At 13-0, Donnie Liles is looking to make his move to the big time. He’d like to fight Diego Sanchez, but first he has to get past Ray Elbe this Saturday night at the Kick Down in Denver, Colorado. Meet Donnie Liles…
MMAWEEKLY: Donnie, you’re pretty well known in the Colorado area. You’ve run your record up to 13-0 now, is it?
DONNIE: Yes. 13-0.
MMAWEEKLY: That’s pretty solid.
DONNIE: Yeah, not bad.
MMAWEEKLY: What was it that got you interested in a career in mixed martial arts?
DONNIE: Just watching the UFC’s, I really wanted to try it. Then a friend of a friend was doing traditional Japanese Jiujitsu at the Institute of Martial Arts [in Colorado Springs, Colorado] and he referred there to Chuck Daly. I told them that I wanted to fight and they put me on the mat and I started getting ready. In about a month and a half I had my first fight.
MMAWEEKLY: Where was your first fight?
DONNIE: The first fight I ever fought was the Kick Down.
MMAWEEKLY: That’s where you’ll be fighting again this weekend right?
MMAWEEKLY: Do you still train at the Institute of Martial Arts?
DONNIE: I train there and I also train with Keith Wilson and Drew Lawrence.
MMAWEEKLY: Seeing as you’re in Colorado Springs, do you ever get the opportunity to train with any of the wrestlers or Judo players from the Olympic Training Center?
DONNIE: I’ve rolled with a few of them. I used to go over and train with Gabe Beauperthy and he’d have a lot of guys from the OTC down there, so I’ve rolled with a few of them. Two or three weeks ago, I was on the mat with a guy, a black belt in the Judo division of the OTC.
MMAWEEKLY: How’d it go rolling with a Judo black belt?
DONNIE: He got some pretty impressive takedowns, but I was able to submit him just about every time that we rolled.
MMAWEEKLY: For the fans out there that haven’t had the opportunity to see you fight yet, how would you describe your style to them?
DONNIE: I’ll do whatever it takes to win. I like to beat the crap out of stuff! I get on top of it and I keep hitting it. A lot of people ask me, “How come so many of my fights end in a rear naked choke?” It’s just the simple fact that when I get position and I start raining down shots, most guys are going to turn away. They don’t want to sit there and get hit. And if you turn your back to me, I’m going to choke you. It’s that simple.
MMAWEEKLY: You tried out for the second season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show that starts on August 22nd. Is that right?
DONNIE: Yes, I did.
MMAWEEKLY: I understand that you made it pretty far along into the process… the semi-final round?
DONNIE: Something like that. The way it was explained to me was that they contacted a bunch of people. They selected a few and then cleaned them out. The next group of people they contacted flew out for the tryouts and somewhere in there I got shafted.
MMAWEEKLY: 13-0 is a pretty impressive record. What do you think it’s going to take for you to get a shot on one of the bigger promotions like a UFC, Pride, or Rumble on the Rock or something?
DONNIE: I have to start fighting bigger names. Before I started fighting, I didn’t really have any background in anything, so the whole thing ended up being a training type of process. Every fight that we took, we had a goal in mind of something that I wanted to learn from this fight, something that I wanted to incorporate through that fight. Now, I really need to start stepping up and fighting tougher people. I’ve fought everybody that they’ve asked me to fight. Some people called me the other day and they want me to fight Pat Healy. I don’t know if it will work because of the timing, it’s right after the Kick Down. But Healy fought Chris Lytle to a decision and he’s a pretty tough guy.
MMAWEEKLY: Where would that be?
DONNIE: In Reno for the IFC.
MMAWEEKLY: So that fight is pretty much contingent upon how your fight with Ray Elbe goes this weekend?
DONNIE: Exactly. I want to fight the guy, but there’s no telling how you’re going to feel after you get in there and fight. I’m going to go in there and try and smoke this guy, if that happens, then I should be on a plane out to Reno the next weekend.
MMAWEEKLY: I know that you’re a pretty confident fighter. If you had your choice of any opponent, any “name” fighter, say in the UFC, Pride or wherever; who would you choose to fight to try and establish yourself?
DONNIE: I think my answer is going to be the same as just about any 170-pounder that you ask, Diego Sanchez. Diego’s the man right now. He went on The Ultimate Fighter and dominated everybody that he fought. That’s the type of people that I want to fight. That’s the type of people that I want to have under my belt as defeating.
MMAWEEKLY: I’ve seen Diego fight a lot and I’ve seen you fight quite a bit, both of your careers have developed along very similar paths, especially the kind of domination that you’ve each had over your opponents. How do you feel that Diego’s style compares to your style?
DONNIE: I think that Diego’s a lot more technical than I am, just for the simple fact that he’s been doing it for so much longer. He’s working with guys that are really pioneering the game. Everybody down there at Jackson’s [Gaidojitsu], it’s an outstanding school, I have a buddy that trains there also. They’ve got the system down. They know how to train fighters. I think other than that, our styles are very similar. I’d love to go at it with him on the ground. He’s fought a lot of tough guys, but I can take a lot of punishment. I’m not going to roll over and just let him have it. I’d like to fight Diego Sanchez.
MMAWEEKLY: Those of us that have seen you fight; see that you seem to have something ingrained in your psyche that you’re just not going to quit, regardless.
DONNIE: When I get in there, it’s like I don’t really feel a whole lot. I mean, when you’re fighting in there, you can pretty much tell when you’re taking damage or not, but apart from that, I don’t really feel too much. It’s just something in my mind that if I’m physically able to continue, I’m going to keep going. If at some point I’m put in a position where I just can’t go on, then maybe I’ll tap. But until I’ve been put in that position, I’m just not going to quit.
MMAWEEKLY: You’d like to fight Diego Sanchez, you may be fighting Pat Healy soon, but this Saturday night you’ve got Ray Elbe at the Kick Down in Denver. Have you seen much of Elbe?
DONNIE: I’ve seen a little bit of tape on him. I really wasn’t that impressed. He might get a luck knockout or something like that, but I really don’t see that happening. That’s the only way that he’s going to beat me is if he gets a lucky punch.
MMAWEEKLY: Elbe is pretty much known as a ground fighter. Do you think that he’ll be good enough to hang with you on the ground?
DONNIE: I don’t think he’s good enough to submit me. Most of the guys that I grapple with are light years beyond where he’s at and most of them have a hard time submitting me any time. He’s said in some other interviews that he felt confident that he could take me down and submit me. It’s not going to be that easy, especially with me smashing in his face when he’s trying to submit me.
MMAWEEKLY: So how do you see the fight breaking down?
DONNIE: A lot of people think that I’m just a ground fighter, if it was up to me; I want to go out there and bang with this cat. He said he wanted to draw a line in the center of the ring and go toe-to-toe… I’m all about doing that! So, I’m going to go out there and try and take the fight to him. I’m going to try and press the action and if he takes me down, I’m comfortable on the ground. It’s only a matter of time… if he’s ever seen one of my fights; it’s only a matter of time before I reverse him. And once I get top position, I’m not going to be trying to go for submissions. I just want punish him. I’m going to beat on him until they make me stop!
MMAWEEKLY: Well there you have it. Ouch! Any last words?
DONNIE: I just want to thank all of my training partners: Keith Wilson, Drew Lawrence, everybody at the Kongo Do fight team, Chilo Gonzales, Chuck Daly, my wife especially for having my back. Her name is Jennifer. She’s had my back since day one. She’s always been very supportive. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’ve been doing.