by Mick Hammond – MMAWeekly.com
It’s one thing to leave a country stricken with poverty and crime, but it’s a completely other thing to do so and then excel as both a person and a professional. Ivan “The Pride of El Salvador” Menjivar is one of those people. Not only is he one of the most genuine and kindhearted people around, he’s also one of the most exciting and skilled fighters on the scene today.

Recently it was announced that Ivan would be facing off against Urijah Faber in a match-up of two of the best 145lb fighters in the world in January at the next TKO event in Canada. Shortly after finishing a training session Menjivar took time out to speak to MMA Weekly about the upcoming fight, his undefeated year in MMA, and what he wants to bring back to his native El Salvador.

MMA Weekly: Firstly Ivan, looking back over 2005 how would you say the year went for you?

Ivan Menjivar: This year I feel happy, because one I finished school so I have more time for training and working, and had good fights. I won one in Japan, two in Canada, I could have had more but I was working. I did some boxing matches too in Quebec; I have two wins, one loss, and one draw. It was good for me get out and try new things.

MMA Weekly: This past year you also debuted in Japan, how was that experience?

Ivan Menjivar: That was the first time I was in Japan and I really appreciate the experience. The people over there love fighting, it’s a really big market, they’re really big fans, it’s like another world.

MMA Weekly: I know that lighter fighters are more accepted there than they seem to be over here.

Ivan Menjivar: Yes, I think it’s true, maybe because they have more events with smaller fighters. They love technical fighting; they love technique and heart. They really respect the fighting sports over there.

MMA Weekly: Since your last fight in the UFC against Matt Serra at UFC 48 you have gone undefeated in MMA. Would you like the opportunity to come back to the company and fight in the US again?

Ivan Menjivar: I say yes, but at 145lbs, they don’t have this division, so not at the moment, but for sure I’d like to go back to fighting there.

MMA Weekly: A lot of lighter fighters have found it difficult to find quality fights and paydays in the US. Many have had to look towards Japan to get those kinds of things. Do you think you’ll have to go overseas as they might have to?

Ivan Menjivar: Maybe because in Japan they have more big names in my weight category, so maybe the money’s there to fight. Here in Canada in TKO, Stephan Patry the promoter, he does the job and tries to get the best opponents. I think I can find good opponents here in Quebec, Canada and around the world.

MMA Weekly: Let’s talk about your next fight against Urijah Faber in January. Do you know anything about him heading into this fight?

Ivan Menjivar: Honestly, not a lot, he has some fights and good wins, but I don’t study an opponent before a fight. I just train well, eat well, and have really good fun with my training. The fight is just 15 minutes of my life. I have seven years of training and that’s more important compared to the fight because it’s more fun. You wake up, go train, eat, sleep, wake up and do it again, fighting is just 15 minutes of my life, but training is my entire life. So honestly I hope my fight goes well, but I’m training well, and that’s life.

MMA Weekly: Urijah is known for being very fast and for having exceptional wrestling skills. How can you counteract someone like that?

Ivan Menjivar: If this guy starts flying around the ring, I have to fly. I like surprises, if he can do that I like it. If he has a good shoot at my legs, I want to sprawl and take advantage. Every time in the fight I take position if I’m having fun, I never press, but if something happens I take it, like in a real fight. That’s why I never study my opponent, I like to be surprised.

MMA Weekly: Earlier you mentioned taking some boxing fights this year. How does that compare to striking in MMA?

Ivan Menjivar: My stand-up is different, it’s changing, I learn more with the boxing, head movement and combinations, but in MMA it’s different. I train a lot with boxers and wrestlers and the main thing is to mix it up and that’s the hardest thing. I love to learn, my stand-up is getting better, and I’d like to fight for a boxing championship here locally, maybe a Quebec championship next year.

MMA Weekly: You’re a member of the Tristar Gym, along with the likes of Georges St. Pierre and David Loiseau. What is it like training at Tristar?

Ivan Menjivar: I like it a lot. At six o’clock we warm up, at six-thirty we do sparring, wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, all the techniques. It’s really fun, we train a lot, train well, we listen to music at the gym and have a lot fun. It’s serious training, but it’s a lot of fun, we play around all the time, we’re kids, we go to the gym to play and have fun. We’re really lucky.

MMA Weekly: Has Georges taught you any of his famous dancing techniques or are you the one who teaches him to dance?

Ivan Menjivar: We just trained today and we’re going to the club right now. Georges dances well, he’s liking the Meringue Salsa, Latin music. Right now we go to an Asian club, and we’re going to have fun. There’s too many people, too many cultures here to not have fun. One day we go to a Russian club, another day Japanese, the other day African, we can find many friends here, for me it’s the perfect place to be in Montreal. It’s a beautiful place to live and for training.

MMA Weekly: Let’s talk a little about your homeland, El Salvador. What would it feel like to go back and bring MMA to a country where it’s still relatively new?

Ivan Menjivar: I my country boxing is popular and MMA is starting to come over. There’s some Jiu-Jitsu schools there now and the martial arts fans knows me. I’d like to go there and present who I am, maybe next year I can go to El Salvador and not only show people the fighting, but show them that a young guy from El Salvador can do something special. I want to show them that they can do something similar, something good with their lives. I want to go there and show them this because there is a lot of criminality there and that sort of thing. I want to show them that even when they are young they can do something better for their life.

MMA Weekly: What kind of goals do you have set for yourself in 2006?

Ivan Menjivar: I’d like to have more fights, that’s my goal, win or lose, I don’t care. I’d like to fight everywhere I can go, right now I’m signed with Stephan Patry and TKO and I’m having fun. I don’t do the fights for the money or to be best, number one in the world, I fight because I love this sport. For 2006 I want to have good training, fight well, and have a good life, that’s what I want.

MMA Weekly: As we close out this interview is there anyone you’d like to get a word in for such as the fans or sponsors?

Ivan Menjivar: First I want to thank all the MMA fans, if there are no fans we cannot fight. If fans have any questions you can go to my website www.ivanmenjivar.ca and I can send some email back to them. To the sponsors, well, I need some sponsors because I’m working a lot and it’s not easy. A little help would be okay, because sometimes it’s hard, training is expensive sometimes. Thanks to you, MMA Weekly, for talking about MMA all over the world, I think you are doing a good job, your website, you talk about the fighters and the sport and that’s good for us.

MMA Weekly: Thank you as well for your time Ivan, it’s great to talk to you as always. Is there anything else you’d like to say about your upcoming fight before we head out?

Ivan Menjivar: For my fight, I want to have good training and I want to give a good show, that’s my first goal, go to the ring, be in good shape, and have fun. You never know what’s going to happen in a fight, so my first goal is to be in shape. We will have fun in the ring, then we will have fun outside the ring after the fight, we’ll go clubbing and have a good time.