SAN ANTONIO, TX, January 7, 2013 – It takes a lot of commitment to make it in the world of Mixed Martial Arts. From training and dieting to living a lifestyle conducive to competition, there are a lot of factors to balance on top of just having talent. And on the way up, let’s just say the money isn’t flowing so freely as to make life any easier. So it goes without saying that you really have to be passionate about the game in order to make it in this sport.
One person who decided to make that leap and pursue that dream is a fighter by the name of Chris Lopez. A San Antonio based fighter, he makes his pro debut on the Legacy Fighting Championship 17 undercard set for February 1st at San Antonio’s Cowboy Dance Hall.
“I was working at a power plant and miserable,” Chris said about the days when he dabbled in combat sports but hadn’t gone all-in just yet. At 22 years old, he started boxing out of San Fernando Gym and boxed for two years, winning the prestigious Golden Gloves competition twice and dabbling in MMA before moving to Houston to train (MMA) full-time.
“I kept wondering what it would be like to do fully commit to this. One night a valve blew up and almost killed me. I called my dad the next day telling him I wanted to quit to train full-time and he backed me up. I have been training ever since. This sport is hard and not everyone is made out for it. But I love challenging and pushing myself every day to get better. To get up every day and do what I love to do is the best feeling ever. I will never live any other way. I don’t regret a thing.”
Results-wise, it’s hard to argue how commitment has led to success for Lopez at the amateur level. He recently finished his amateur career with a 5-1 record. Three of his wins come by way of first round KO/TKO.
Now he’ll be stepping into the cage where it really counts – as a pro fighting for the Legacy Fighting Championship in front of his hometown crowd. We recently caught up with Chris to get his thoughts on the upcoming bout.
Interview – Chris Lopez (Team Tooke / Jace Pitre MMA)
Chris, how does it feel to be finally be going pro at LFC 17?
I’m stoked…throughout my amateur career I never got the chance to and I had always bugged Mick when I would see him. Now it’s on an AXS TV undercard for their pro show, and in my home town. It’s literally the biggest opportunity of my life. The card has some of the best fighters in Texas. I’m just glad to be a part of it all.
How does it feel to be fighting in your hometown?
I actually have mixed emotions…My only loss came by decision in that venue (Cowboys Dance Hall) last time I fought there. This time tons of my family and friends will actually be there and that has me nervous too. The good thing is I’m more anxious than nervous…I’m anxious to go out there and show peeps what I am doing nowadays and that I am for real. I want to be the next big fighting name to come out of San Antonio so that Friday night I need to do my job and I plan on it.
What do you hope to finally show your hometown fans on the pro level?
I want to show them that there is a dude from the southwest side of SA that can really fight. Not just throw bombs…actually fight. I want to show them my all-around skills and prove I belong in there. I want to prove to all the doubters that laughed when I left my job and all the haters that doubted me when I started this that I am the real deal. They will believe by the end of the night…Trust me.
You’ve been training full-time in preparation for this. What’s that like for you?
Man my life is pretty boring…All I do is train, eat, and sleep. I am blessed to have great parents that literally support my grind so life for me is strictly focused on fighting. It’s like I’m in school. I wake up and go train for 3 hours in the morning then do it again at night. I know getting a black belt from Travis Tooke is like getting a college degree so I am working towards it every day. Even though I might be 40 when I get it I know I will still be a Travis Tooke black belt. That motivates me too. I don’t have many hobbies besides training. I just recently started collecting guns and am getting into long range shooting but that officially starts after I get my first win purse. <laughs>
What been the biggest challenge for you in trying to make it in the MMA game?
For me it’s doing everything right. That’s the challenge. Sometimes it is hard living a clean life with no distractions. At my age peeps love to go out and party…Lately I haven’t wanted to even hang near a bar… Another big physical challenge is the wrestling aspect of the game. I came from the poor side of SA where wrestling was unheard of…So my biggest challenge is catching up to all these boys that have been doing it forever. That has been my biggest challenge and will continue to be throughout my career.
So how would describe yourself as a fighter?
I guess most would say I am a striker but personally I don’t feel like that’s my game anymore. I feel like I have become an all-around better mixed martial artist over the last year or two. I’m not afraid to go to deep water and grind out a fight. I just haven’t had to in a while. I train with the best at Team Tooke and have the best BJJ coach in Travis Tooke and the best MMA coach in Jace Pitre…they have really turned me into a different fighter. I have won 3 straight since making the move to Team Tooke so numbers don’t lie.
How did it feel getting that KO at Cage Combat to finish off your amateur career?
Honestly it was a relief to me…I was planning for a nasty grappling fight with lots of fighting on the ground. It happened the way I needed it to. I finally got that straight up KO and against someone who was tough (Mike Eaglin). I wanted to go in there and make a statement…It was a great way to end my amateur career.
Tell us about your pro debut at Legacy Fighting Championship 17.
I’m fighting Melvin Jordan out of Dallas. To be honest I don’t know much about him except he is coming off a loss by armbar. I haven’t got to see much footage but I normally don’t like to (watch tape) anyways. I’m just going to be ready for someone coming hell on wheels trying to kill me. If you train with all the guys I do and you work hard it’s hard not to feel confident going into the cage. As long as I know I did my part and worked as hard as I could to be ready that is all I need. Everything else will work itself out.
Who have you been working with specifically leading up to this fight?
I have been training BJJ every day with Travis Tooke and Jace Pitre at both schools, along with working my striking with Michael Chase Corley along with Jace. I am leaving up to Grudge Training Center in Denver Co this week to step up my training. After that, I will head down to Austin to train with guys like Adam Schindler, Tim Kennedy, Colton Smith, and the “Maui Thai wizard” Elton Wells to finish off my camp.
Do you have any predictions for this fight? Any plans for afterwards?
Man anything can happen so I’m not going to be one of these cocky assholes and get dropped after talking shit. All I can say is that I will be in shape and when the bell rings I’m coming out swinging. I’m in shape to go three rounds but I don’t plan to do that. I’m going out there to finish the fight. After this I plan to take a few months off to get better with my skills. I have been in 4 straight training camps and have only fought once so I won’t be fighting again until May. My goal is to fight 4 times this year and again around May but we will see how it goes.
How are you going to celebrate if/when you get the win?
If I have it my way, we will go rent out a Mexican restaurant after the fights. Eat some good food and maybe have one or two drinks but nothing crazy. I’m past my bottle poppin’ days… <laughs> I just want to hang with all my family and friends.
What do you have to say to your opponent before the fight?
I hope your training camp goes well. Thanks for taking the fight…See you under the lights.
Any last words Chris?
I want to take the time to thank the man upstairs for putting all the peeps I have in my life around me. I want to thank my parents who are my number one sponsors and my motivation to do what I do every day. My gyms Team Tooke, and Jace Pitre MMA. My sponsors Culebra Meat Market, Houston Fire and Security, LFE LIVE FREE, B & E Trucking, Armadillo Industrial Coatings and My Fight Shop. Thanks for the support everyone!