EM: To go back to how you first started, how did you first get interested and involved in martial arts?
AT: Well, fighting period, when I was a kid. I mean, I’ve always been into boxing. I loved watching Mike Tyson, Cesar Chavez, De La Hoya, all of those guys, I grew up watching them. I really took a fascination to boxing. Now when the UFC first started, I was very fascinated with that. As it grew, it started really growing, I noticed that the muay thai strikers were dominating the stand up and the jiu-jitsu practitioners were dominating the ground game, at the time. I was already out of high school, I had already done a little bit boxing, I would really like to find somewhere to do muay thai and some jiu-jitsu. But first, I was really fascinated with muay thai. I was 23 when I found Kru Kayan, at the time. Once I found him, I started training in muay thai and I never stopped. That’s already was ten years ago.
EM: Since your last fight, two years ago, how do you feel you’ve improved?
AT: That’s definitely my striking game, I feel it’s gotten even better since then. Like I’ve said, I’ve been at the gym six days a week since my last week. Also, I’ve been grappling a lot, and I’ve been working with a little more wrestling, trying to work on takedown as well as takedowns. I’ve been fortunate enough to mix it in with a bunch of different guys, like Carlos Diego Ferreira and all the guys out there (at his camp). Also at Alliance Jiu Jitsu. We’ve all gotten together and each individual, each school has something to offer. We’ve been all helping each other out. I think my game has definitely grown since two years ago.
EM: How familiar are you with your opponent? Have you checked out his fights?
AT: My opponent actually got switched on me. I was supposed to be fighting a guy out of Laredo. Whatever happened with him, he couldn’t make the fight. So they switched my opponent to a Christopher Lopez. Christopher Lopez is definitely a harder opponent, he’s 5-0, and he has some knockouts and TKO’s. I’ve been able to look at his fights, and I know he’s a southpaw. He comes out, he throws a very hard left hand. He throws a straight left, as well as a left hook. I have seen three fights of his, and they ended fairly quickly. One was a knockout with his left hand, another one was a TKO by ground and pound. The other one I saw, ended in the third round by TKO. What I’ve noticed with his fights, he’s very aggressive. I’ve also seen that his chin has been tested, he’s been dropped in one of his fights. He does have a lot of heart, and he’s a big boy. He comes with power. He also tries to do some takedowns. I can’t really critique his jiu-jitsu since I haven’t really seen his jiu-jitsu.
EM: How does it feel to be fighting on this platform, on Bellator?
AT: Oh it’s amazing. When I got the phone call to fight on this event, there was zero hesitation from me. I didn’t say, “Let me think about it.” or anything like that. As soon as they told me, that it’s for Bellator, my emotions just ran wild. I got extremely emotional, I felt this fire just burn inside me. I knew this was an opportunity that doesn’t happen much. I was super excited and ecstatic, so I said, “Yes, let’s do it!” Definitely a blessing for this opportunity to come my way. Definitely feel like I’ve risen to the occasion. My training is extremely hard, I’ve dieted, I feel really, really good for this fight.
EM: Any last thing you would like to say to the public?
AT: I would just like to thank everybody who has supported me, I’ve like the STFC for giving me the opportunity to fight on this card. Also my training partners, coaches, I’d like to thank all of them. My sponsors, without the sponsors, things are a lot harder to do. With the help and support of my sponsors, friends and family as well, I’m just blessed to have all of them on my side. I’m really excited for this fight and I’m definitely going to put on a good show. You will see very authentic striking and muay thai, I just can’t wait to put on a good show for the fans.
EM: Thank you so much.
AT: Thank you, thank you.