“That was pretty much the first big split… a bunch of the guys in general split up, and the Couture team kind of split in half,” Brad Tavares reflected on the history of MMA team, Xtreme Couture. The middleweight has been training at Couture’s for some years, a place where he has prepared for his fight this Wednesday against TUF 17 Quarter-finalist, Bubba McDaniel.
By Christopher Murphy @MurphMMA
Before stepping into the Octagon this Wednesday to face The Ultimate Fighter 17 quarter-finalist, Bubba McDaniel, UFC middleweight fighter, Brad Tavares, spoke to BJPenn.com Radio about the months leading up to UFC Fight Night 27.
First and foremost, Tavares (10-1) talked about his campaign to land a fight against a big name in his division someone like Wanderlei Silva or Costas Philippou. When those fights weren’t offered, Tavares reflected, he was excited for any opportunity the UFC would give him; and the organization chose McDaniel, a veteran of 27 fights, to face Tavares in what will be his first main-card event.
For Tavares, the opportunity meant one thing: return to Las Vegas, Nevada, and get ready.
“I live in Vegas now. I train out of Xtreme Couture. Out here, we… hit up all the different gyms. My home is Xtreme Couture. I train under Ray Sefo, and I train with guys like Martin Kampmann, Evan Dunham, Jay Hieron, Brenson Hansen, another local boy, and a bunch of other good fighters out here.
“A normal day, you know, I wake up, get ready; depending on what day it is, like Mondays and Fridays I’ll head down to Robert Drysdale’s jiu jitsu, I do some grappling/wrestling stuff there. Then I’ll rest, then at night I’ll go over to Couture’s and hit mitts with Ray or sometimes I’ll be doing strength and conditioning with my coach. Tuesdays and Thursdays I spar over at Syndicate [MMA], you know, that’s where everyone goes for sparring. They have a bunch of good guys there. It’s kind of spread out, but a lot of good training.”
Though he lives and trains in Vegas full-time, Tavares doesn’t spend the entire year in the desert. The Kailua-born Hawaiian makes a point to return home when he’s not in camp.
“When I’m not really full-bore in camp getting ready for a camp, I’m usually typically back in Hawaii. I’m always at Team MMAD, that’s my original team that I started with. I love going back and helping those guys out, trying to help the up-and-comer guys. In Hilo, you guys know, when I’m in Hilo I’m always at BJ’s [Penn] gym. I’m all over the place.”
Training is so important to Tavares, in fact, that his upcoming fight was influenced by his Xtreme Couture training partners.
“I asked to be put on this card. Initially, when they offered me the fight, they wanted me to fight on the UFC 164, the pay-per-view card a few days after my fight, August 31 the Henderson-Pettis card. That would have been fine, that’s a big card, a pay-per-view card, but it just made more sense for me to ask to be fighting on the same card Martin was. It’s three days away, our coaching we have the same guys in our corners basically, so it just made more sense for us to be on the same card. Like you guys mentioned, we train together every day. Our training schedules are almost exactly identical we do our strength and conditioning with different people at different times other than that we’re together almost every day, training together and getting ready. Yeah, it definitely is a big help; it will be fun to go over to Indianapolis and spend the days prior to the fight with Martin and the rest of our coaches and our camp and get to fight on the same card as him. I think it’s going to be a good experience, and I’m really excited about it.”
One of the coaches who will be in his corner is Ray Sefo, former 6-time Muay Thai world champion and current president of the World Series of Fighting. Sefo has long been a member and coach at Xtreme Couture. In fact, while continuing to train fighters like Tavares, Sefo prepared himself for a fight in the WSOF last month.
“I was proud of him merely for the fact of how well he did when the fight went out of his comfort zone,” Tavares reflected on Sefo’s fight, “which is anywhere that’s not striking. Ray’s been a kickboxer all his life, fought K1 a bunch of times that’s how he’s made his name. He’s had a few MMA fights, but he’s never really trained extensively in wrestling or in MMA or on the ground.
“The thing about Ray that’s really awesome about him is he’s really a good coach. He’s not one of those guys that’s [a jerk] about kickboxing, like, ‘Oh, you don’t need a sprawl because you can stop a takedown with an uppercut, you can stop a takedown with a knee.’ No, that’s not gonna work. So Ray actually gets in there, does wrestling and stuff to see what it’s like; and then… at the end of the day he gets in the ring, then that way he knows: he’s been a fighter himself, so he knows exactly when it comes time to coach us. Yeah, unfortunately he didn’t get the win, but it was really good to see him after the fight in good spirits. He’s just one of those guys, he doesn’t care- I mean of course he wants to win, but he’s one of those guys, he wants to first and foremost put on a fight for the fans. And he just wants to be in a fight; he just wants to punch, kick and get to beat up another guy, you know. Like I said, it didn’t go his way, you guys saw it. But it was an exciting fight, you know, a good way to end his career. So he says. I’m sure this guy will try to get back in the ring eventually.”
Sefo did go on to lose that fight, a TKO at the hands of Dave Huckaba, one of the World Series of Fighting’s better heavyweight fighters. Perhaps more impressive than 42 year-old Sefo getting into the cage to face the younger Huckaba is the fact that Sefo continued to train his fighters all the while. That is, of course, in addition to running a mixed martial arts organization on the side.
“It didn’t affect it too much,” Tavares reflected on Sefo’s fight in relation to training. “For the beginning part, there were a few times where he… did his sparring at Couture’s a little earlier than I did mine at Syndicate, so there were certain days where he couldn’t be there to watch me. I’m not the type of guy that I need to be babysat all the time; I don’t need to be followed around by my coach. As it closes in towards the fight, of course I want him around. His fight was over with, and he was right back in the gym. The whole time, it was funny, he would train for his fight with this guy Dewey Cooper. He’d be hitting mitts or doing whatever he had to do, and right after that he’d throw on the mitts, throw on the Thai pads, and he would pads for us. It was crazy. I know it was taxing on him, and it was an unselfish thing of him to do, you know, to train for his fight and also train us. That’s the great thing about Ray, you know, we built that bond he and I and the rest of the guys it’s like a real good bond, like a brother-type thing. He has a fight, and he’s willing when he’s tired to still train us for our fight. He didn’t have to do it. Yeah, he’s our coach, but he’s getting ready for his fight; which, if you’re getting ready for a fight, as a fighter, you feel your fight is first and foremost important thing in the world. For him to take the time to still coach us and train us and have that loyalty as our coach for us, it was great.”
Whenever one of the Xtreme Couture fighters talks about his/her training, it’s quite often that they’re asked about the departure of various fighters and the separation of the team. It’s no secret that Xtreme Couture is not the Mecca of MMA that it once was. For Tavares, that is a reflection on how big MMA has become rather than any slacking on the part of the Vegas-based team.
“What happened was a lot of people started opening their own gyms. Before, everyone was at Randy’s gym, and everybody was coming there to train. The majority of guys were fighting out of Couture’s, and that was the place to be. As guys started progressing and becoming more successful, they started opening their own gyms. Wanderlei opened up his, Drysdale opened up his, and a bunch of other gyms opened up here and there. So everybody kind of spread out a little bit more.
“Right before I came, [Shawn] Tompkins was the coach at Couture’s. I ended up hooking up with him at Tapout before I got to Couture’s when I first got to Vegas. That was pretty much the first big split, is when Tompkins separated and went to Tapout, a bunch of his guys and a bunch of the guys in general split up, and the Couture team kind of split in half there. After he passed away, most of the guys trickled back to Couture’s. It was all familiar faces. Right now, the only fighters fighting out of Couture’s that you’d probably recognize as far as fighting at a bigger level are myself, Martin [Kampmann], Evan [Dunham] and Brenson [Hansen] probably he’s fighting at WSOF now. Like you said, Tyson [Griffin] and Gray [Maynard] went out to AKA, [Mike] Pyle is full-time at Syndicate… I don’t think it has anything to do with the team, I think the sport has grown so much and the sport has progressed that MMA gyms and good training are not so hard to find. It’s not like, ‘Oh I need to go to Vegas to get this good training.’ There’s good gyms everywhere. There’s good gyms in California, Oregon, on the East Coast, everywhere. A lot of these guys are able to go to these gyms that are a lot closer to home for them.”
Of course, there was also the issue of head coach and founder, Randy Couture, moving gradually away from mixed martial arts.
“Yeah, that probably had something to do with it. From the time I came, Randy wasn’t in there too much. You would only see him when he had a fight. But a lot of guys are like that anyways, a majority in fact of people that live in Vegas are not from Vegas, myself included. When we don’t have a fight coming up, a lot of us go back to where home is. For me, that’s Hawaii- all my family is there, my girlfriend, my dogs, everybody is back there. When I’m not training for a fight, a lot of times I’m in Hawaii. I think a lot of people do that. When [Randy] retired from fighting and he started acting and stuff full-time and getting busy on that side of things, he really wasn’t in the gym at all. Yeah, I think at one point his gym, Randy Couture Xtreme Couture MMA, he was the main staple there, like the leader everyone look to. I guess that did have something to do with it that he wasn’t in there as much, but at the same time, you can’t hate on the guy. There’s life after fighting, and for him it’s acting and coaching for Fight Master and whatever it may be. He has to do his thing, you know, he still has a family to provide for; he still has to look out for his future. He’s not fighting any more, he has to make money somehow. He does what he has to do, it’s just one of those things that you just got to adapt.
“I think with MMA, it’s one of those things, it hasn’t been around that long so people haven’t really figured it out. No one place is really established as the best place or the best way to do things, so people always want to try new things. They’ll come to Vegas, they’ll stay for a while and move on, whatever it may be. For me, it’s a perfect fit, I love it here. I mean I love Hawaii way more, but as far as the training goes, this is the place for me to be: the coaches, the training partners, you just can’t beat it.”
Tavares will be utilizing that training when he enters the ring Wednesday night to face Bubba McDaniel in the opening fight on the UFC Fight Night 27 main card.
UFC Fight Night Live takes place August 28 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana. Preliminary fights begin at 5pm/2pm ETPT on Facebook, and the main card airs live on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 8pm/5pm ETPT.Tags: BJPenn.Com Radio, BJPennDotCom Radio, Brad Tavares, Bubba McDaniel, mma, MMA NEWS, ufc, ufc fight night, UFC FIght Night 27, ufc news, UFC on FOX Sports 1, ufc on fs1