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Tuesday, 07/02/2013, 03:30 pm

EXCLUSIVE | AJ Matthews on Bellator’s Fight Master: “We’re Fighters on this Show” | Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio

By JAKE CHASTAIN

| This week on BJPenn.com’s Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio our boys Anton and Denny invited back AJ Matthews to once again talk about Bellator’s new reality TV show, “Fight Master.” AJ earned his way into the show’s cast by winning his fight on the first episode. AJ decided to join Team Couture as he continues forward on his path to try to become the “Fight Master” Champion. He’ll be joining our fellas on Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio each week for the duration of the TV show to discuss the new happenings on the reality series and what we can expect in the coming weeks. Here are some of the highlights from this week’s interview with Mr. Matthews:

“Fight Master” will be airing its third episode this week and the four teams are still not full, which means the upcoming episode will again showcase more fights just to determine the full cast. Many people have noted their displeasure with the slow moving progress of the show, but as true fight fans, when do we ever really get tired of fights? AJ touched on the subject as well.

“It’s moving kind of slow but I think the three episodes of the entry fights might have been too much,” he said. “Everyone wants to see how Joe Riggs does; everyone wants to see how Mike Bronzoulis does, so it’s still all good.”

Matthews was then asked to talk about the process the fighters had to go through between the time of the fight and when they finally got to talk to the coaches and choose a team. AJ explained, “Man, we couldn’t even shower. This is how it went: My day there was like 5 fights, right?  So we fought, we had to go back to the locker room, where ever our corner was, and we had to sit there until all the fights were done, win or lose.…bleeding, not bleeding, whatever…we just sat there until all the fights were done and then they took the winners out there one at a time to have their interview with the coaches. So it was the same day, it was after the fights, but it was like, for some guys it was like 2 hours later, 3 hours later, some guys it was shorter than that. But yeah, it was pretty wild.”

Because this is the very first season of the reality show AJ discussed that many of the things they had to go through were unexpected. They did get some pointers from the show’s producers though.

“We kind of got a pep talk from the producers, you know, to try to have as much dialogue with the coaches as we could.”

This show is a unique experience because, unlike TUF, the fighters get to choose which team they want to join. When asked about the experience of talking to all four coaches at once Matthews answered, “It was just weird because never in your life are you in that position. You know what I mean? It’s like doing a job interview for four different places but they all want you to work for them. Not a lot of people get to be in that situation.”

AJ was also asked when he found out which fighters where on team. He replied, “I’m pretty sure I found out who was on my team when we moved into the warehouse.” He explained that during the entry fights the fighters were kept fairly secluded and were allowed minimal conversation, “Because at that point we still weren’t allowed to talk to each other.,” he said. “Unless they were in your gym, you didn’t know who won or lost. We didn’t watch any of the fights.”

 He also talked about how each fighter was assigned a coach and corner-man for their entry fight. AJ explained, “The fighters didn’t wear any team or color specific gear. We either had white Bellator trunks or black Bellator trunks. And then the dudes that came out with the fighters, like, we were randomly selected a corner-man team. So, for instance, I was given Greg Jackson’s team for the first fight. So I warmed up with them, I warmed up in their gym, they walked out with me, they cornered me for my fight, and that was the same for everybody.”

He explained how being assigned a coach actually swayed some people to choose certain teams.

“That’s actually why a lot of people picked, like, for instance, the Frank Shamrocks or Joe Warren is because they liked their corner-men so much. You know what I mean? So they already had an impression of what their training was going to be like there.”

He was then asked if he was impressed with any of the fighters from their entry fights to get onto the show. He responded, “Everybody who won their fight is intriguing to me. You know what I mean? Because I want to fight the best dudes and everybody was good. Nobody really stuck out crazy but all I know is, to me, it’s the strikers vs. the grinders.”

AJ was asked if he was starting to game plan or form a strategy following the opening round of fights.

“At that point, we still didn’t know how the show was going to go. We didn’t know if the coaches were going to tell you who you fight or, you know what I’m saying? Or if a matchmaker came in and told you you where going to fight. So I tried not to think about that stuff,” he said. “I wish I would have spent more time thinking about strategy because then it wouldn’t have been so confusing the whole time. But I just wanted to fight the best dudes there.”

He continued, “If this were a fight that’s going to be on TV for Bellator in the tournament finals, who do I want to fight? I want to fight the best dude. I don’t want some scrub, I don’t want a pushover.”

Another key difference in the “Fight Master” format is that each bout is a sanctioned fight that goes onto each fighter’s official record. Matthews touched on the subject by saying, “It was a little bit extra pressure but when you’re doing something for a living, like this is my life, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think I could beat up everybody. I feel like I can beat up everybody. I wouldn’t have signed the contract to go on a TV show if I felt like, ‘oh my gosh, what if I lose?’ That thought can’t be in your mind, so I’m like, oh shit, hell yeah, that’s four more wins on my record in six weeks. That’s how I go in to looking at it.”

He then talked about the main differences he saw in Fight Master as opposed to The Ultimate Fighter. Matthews explained, “The main thing that sticks out is how serious they were about not catching us at our goofy, jackass moments.”

“They wanted to use the show to educated fans about fighting rather than build characters and personalities for people to like,” Matthews said. “It’s going to be a really in depth look for the fans at what we go through mentally, physically, emotionally, before, during and after a fight.”

And most importantly, Matthews said, “We’re fighters on this show.”

You can catch AJ Matthews on Bellator’s “Fight Master” every Wednesday on SPIKE TV. Check your local listings for times.

To listen to the entire interview with AJ Matthews on Fist-Ta-Cuff Radio click here and for more exclusive interviews stay posted to BJPenn.com

-Jake Chastain

@jchastain45

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