For those of you that do that not know Ricardo Talavera personally but have seen him around – your perception of this man may give you the sense that he a person of few words with an intimidating personality, mercurial disposition, and the neck tattoo to match. In hearing whispers around town, many in our fight community have impressions of Ricardo as a “professional hitman,” “GSP look-a-like,” and just a “mean, scary-looking guy” based on what I hear when people talk about him.
In the following interview, I hope to paint a clearer picture for who Ricardo Talavera actually is, what makes him tick, and why he is continuing to fight in Houston despite recently moving hundreds of miles away to the Steel City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Perhaps you’ll come away from this one with a newfound respect for who this man really is when the gloves come off.
Ricardo, a lot of people say you are tough, man. I hear that all over town, to be honest. I kind of laugh because the funny thing about that is: (a) there is no video of your fights online as far as I know. and (b) you only have two MMA fights, one in 2007 and a more recent win at Legacy in 2009. I have to ask, why does everyone think you are so tough?
Yeah man, I have had some unfortunate circumstances along the way. Few times people drop out the day of weigh-ins, couple other times injuries have prevented me to take a fight when invited to, and other times it is just bad timing. But anyway, (me) a tough guy? Lol…yeah, I’ve heard that. I guess it is just the way I carry myself. Ever since I was very young and playing at the park, I did so with such intensity and passion that everyone else will put a target on my head, the kid to beat. Being second was not an option. Since then, I take what I do seriously whether it is work or training. I have that competitive switch that I flip every time it is needed. I don’t like people’s bullshit and I stand strongly for what I believe.
You have been around for some time, fighting in what I like the call the emergent years of the Houston MMA scene all the back at Lonestar Beatdown 2, where you beat Jeremy Mahon via submission. In your opinion, what is the difference between Houston’s MMA scene then and what it is developing into now?
Back in the day there were not too many promotions that I know of. Before Mick Maynard started with Lonestar Beatdown, I think only Renegades. Today MMA in Houston is everywhere. There are more promotions ran in the city. Whether small or big, a lot more people are trying to run shows in Houston. This is great because it gives the opportunity for many fighters to show their skills. There are several pro venues as well as amateur shows. As a matter of fact, these amateur shows have been a key to the growth to the sport in Houston. Also, there are so many people like yourself helping add to this growth. There is more publicity; there are forums, Facebook fan pages, Twitter, and people back-and-forth blogging so even if you were not directly connected to Houston MMA, eventually you will know someone that is.
We’ve known each other for a long time so I know how to describe you as a person, which I won’t embarrass you with in this article. But for those that don’t have that… pleasure, how would you describe Ricardo Talavera, the person? What are your interests outside the cage and what makes you tick?
I am a very family-oriented person who will die for those I love. Very loyal to those I care for and unmerciful to those that have or have tried to screw me over. Having said that, I love to be around my family, my wife, and my kids. Surely, I love to workout, train and salsa dance…hahaha…just kidding about that last one….haha. I am also all about college football, especially if there is anything that has to do with my beloved West Virginia Mountaineers…Let’s go Mountaineers!!! Oh yeah, almost forgot…video games… I’d rather stay home playing Xbox 360 than go out drinking. I am telling you, my wife is so lucky…lol.
I’m willing to bet people also don’t know you have an athletic background beyond MMA, as a Division 1A Athlete as a baseball player for the West Virginia Mountaineers. What was that like, the WVU experience and playing baseball at that level in college?
It was one of the greatest experience of my college years, however it was also a short one. I came to WVU as a walk-on after spending some time in training camp with the Montreal Expos. Actually, I left behind a potential deal with them all because I was going to college and I wanted to do it through it. Do I regret that decision? Well, I still think about it from time to time. Anyway, as I said, I came to WVU and made the team as a walk-on. Unfortunately, just as I was about to start the season, I found out I was not eligible to play that year due to my ACT scores. Not that I was a bad student or anything like that but the fact that I just had come from Venezuela and my English was not very strong. Second year came along and I think I had lost the edge. I took the team for granted, I thought I had God grabbed by the bear and I got cut. I guess my spot was taken by a person that was hungrier, just the way I was was the first time around. At this point I was not about quitting. I stayed active and I walked on again. I was invited to join the team but while training this time I started getting injured and I was not really giving my all. Petroleum Engineering was getting harder and harder and I made an executive decision. I decided to stick mainly with the books and earn my degree.
What a lot of people in Houston may not know is that you recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA for work. Do you mind giving our fans a little bit of insight as to what that process was like and how hard it was moving your family, including two small children all the way across the country?
Yeah man. After a long thought process I took the decision to take a job here in Pittsburgh and leave all I have known for the last 10 years behind. I have been here in Pittsburgh since the second week of October. Since then, trying to adjust has been slow and challenging, especially with our two kids. The company I work for now gave us a good relocation package but it is still tough. We are living in a temporary apartment while we sell our house in Houston and buy ours here. Now, coming from a house to a small apartment has definitely been challenging to adjust to, having our boys running all over the place. But you know, it has been done by others, we can do it too; it is just a matter of learning to adjust.
Why come all the way back to Houston just to fight Ricardo? I’m sure there are MMA promotions in the Northern PA area as well? Why come all the way back here?
Well, Houston is like a great big…..just waiting to get….(Tony Montana – Scarface Voice)
No, seriously, Houston is still my house. I feel that I am not done yet. There is plenty of competition there. Besides it gives me an opportunity to visit my family, my friends and keep the foes in check. On another note, when you fight for a promotion like Legacy it is hard to NOT come back. I want to make a run for a title so there is no other way but to fight there. Here in PA I am sure there are promotions but I am still new in the area and I don’t much about it.
How hard has it been training for this fight? I know you were at Elite MMA for such a long time and this will be your first time preparing without the day-to-day tutelage of guys like Eric Williams, Hai Nguyen, Romel Agra, Ed Liem, etc. How tough has that been, where are preparing for this bout, and what’s changed about how you prepare?
I need to be like water, just like Bruce Lee once said. I need to adjust to what the environment gives me. I do miss the day-to-day instruction from all of them though. Eric, Hai, Romel, Ed, and all other instructors and teammates from Elite MMA are not like others. They have built very strong roots on my development as a martial artist and because of that, training has not been as tough…You know they are always present somehow, kind of like the way Obi Wan advises Luke Skywalker…hahaha…I am such a nerd I know….perhaps we should add that to another side of me…lol.
Anyway, my preparation for this fight has been still top notch. I have been under the instruction of Rodrigo Junqueira and I have my personal Boxing Coach as well. Also, I have been a little bit more creative, you know, running the snowy hills, chopping down tress and catching chickens…lol…Well seriously, it has been different but good. Being able to train with new people and being able to get out of my comfort zone has been helpful. I will also be heading back to Houston soon for some more training at Elite MMA.
Your opponent at Legacy will be Jeff Rexroad, from Paradigm. What do you know about Jeff and what do you think he brings to the table as far as his strengths?
Nothing but respect for Jeff. He is a very well-known fighter in the Houston MMA community and for a good reason; He is good fighter. He is one of the most technical fighters out there as well as balanced. His ground skills are top notch and his stand up should not be considered lightly. He has good experience in competition and also comes from a very good and well-known gym at Paradigm. That’s all I know.
How’s this fight going to go? Any predictions?
It will come down to that critical mistake. Whoever can recognize and capitalize on the critical mistake will win and I’ll tell you what, I am going to say I will definitely win this one. It won’t be an easy one, because I know Jeff is good. But I am sure this is going to be a good fight. I want it to be a good fight and it will definitely be a good fight. Whether it is by KO/TKO, submission, or decision, this fight will be exciting to watch.
This is a random question and I’m not sure if you know this but Rexroad and his wife just celebrated the birth of their first child, a daughter. As a father of two young boys yourself, do you have any words of wisdom or anything else to pass along to Jeff and family as they enter parenthood?
As far as words of wisdom, man, I could tell no one how to raise their kids. I won’t tell you crap like sleep every time you can either, or enjoy it, we all know that, but, what I will recommend is to buy a very very good picture camera, not like a million dollar camera like the ones Barry Laminack and Justin Trapp have but you know something like it, also a flip camera, cause you do want to catch all those moments. Kids grow so fast, create your own time machine dude…
Oh also, that won’t be chocolate residue on your fingers man…lol….
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me Ricardo. Any last minute words for your fans here in Houston?
Sure man, anytime. As a far of the fans, wow, didn’t know I have fans but anyway, Make sure to make it to the Houston Arena Theater January 29th / 2011 for another edition of Legacy Fighting Championship. It will be a great night of fights as always.
I also want to give special thanks to my wife Liz for all her support and patience on this journey. Special shout out to my People at Elite MMA, I miss you all, but I’ll be there soon. Also special thanks to my new training family here is Pittsburgh, Rodrigo Junqueira, Jake Miclot and all the rest of Gracie Barra Pittsburgh, my Boxing coach Rick…
And to all my H-town people…
I’LL BE BACK!