One On One With Bryan "The Beast" Baker
Baker is now faced with French fighter Karl Amoussou, as the two do battle later this summer for the Bellator welterweight tournament crown, and the next crack at current champ Ben Askren's title.
AddictedMMA was able to catch up with Baker last night during training at Greg Jackson's gym in New Mexico. Baker talked up his previous match with Ben Saunders, his upcoming match with Amoussou, his battle with leukemia, and as always, his addiction.
JZ - Thanks for taking the time to speak with AddictedMMA Bryan. I know your time is valuable now, training for your upcoming match. You are in New Mexico now, correct?
BB - Yes sir. Albuquerque, New Mexico. And thank you for the time. Sorry for not getting back sooner, things are just crazy around here lately.
JZ -No problem Bryan. I'm sure most people know Bryan Baker, the professional fighter, but can you tell us about Bryan Baker, then man away from the cage?
BB - Bryan Baker? I've always been spiritually led, and just humble hearted. I appreciate all my gifts in life. Been married for almost a year now, and I love my wife very much. We have a baby on the way, she is due in September. So we are looking forward to that and looking forward to winning this Bellator welterweight tournament and title belt, so I can provide for them.
JZ - Congratulations on the baby man. Your last match was against Ben Saunders in the Bellator welterweight tournament semifinals, at Bellator 67. Obviously you won the match, but can you give us some insight as to how feel the match went, as well as your own performance in the fight?
BB - I defiantly have lots of room for improvement, and that's why I am out here in New Mexico. Been at Greg Jackson's now for about 4 months, and I moved out here to get better. My performance against Ben, being the tournament style, I got the first fight against Carlos Pereira and it was a battle you know? He gave me some damage but I came out with the victory. Shortly after in the semi's, against Ben, it was a lot to overcome and stay focused with, but that's what I did. Now for the third fight, the final, it's just about getting focused and getting better each month and each fight.
JZ - That leads to my next question. Your next match is against Karl Amoussou at Bellator 72, with the winner getting a crack at Bellator gold. What are your thoughts going into a match with a fighter like Karl, and how do you see the match going?
BB - Well, I believe Karl Amoussou is an explosive fighter. In the 1st round, he really has a lot of drive to control and dominant the fight. But I believe I can withstand that, and it's going to come down to who has the bigger heart. I feel I've shown that throughout my whole career, heart, more so then Karl. I'm gonna take it to him, take him to deep waters, and show my improvement and skills and take advantage.
JZ - This season during the Bellator welterweight tournament was your debut at 170 pounds. Is there a reason why you decided to come down from middleweight, given the amount of success you have had there?
BB - Well at 185, with my athleticism and my abilities, I've always been able to withstand the middleweight fighter's power and use my speed, heart and drive. My heart is the size of a heavy weight, so it didn't really matter on the weight. I entered the Bellator middleweight tournament twice and I came up short both times, just got caught with some heavy hands. It was just a point in my career to decide to be the heavier guy for once. So I dropped down and now I'm in the finals. I think being at 170 can really take my career to its peak.
JZ - Makes sense. You mentioned you have been with Greg Jackson for about 4 months, correct?
BB - Yeah, about 4 months now.
JZ - Alright. So before this move, you were training with Thomas Denny at Team Wildman. Besides Jacksons being a larger camp with more fighters, what was the benefit of moving camps as you did?
BB - Well at Greg Jacksons, obviously so there are so many world class fighters coming in and out. I've never trained and been pushed to the level I have in the last 4 months at Jacksons camp. No matter how good I'm feeling there is always someone feeling just as good, if not better. I really have to dig deep to figure out how not to get ran over at the gym in training. With Thomas Denny, I had a great start to my career, and I learned a lot, but I wasn't getting pushed enough from the other guys. So I had to take a step back and decide on where my career was gonna go.
JZ - Most people know about your battle with leukemia over the past few years. Just how difficult was it to be a professional fighter living with an illness that can drastically change a live, if not end it? It's hard enough for an average person in day to day life to deal with that, but how hard was it being in a situation like you are and dealing with it?
BB - Man, it's just been perseverance. My faith always held me strong. But actually being a professional fighter probably helped me a lot in dealing with this. My discipline from fighting, and the physical punishment you have to take as a professional athlete, the diet, the training, always having to have my body in top shape, is a big reason to why I had the energy and strength to push through such a disease. To have a mentality of being a winner and champion as a fighter, it's just something that we as fighters have to go through, and that mentality was a part help as well. It was a different angle to use it towards, a very intense angle of course. But at the same time, it was something I had to overcome and keep pressing forward against.
JZ - Well, all of AddictedMMA sends out its respect and pride about how you dealt with that Bryan. I was at Bellator 67 to witness your match with Ben Saunders, and as great as the match was, what you did after is what stands out to me. Following the last match of the night, you were waiting at the doors to the press conference, and shaking the hands of media and fans as they passed by.
For a man who had just been through such a grueling 3 round match, to see you out doing that spoke volumes about your character. Just how important is your image to you as a fighter that will give the fans access like this, as opposed to being a very skilled man in the cage?
BB - I just love what I do. It is a blessing to me, and I am truly grateful the chance to be doing what I am doing. I enjoy every part of it, from training to fighting, and being just who I am. I walk as I am, I don't try and impress anyone, or be someone that I'm not. I try and stay true to myself. But I am a people person. I love hearing people's stories, I love meeting people and any fan I can meet and any story I can learn, and I just enjoy the whole circle of it.
JZ - Well said. Now again, you are at Greg Jacksons camp, and you train with some great fighters. One of those fighters is current UFC welterweight interim champion Carlos Condit. With the two of you in different promotions, the odds of it happening is slim, but with the hot topic in MMA being about teammates fighting each other, what is your take on the issue? Not just you and Carlos, but the situation in general?
BB - It's something that's if arises, you deal with it. You never know what kind of angle it's gonna come at. The thing is now, Carlos is gonna be fighting Georges (Georges St. Pierre), that's something he has to deal with. And I'm in Bellator, so I'm not looking to cross paths with anyone right now. I'm just taking it one step at a time. Not really putting any stress or pressure on myself besides what's at hand.
Everything at Jacksons has been working out great lately. We are real close to holding titles in 3 different promotions. It would be the 1st gym to accomplish that. We have Tim (Kennedy) fighting for the Strikeforce middleweight crown soon, Carlos fighting Georges soon for the UFC title, and I am 1 fight away from challenging for the Bellator crown. That's the mission we have and we aren't really stressed over who may fight whomever from in the gym.
JZ - Any shout outs or thank you's you would like to give now Bryan?
BB - I'd like to thank all my sponsors, all my fans that have supported me. GAMMA and Black Big for supporting me in this tournament. First Round Management, Mike, I appreciate all his hard work. Before all though, I'd like to thank the Lord for giving me these chance and keeping me strong throughout it all.
JZ - And because we are AddictedMMA, what is Bryan Baker addicted too?
BB - Bryan Baker has an addiction to his wife. I love my wife very much, she is my world. I'm just excited for her to be carrying our child and building a life with her.
All of us here at AddictedMMA would like to thank Bryan Baker for his time, and wish him the best of luck when he faces Karl Amoussou for the Bellator welterweight tournament title this coming July 20 at Bellator 72 in Tampa, Florida.
Published by Jasyn Zangari - Fri, 15 Jun 2012 20:05