by Cindy Ortiz
(Photo courtesy of theultimatefighter.tv)

“There’s a reason why people who have been involved in sports much of their lives are generally more successful than those who haven’t; they are competitive. They understand that, contrary to what bass ackward liberals would have you believe, there are winners and losers in life, and in the real world they don’t hand out ribbons for last place.”
— Brad Imes

Brad Imes has been involved with competitive sports since he started wrestling at the age of five. He played football in high school and in college for the University of Missouri as well as in the arena league with the Iowa Barnstormers. Brad has also earned two degrees so it’s probably safe to say he has a proven track record of success academically as well as athletically.

About fifteen months ago, Brad Imes made a decision to pursue his dream to become a professional fighter and started training to compete in the sport of MMA. Standing 6’7″ and weighing 262 pounds, Imes is currently undefeated with a record of 3-0.

I had the opportunity to interview Brad last week while he was in Utah training for his upcoming November 5th fight on the live season two finale of The Ultimate Fighter on Spike TV and this is what he had to share with everyone.

Cindy Ortiz: Hi Brad! You’ve been bouncing all over the place lately training with different camps getting ready for the finale show on November 5th, haven’t you?

Brad Imes: Yes, I have. Let’s see, I spent a week with Miletich Fighting Systems in Iowa. Went to Cincinnati for two weeks and trained with Rich Franklin, Tim Sylvia, Joe Riggs and a couple of other guys. Then I went back to Iowa and trained with the Miletich camp for another two weeks and I’m currently in Utah training with Jeremy Horn and Mike Whitehead.

Cindy: Looks like the big boys are in demand. What martial art forms have you trained in and what’s your level of proficiency?

Brad: My boxing I’d say is probably fair. I’d call myself a beginner or a novice in Muay Thai and I think my Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling skills are pretty decent. I’m getting better with all of them every day so I’m confident my hard work will pay off on November 5th.

Cindy: Are there any fighters in your background?

Brad: My Dad and Grandfather (Elvin Imes) were amateur boxers.

My grandfather was in college/med school during the depression. He worked 90-100 hours per week in a chicken factory and he would box on his lunch breaks for extra money. My dad boxed in college and was pretty successful.

Cindy: Your parents really stressed the importance of athletics while you were growing up, didn’t they?

Brad: Yes, they did and I’m glad. I stayed pretty busy with sports and it probably kept me out of a lot of trouble. I played football in high school, but I never really started. I was actually small in high school and I grew nine inches after I graduated!

Cindy: Are you serious? Nine inches?

Brad: Yeah! When I started my senior year in high school, I was like 5’9″ and weighed 165-pounds; not real intimidating (laughter)! After I graduated, I just blew up. I worked on the football team at Missouri my sophomore year and then by the rest of the year, earned a scholarship and lettered my senior year and played quite a bit. I went on from there to play arena league for a couple of years, played semi-pro, then I coached at Missouri and at Texas Christian.

“Take It From Me” Feature
The best overall advice anyone can give to potential TUF competitors is to “expect the unexpected!” Unfortunately, the generalization doesn’t shed any light on what the experience is really like. Having gone through the experience yourself, what would you tell potential TUF hopefuls they should expect from these key areas?

Cindy: From the housing environment?

Brad: It’s a mess and it’s cramped, but don’t be a total slob. Keep your areas clean and try not to leave stuff lying around.

Cindy: From the coaches and trainers?

Brad: Listen to what they say and try to learn as much as you can from them. They know more than you do.

Cindy: From the Spike TV crew?

Brad: They’re there to do a job, so let them. But give them shit whenever possible!

Cindy: From Dana?

Brad: Blunt honesty.

Cindy: From the fellow competitors?

Brad: Don’t let friendship get in the way of what you’re there to do.

Cindy: From the public after the show starts airing?

Brad: Attention, but don’t let it go to your head. It’s fleeting.

Cindy: TUF is not a reality show meant for every MMA fighter out there. What type of fighter should NOT consider doing the show and why?

Brad: Let’s see… someone who doesn’t like cameras, lots of people, being away from loved ones, or being told what to do shouldn’t apply for the show. There’s lots of pressure.

Cindy: We often hear about a fighters “heart.” What is your definition of heart?

Brad: Getting back up and always pushing yourself. In the ring and before hand, you know, doing the work it takes to get to the top and being accountable for the results of your efforts.

Cindy: How do you prepare mentally before a fight?

Brad: I really don’t do anything special, Cindy. Just some yoga and stretching exercises. I don’t have to conjure up any anger or hatred towards my opponent because that’s not why I fight. To me, fighting is unfiltered competition to find out who’s the best between two men. I can be kicking someone’s ass one minute and buying them a beer an hour later (laughter) whether I win or lose… but I prefer to win!

Cindy: I bet you do! Do you get nervous before a fight?

Brad: Not really. Maybe anxious and excited, but not really nervous.

Cindy: What do you like to do when you’re not training or fighting?

Brad: I like to go hunting, fishing, spend time with friends and family. I used to paint and I think I’d like to start doing that again.

Cindy: What are some of the sacrifices you have made in order to compete in the sport of MMA?

Brad: Hmm… I gave up alcohol (more or less), working just enough to get by and support my training and spending time away from friends and family. This sport, for me, is a “labor of love” but I hope to eventually reap some monetary rewards from it. If my involvement somehow helps to pave the way for future athletes with the same dream I have to fight in the UFC, I will be proud to have been a part of helping the sport of MMA to grow.

Cindy: I bet your mom wanted to have your head examined for choosing to compete as a pro fighter when you have two degree’s and could be living a somewhat “posh” lifestyle!

Brad: Yeah, but she wants me to be happy, too Cindy.

Cindy: What do you think is the biggest misconception the public has about TUF or the sport of MMA (perception vs. reality)?

Brad: That it’s a street fight between two guys with no skill, like a Toughman competition. Fighting at this level isn’t a result of anger towards another person. It’s competition between two men in the rawest form of hand-to-hand combat there is, in a protective environment under the supervision of a skilled referee with fighter safety being the number one priority. At this level of fighting, sportsmanship and respect for yourself and your opponent is par for the course; not manufactured so as to appear to demonstrate respect. Most fighters are not motivated by hatred, emotion or rage. We aren’t barroom brawlers, although there can be a few bad apples from time to time… I guess that makes it the same as any other pro sport.

We’re athletes, not thugs.

Cindy: Did you go on the show with the pre-conceived notion that this was business and you weren’t going to get attached to people or develop friendships because you knew you were going to have to fight these guys?

Brad: No. I actually knew a couple of the guys before I got there so I knew it would eventually become a situation where I would have to fight a friend of mine and on the show, I ended up having to fight two guys that were friends of mine, so… I guess it goes back to what we talked about earlier where fighting, to me, really isn’t emotional (like I’m feeling hatred or anger) so if I’m fighting a friend, I know I’m not trying to hurt them and I’m not angry at them… I’m just competing against them. That’s how it is for me, anyway.

It’s like if I’m playing a football game against a friend of mine, it just makes me want to beat them that much more because if you get beat by one of your friends (laughter) there going to be talking that much more shit to you…

Cindy: Brad, how did you get your nickname, “Hillbilly Heartthrob?”

Brad: Well, I wore a cowboy hat to my fights and one night, we were getting ready to go out and I had a pair of sweats on with a skull cap. My coach gave me a hat and shirt to put on instead and asked me to trust him on this one and said people would like the image. He was right, and the look “stuck.” Me and my friends were out drinking one night and it was in California, and they think people from Missouri live in caves and crap and we were talking about possible nicknames.

I suggested “something” Hillbilly and they were like, “OK.” Then I said, “I got it! Hillybilly Heartthrob!”
They said, “Absolutely not.” That was the worst name they had ever heard of.

My shirts say “Hillbilly Bad-Ass” now because I found out guys won’t buy a shirt that says “Hillbilly Heartthrob” on it.

Cindy: Seth would (laughter)!

Brad: (laughter) Yeah, all these girls were like, “You should be a model” and all this shit so I was just running with that when I thought of the nickname.

Cindy: You seem like a very family oriented guy.

Brad: Yeah, I am. My family, we’re all very close.

Cindy: Sounds like a great support system to me.

Brad: Oh yeah, absolutely! I’ve got like 75-80 people coming to the finale and they don’t know if I’m fighting for the contract or on the under card and it doesn’t matter to them which; they just know I’m fighting and want to be there to support me.

Cindy: That’s great. Others should be so lucky.

Brad: I am very fortunate because each person is probably spending at least $1,000 with airfare, hotel, tickets and other expenses just to be there for me and that means a lot.

Cindy: When this life is over, what do you hope to be remembered for?

Brad: I’d like to be remembered for being hard working, honest and for following my dreams. My mom has asked me in the past what they hell I was doing (laughter) because I have two degree’s, yet I choose to do something that has sorta left me broke for the last year. In the end, I hope people are like, “You know, he did exactly what he wanted to do; did things his way and he was happy.” Hopefully, I can be successful at it as well. I’m optimistic.

Cindy: Very good, Brad. Do you have any sponsors you’d like to mention or final comments before we close the interview?

Brad: Massage for healing (Sac, CA), Engle Photo (Sac, CA), Gooding Construction (Centralia, MO), Watson Construction (Columbia, MO), 1st Met Mortgage (Columbia, MO), Chinchek, UltimateFightGear.com, friends with businesses that saw potential in me.

Cindy: Do you have a web site, dojo, trainer/instructor, sponsors you’d like to plug, or a message for your fans?

Brad: Bradimes.com is where my fans can get them a “Hillbilly Heartthrob” or “Hillbilly Bad-Ass” shirt, shoot me an e-mail or check out my sponsors. I sincerely want to thank everyone for all the love and support they have shown me while I chased my dream to get to where I am today. I’m just so fortunate to have so many people care about me and I appreciate all the encouragement because it has made a huge difference this past year.

I plan on giving nothing less than 110% when I’m training everyday and my goal is to someday wear the UFC World Heavyweight Championship title around my waist and do so with pride. Thanks to everyone supporting the sport of MMA. Even if I’m not your favorite (laughter) fighter, thanks for supporting whoever is. MMA can be bigger than boxing if we all work towards that common goal.

Cindy: Hey Brad, good luck November 5th. You have a lot of people cheering for you.

Brad: Thanks for the interview, Cindy. I appreciate it and I’ll do my best for you all!