INTERVIEW: Alex Berrios heads to New York in search of Opportunity
By Hector Franco | Senior Writer and Editor
Published: March 02, 2018
Interview conducted on February 27, 2018
This Friday night at the Broad Street Ballroom in New York, New York, Friday Night Fights (FNFMT) will televise the first live Muay Thai event on the UFC's Fight Pass network.The event will feature an action-packed night of fights featuring Travis Clay taking on Ognjen Topic among others. Frontproof Media sat down with Alex Berrios (10-5, 5 KOs) to discuss his upcoming super middleweight matchup against Ariel Abreu (3-0, 2 KOs), his thoughts on fighting in New York and his continued goal of increasing Muay Thai's popularity and international presence in combat sports.
HF: You are going to be fighting in New York this Friday. You are going to be fighting if I am not mistaken, on your birthday. Now, I know that we are all a little bit older, but is there any significance in this fight falling on your birthday? Or was it kind of just a coincidence?
AB: It was a coincidence. I asked Jilal to sign me a fight at the beginning of the year and it just so happened to fall on my birthday. But, it is really cool. It's just kind of like a birthday trip. As you know, they don't pay enough on these fights to make it a full-time job, or anything so it's like a little mini paid vacation.
HF: This is not your first time heading up to New York for a fight. How many times have you been up there?
AB: I think, if I am not mistaken, this will be the 6th time or 5th time. But, I believe this is number six for me up there.
HF: How do you like fighting in New York?
AB: I like the events up there. I have fought at two venues. One was in the basement of this church, and that was cool. It was a different feel. And the other was an upscale ballroom. In those places, there's a crowd that's packed, and most of the people are standing on their feet. There is a lot of energy from those crowds.
HF: I think that the last time you may have fought, was in August 2016. I was there live in attendance for that fight, and your opponent was someone who if I'm not mistaken had over 60 plus Muay Thai fights.
AB: I think he had over 100 fights. This guy was a killer. He fought without gloves. He fought all over the world. He fought in Europe, South America, Asia, Europe, all over and he fought a lot of other killers too. I took that fight, and that could have gone either way. That guy was very experienced and very dangerous.
HF: I think that was one of your best performances. How would you assess that fight?
AB: Thank you. I trained super hard for that fight. The benefit of having someone as talented and well known as my last opponent (Cyrus Washington) is that I was able to gather a lot of video and material to study about my opponent. That helped me form my training strategy. Now with my next opponent, he also has quite a bit of video out there too. I take every fight seriously, and I'm pretending like I'm fighting two people in there when training.
HF: Your opponent Ariel Abreu has a record of (3-0, 2 KOs). Have you and your team come up with a game plan and a strategy to win this fight?
AB: Basically, don't stand in front of him and let him punch me is my strategy. The kid looks strong, and he's got a lot of energy. It's just foolish to stand there, and trade blows. I'm going to use my experience, and it’s safe to say my experience has informed me on how to deal with a fighter like him. It won't be the first time I fight an explosive person like him, so I look forward to it.
This fight, because it's falling on my birthday and I had a couple of other things coming up, I wasn't going to take the fight. But, knowing that it was going to be on the UFC Fight Pass, I just couldn't turn that down. I couldn't. When I was told that the fight would be on UFC Fight Pass, it reanimated me. It motivated me to get into training. Putting it into high gear.
HF: With the bout being shown on UFC Fight Pass it is an opportunity for a lot of different fighters around the world to be showcased that normally wouldn't have a platform. Do you feel if you come out victorious it could lead to bigger and better opportunities?
AB: Yes. I hope it means that my next fight or next few fights I get paid the kind of money that would help me pay off my refrigerator. It's a damn shame that we risk our lives getting maimed and injured permanently in some cases just for peanuts. I hope that this exposure makes the sport (Muay Thai) popular enough that promoters can charge more money. Get more viewers and pack larger venues so that the fighters can be properly paid. Right now it's kind of like a glorified hobby. For most people like me, they have a full-time job, doing this on the side. It takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice to pull off a strong fight camp in addition to working a full-time job. It's no easy balance.
HF: For years you have been fighting out of your team in Tampa, Fl, Tampa Muay Thai. Can you talk to me a little bit about what that team means to you? How have they helped you get prepared for fights throughout your career?
AB: Well, Tampa Muay Thai means a lot to me because we started out as a very small family. It was a small stable of hungry fighters. It was mainly like a fight club that grew into a gym. There's a camaraderie that you build in a small organization and it's like a family to me. Now, that family dynamic is something that I have noticed in good gyms. The first gym I ever trained at in Iowa, the youth Martial Arts group, had really good technical trainers. They had a family-oriented atmosphere, and they were very good for me. Dean Leslie in Iowa ran it.
That kind of culture, I try to recreate. The kind of technical knowledge that my first trainer brought to the table, I try to recreate his teaching style and his technical acumen. I have struck oil twice in two places. I have good trainers here (Tampa, Fl) and all throughout my training in Thailand. That has all been a blessing, and I don't think many people get that. I do not take that lightly. So, I'm bringing all of that this Friday, so I hope that guy is going to be bringing more than just some strength.
HF: Is there anything you want to tell the fans out there that will be watching your fight?
AB: I Hope everybody tunes in. It's going to be a great fight. Especially the people here in Tampa. They don't get enough love in the fight scene. The fact that it's on UFC Fight Pass means that more people that want to be into the sport but didn't have access to it can now access it. And I'm glad that it is going to reach more eyeballs. I want to be one of those first people that help grow the sport and make it an international. I want to be part of that first rocket launch.I want to thank all my trainers, Ray Cole flew in from California to help train me. I feel good about it, and you would be a sucker to miss it. So I hope everybody tunes in and watches it.
(Feature Photo: Tampa Muay Thai)