by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
(Strikeforce fighter Jake Shields with Zoltan Bathory)
The obvious connection between MMA and heavy metal has been something that people have known about for a long time. Pounding rhythms, heavy guitars, and thundering bass all seem to go hand-in-hand with the aggressive combat often seen in the cage.
And while many musicians are fans of MMA, few get as involved in it as Five Finger Death Punch (5FDP) founder and guitarist Zoltan Bathory.
Not only is he a dedicated fight fan, Bathory is also the co-owner of Alphadog Combat Gear, a company who provides gloves and gear for such shows as Gladiator Challenge and has sponsored fighters such as Jake Shields at one time or another.
While on a brief break recently from his band’s break-neck touring schedule, Bathory spoke to MMAWeekly.com about his love for the sport and why heavy metal and MMA go hand-in-hand.
“I started Judo when I was around nine or ten and it’s been a big part of my life,” stated Bathory. “Later I got into some kung fu and BJJ too – however in the last 10 years my schedule with the bands (I’ve been in) got so busy I spend way more time on the sidelines than on the mat.
“I do go to camps and train whenever I can, but I can’t keep up a regular schedule. However, I religiously watch everything MMA, and through Alphadog I can keep my finger on the pulse of the whole fight scene, and somewhat contribute to the sport.”
Even though he may not always make it into a gym for a training session, Bathory recounted a story where he and former UFC fighter Dean Lister managed to trade moves while on the road.
“Actually it is pretty funny, but he came out to a couple of shows, and we were talking in the parking lot about martial arts and whatnot, and the next thing you know we’re kicking up dust,” said Bathory.
“He is much bigger than me, but it was really fun, kicking up dust in the parking lot and working techniques.”
Bathory feels the connection that brings fans of MMA and heavy metal to their respective interests and together is something deep within us and all together primal.
“Both of them have a level of aggression, and there are people who are drawn to that, and that’s not a bad thing,” he stated. “I always say we’re living our lives in cubicles under florescent lights, and we’re not designed for that.
“We’re warriors, survivors and we’re removed from nature and this element that we are supposed to have – it’s unnatural. A lot of people crave it, that aggression, and I think a lot of people find it in heavy metal and MMA.”
Being a fan originally of fighters like Ken Shamrock and Bas Rutten back in the early days of the sport, Bathory now follows the likes of B.J. Penn, Georges St-Pierre and Anderson Silva. And while he follows the sport closely, don’t expect him to give up his day job for his other love any time soon.
“I’m not going to get into professional fighting any time soon,” chuckled Bathory. “I have a lot of good friends in the sport, and if I would have time in between tours, I would go and train with them, but being in a cage where anything goes, is something else.”
Shifting focus to Five Finger Death Punch, the band is currently enjoying the success of their latest album, “War is the Answer,” released last year to high praise from critics and fans alike.
“The album debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard (charts), which is really surprising, because we’re a metal band,” said Bathory. “We’re much heavier than a lot of bands on the radio these days and we have songs on the radio, so that’s a sign to me that the genre is coming back.
“We’re lucky to say our fans are absolutely out of their (expletive) minds. The shows we play they just rip the roof off the building, and the shows are pretty much sold out wherever we go, so we’ve been having a really good time.”
Along with the band’s accolades, Bathory himself was rewarded this year with a Metal Hammer nomination as best guitarist, and the release of his own signature B.C. Rich guitar.
“Playing guitar it’s the same thing with martial arts, I can draw the similarities,” he commented. “You stay focused and just keep doing it and don’t let yourself get distracted and develop your skill.
“If you strive to sort of invent something as you go, then you can become your own person, both in music and in fighting. And that’s what I’m trying to do. If someone recognizes that, then it’s an honor.”
Bridging the gap between heavy metal and MMA is something Bathory has always done, and will continue to do as long as he can, and urges fans of both mediums to do the same as kindred spirits.
“We’re going to be on tour all summer on the main stage of the Mayhem festival,” he said in closing. “Whoever is into hard rock or heavy metal, you would be crazy to miss it.
“Don’t believe anything you hear, you have to come out and see the band live. We’re a true live band and we’re always shoving whatever we can – lasers and smoke and whatever – on stage to make it an experience for people.”