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5 Oz. Interview: Army Ranger Andrew Chappelle talks about life as a fighter and a soldier

andrew-chappelle.jpg Andrew “The Powerhouse” Chappelle is an Airborne infantryman with a Ranger tab who trains out of Fort Benning, GA. Chappelle serves as an instructor at the Army Combatives school there as well as a full time soldier, jumping out of planes and generally defending our freedom.

On top of that, Chappelle is a professional fighter with dreams to one day fight full time professionally. He is scheduled to fight this Saturday, April 19th, at Art of War 5: GI’s vs. Pro’s. I had the opportunity to catch up with Chappelle to conduct an interview with him about the upcoming fight, his potential, balancing life in MMA as well as the Army, and much more.

Adam Morgan: How did you get involved in the sport of mixed martial arts?

Andrew Chappelle: Well I started training about ten years ago. I’ve got a brother, about a year and half apart, and we fought a lot. And of course with the UFC going on, the whole rise of jiu jitsu, we had a black belt that used to teach jiu jitsu in San Antonio while he was there for law school. So I started training jiu jitsu, did a little boxing before that in New Orleans. So I had some boxing, some jiu jitsu, then I started doing some Thai boxing at another Thai boxing gym in San Antonio. Did pretty good in some grappling tournaments and then I just decided to start fighting.

Adam Morgan: So you had a background in MMA before the Army Combatives program?

Andrew Chappelle: Oh yeah, long before. I was pro before I even joined the Army.

Adam Morgan: Do you feel that the Combatives program has allowed you to round out your game a little more or are you more of an instructor?

Andrew Chappelle: Yeah, I am an instructor. I’m an instructor there at the Combatives school. It’s a really good program, especially for the soldiers. Not only that but you can train and stay in really good shape while at the gym.

Adam Morgan: How did you end up getting involved with the Army Combatives program?

Andrew Chappelle: Well I fought in a show in Atlanta, I’d say about three to three and a half years ago and beat Junior Assuncao in a decision. Junior Assuncao was pretty tough, especially in that area he was known to be really good. So I met up with Matt Larson, who is the director of the Combatives program and he was like “Wow, you’re pretty good and I really enjoyed watching you fight.” So I was like “Yeah, y’all are in the Army?” And he said “Yeah, we actually have a Combatives program.”

I was a little skeptical at first about the program but once I learned a little bit about it and talked to him and said “Well, I’m sort of joining the Army,” so I just kept in touch with him. As soon as I became a non-commissioned officer I gave him a call back and he got me orders to go to a Combative school.

Adam Morgan: You’re an Airborne infantryman with a Ranger tab, correct? Tell us a little bit about the rigors of Ranger school.

Andrew Chappelle: Ranger school was all kinds of fun. You’ve got the army phase which is basic land nav, team leader and squad leader type leadership. You just do raids and missions the whole time. Then you’ve got mountains phase with more mountainous terrain, a lot more missions but you get graded on your leadership and higher positions like platoon leader and the same thing with swamp phase, except you get really wet.

You’re constantly in and out of swamps, in and out of Zodiacs, and swimming and stuff like that. It’s a tough school but it’s a good school to go through. I lost like 35 pounds from the food deprivation and there’s a lot of sleep deprivation as well. You’re just doing mission after mission.

Adam Morgan: Is that more of a mental thing than anything else?

Andrew Chappelle: For me it was (mental) because I was in such good physical condition. You’re carrying around between 75 lbs. and 100 lbs. rucksack and you’re constantly moving, especially in mountain phase going through all that mountainous terrain. You do have to be in pretty good shape, for one. But for me it was more mental just as far as lack of sleep, constantly on the move, operation after operation.

Adam Morgan: What’s more of a thrill, jumping out of a plane or fighting someone inside a cage?

Andrew Chappelle: I don’t know, depends on my mood, you know? Jumping out of planes is fun and all but fighting is like the best sport there is. So I’d have to go with fighting even thought jumping is always fun.

Adam Morgan: When I talked to Tim Kennedy a while back, he said that he felt fighting made him a better soldier and being a good soldier made him better at fighting. Do you feel the same?

Andrew Chappelle: Oh yeah, I’d have to agree because the discipline that soldiers have is bar none the best. Soldiers, they constantly train no matter what. We’re up at like five o’clock in the morning. I’m up at five o’clock in the morning so I get to work on time. We do physical training every morning and that’s just for our job as soldiers.

Then we continue and we do our mixed martial arts training throughout the day. So no matter what, we’re going to be physically and mentally tough because we’re always going through different schools to stay sharp in our mind and we’re always going through physical training. So we’re definitely better disciplined when it comes to fighting. It’s a different mind frame, but I feel better as a Ranger now coming down to the ring than before.

Adam Morgan: Who are some guys right off the top of your head that are really up and coming in the Combatives program right now?

Andrew Chappelle: Well of course Tim Kennedy as you already mentioned. He’s really, really good. Damien Stelly is also really good. We’ve also got myself, you know, I can definitely compete with the top guys in the sport. There’s a lot of guys throughout the Army that are unheard of. Nate Ford, he fights at 135 lbs. and the dude is like a physical specimen for 135 lbs. He’s huge. He walks around at like 140 or 145 and you would never guess, the guy is in great shape. So definitely all the guys I mentioned.

Adam Morgan: You just recently got back into the swing of things, fighting for the first time in a couple of years at Art of War 4. How does it feel to get back in there and start fighting again?

Andrew Chappelle: Oh yeah, it feels good. I’ve had a little bit of a break from training but I just got back to it. Two months of training (for Art of War 4) and they found me a world champion in jiu jitsu who’s a pretty good guy, Adriano Pereira. He was pretty good, you know but I ended up coming out on top. I was in better shape, my jiu jitsu was just as good as his or better, and he didn’t want to stand with me so it was a good outcome.

Adam Morgan: Yeah, I heard they changed your opponent like the day of the event?

Andrew Chappelle: Yeah, they changed my opponents a few times due to dropouts. It’s happening for the next upcoming fight as well, I just recently today found out who my next opponent is for this Art of War 5. I’m here, I’m always in shape and ready to go. I can compete with the top guys in the sport so it doesn’t matter too much.

Adam Morgan: Have any of the larger organizations talked to you about fighting for them?

Andrew Chappelle: Well I’ve had a few offers mentioned to me with Bodog and with The Ultimate Fighter show that I never went through with so I don’t know if they would have ever gone through or not. Just more of a mention or someone recommending me than anything.

Right before I went to Combatives school I had an offer from Bodog that was pretty nice. It was a pretty nice payday but I had to turn it down because I wasn’t training for a professional fight. I was in and out of the field, just got back from Ranger school, and like I said I lost about 35 lbs. and it was mainly muscle that I lost. So I just wasn’t gonna be ready for it.

Adam Morgan: I also heard that you were invited to join GSP’s fight team after a training session with them. How did that go down?

Andrew Chappelle: When I first started, they actually flew me down and we went on a little mini vacation per se and we went down to Team Greg Jackson. I’m actually affiliated with Team Greg Jackson because I went up there and trained with some pretty good guys like Georges St. Pierre, Rashad Evans, David Louiseau and a bunch of other really good guys. It was a really good workout, really nice people, great training.

Adam Morgan: I was told that you may have given GSP a run in training?

Andrew Chappelle: Yeah, it was good. We messed around, we rolled around on the ground. I don’t know how hard he was going against me but I didn’t get tapped or anything so it was good. It was a good workout.

Adam Morgan: I’d say if you’re not getting tapped out by him, then that’s probably pretty good.

Andrew Chappelle: Yeah, that’s always a plus. When I went with him alone, I was like “Wow, he’s pretty good” and I’m no joke on the ground myself and he felt really good on the ground. This was before he was going to fight Matt Hughes and I was like “Man, I hope Matt Hughes is ready for him.”

Adam Morgan: Is it your goal to eventually become a full time fighter? Are you happy juggling Army life and fighting right now?

Andrew Chappelle: Yes, I would like to. I actually have a commitment with the Army, I have two years left in this term. If fighting goes well I’d like to continue my education in school, I’m also a student, I’m in college right now as well. But with working full time I only get to go to school part time. But if fighting goes well and I start getting fight offers, I’d like to go to school full time and train and fight full time as well

Adam Morgan: I was looking at your MySpace page, you’ve got a little one on the way?

Andrew Chappelle: That’s right, I got a baby girl on the way and she’s due on my birthday. And what’s so cool about it is that my brother just had a son on his birthday so what a coincidence.

Adam Morgan: Well, congratulations to you, sir. Anybody you want to thank or give a shout out to?

Andrew Chappelle: Oh yeah, all my chain of command, all my training partners, everyone that’s in my life right now. Also Ranger Up. Good people, great tee shirts, great image.

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