MMA coaching guru and former World Cup and NCAA wrestling champ from the University of Iowa Rico Chiapparelli comments on the world of MMA:
MMAMemories.com: What first attracted you to MMA?
Rico Chiapparelli: “All of the varied skill sets involved, it makes it very interesting to me. And it’s a limited rule structure. The sport I came from (wrestling) was more scoring based. In the fighting you have the shot to finish it definitely.”
MMAMemories.com: Do you know if the living legend from Iowa Dan Gable is a MMA fan?
Rico Chiapparelli: “I believe that he is from what I read. He’s a fan of anything where a wrestler succeeds. I think it would interest him because of all the different techniques you need to be good at. He’s myopically focused on wrestling. If you meander off the subject of wrestling, he’s really not that interested.”
MMAMemories.com: Just out of curiosity, do you think Dan Gable would have attempted and excelled at MMA if he was competing in this era?
Rico Chiapparelli: “His number one thing is conditioning and mental focus. He’d be really good at this.”
MMAMemories.com: The Randy Couture vs. UFC issue – who is right and who is wrong in your eyes?
Rico Chiapparelli: “[Laughs] If I had to pick a side – I have to be political [laughs]. From my perspective – I’ve worn a lot of different hats – the UFC is correct. It’s hard to say they’re not. From Randy’s perspective – it’s more for the future athletes of the sport. He’s been taken advantage for a long time. From my perspective, the whole thing was handled incorrectly – the way it was done so publicly. Then it became a battle of egos. Nobody will win. Both sides are losing no matter what. The worst part, for me, is just when the sport is gaining in mainstream popularity, this comes along and puts bit of a black eye on the sport. But the sport will move forward.”
MMAMemories.com: What is your take on Kimbo Slice? Is he the real deal or a well-matched and well-hyped fighter?
Rico Chiapparelli: “Real deal as far as what?
MMAMemories.com: Is he a totally legit credible MMA superstar athlete?
Rico Chiapparelli: “No of course not. He hasn’t really fought. If he’s had one fight maybe. This is what happens when entertainment gets involved in sport. But the guy has his audience and if developed correctly may become a pop icon, of course we have seen this all before but the mainstream has not”
MMAMemories.com: How do you see this sport evolving in ten years from now?
Rico Chiapparelli: “What I think is going to happen – right now you see a bubble. I think you’ll see some kind of conservative backlash. Right now you have a lot of immature talent. There’s no real pathway for the talent to be developed – there’s no amateur league where guys can learn how to fight and compete. The sport basically started on pay-per-view, from the top down yet continues to endure. People will become more educated as to what they’re watching. As far as the fighting goes, it will become much more exciting, much more technical and atheistically pleasing . MMA is in like the bare-knuckle era as where boxing once was. What it has to do is be given time to grow up. The sport is really just starting right now. Slowly, the public will become educated about and appreciate all the different technical aspects of the sport and athletes will develop without a strict adherence to a distinct art or style.”
MMAMemories.com: Can you recall your first memory of MMA? The first time you actively took a step into it?
Rico Chiapparelli: “When I went to see the first fight in Birmingham, Alabama, Renzo Gracie vs Oleg Taktarov. I to see him fight along with a wrestling friend of mine, Tom Erickson. A manager at the time had all the top wrestlers – Severn, Randleman, Coleman, Frye, Kerr… They had a falling out. Erickson asked me to corner thing, a very common thing amongst wrestlers. So I cornered Erickson but in the finals he fought a Bustamante a Brazilian jiu-jitsu guy. At the time I was unlearned in the MMA arts. After the show I was informed that this was a business & how the BJJ make their living. I thought, Well, then this is how the wrestlers can make a living also. It was clear early on that anyone who could really wrestle would do very well in MMA. We formed the Real American Wrestling team, also know as RAW.
MMAMemories.com: Lately there were some whispers on AOL Sports News that Fedor vs. Randy could happen this year. Your comment?
Rico Chiapparelli: “It’s a lot of whispers. In this sport there’s a lot of whispers sometimes they even have press conferences- but only about 1% of it is true. Randy Couture may never get out of the UFC contract. And Fedor may never fight in the UFC. Fedor’s managers could care less about the situation here. They just want to make their money and go home to Russia. Fedor is their chip. They want to keep the chip and not give him away, the UFC contract is too restrictive for them. And from the UFC’s perspective, why get Fedor when you can get Kimbo for 1/10th the price actually they can make their own guy for less than that? Right now Fedor is just a name known by the MMA fanatics. He’s a great fighter but he doesn’t look like a great fighter. He just looks like a fat guy who can really fight. He is not what mainstream America perceives to be a bad guy. He does not speak english well and is not American. It’s sad to say but all these are factors ”
MMAMemories.com: Finally, what is the latest with the PSL?
Rico Chiapparelli: We have been diligently working behind the scenes to finish the Professional Submission League’s (PSL), ‘X-Mission’ with Couture vs Jacare before our next series of shows starts. The PSL plans to have a Mundial Series of events in 2008 including a couple big name super fights as well. We are developing a pro league submission wrestling and should be announcing more details shortly. Events to take place on the west & east coast just putting all the different pieces together.
MMA coach & former World Cup and NCAA wrestling (University of Iowa) champ
DOB: January 8, 1964 In: Baltimore, MD
Childhood Heroes: “That’s a good question. Probably for sports – Dan Gable. I didn’t really have heroes.”
Hobbies/Interests: “Nothing really. combat arts was a hobby that became a career.”
Nickname: “Rico. My real name is Ricardo.”
Favorite Movies: “I don’t watch movies. I’m not a movie guy. I don’t watch movies or much TV only MSNBC.”
Last Book Read: “Let me go look, because I read about five books at a time…it’s an autobiography of a Yogi,The E Myth Revisted and a book on how to train bully breeds, ”
Musical Tastes: “Everybody. Very eclectic taste in music. It’s hard to answer definitively. As a kid I remember I liked Bruce Spingsteen. That’s about the only one I can think of now.”
First Job: “Never had a job. Teaching wrestling camps ”
First Car: “Honda Prelude (black).”
Current Car: “A Toyota Land Cruiser (white).”
Favorite Meal: “Pizza or pasta.”
Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “I don’t really eat ice cream.”
First MMA Memory: “I went to go watch some friends fight. Next thing I know I’m in the corner with one, Tom Erickson.”
Childhood Dream: “A wrestler. Amateur wrestler.”
Greatest Career Moment: “When it was over. (Why then?) Because I focused my entire life on athletics. And not becoming – not exploring other areas in my life – it opened me up to explore the world and other experiences. It was eye-opening.”
Most Painful Moment: “Anytime that I lost. Probably the worst one was when I lost the Olympic Trials to Mark Schultz.”
Embarrassing Memory: “Is not having a guaranteed contract with Vladimir Matyshenko. I thought he’d blow through Tito Ortiz. He lost in five minutes. I should have guaranteed all three fights. It was embarrassing when Tito beat him. Tito was not even a credentialed wrestler, he wrestled in junior college. Matyshenko was a highly credentialed wrestler, a USSR champ & European championships silver medalist in freestyle.”
Favorite Fighters To Watch: “BJ Penn – he’s a really really good fighter. The guys I used to train – Couture, Trigg. I did not see him tap out Henderson but Anderson Silva must have gotten a lot better.”
Best Fights You’ve Seen: “There’s tons of good fights, tons. I’ve seen some live that are better because of the drama of being there live. About ten years ago in Japan Enson Innue against Frank Shamrock. That was a crazy fight. It had everybody in the crowd going crazy. That was more of a donnybrook. Recently Trigg vs Lawler another great fight because of heart Trigg showed on that particular night.”
Toughest Man You Faced: “Myself. Everybody is the same. If you can control yourself then you can control any situation. If not then it’s a 50-50 proposition or less. Though what people don’t realize is they’re only really fighting themselves.”
Last Vacation: “To Atlantic City and home to Baltimore.”
People Qualities Most Admired: “Truthful. That’s about it. As long as people are honest. Honest to themselves as well – more than anything else.”