrock. We felt in terms of someone who could help us...sometimes you have to look at it in terms of not just who's the best athletic fighter but who can help you the most and who seems to have bought themselves forward. Guys like Pat Miletich and Frank Shamrock you can see where they started from. They train fighters as well and they bring them up to a level. Apart from, if you train with someone like Mark Coleman who I believe could help you a helluva lot with your wrestling, but maybe not Vale Tudo, or guys like Frank Shamrock who can help you in almost every aspect.
Alexis: When it comes down to it, we're trying to complete our game. I mean we all box, we all kick , we knee, we do everything. When we feel that somethings weak or not as strong as it should be we go to people that we think can best help us. We don't go with any attitude, we go as students willing to learn. Obviously, in any situation we're willing to learn. We put in 110%. You go out, expect to fight, don't expect to train easy. When we got to Frank's, we were training very hard. Frank had just come off his fight with Tito so the atmosphere was real cool in the gym. We were training with K1 guys who were in the gym as well. Jean Claude. ....There were some real tough, tough guys training. My training partner, Bob Cook, who just recently won a lightweight UFC, ....Crazy Bob, yeah, he was cool.
SFUK: You guys have just competed at a high level at Freestyle wrestling....What brought this about?
Paul : You start doing Vale Tudo and then you take wrestling, you know, to improve your takedowns. So we started going to wrestling as we both fell in love with it.
Alexis: Yeah we love the sport. As athletes go, wrestlers are the toughest athletes pound for pound. Forget about No Holds Barred, that's a different league all together, but as a sport, as an Olympic sport, wrestlers have got such good pound for pound bodystrength. They're good fighters, natural fighters. Basically because of our Vale Tudo training we've got a bit of natural balence. And we're both quite aggressive when we wrestle anyway. We took to it quite nicely.
Paul : Our only problem now is, in terms of us taking either of them to a higher level, it's difficult to become good at both. If you want to get to the top level of wrestling, it difficult to get to the top level of Vale Tudo.
Alexis: I'm looking to take it as far as I can take it.
SFUK: Like make the British team and go for international competition.
Alexis: For sure. I mean we got invited to the British National squad training in Manchester.
Paul : Good Experience.
Alexis: That was good fun. You know, anything to improve us, anything to improve me, I'll do. An wrestling does improve me. It's improved my stamina...I don't use it as much in No Holds Barred, but it does nothing but helps.
That competition (wrestling), was a high standard, I mean again, we jumped in a bit at the deep end. It was like an International, with people from Germany, Russia, Holland...you know it was a big tournament. But when it came to down to it, we know just enough to stay above water.
SFUK: You did really well didn't you? That's what we heard.
Alexis: (smiles), well I won my first three and lost my last one.
Paul : You go into every competition hoping you'll do as well as you can, and learn from any losses.
Alexis: I'd just like to mark my words...the guy that beat me in the last one...I'm gonna get him! LOL, but he was a good wrestler so it was good fun and good experience, having to learn the rules again. Don't go on your back, I've been on my back half my life and now don't go on your back LOL
Paul : Rules are a big thing for every tournament.
SFUK: You guys are largely self taught. Obviously you've trained with loads of people....do you train using tapes at all?
Paul : Yeah, yeah, I mean he's even worse than me. He wakes up every morning eats breakfast in front of a tape.
Alexis: (Laughing), I mean the way it happens for me, I see a fight, I see something that works and I come in here. I've got guys here, and we all put it to the test. We all test it out on each other and we see if it works. If it works we use it and if it doesn't we throw it away.
Basically from training with the top, top fighters, you pick up their habits. It's never a bad thing, picking up winning habits. That's what we do. The way we work it is constant drilling. I mean you saw the class today, constant, no lapsing. It's a real friendly atmosphere, real nice, but if the work doesn't get done in here, it's not gonna get done anywhere else.
So I don't like people coming saying 'well I could do this to you or that'...well do it to me! Make sure it works, because I don't want you getting in the ring and finding out it doesn't. OK, the whole point is, we learn, we make sure it works here. If it works here it will work in the ring.
Alexis (in blue T shirt), sparring with Jon Thorpe, James Zikic watches.
SFUK: What about your next fights?
Alexis: The way I'm figuring it is, August, going out to Pat Miletich's school, wrestling out there for a month in Iowa State hopefully, with Dan Gable hopefully. And having some No Holds Barred fights. One at the beginning of August and one at the end of September. I 'm hoping to get a lot out of it.
SFUK: Do you know Pat already?
Paul : No, but we'll do what we usually do, call up, ask on the phone, be polite,ask to come and train, explain who we are....and It usually goes OK. In general, usually the fighters are the nicest guys. I've never had a bad experience.
Alexis: I'd just like to say, Frank Shamrock treated us...
Paul : Soooo well....
Alexis: Like family. He's the nicest guy EVER. I mean, we didn't put our hands in our pockets at all. All he did was help us. I mean we trained with him, sparred with him. Had some great experiences out there. He's a TOUGH, TOUGH, man. I'll take nothing away from him. Pound for pound he gets my vote for the best.
SFUK: Where do you want to take your MMA?
Alexis: All the way...
Paul : Yeah I'd like to. It's hard to juggle this with your job, work, social life. But for most of us training here, we want to push it as far as we can. That's why we're here training so often.
Alexis: We've got a good team. There's no way that we're not going to go for the best.
Paul : Both of us we'd like to do it internationally. Build up a couple of fights and again try and hit a high level, definitely.
SFUK: Thanks very much.
Paul : No problem, thanks.
Alexis: Thanks. I'd just like to add, that everyone in this club has balls. Everyone will fight to win, you won't find anyone from here stalling for points!
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