Erikson interview at Pride 20, 28 April 2002
of us know Tom 'the big cat' Erikson as the fighter everybody
ducks. And with good reason, as the 280lb All American
wrestler has dominated all but the very best the MMA world
has to offer. He knocked out Kevin Randleman with a jab,
drew a marathon tournament final with Murillo Bustamante,
and destroyed a bunch of people leading up to his loss
to Heath Herring and redemption against Tim Catalfo at
caught up with Tom backstage prior to Pride 20, as he'd
come to Japan for Gary Goodridge's wedding party scheduled
for the next night in Tokyo. I found him courteous, friendly
and willing to give good long answers to everything I
asked him. Apologies to the Big Cat for posting this up
wondered are you here to corner for somebody tonight?
Erikson : No. Gary Goodridge is getting married
and I used to work his corner, and so I came over for
the wedding and I wanted to watch the show, and maybe
drum up a fight for myself!
went a while without any fights....
Erikson : I fought on the last show, Tim Catalfo.
Hopefully I'll be on the card at Pride 21. Its exciting
(today). The first fight, that Bob Sapp guy, he's huge.
That would be a good fight. Semmy Schilt would be a good
fight. Minotaur.... I don't care.
any of those names been put around during negotiations?
Erikson : You know what? I'll fight whoever
they tell me to fight. I mean, I don't wanna even start
picking (opponents), thinking 'this would be a good fight'.
I don't care. Pride calls me, says 'will you fight this
guy?', easy answer - yes.
you keeping in shape? You know, treading water or training
hard anticipating a fight?
Erikson : I'm a coach at a university in the
United States, so I train with my team but I don't train
very hard. I mean, I train, but I don't get into the shape
I have to get in unless I know I'm fighting. Otherwise
its alot of wear and tear on my body if I keep training
at a high level all the time. But I do train, every day.
I'm maybe 80%. When I know I have a fight it goes to 100%.
like to go into some of your past fights. I watched the
Tim Catalfo fight. It was a quick one. You seemed to lock
him up, throw him down and then slowly work around to
a choke. Was that the plan?
Erikson : Honestly, I thought we were gonna
stand up and trade. I worked alot on stand-up for that
fight. I worked on submissions. I know Catalfo was pretty
good at submissions. So I've been trying to cross-train
with a little bit of everything but I really thought we
were gonna strike. But then when he tried to take me down,
it kinda surprised me. So I was like, okay let's go there
and work on the ground. When he gave me his back, it was
very simple for me: let's go for a choke. So it worked
out good, to my benefit.
seemed to be fighting off the choke, and then you let
go and went back to it.
Erikson : Yeah, I thought I had it, but it
wasn't in very tight. So instead of just standing there
I wanted to change off to something different. And then
he gave me an opening. He tried to do an ankle lock and
when he did that..... I couldn't even remember till I
saw it (the tape) but when I saw it, he had my ankle and
was pulling it up. By doing that he opened up his throat
where he couldn't block it so I went right back in and
got the choke.
was your impression of him in the fight? Did you find
he was strong, or technical? What stood out?
Erikson : It was so short its kinda hard to
say. He was very strong, otherwise I would have gotten
the choke right away. I mean, he defended the first time.
I thought I had it tight, but he defended it well. Plus
he wanted to fight. He was very excited to fight me. He
chose to fight me. So I thought he would have something.
I wasn't nervous but I knew I had to be prepared to fight
do you think he just didn't get his game working but you
Erikson : Yeah. I kinda forced my game before
he could get his going.
to some old fights - Martial Arts Reality Superfighting
1996 - when your fought in the tournament. How did you
get into it? Did they just call you up?
Erikson : A real old fight! Yeah, they just
called me up. They were looking for someone to fight.
I'd had other shows asking me to fight before and I couldn't
because of my schedule. I was still very active in amateur
wrestling. Finally I agreed to fight in that show. I trained
maybe 2 weeks for that show. And I fought a Russian, then
Willie Peters, and then I fought Murillo Bustamante. And
now Murillo is a big star and a champion in the UFC.
you know anything about him before that match, cos that
was quite a long one.
Erikson : Yeah, about 40 minutes. I knew he
was very good on the ground so it was gonna be educational
because I didn't know for sure what he was trying to do
but I knew that everytime he moved I must follow. So it
was good for me to fight a very good Jujitsu fighter early
in my career and that way I know and hopefully learn something
he surprise you a bit? He seemed to get close to an arm
bar early on and you shook him off and lay on him and
hit him a bit [I can't believe I said that to him!
- Nick] and then.... was he always going for submissions?
Erikson : Yeah he was trying to work submissions,
he was trying to set up submissions. He actually almost
tried a knee bar and an arm bar. He had some good positions
but I was able to defend them. And then from after that
I felt I knew from the set-ups that he used not to make
the same mistake and we fought on the ground for a little
you learning as it went?
Erikson : From there I realised there was more
of a risk for me to get submitted if I stayed on the ground
so I chose to stand up and take momentary strikes on the
ground and stand up again.
that fight you seemed to take over 15 minutes in, you
seemed to push him around alot.
Erikson : I was out there learning. I didn't
know how good he was on the ground. I've never experienced
a very good jujitsu person and fighting with him I was
very unsure. As it went on I tried to make adjustments,
I knew I must move with him. And after I did that I started
feeling more and more comfortable. And after a while I
realised that my best opportunity to finish the fight
would be standing up. That's why I stood up the whole
ending was controversial, in that they didn't have any
rules ready for a fight going so long. Is it true that
they didn't pay either of you a share of the winner's
Erikson : No, they didn't. We split the loser's
purse. They made it very difficult. It was very.... I
didn't understand. It wasn't a good decision.
one more match. When you fought in Brazil Open Fights
97 with Kevin Randleman. It was another short match but
good while it lasted. With Randleman being a wrestler,
did you know much about him before you went in?
Erikson : Kevin and I were friends! I knew
him from wrestling and I trained with him. I thought it
was very disappointing that I had to fight Kevin. I did
not feel comfortable fighting my friend but because we
had to fight, we did. So that was that.
you wrestled or rolled with him before?
Erikson : He was smaller than me. We rolled
around a little bit, but he was alot smaller than me when
we were wrestling. When we fought he was much bigger,
probably 220lbs. He wrestled 177lbs, so he'd gained alot.
you about 270 or 280?
Erikson : 275.
that fight, you weakened him with a front headlock and
kneed him a bit. The punches seemed to finish a job you'd
already pretty much done.
Erikson : I worked on my striking and some
of my ground. I knew Kevin would come out very aggressive
so I wanted to take the front headlock and cut his wind
off. Then to create space and throw my knees. Then finish
him with strikes.
then, thanks for your time.
Erikson : Yeah, thank you.
record in MMA, including a tournament win at Brazil Open
U.S. Olympic Freestyle Wrestling Team (Alternate)
defeated the 1996 Super-Heavyweight Olympic Gold Medalist.
#3 Super-Heavyweight Freestyle Wrestler in the world.
x medalist in U.S. Nationals and World Cup Championships.
x All-American and NCAA Champion.
SFUK would like to thank Pride for their hospitality and
photos used in this interview *