by Mick Hammond
Earlier this year it was announced that MMA legend Ken Shamrock would be starting a new Lion’s Den in Susanville, California and that he would be bringing in new fighters into the fold to represent the next generation of the team. Among those young fighters who were accepted is Reno, Nevada’s own Richard Montoya.

Montoya is a name that is familiar to those who have followed the WEC over the two years. Since making his debut for the company in October of 2003, this former member of the AKA has won five of his six bouts and has competed for the company’s 205lb title. Now with a new team and his first victory in front of his hometown in the books, Richard looks to continue his development as a fighter and become one of the breakout stars on the highly anticipated Lion’s Den reality show.

MMA Weekly: For our readers who may be unfamiliar with you Richard we’ll talk first about how you got into the sport. I understand your first introduction to MMA was through Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu?

Richard Montoya: I was always a scrappy kid, I fought quite a bit and I got into BJJ to try to feel better, more comfortable fighting. I was a little guy back then, I was 21 when I first started doing BJJ and I wanted to learn submissions like Royce Gracie was using against bigger guys.

MMA Weekly: You’re known for being a very solid striker, how did that part of your game start to develop?

Richard Montoya: I ending up going to prison and spent two years there, and when I got back out wanted to learn boxing so I could learn to defend myself from getting punched, basically self defense. I hooked up with guys that did kickboxing and boxing and they introduced me to a guy who was actively fighting. So basically it was from meeting people, word of mouth and stuff like that. My wife introduced me to other guys and it went from there. She’s a big factor, a main factor in my career.

MMA Weekly: How would you summarize your career so far?

Richard Montoya: I’ve been fighting just about two years this past October and things have been going pretty good. It’s going up hill, but not skyrocketing like I would have hoped. When I took on Jason (Lambert, WEC 13) I was hoping that a win would shoot me up there, thought I was getting into deep end in that one and ended up getting caught and lost.

MMA Weekly: As I mentioned before, your striking has impressed people the most in your fights, but you’ve also shown a very solid developing ground game as well. What would you characterize as your best trait when it comes to fighting?

Richard Montoya: I feel like my strongest asset is my heart and my natural ability to fight because of the way I was brought up and all that. I’m just learning so much as time goes on, my striking is good and ground is good, I feel I just need to get much better at it as time goes on. Mainly my heart and instinct is what’s helped me the most so far.

MMA Weekly: You became one of the first new members of the reformed Lion’s Den earlier this year, but up until then you were a member of the AKA. Can you tell us about that transition?

Richard Montoya: I got picked up by a manager after my first fight; he was living in bay area and he told me he could get me in working with great guys and introduced me to the AKA. I was making it down there (San Jose, California) two times a month and was having a good time training with all these big names, they’re all really awesome people. Once I had my baby it made it that much harder to make it on the weekends. I worked full time in Reno and a lot of those guys train full-time during the week and when they come in on the weekend it’s just extra time. We would just never connect a lot of the time and then I found out about the Lion’s Den opening in Susanville which is only an hour away, I talked to my manager and he said it would be a good deal to try that out.

MMA Weekly: So that’s when the change from AKA to Lion’s Den happened?

Richard Montoya: I gave it a shot and when I became a member I signed a lot of paperwork/contracts and signed management over to Ken Shamrock. All the guys at the AKA are awesome, but can’t represent them if I can’t work out with them. My last two fights I didn’t train with them at all, it was too difficult for me to travel. They helped me out so much and I’m happy to win a few fights under their name and represent them best I can. Joining the Lion’s Den is a more logical, smarter move, because it’s so hard for me to go to San Jose now, so it’s a better situation for myself.

MMA Weekly: How have things been going with the Lion’s Den?

Richard Montoya: Pretty good, I’m training down there 3 days a week, I got into a position where I’m not working anymore, so I’m training full-time. We’re starting a reality show, which is going to be real positive, not only for me but fighters everywhere. Ken’s trying to make things more structured; he’s trying to get more money and benefits for everyone. I didn’t know much about him outside of what I saw on TV, but now that I’ve met him he’s a totally different person than what I thought. He’s real generous and real helpful in trying to make a lot happen for me and the other new fighters.

MMA Weekly: You recently won your first fight in front of your hometown crowd at the IFC’s “Rock ‘N Rumble” show this past July when you defeated Chris Kiever. Tell us about that fight.

Richard Montoya: I assumed that since he trains with Jeremy Horn that he may be well-rounded and throw punches and try to stand up a little bit, but he went straight for the clinch. When we were clinched I decided to throw knees, which wasn’t the best idea, against wrestlers you should keep your feet planted and hips low. He managed to tilt me and took me down. At that point I was like I don’t want to be underneath him. When I had him in guard I kept striking to let him know that I was there to fight and then I went for a heel hook and he escaped and in the scramble he got on top of me. That’s how I lost against Lambert and I didn’t want to take a pounding so I decided to roll to my back and defend the choke and then roll him off his base and sweep. He’s got a really good base so it took a while to finally roll him over, but I finally got him (with ground ‘n pound for the win).

MMA Weekly: I know heading into the fight some people had criticized your ground game, perhaps thinking you were only a striker.

Richard Montoya: I think most people should think as I think, they should come in well-rounded. However they perform in a fight they will go with what they are most comfortable with. Everyone trains 100% in everything so it’s ignorant to say a guy doesn’t strand or go to the ground. In a fight you get put in the position where your reacting to what an opponent puts you in. If I am in a position I strike, I do, if I’m on the ground, I do that. People forget I started in BJJ, that was my gateway drug, but fans like the striking and it feels fulfilling for me to strike, but I do what have to do to win. It would be a mistake for me to underestimate anyone or them me.

MMA Weekly: Reno isn’t exactly what people would call a hotbed of MMA. How do you succeed as a fighter in a place that hasn’t quite developed a community for the sport yet?

Richard Montoya: It’s difficult for me but my wife is very supportive. If I have to spend a week out of town, she’ll take a trip with me unless she has other plans, if I have to go alone she’s fine with it. She supports me; she feels I have an ability to do well, so I take opportunities as they come because of her support. I was able to quit my job and train with Lion’s Den full time because she pushed me in that direction. I wasn’t going to try out for them but she pushed me saying I only live once and that I’d regret it, so I went. I want to establish a name for myself, and if things don’t work out fighting, I want to come back here and start up a school. There are good guys here but there’s no sense of unity. After my last fight I was thanking schools I hadn’t trained with just to get the word out on them. I’d like to try to get a school together and get everyone who trains on their own to come together and work together, it’s just kind of hard with everyone just kind of on their own right now.

MMA Weekly: Tell us what you’ve got coming up for the remainder of the year and beyond.

Richard Montoya: Ken’s setting up all the fights for me from here on out and I’m pretty sure going to fight on September 10th in Puerto Rico, so right now getting ready for that one. The reality show starts soon and it’s supposed to be a team effort, not like The Ultimate Fighter where you fight each other, we all work together and fight another fight team. I’d like to fight four or five times a year, depending on injury, but it’s all up to Ken what’s next.

MMA Weekly: Thank you for taking time out of your training for the interview Richard, is there anything you’d like to say as we close out the interview?

Richard Montoya: I want to thank my old manager Tommy Rojas for introducing me to the AKA and Javier Mendez, Bob Cook, and all those guys. I want to thank Konjo Fight Gear, Ken Shamrock, and Veron White at the Lion’s Den. Thanks to my wife and everybody else that’s trained with me, especially the little guys that are freelance right now. Hopefully I can come out and represent the blue-collar family workingman and show them that here’s opportunities out there and that they can go out there and do it.