by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
(photo courtesy of King of the Cage)
Exclusive interview by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
In this exclusive interview with MMAWeekly, Joey “The Dreamsmasher” Villasenor sat down and talked about his entry in the upcoming 183-pound Pride Grand Prix.
Villasenor has won his last 15 fights and has been tearing up the competition in many of the smaller MMA shows all over the U.S., and will now get his shot in one of the biggest shows in the world when he travels to Japan to compete in the Pride Grand Prix tournament.
Damon Martin: It’s been rumored for months that we would finally see Joey Villasenor in Pride, and now it’s happening with the latest edition of the Grand Prix. How did this deal come about, and how excited are you to finally get to show your skills in one of the biggest shows in the world?
Joey Villasenor: The deal came about from Pride and King of the Cage talking [and] trying to get me out there, representing King of the Cage, of course. The deal came that if we won at the Deep fight, we would get an automatic invite to the tournament. Winning the fight in Deep [against Yuya Shirai in April] got me the opportunity to get this shot in the tournament. I’m very excited to represent my team and my country, and of course the state and city where I live.
DM: You’ve got a ton of experience coming into this tournament, but due to limited exposure, a lot of people still haven’t seen you fight. What should people seeing you for the first time expect out of a Joey Villasenor fight?
JV: Well, I’ve polished up my game technically, and I think before I just got by on athletic ability and raw power. I think we’re definitely going to mix in the power with my new technique. I mean, I’m just an exciting fighter. I’m also excited to get to use knees to the head and foot stomps! I just like the rules in Pride. They give you the opportunity to finish the fight more, and I love the fact that there are no elbows allowed, which gives the fighters the chance to show all of their abilities better than winning by a cut.
DM: In your first round match-up, you’re taking on Ryo Chonan, who will be the hometown favorite in Japan, of course. Does fighting a guy like that add any extra pressure, especially on this big of a stage?
JV: This is fighting. I hope they sell out and there’s 45,000 people there cheering for him, and puts my back up against the wall and I’ll just come out and fight. I mean, who wouldn’t want to face this kind of adversity for doing what I do? This is what makes champions, champions. This is what makes athletes, athletes. You know, facing adversity.
DM: Ryo Chonan is very experienced and is well versed in submissions. He has fought guys like Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, and Phil Baroni, so he’s faced some tough competition. What difficulty does he present for you in this fight?
JV: The troubles are basically his awkward submission style. I’ve got to really watch pushing too forward on him and [letting] him attack a leg. I think he’ll have a very hard time trying to take me down, so I think I can keep this fight standing. If we do go to the ground, he’ll realize real quick that our submission school in the States is amongst the best. I’ll just take the fight to him, and I’d definitely like to keep the fight standing to show what my striking ability really is.
DM: You never want to look past a fight, of course, but this is a tournament. That said, if you win this fight, how do you like your chances to win the whole thing?
JV: I think everybody goes into this with the dreams of getting that belt at the end. I think that’s an exciting factor, and without that push of wanting to be the champion, you lose something. Last year when I was out there and [Pride had] an eight-man tournament, I thought if I was out there, I could have done something. Now, granted [Murilo] Bustamante and Henderson are some of the best in the world, but now I get this opportunity to show that I am, too.
DM: You train with some of the best guys in the business, guys like Diego Sanchez, Nathan Marquardt, and Keith Jardine. How important is it to you to have guys like that to train with and then in your corner for the fight?
JV: Well, this is going to be the first time that I’m going to have two of my coaches and two of my teammates in my corner. I’ve got Nate Marquardt and Keith Jardine in my corner for this bout. The team support is just something that I’ve never had before. I just know that when I’m out there supporting our boys, I know exactly what I’m going to be feeling and how it’s going to be. I’m excited for them to be there, and I’m excited to represent our school, and I know they’re just as excited to be there for me. We’ll definitely be ready to go come fight time.
DM: So, “Joey Villasenor, Pride Grand Prix champion…” How does that sound?
JV: That sounds like a dream come true. If we didn’t have hopes and dreams in this sport, we wouldn’t have much, and this means the world to me. When I got the news of who my opponent was, I just started materializing and started getting chills, then I started to get angry. This type of motivation and something new with this event… I feel like the dark horse, even though I might be ranked higher than some of these fighters. I just don’t have the notoriety. I feel like I’m the dark horse, and I’m just ready to show the world who I am.