The Jon Thorpe interview
by SFUK 20 December 2000
Jon "Vanderlei" Thorpe : post chicken dinner
This softly spoken young man has burst onto the UK MMA scene in the year 2000. Entered 3 events, won three events, conquering the mightly PIE warriors Danny Fitzgerald and Keith Dace in the process. We rate Jon highly.
SFUK caught up with him, and fellow London Shootfighters at Nando's chicken restaurant in Kilburn. Extremely modest, getting him to talk about himself is like getting money from Usman*. Luckily, Alexis and Kamal were on hand to tell you how good this guy is.
SFUK : Jon Thorpe, step up to the mic. You're one of the outstanding talents this year. What have you to say to that?
Jon Thorpe: I don't know...I'm just looking forward to fighting next year. That's what I'm aiming for. Get as many fights next year as possible and see how I get on. There's one in Holland, Millenium Brawl 2, Prague possibly, see what happens.
Alexis : We've got 4 competitions lined up for Jon within the next 4 months. We want to keep Jon in good cardio and good shape, keep him fighting, keep him active domestically and internationally.
SFUK : Just a little background about yourself, Jon, how old are you?
Jon Thorpe: 22, but I'm gonna be 23 end of this year.
SFUK: Whoa. Young. And how long have you been training?
Jon Thorpe: I've been training at London Shoot now for just over a year. I did like Japanese JuJitsu, just basics before I trained at London Shoot. Now I'm boxing and thai boxing as well. It's going good.
SFUK: Do you think your Japanese JuJitsu gave you any skills that carried over into your fighting now?
Jon Thorpe: Not really. I had really basic positioning before I came to London Shoot, but in the year with London Shoot, that's basically what I do in the ring.
SFUK: Does that year with London Shootfighters including this year that you've been fighting?
Jon Thorpe: Yeah. I started training end of last October, so I've been there just over a year.
Victory at the Amateur Pancrase in April 2000
SFUK: So in April you won the Amateur Pancrase after only 6 months of training.
Jon Thorpe: Yeah, I won that, then I had a couple of injuries that kept me out and a couple of shows were cancelled. Then I did the Ring of Truth.
Alexis: Basically, with Jon, from the first day he got there he was exceptional in the fact that he's a big guy and he's good with his movement and he's not afraid of training hard. Which is the difference between a lot of people when they come. He gave it all he had and you know he wants to fight. When someone wants to do something, the more they want it the quicker thay get to do it.
SFUK: To look at Jon, you'd think he came from an established boxing or thai boxing background because he's so confident standing up.
Jon Thorpe: I've been doing standup for a while, but for a year I've been training at London Shoot 2 or 3 times a week, thai boxing 2 or 3 times a week, know what I mean.
Alexis: Also the guys that train with Jon, all the guys at London Shoot, all the kick boxing sparring partners....when it comes to it, you train with good people and you don't panic in sparring. That's why he gets so calm in the ring.
Jon Thorpe: Where I get the confidence from is there's nothing that can be done to me in the ring that hasn't been done to me in sparring. That's from Alexis, Paul, Kamal, everything. So when I get in the ring I think "shit, I've been sparring with these guys, there's nothing this guy can do to me". So far it's gone good ya know.
SFUK: And how would you rate yourself in the UK scene.
JonThorpe: Ah...I don't know....
SFUK: Too modest to say anything?
JonThorpe : Yeah, you know I'll just train for fights as they come. It's not for me to say anything. I train with the best guys, I have the best guys training me and I'll just take as many fights as I can get.
SFUK: Is there anybody you would like to fight out there?
Jon Thorpe: It's not for me to name names, but I'll fight anyone in the UK.
SFUK : Go on. LOL
Jon Thorpe: There's guys like Thomas Lamont who I was supposed to fight but that got cancelled, so I'd like to fight him. Glen Brown, I was supposed to fight him. There's loads of fights I've had that have been cancelled, so I'd like to fight them. You know it's such a small circuit that eventually we'll meet each other.
Kamal Lock : There's a rumour you wanted to fight Kamal Lock.
Jon Thorpe; Yeah, but I think I've surpassed that level.
*laughs all round*
SFUK : Do you prefer pure Vale Tudo, or do you like to submissions events, King of Kings rules...
Jon Thorpe: I think I'm better suited to Vale Tudo. I've got good basic submissions, but my submissions are better for the Vale Tudo definitely. I set them up with strikes.
Alexis: To be honest with you, I think we focus more on Vale Tudo training. If we were focusing for different rules our training would be different. But for the moment Jon uses he knees really well, and we practise that a lot. He doesn't just have good knees, well he does, but we practise them real hard.
Jon Thorpe: It's mixing the wrestling in with the thai boxing...
Kamal Lock : I think he's a versatile fighter. He can change and fight his own fight and not fall into his opponent's style of fighting because he's an all rounder. So it might be knees this time, it might be kicks another time, on the ground another time. It doesn't matter, whenever it comes he can do it all.
SFUK: I think his recent fights say it all, knees, punches, triangle.
Alexis: When it comes down to it, you take what you're given. Another fighter takes you down, you work from the guard. You work from whatever position you're in. And if your train hard and work from your positions, as Jon says, I don't really see what can go wrong.
Jon Thorpe: I have an idea before the fight about where I want to keep it. But at the end of the day, if someone comes with me with something different that's not important. I'm prepared for everything and that's what you've gotta be. You never know what's gonna happen. That's what we all do.
SFUK: So you have serious ambitions as a pro fighter then?
Jon Thorpe: Yeah, I'm not doing it as a hobby you know. I work to train. That's all I wanna do. I want to get as far as I can.
Alexis : I hope Jon takes it seriously enough to not take any silly fights he gets offered and keeps his career on a gradual uprise. He's young, he's only 22, (note: Alexis is 21!), he's not gonna take silly fights. There's no point in him jumping into huge tournaments, he can, I mean he's got offered to fight in huge tournaments, but at the moment, let's keep it on a gradual level and when the time comes, take the big fights. You want to walk in there with the intention of winning at least.
SFUK : Turning pro, was that a decision that you (Alexis), pushed him into? Because that was quick.
JonThorpe: We'd done the amateur one then...
SFUK: Yeah but it was only ONE amateur event.
Alexis: You're got to remember, domestically, and I won't say this in a bad way, but the standard was definitely, we thought, within Jon's grasp. That's why we pushed him much faster.
Jon Thorpe: I felt ready, ya know, I'd done fine with the pancrase and just the training with these guys...
Alexis: We had about 4 or 5 Vale Tudo fights in class as well.
Jon Thorpe: They're the ones that no-one sees but they're the ones that count. I fought everyone. Everyone's been on the end of a beating from Alexis! But you need it, there's no problem going in the ring after that.
Jon v Keith Dace - photo by Levo
SFUK: And how did you feel after your first pro victory?
Jon Thorpe: I felt good. It was a good fight. Everyone that Keith's fought he's picked up and dumped, Dexter, Ian Freeman....so I knew I had to sprawl him and hit back with knees. And that's what I did. It went well.
SFUK: Keith caught you a couple of times...
Jon Thorpe: Yeah, he did. I was a little bit hesitant with my hands, you know every fight I'm a bit critical and I was a bit hesitant with my hands. But in my next fight at the Pancrase, my hands were a bit better so I just like to keep improving with each fight.
SFUK: Did the fact that you'd actually rolled with Keith, help you size him up mentally?
Jon Thorpe: Yeah, I rolled with Keith once, so I felt confident that if it went to the ground I'd be able to handle it, but I thought if I don't need to go to the ground I won't. But when it went to the ground I managed to catch a triangle so yeah it went great.
SFUK : So you'd prefer to keep it standing with most people?
Jon Thorpe: I haven't got a good shoot to take people down, so I'll keep it standing. If we end up in a clinch then work for a takedown if necessary. But I'm happy to keep it standing at this level in this country yeah.
Alexis: Just take the fight as it comes. Keith's a big guy though so would probably be the best bet, coz Keith's arms aren't as long as Jon's. Jon's confident in standing up, especially in that fight.
SFUK: Jon, we're interviewing you as one of the best new talents of the year 2000. But who do you think are the best new fighters to emerge this year?
Jon Thorpe: I'd definitely say Michael (Johnson - London Shootfighters), he jumped straight into the Amateur Pancrase, stormed through that, won it, then had a really tough fight at the Pro Pancrase. He had a sturdy opponent and he put in a brilliant performance.
Alexis: I'll take a little bit of responsibility for that. I thought Michael's opponent had a similar experience, one or two fights, ya know. But he's had far more than that. I was a little bit upset with myself for letting that happen. Michael did an excellent job, didn't get beaten, went the distance and lost on points.
Jon Thorpe: Chris Milward as well. I think he's another good guy that's coming up from the Colleseum, a lightweight. He's definitely a guy to look out for.
Alexis: Chris Milward. If Leigh Remedios sticks at what he does, he'll make a name for himself bigtime.
SFUK : Leigh's almost like old skool now, the amount of experience he's had lately LOL.
Kamal : I just wanted to say, Jon Thorpe - natural talent. I met Jon first at Fred Rado's Pancrase class at the Sobel sports centre. I looked at him and thought -" woo big guy, I'll go work with him". Great attitude, it was really nice to train with someone who knew what he was doing. His thai boxing skills were really good and I thought "excellent". We got to spar on the ground and I couldn't tap the bastard. I couldn't tap him! I'd been like, you know, King Dick, tapping everybody.
SFUK: So you'd not actually grappled before?
Jon Thorpe: I'd done a little bit but...
Kamal : He was just really strong on the ground and I said to Jon, just out of respect "where do you train?" And he said he'd trained a bit with Bas and Marco Ruas when you'd been to the states. So I said to Jon "you should come down to London Shootfighters". I pirated him haha. There you are. Great guy, great friend, excellent training partner. A natural talent.
SFUK: That's it Jon. Thanks for the interview and good luck in the year 2001.
Jon Thorpe: Thanks a lot man.
Gathered round our end of the table were Alexis, Kamal & 'Craig David tribute beard' Usman*
*Usman? Yes, he's a trainer at Peacocks Gym and the artist formerly known as Bepe responible for the excellent Millenium Brawl 2 posters. Uzman interview is here.
Note: Jon Thorpe is a perennial lurker at the SFUK Forum, so you can post any questions you have to him there. Go on, lure him out.
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