Scott Shaffer Interview Part 1
I met Scott Shaffer a few years ago at Ihara Gym in Daikanyama when he was in Japan to fight Hirono Yu. We talked a bit before working out, and immediately I liked him. I liked his attitude and his outlook and the way he approached fighting. I also have to admit I liked that he was an American (Military at that! Oorah!), because there are so few of us in the kickboxing world that have anything vaguely resembling a clue.
We ended up training together and I helped work his corner for the Hirono Yu fight which he won, totally upsetting and shocking the Japanese promoters who had brought him over to be a red, white and blue tomato can for a former Japanese boxing champion turned kickboxer. Needless to say shit did not go the way they planned and Scott brought the intensity. Yu brought a surprised look and a pillow.
Shaffer and I hung out and trained together again when he came back in 2010 to fight Yamamoto Yuya at Krush 6. The fight was a good one, but Yuya took the win.
The problem with this, is that Yuya should not have won.
It’s Prize fighting. Anything can happen and there are a million excuses, I know, I’ve been in the ring. I’ve also trained others that climbed over those ropes and I know the difference between a prepared, game fighter and someone that has other shit on their mind. So, when I saw Scott in 2010, when we sat down and talked, the man in front of me was not thinking about the biggest fight of his life, but a hundred other things that a professional fighter should not have to worry about just days before, hours before, knuckling up.
Since then we have talked a lot about his experiences, mine, realities about being a fighter and the state of kickboxing in the USA. We have also talked, and agreed, that being an American in a sport that has virtually no following in the states, yet is wildly loved abroad, is a good way to find yourself taking fights that no one other than a complete maniac would agree to. Just like myself and Laura Janjira, Scott Shaffer has done battle, put it all on the line and has some things he’d like to say about it.
1. How long have you been Kickboxing, and how did you first get started with it?
I got started with Kickboxing back ’98 at the Maurice Smith Kickboxing Center in Seattle WA. I had never done any martial arts prior to training but I had always enjoyed fighting.
I used to get into a lot of altercations with other kids running the streets with my friends but I think the thing that really got me to get up and join a gym was after watching a UFC Title fight of Maurice Smith against Mark Colman. “Mo” was the underdog and back-then no striker had ever won against a grappler in the UFC. Mo took Mark the distance and ended up winning the championship in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. I came to find out at the end of the fight that Maurice had a gym in Seattle. After watching the fight I was hooked and took the bus down to the gym the next day; I was seventeen at the time.
My first day in the gym I was hooked, and for the first time in my life I knew what I wanted to do; I wanted to be a “Kickboxer”. I remember seeing guys like Francisco Filio, Glabe, Satake, and countless other guys that I had seen weeks earlier on ESPN2 and K-1.
The atmosphere in the gym was something that I can’t put into words. At the time I was running the streets, getting kicked out of school, and had no job or money to pay for a membership. Mo made a deal with my mom that if I made some positive changes in school I could train there, if not, I was out! I made the necessary changes and within a year I was instructing classes and fighting.
2. What countries have you fought in? Which country gave you the best experience and which gave you the worst? Why?
I have fought in countries like Japan, Singapore, France, Turkey, all over Canada and the United States. The best experience I’ve had, by far, has been in Japan. It seems, to me, that the Japanese have a respect for fighting and fighters that doesn’t exist any where I’ve been. The events are extremely organized and the fans make you feel at home even though you are a guest in their country.
My worst experience would have to be Turkey and France; but i think it has to do more with the promotion, A-1, then the countries.
Now my whole life, I’ve always been the underdog; smallest, weakest, fighting seemed to be the same story. Every single one my fights, since the beginning of my career has been against some champion in some form of another; regional, state, ect. So, when I started getting fight offers to fight in pro shows overseas against guys with 30 plus fights I couldn’t have cared less. I remember being 16 and fighting grown men on Strikeforce kickboxing cards in stadiums long before anyone gave a shit about MMA.
In 2005 I had just gotten out of the Air Force, and I just started training again after a 4 year break to support the war effort going on in Middle East. Mo offered a fight to me and I accepted. Now, I’m a firm believer that once you get on a fight circuit and start fighting Pro, there is no turning back, there is no “I need to get some easy fights to feel comfortable again” or only taking fights that you know you can win; when you’re a pro you have to act accordingly.
I had been out of the fight game for 4 years but for me, it was nothing; I would have fought anyone they threw at me. The thing that made this fight so hard was that it turned out that the fight was going to happen at 75 Kilos. Prior to the fight I was told that it would be at 65 Kilos. At that time I only weighed about 145, maybe 150 (pounds; about 68 Kilos) on a good day. The fight was against a Turkish Champion Apache Serkan, and if you’ve ever seen his fights, he’s no pushover.
I never thought about it too much at the time but now looking back I must have had a few screws loose to go through with the fight.
I didn’t have a corner man, a trainer, or even any sparring partners to get me ready for the fight but I was so hungry to compete it didn’t matter. I got myself ready the best I knew how, with calisthenics, running and a little help from Pete Sprat who was also fighting on the card with me.
Well, the fight was pretty much one-sided. It mostly consisted of him beating on me for three rounds. I did my best to fight but I just could not seem to get anything to come together. I caught a hard rear leg round kick that broke my left rib in the first round and broke my nose in the second. In the third round the ref paused the fight to have the doc look at my nose. He told me “Your nose is badly broken, you’re loosing badly, do you want to continue”. I told him “I WANT TO FIGHT, I WANT TO FIGHT!”, the crowd was booing me, people were calling me “George Bush!”, but quitting was not something I would ever do willingly. I pressed on, put all the BS to the side, and started making some gains, however, my nose was badly bleeding and the doc decided to stop the fight, despite my will. This was my first time fighting overseas and was a big wake-up call.
The second worse fight was in France, for the same promotion. The year was 2009 and I had already had a few more fights under my belt. At the time I had been running around with Bob Sapp and the “Sapp Circus” (Inside Joke guys!).
I have known Bob for many years, long before his popularity in Japan. I have a great deal of respect for him as a businessman and athlete, however, Bob and I do not see eye-to-eye with regards to the progression of a fighter. Bob believes to take any and all fights in and out of your weight-class. He believes “you” don’t have the luxury to be picky and choosy about taking a fight. I agree with this 100%, with the exception of fighting out of your weight class. I believe weight classes are put in place for a reason and it’s stupid to be fighting guys out of it, unless you can’t seem to get fights, in which case, move up in weight! Besides, it’s not like there’s a shortage of fighters in my weight class.
So Bob offered me this fight, which he told me was 70 Kilos. I still didn’t know who I was fighting, which was a little frustrating because I like to study my opponents. Now, shortly before my first fight in Japan with Hirono Yu, I developed a stress fracture in my hip. I became a little overzealous in my training routine because it had been my dream for YEARS to fight in Japan. Instead of resting after my fight in japan, I continued to train, and run, and further aggravate my injury. By the time my fight in France came around I could hardly jog without feeling like someone was sticking a knife in my lower abdomen. An MRI later relieved that I had done so much running, kicking and situps that my lower abdominals were tearing away from my pubic bone!
Jesus, how the hell does that happen!?
Anyways, I did my best to get ready for this fight with one leg, again with no pad holder, sparring partners, or coaches that know anything about Muay Thai. When I got to France I met my opponent, but came to find out that the fight was going to be at 75 kilos. Aside from the drama I was dealing with, with Bob and his games, I felt confident in my abilities.
My opponent was a French fighter from Lyon named Abderrahman Penda. We talked a little bit before the fight, and even joked about how we are hoping to go first so that we can enjoy the rest of the show, he was a real cool guy. We ended up fighting last after what was supposed to be the main even, Sapp vs. Quateron.
Backstage, Penda was the least of my worries. Bob said he needed my handwraps to wrap his ankles and assured me he would get me another pair after he fought. When Bob was called to the stage, I walked out with him along with Tarek. The fight lasted about 2 minutes; typical length of a Sapp fight. He claimed to have a broken rib and was unable to continue the fight!
I quickly hurried back to the locker room waiting for Bob to come back and get me some handwraps so I could get warmed up but Bob was no were to be found! I was freaking out because My fight was coming up and I had no handwraps and, no cornerman. I managed to get one of Quatron’s cornermen to graciously help me out. He talked with the Thai trainer that was in the other locker room and he agreed to help me out with my wraps. We didn’t have any gauze so I just went ahead and used my training hand wraps underneath and had him tape over it. My corner man didn’t speak much English but we were able to communicate without any problems. When I was called to the ring I didn’t get many cheers, instead I found myself in a stadium packed with a bunch of angry-looking spectators who were looking at me as if I single handidly started the war in the middle east!
The fight again, much like turkey, was pretty one-sided. I wasn’t able to put anything together and got dropped in the first round. I quickly stood up only to see a beer bottle fly by that grazed my head! I don’t know what it is about fighting in European countries but it seems to me that the fight fans in Europe don’t care too much for Americans (Big understatement, I know!). Now ordinarily when you fight you are supposed to be focused on nothing else but the man standing across from you in the ring, but I can distinctly remember what was going on in my head and it had nothing to do with the man trying to tear my head off.
I remember being real angry at Bob for putting me through a bunch of BS before the fight. Dragging me around town to meet his “fans” and eating fast food because “this is how you get your name out” and endless amounts of other bullshit that I don’t have the will to talk about anymore. I remember just being angry and having no real desire to want to fight to win, rather, just get in there and put on a show. I did my best to finish the fight. I had a broken rib, nose, and my face and head were cut pretty bad. In the last round, a few seconds before the bell rang, Penda caught me with a nice combo that had me dazed and capitalized on it with an elbow that took me off my feet. It felt like that man was packing steel elbows because every time he hit me with them I couldn’t keep my legs. The plane ride home was a long and depressing one, not only was I depressed by my performance, but just angry with my whole situation.
People have absolutely no idea how hard it is to fight on these circuits.
No one gives a shit about an American kickboxer, including the hand full of phony sports writers that keep up with kickboxing and Muay Thai. On top of that, training here in the states is a joke. We may have a few trainers that know what they are doing here but they dumb it down by running these hour and a half seminar classes that don’t do shit to prepare you for a fight against an opponent that is in the ring on a monthly/bi-monthly basis and has a trainer who understands it is his duty and responsibility to prepare his guy that best he can.
All I ever wanted was to be given the opportunity to show that I can compete against the worlds best, because I believe I can. I felt that if I continued to run around with Bob that I would just be another American stooge that promoters bring over to make a name for their guy.
I made it clear that I am not a clown and I am not going to just take fights to get a paycheck. For me, I would have done this for free, that is how much I loved it, and only to see people make a mockery of it by fighting just to put on a show and not to win was/is against everything I believe in. I decided that if I was going to continue to fight it would be on my terms; fuck what everyone else thinks.
Keep your eyes open for part Two coming up in the next week.
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