As with any successful professional, mixed martial artists eat, sleep and breathe their craft. They put everything on the line when they wake up, hit the gym and pour their blood, sweat and tears into the sport we all love. When they enter that cage, for the fan, it's all about the entertainment, but these athletes go through the daily rigors with more in mind. For some fighters, it's a paycheck. For others, it's the glitz and glamour, but for some it's a lifestyle fueled by a deep passion and connection to the sport of mixed martial arts.
In our newest site feature, MMAPlayground would like to introduce you to some of these men and women of MMA that you may not know much about.
Our mission? To introduce. To educate. To spread the word.Nam Phan is an Asian American fighter, who has also competed as a professional boxer. He is most known for his time spent in the Ultimate Fighter household during the twelfth installment of the series. He failed to reach the final, but impressed enough to earn a shot in the Octagon, facing Leonard Garcia and losing what is widely regarded as one of the biggest robberies in recent mixed martial arts history. With a recent loss to former featherweight champ, Mike Brown, Phan was given what he wanted. On October 8, in Houston, Texas, Nam will get a chance to step into the cage and exact his revenge on Garcia.
Phan caught up with us while in his gym, gearing up for some kickboxing.
* * * * *MMAPG:
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Nam. You have a fight scheduled right around the corner against a familiar opponent in Leonard Garcia. The look on your face when the decision was announced the first time around pretty much expressed what pretty much everyone was thinking…you got robbed. Do you plan on switching up your game plan this time around? I know you don’t want to go in to much detail, but did you go back to the drawing board in preparation for a rematch with Garcia or did you just fine tune your previous strategy?NAM PHAN:
I always try to show some support! The only thing is I gotta try to finish this fight. I feel like if I don’t finish this guy in 15 minutes, just count it as a loss. MMAPG:
How do you feel about the judging in the Garcia fight, and how the judges seem to award his aggressiveness so much?NAM PHAN:
It kind of pisses me off. You gotta be aggressive, it’s cool, but you gotta score points. It’s frustrating.MMAPG:
Care to make a prediction on the outcome?NAM PHAN:
I don’t want to predict anything. It’s always bad luck. I just have to finish him. MMAPG:
Okay...going back to the time you spent on The Ultimate Fighter...did you enjoy it? Looking back, did the good outweigh the bad or vice-versa? What did you gain from your time in the house? NAM PHAN:
I think I benefitted a lot from the show. The guys I trained with really helped with my exposure to the mixed martial arts world- Koscheck, Fitch, Dave Camarillo, Javier Mendez, Daniel Cormier, and Teddy Lucio. And it helped me get into the UFC as well.MMAPG:
Yeah, if there’s one guy to learn wrestling from, Cormier’s the guy.NAM PHAN:
Certainly there were some negative aspects, as well. Care to share those if you had any?NAM PHAN:
I love my coaches, but all of my teammates were jerks. I remember in the beginning, the team was like “we’re a lot closer than the other team. We’re always together, they’re never together.’ At the very end, everyone was against me, and I couldn’t have been more far apart from my teammates. MMAPG:
What about your coach on the show, Josh Koscheck? He’s said before that the “character” he plays is a lot different the Josh Koscheck the person. Would you say that’s true? Did he, at any point, rub you the wrong way?NAM PHAN:
He’s a super cool guy. He wasn’t a jerk to me at all. He was super down to Earth. He’s very playful.MMAPG:
Where do you do most of your training and who are your regular training partners and coaches?NAM PHAN:
Most of my training is done at my academy now. I train with my students. I have black belts come out and help me train. I go to a boxing gym in Anaheim. MMAPG:
Walk us through the day of a fight. When Nam Phan wakes up in the morning on the day of a fight, what’s the routine? Does it change for each fight or would you consider it a ritual?NAM PHAN:
I try to get as much sleep as I can. I try not to stay up late. Try to get a lot of rest. I really don’t know what part of the day I’m going to be fighting. I’m not a main event type guy. I’m Nam Phan from Garden Grove. I also try to eat a lot of pasta. MMAPG:
On the flipside…what consumes you in the days (or weeks) after a fight? Are you right back in the gym the next day or do you take time off? What do you enjoy doing in your down time?NAM PHAN:
I’m a pretty boring guy. I drink a lot of tea. I’m not really into traveling. I like to relax. I take a week off. I’m still at the gym, just hanging out. I eat a lot of bad food. No alcohol, I don’t drink alcohol or smoke or anything. Just a lot of soda and bad food. MMAPG:
Some fighters…”Rampage” Jackson, for instance…have gone on record stating that they don’t watch much MMA in their free time. Are you one of those guys? NAM PHAN:
I don’t watch a lot. I watch the Ultimate Fighter. I try to watch the PPV, and watch as much as I can. It’s interesting, especially when my friends are fighting. I always try to support. MMAPG:
What fighters do you enjoy watching the most?NAM PHAN:
All the champions, GSP, Silva, Cain, Aldo, Edgar. My favorite fighter is Chael Sonnen right now. He hypes up the fight real well, and when he fights, he brings it. MMAPG:
Chael Sonnen, huh? That’s interesting. He’s kind of a polarizing figure. Either you love him or you hate him.NAM PHAN:
I met him in person a few times and I think he’s a really cool guy. It’s very entertaining. Also what I like, he doesn’t cuss when he talks to people, and he’s just really witty and picks his words very well. All of his trash talk is witty comments. They’re very good comebacks. Very intellectual man. MMAPG:
If weight classes weren’t an issue, which fighter (or fighters) would you most like to test yourself against?NAM PHAN:
Man, so many great guys, right? I’d like to fight Sakuraba in his prime.MMAPG:
I probably should’ve asked this question earlier, but how did you end up choosing a career as a fighter? What brought you to this wonderful sport of MMA?NAM PHAN:
I was always into martial arts as a kid growing up. My brother brought home a VHS tape one time. As a kid growing up, I always wanted to be some kind of fighter, a boxer or kickboxer. Mixed martial arts was no holds barred back then, right? Cage fighting. I hated school, and traditionally Asian parents want you to be a doctor or a lawyer. I wasn’t having it. I figured that if I wanna do this, I gotta do it all the way. I really planned it out. I sat down, and wrote down how I was going to have a career and make a living as a fighter, or a martial artist.MMAPG:
What pushes you to keep going? You’ve been fighting for 10 years now on the professional level. What drives you?NAM PHAN:
First of all, definitely my passion. I’m very passionate about mma. I’m also very passionate about my culture. I’m Asian -Vietnamese. There’s not many Asian Americans who do mixed martial arts. There aren’t many Asian Americans in the UFC. So, I gotta represent. Gotta make them proud.MMAPG:
Okay, Nam…where’s the nickname? Everyone’s doing it! Seriously, though…is the absence of a nickname your preference? Too cliché, maybe? What about Nam “The Man” Phan or Nam “The Natural” Phan?NAM PHAN:
I’m not really into nicknames. I don’t want the nickname; I want people to recognize me, my culture – Vietnamese culture. They’ll see “Nam Phan,” (and say) oh, Vietnamese fighter.MMAPG:
Okay, I’ll wrap this up so you can get back to doing your thing. Have you been training today? NAM PHAN:
I trained this morning. Did some wrestling, ran, and we’re about to do some kickboxing.MMAPG:
I do have one last question, though. Fast forward to 10 or 20 years from now…how do you want to be remembered? Does the term “legacy” mean as much to you as it seems to mean to so many fans?NAM PHAN:
Yeah you know, I mean of course, I want to be known as at least a decent fighter. For me, I want people to know that ‘hey that guy is a pretty decent fighter and he represented the Asian American community.’” MMAPG:
That does it from my end. And again, thank you for agreeing to do this, Nam. Good luck to you against Leonard Garcia at UFC 136 in Houston! Any closing words?NAM PHAN:
First of all, I don’t want to consider anybody with me a fan. I think celebrities have fans. I’m humble. I’m just a martial arts instructor. I’m gracious and grateful to have the support of the mixed martial arts community and I’ll continue to perform at my best. MMAPG:
We appreciate your time! And once again, good luck against Leonard!NAM PHAN:
Thank you. Have a good night, and thanks for the interview!
* * * * *Follow @NamPhanMMA on Twitter Nam Phan on Sherdog.com DISCLAIMER: Views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and are not necessarily those of the staff or affiliates of MMAPlayground.com.