If you ever speak to Thiago Alves about the people that have influenced his MMA career the most, the one name that always comes up is the man he calls “The Godfather.”
The person Alves is referencing is American Top Team owner and his longtime manager, Dan Lambert.
If you don’t know Dan Lambert, don’t be surprised. He’s always stayed in the shadows, working from his office as opposed to on the internet or message boards and Twitter. He’s landed a slew of fighters in the UFC, Strikeforce, and other promotions and continues to grow American Top Team into one of the biggest gyms nationwide.
For Thiago Alves, Lambert is one of the most influential people he’s ever met.
“He’s everything. Dan’s the reason I came to America. Dan’s the reason my family today in Brazil has a better quality of life, and it’s the reason I’ve got all this opportunity in front of me,” Alves said about Lambert when speaking to MMAWeekly Radio.
“I’m just so young and I’m so blessed for everything he’s done for me, and he’s still doing it. He’s everything. I see him as a father figure, but in the same way a godfather. Whenever I fight, whenever something legal I need to get done, everything that I need, I just come to him. He always has the biggest smile and the biggest heart, and whatever you want he’ll take care of it.”
Lambert isn’t just there, however, to support Alves.
Whenever Alves makes a mistake or doesn’t do what ultimately would be right for his career, Lambert is the person that will call him up to tell him what he did wrong and make sure he knows to learn from that particular lesson.
It’s an important step Alves says in becoming the fighter he wants to be one day.
“He’s really serious when it comes to snap some sense into you. It’s not just about it’s a free ride, it’s got to make sense, and you’ve got to know you’ve got a real man in front of you and you can’t fool him. He’s been around the world and down these roads so many times, he’s seen it all,” Alves stated.
A longtime member of American Top Team, Alves has been with the gym since he first came to America several years ago.
While the team has undergone changes over the years and even a migration of fighters who left the gym recently to start training with a new team, Alves has always been at the foundation of American Top Team.
The Brazilian isn’t going anywhere because he knows that he has a real team and a real family around him, and it starts with Dan Lambert.
“Our relationship, he’s a father figure that I respect a lot,” said Alves. “I’ll do anything for him in a heartbeat just for the opportunity he gave me to live my dream.”