An Interview with MMA Heavyweight Champion Joe "Apocalypse" Abouata!
Joe recently attained the USKBA and BCX heavyweight belts at Battle Cage Xtreme 5, by defeating Carlton Haselrig. In the following interview, Joe talks about his mixed martial arts career, including his most recent win, along with his training, nutrition, and future plans in MMA.
[ Richard Choueiri ] Hi Joe. You have been fighting for quite some time now. What made you interested in mixed martial arts?
[ Joe Abouata ] Well, I'd be lying if I said I was a fan from UFC 1. I didn't start following MMA until I was in college. As I was going into my last year of school, I discovered PRIDE FC. I found a Wanderlei Silva highlight video and was instantly hooked on the sport. I thought to myself, "I don't know how to fight, but if I did...that's how I'd do it; like Wandy!"
So, I signed for some extra PE classes: Intro to Boxing, Judo and Collegiate wrestling. Those classes only provided a basic introduction to the combative arts, so I still wanted to learn more. About a year later, I was introduced to Kurt Morella (my first instructor). He was a longtime martial artist; really well rounded. There was something special about him. I knew that I was meant to train with him.
He didn't even have a school. We just put wrestling mats on the concrete floors of an auto body warehouse. Well, after training with him for about a year, we all decided that I should try a cage fight. I always love challenges, and I'm extremely competitive. So, I figured with a year of training under my belt, why not have one pro fight and see where it goes.
I won by TKO in the first round. The moment referee Herb Dean raised my hand in the air, my heart knew this was going to be my path in life. During the 2 1/2 years I trained with Kurt, he kept telling me about his badass instructor from New Jersey, Alex Wilkie. After a while, I knew that if I wanted to maximize my potential and be a great martial artist, I would have to make a change in my life. So, I moved 3,000 miles from Sonoma, CA to Brooklyn, NY. That's when my life really changed.
[ RC ] What are all of the specific types of martial arts that you have practiced up to the present?
[ JA ] I have basically practiced the same martial art disciplines with my first instructor Kurt Morella and my current instructor Big Al (Alex Wilkie). They take a mixture of move sets and fighting methods from martial art styles all over the world, and only teach what is practical. Basic Jeet Kune Do principles. These martial arts include: Aikido, Boxing, Escrima/Kali, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Wrestling, Muay Thai, Russian Systema, Silat, Tae Kwon Do, Wing Chun, and several more styles. Big Al's system is American Freestyle.
[ RC ] Where do you currently train at?
[ JA ] I have been training at Alex Wilkie's Martial Arts Academy, in Bridgewater, NJ, for almost 1 1/2 years now. It is the Home of American Freestyle and Wilkie's Warriors!
[ RC ] How many days a week do you train?
[ JA ] I train six days per week. Depending on the day, I will train between 2 to 4 hours. My whole training regiment is integrated into my fight game. My practices are divided into the following:
- MMA training: Wrestling, Dirty Boxing, Clinch work, Muay Thai for MMA, BJJ for MMA.
- Kickboxing training: Boxing, Muay Thai.
- BJJ training: No-Gi Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
- Weight training: Focus on strength-endurance training. High intensity with low rest.
- Conditioning training: Cardio and agility drills, breathing drills (controlling heart rate, mental focus, and lung capacity).
- Pilates training: Core strength and flexibility.
[ RC ] What would you say are your primary strengths?
[ JA ] I would say my punching power and strength are very good. People tell me that I have a nasty right hand. I'm versatile, so I have good abilities in all aspects of athleticism and combative arts. However, my biggest strength is my tenacity. I pour my heart into everything I do; I'll never give up.
[ RC ] What kind of diet regimen do you follow prior to each fight?
[ JA ] I don't change my diet before a fight. I'm a heavyweight, so I don't worry about cutting weight. I eat healthy constantly. Dr. Cindy Woods of Xalt Sports is my current nutritionist. She has taught me that everyone is different when it comes to nutritional needs. By using her cutting-edge nutritional computer, these were some basic daily requirements she recorded: 7000 calories, 140g of fat, 951g of carbs, and 336g of protein. I eat all day!
[ RC ] Which supplements do you use?
[ JA ] I use the following supplements:
- Xalt Sports Foundation
- Xalt Sports Performance
- Xalt Sports Immune System
- Gaspari Nutrition IntraPro
- Gaspari Nutrition Novadex XT
- Gaspari Nutrition PlasmaJet
[ RC ] You recently defeated Carlton Haselrig at Battle Cage Xtreme 5, to attain the USKBA and BCX heavyweight belts. How much did that win mean to you?
[ JA ] So far, it was the hardest fight of my career and I came out on top. I earned those titles, so the feeling of holding those belts is incredible. I worked so hard in my training camp. The hard work paid off. Winning the belts was great, but I had an even bigger sense of pride a few days later when I brought the belts into the academy and saw how proud Big Al, Terminator, Greg Gracie, Billy Loftus and the rest of the Warriors were. Those are all of my current trainers and workout partners. I represent them whenever I fight. Finally, B.I.G., Big Al, Big Marcel, Hammer and Goldberg; it was an honor to have you all in my corner at BCX V.
[ RC ] How much different has life been since becoming a champion?
[ JA ] Not much. People call me "Champ" instead of "A-Poc" sometimes. You can't let the winning and championship titles get to your head, you know? I'm always hungry, ready to fight. Now, people are going to want to fight me for these belts; bring it!
[ RC ] When is your next fight scheduled for?
[ JA ] I'm fighting Paul White at Ring of Combat XXII, at the Tropicana Resort & Casino in Atlantic City, NJ, on November 21, 2008. If you can't attend, you can watch it live on HDNet!
[ RC ] You have obtained many sponsors over the years. How much has that helped you preparing for the fights?
[ JA ] The sponsors have helped me in many aspects of my fight career. Xalt Sports and Dr. Cindy Woods have controlled my nutritional and sports supplement program since my first fight. Xalt Sports packs have helped me survive the day to day training that I go through. Stuart Locklear Photography has handled all of my media needs with exceptional quality. Steiners Tavern always supported me with training gear, ticket sales, and after-fight parties.
Recently, I have added Gaspari Nutrition and Defiance Fight Gear to my sponsors list. Gaspari has the best whey protein available, along with other great muscle building and fat burning products. Defiance produces original artwork on great material; the end result is premium fight style clothing.
[ RC ] What are some of your future goals in MMA?
[ JA ] Sure, I want to win titles and make big money, but more importantly, I want to continue improving my skills with every fight. Also, I want to help put Wilkie's Warriors on the map. Wherever I'm going in this sport, you better believe the Wilkie's Entourage is coming too!
[ RC ] Talk about your life outside of the MMA circle?
[ JA ] My girlfriend, Rita, Magnus (my dog), and I, live in Perth Amboy, NJ. As for my hobbies, I enjoy watching movies, playing videogames, eating great food, and I'm obsessed with Entourage! I love going out with my crew, as there's always something going on! My family resides in California. I keep in contact with them by phone and email all of the time. Over the past year, I have developed a family here in New Jersey. I have great people around me. I wouldn't have any of it without The King aka Big Al. I met everyone, including my girlfriend, at his academy.
[ RC ] How can people keep up with your all of your upcoming fights and other projects?
[ JA ] They can check out my website at www.abouata.com or www.myspace.com/joeabouata. They can also visit Alex Wilkie's Martial Arts Academy website at www.alexwilkiemma.com.