Shawn Tompkins is one of the foremost authorities in MMA on the art of striking and thanks to Jake Hattan, one of his managers at Denaro Sports Marketing, FiveOuncesOfPain.com was recently granted an opportunity to interview the Xtreme Couture striking specialist.
In Part I of our interview, Tompkins discussed the preparations he’s current making in getting four fighters ready for Affliction’s “Day of Reckoning” on Jan. 24; his thoughts on whether Vitor Belfort has enough left to make a run a major middleweight title; and his feelings about famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach’s assessment of Fedor Emelianenko’s striking.
Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): You’re a pretty busy many these days as you are helping multiple fighters get ready for Affliction’s “Day of Reckoning” on January 24. Can you talk a little more about that?
Shawn Tompkins: I’m in the middle of one of my biggest training camps that I have ever had to date. I’ve got Mark Hominick, Chris Horodecki, Jay Hieron, and Vitor Belfort all preparing for big fights on January 24 for the Affliction card. We’re full steam ahead and we’ve got about three weeks left as of today. It’s all going good and everyone is healthy, which is the key.
Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): Belfort is such an interesting case. He’s had so many ups and downs in his career and is a former UFC light heavyweight champion. He comes out of Brazil and trained there for years and I wanted to know how you came about working with him?
Shawn Tompkins: Vitor wanted to come out originally to work with Randy Couture because Vitor has really turned to religion and he really respected the way Randy carried himself as a human being.
Ultimately, that’s what made him decide to come to Las Vegas. At the time I was working with Wanderlei Silva and a couple of other Brazilians that I was starting out with as well and my success as an MMA coach got back to him. He had his management connect with me and we worked together for a couple of days and see if it would go together. We’ve worked great together ever since.
Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): Vitor has made the move to 185 and he’s still in his early 30s. However, he’s been in so many wars over the years that he might be old for his age and I wanted to ask if you felt if he has enough left in him to make a run at a middleweight title?
Shawn Tompkins: Absolutely. And I’ve been telling people this since the last Affliction card where everyone has been like “Wow, the old Vitor is back.” I truly believe that it’s not the old Vitor and it’s a brand new Vitor that is more determined and more motivated. I think the 185 pound division causes him to have to work harder between fights and maintain.
It’s also been a long time since Vitor has had a real team behind him. I think where Vitor went well in the past is that after he had some success — and this has happened many times with other fighters — he surrounded himself with people that just say “You’re the greatest! Everything you do is perfect! You’re good — you’re good” and they don’t push him. And they don’t set it up and he has to come into the gym and do what he has to do rather than what he wants to do. I think he’s really matured and changed in that way.
As far as his body holding up, he’s a physical specimen. He doesn’t carry his age through any of the wars that he’s had. Sure, he’s had some tough fights but I don’t think he’s had any wars that will feed on him later in his career.
Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): You mentioned Chris Horodecki at the top of the interview and he” be fighting Dan Lauzon on Jan. 24. He’s come out and promised a surprise for Lauzon and while I know you can’t give the surprise away, can you give us a hint as to what we can expect?
Shawn Tompkins: What people are going to see ultimately is a more well-rounded Chris Horodecki. He gained a huge fanbase during his IFL days but I was really doing Bas Rutten a favor by putting Chris Horodecki in there at such a young age. Obviously, it worked very well for Bas and I and Chris. But now since April we’ve had some time to really just sit down and focus more on his training and career and round him out more so that he’s not just a kickboxer.
He’s a great kickboxer but we really spent a lot of time on improving his ground game as far as his jiu-jitsu and his wrestling. If anybody looks at Dan Lauzon, that’s his strength. I think we’re doing a really good job with our training of Horodecki. He’s a great kid and he’s a single-minded person. He knows what he’s good at and he knows what he needs to get better at.
Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): Horodecki is one of the best fighters in the world under the age of 22, yet he’s got several years of experience. How young was he when he came to you?
Shawn Tompkins: Chris and I started working together when he was 12 years old. I tell people this a lot, and he does too, we’ve got a real father/son relationship. We’ve won together and we’ve lost together. So there’s nothing we haven’t seen and we both know that there’s a lot of room for improvement and I’m always very excited in his fight camp when I put them together because I take them very personal and I always like to see him improve.
Sam Caplan (FiveOuncesOfPain.com): The main event on that card is Fedor Emelianenko vs. Andrei Arlovski and famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach recently broke down Fedor’s striking in an interview with SI.com. He specifically talked about how Fedor strikes from a flat footed position and he also indicated that he felt his aggressive nature could be used against him. What is your assessment of Fedor as a striker and do you agree with what Roach said?
Shawn Tompkins: First of all, I respect Freddie Roach more than any other trainer in the business and that’s in boxing and martial arts. When he says something it’s generally gold. But I will go against him in a way where he says Fedor’s punching isn’t technical and that it isn’t good because obviously, he’s the greatest. There are some cases with certain people that when everything they do wrong turns out right and that’s what you have in Fedor.
As far as an aggressive nature with Arlovski, I think that’s a positive for Fedor. If you look at the past with Arlovski, when he doesn’t do well is when he gets hit and gets hurt and that’s when Arlovski falls a part. He’s a very confidence-driven fighter. He needs to be winning in order to do well and look good.
I just can’t see Arlovski winning the fight. I think it’s a really bad fight for him but I think it’s a fight that he has to do. Best of luck to him, obviously, and I think Freddie Roach is a great trainer and I have respect for him at the upmost but I just don’t think he understands Fedor like the rest of us in the MMA game do.