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Tuesday, 06/25/2013, 05:50 pm

EXCLUSIVE | AJ Matthews Discusses Bellator “Fight Master” Experience | FistTaCuff Radio

By JAKE CHASTAIN

| Fist-Ta-Cuff RADIO is at it again and this week Anton talked with current Bellator “Fight Master” contestant, AJ Matthews. AJ was kind enough to take time out of each week to sit down and talk about the progress and discuss all the back stories regarding the new SPIKE TV MMA reality show.  The first episode air last Wednesday and AJ Matthews won a unanimous decision victory to earn his place onto the show. He ultimately ended up choosing to join Coach Randy Couture’s team but AJ talked about having to make that tough decision, the unknowns of joining the cast of the debut season of the show, and how the entire process worked. Here are some of the highlights from AJ Matthews’ interview on Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio:

AJ Matthews first talked about the opening process of arrival for the show and what took place before he had to fight to earn his place as a part of the show’s cast. He stated that upon arrival to the hotel, “We expect to fight in 48 hours, 36 hours, you know? Because that’s what the email said, that’s what the information said. But we get there, and I can’t remember exactly, I think it was like six days. I didn’t have to cut weight for like four days. It was horrible, man, because I was already tiny trying to make 170 pounds and now it’s like, I have to maintain that weight for another four days than I had planned. It was all crazy. A lot of the guys were freaking out or dwelling on that kind of stuff, but it’s like, you can’t change it, you know? Its like, might as well embrace it. It’s just another part of the challenge.”

He also talked about what the fighters, who were lodged in a hotel in New Orleans, were offered for food and such leading up to their first round fights. He explained how the room service worked and then quickly stated, “Pretty much it was just tuna, salmon or chicken.”

He continued the conversation by talking about how the training process unfolded. He explained, “They would call you at like one in the morning and be like, ‘hey, you have to be on the shuttle by 7am if you want to go to the gym.’ So everything was like, kind of scrambling, but it wasn’t too bad.” Knowing that this was a learning process for Bellator FC, Mathews said, “You could tell that they were kind of figuring things out, but, you know, that’s expected. First season and everything like that. I was just happy to be there.”

Matthews then briefly talked about when and how he found out who he was fighting to earn his place onto the show’s cast. He explained to Anton, “There’s three days of fights so some of the groups of people already got picked, you know, so you kind of knew your pool of guys that were left, you know I mean? But we literally found out who we were fighting at weigh-ins.”

When asked about the weigh-in process for the opening round of the show he replied, “Because it’s sanctioned they had to give us the 24 hours from weigh-ins to fight time.”

So, understanding that a sanctioned fight counts on his official record and that, unlike TUF, all “Fight Master” fights would affect a participants record, Matthews stated, “It was added pressure. That’s your career. Whatever number is next to your name as your record, that’s how much money you’re worth, in a way.” But the pressure was not too much for Mathews to handle as he went on saying, “I go into everything thinking I’m going to win anyway, so it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was in the back of my head.” He continued, “I felt really connected to the whole experience just by the way I try to put myself mentally going into fights anyway. So it was pretty awesome for me.”

Matthews also spoke about the competition coming into the show. He explained, “When I started hearing about the cast or the guys that were going to be showing up, you kind of picked ho you thought was gonna win in that first round of fights, you know? And I was wrong about a lot of them.”

“It just shows that there’s another level of talent, you know? It’s not just who you know, or the guys that you know. There are dudes that you don’t know about that are killers. So that’s what’s tight about bringing 32 people there and just letting them go at it. Fight for position and then fight for the championship.” He continued, “There’s not a lot of footage on these guys, nobody knows what they do and then they come out and knock-out guys like Babalu and stuff like that. It’s crazy.”

It’s not every day a professional fighter gets to pick the mind of a legendary coach, which is what this show is offering fighters. Matthews explained that process of choosing his coach and how difficult the decision was. He stated, “Going in to the show I had already had a personal relationship with Neil, who is Randy’s grappling coach.” He continued, “And I’m a big fan of Randy so going into it I was hoping their team wouldn’t fill up and I’d get with Randy. But when I started seeing like Maurice Smith was there with Frank Shamrock, I’m like, damn, maybe I want to learn something from Maurice Smith, you know? Or Joe Warren has the Greco and he brought two super high level coaches. Greg Jackson, to me, I want to beat all of his guys. I want to fight Georges St Pierre someday. I want to fight Carlos Condit someday. You know what I mean?

Ultimately, though, AJ knew his roots would serve him best and he went with his gut, picking Team Couture to lead him throughout the show. Matthews justified his decision by saying, “To me, picking Randy made the most sense.”

Anton then asked AJ what the experience was like for him as he talked about the first episode of the show after it debuted last Wednesday. He replied, “I’m glad that I had stuff to talk about after the first fight.”

He also talked about how he handled being cut off from the outside world during his attempt to get through the first round and make it onto the show. Matthews explained, “Right when they took the phone away I had so much separation anxiety for like the first two days. But then after that it was like, there are a lot more important things to think about, you know? Your mind gets occupied. So it wasn’t so bad. It was kind of liberating.”

When asked what he was allowed to bring with him he replied, “We couldn’t bring anything in. We could have like, pictures, uh, people started requesting notebooks so they could keep journals or something like that, but yeah…we didn’t have much.”

And to close out the interview Anton asked AJ, if he could go back and do it all again with the same outcome, would he do it? Matthews replied, “I would do it again, for sure! I wouldn’t change anything. It was sick.”

We thank AJ for joining the show this week and remember, he’ll be back next week to talk about the next episode of “Fight Master” with Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio. To listen to the entire interview with AJ from this week’s episode of Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio click here and for more exclusive MMA interviews stay posted to BJPenn.com

Bellator’s “Fight Master” airs on SPIKE TV on Wednesday nights. Check you local listings for times.

-Jake Chastain

@jchastain45

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