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Pawel Nastula interview

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richieb19

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Pawel Nastula is a legendary Polish Judoka considered to have some of the best newaza skills ever seen. Pawel is an Olympic Gold Medalist as well as a multiple time World Champion. After years of dominating the Judo world circuit, Pawel decided to take up mixed martial arts. Pawel fought the toughest possible opponents for his first MMA few fights, fighting 3 fighters ranked in the top 6. Pawel was impressive regardless of these circumstances. His tachiwaza and newaza skills are among the best in mixed martial arts, and we hope to see more of them from Pawel in the future.



JudoMMA: Pawel, How did you get involved into Judo? and how long have you been training in Judo?

Pawel Nastula: I started Judo when I was 10, so it has been 26 years of training so far. I had older schoolmates that were training Judo, and I was fascinated by what they were doing. I asked my Mum for permission to train, and then she convinced a trainer to allow me to train as 12 years were required. That is the way how it began.


JM: What were your favorite newaza and tachiwaza techniques in Judo competition?

PN: If it comes to tachiwaza my favorite throw was seoi-nage. For newaza it was kata gatame.


JM: You were known as a newaza specialist in your Judo career. Where did you learn such high level newaza skills?

PN: Hmm, that is true, I loved to ground fight, I remember that during some EC I fought some Russian for 3 minutes on the ground. I think that is still unbeaten record for length of the Judo ground fight. To a large extent I have been taught newaza by my trainers and I have really came to like it. It is very natural for me and I feel it really good.


JM: Newaza is a part of Judo that is often ignored due to current rules. How do you feel about this?

PN: I think that it was a real mistake that it was not allowed to compete long on the ground, but now I see a trend for allowing the ground fight. That is really good, and allows objectively to prove versatile contestants in a fight.


JM: How do you think your Judo skills helped you prepare for Mixed Martial Arts?

PN: Oooh... For sure Judo is my base, my great love, and on the Judo trainings and techniques I base my strategy for MMA fight. Judo gives me both the confidence of my techniques and the self-confidence.


JM: What were the main difficulties you faced in the transition from Judo to MMA?

PN: First of all I was not used to the pure body holds, I missed the grip of the Gi that could allow me to perform some sophisticated techniques. In MMA fight the range of applied techniques is much smaller than in Judo. I was made to consider that both in trainings and in my mentality/consciousness. If the Gi was there, everything would be simpler. (laugh)


JM: Did you focus on any specific Judo techniques to use in MMA?

PN: I remember when I was training Judo with my sparring partners, often we trained unexpected takedown attacks and that really helped me in MMA. If it comes to other techniques I train my favorite submissive holds.


JM: Aside from Judo, what other training have you done to prepare for MMA matches?

PN: (Laugh) Ha ha.. If it comes to kicks and punches I had to start totally from a scratch. At the beginning the defense against them was very difficult for me, and I spent a year and half to get some confidence in the ring. I won’t lie, if I say that it has revealed a motivation which I had no longer had in Judo. That was something new and exiting. I have really come to like it and from day to day I improve those elements.


JM: What a non-Judo aspect of MMA training do you enjoy most?

PN: That is definitely boxing, now I can spar with almost every opponent and I do not stand out technically. Kicking is a little bit harder for me, but I fairly well defend and block them.


JM: What MMA team do you train with? And what is your MMA schedule like?

PN: Until now I have had problems with sparring partners in my weight, but now I am training with some young fighters from Perfect Team from Warsaw who specialize in Muay Thai and K-1, and I am sparring mainly with them. Now I train once a day ground fight and stand up fight. Once a week I do some sharper stand up sparring, on the other days I train the boxing techniques and the defense. Ground fight I do two, three times a week. Additionally I work on my condition.


JM: What was the reason you decided to get into MMA?

PN: In Japan I had my old friend from Poland who had contact with Pride and he watched some fights, he told me I am made just for it (laugh). I had watched several fights and despite my age I had thought that I could handle that, and I agreed. After some time the people from this organization contacted me and I signed a contract for five fights. That is how my MMA adventure began.


JM: Pride gave you extremely difficult match-ups for an early start. What do you think of this? In the U.S., Pride has been criticized by fans for poor match making.

PN: You know, you can look for easy opponents and gain some record and pretend some time, that you are good in the new discipline. I was the Olympic Judo champ, and if you know Japan a bit, you know they love that sport. I could not let them down, so I took the challenge to face the best MMA fighters. I was not turning one’s nose up at this or that one, because he was a number one or two in this sport. I did not feel any resentment that I was about to face the best, I had no fear for that. Even in Judo, when I had weaker opponents, I had problems with concentration and I happened to lose unexpectedly in the past. For good opponents I have always found some additional strength. Here I wanted to prove that I am able to face the best Pride fighters, and maybe even to win.


JM: After your victory over Edson Drago, how did you feel?

PNK: Oh, that was unbelievable joy, although he was not ranked as high as Nogueira or Emelianienko, but he was winning with good fighters and his record was excellent. Besides he was trying to show up in Pride, just like me, so the fight for both of us was very important. The other thing is that my fans in Japan and Poland had faith in me, and I have not let them down. That was a fantastic feeling, a great relief!


JM: Many fans in the U.S. were impressed by your fight against Josh Barnett. You dominated a high ranked fighter, but got caught in the end. What do you think of that fight?

PN: Man, when I saw that fight I was really mad, I was so close... I felt that he was dying in my hands. Already after the first round I was so close to the victory, but the time run out. In the second round, it was the same, but he exploited my one mistake, and it happened. I enormously regret the chance I lost, but I know, that to take the chance and win I was missing the experience from fights so hard as this one.


JM: Do you know when your next MMA fight is? Your fans want to see your fight soon.

PN: I know only when there is no fight (laugh). In September the fight will not take place, so I am in a kind of suspension, like the rest of Pride’s fighters, even Emelianienko does not know anything and waits. If it comes to me only one fight has left, and after that I am going to sign a contract for several fights. I feel the fans’ pressure and that motivates me to prove that the old judo champ can show his good sides and prove he is able to compete with the best MMA fighters.


JM: What are your goals in MMA?

PN: I want to win with the best, the coming fight, whoever I will face. Believe me, that is the way it is, I feel tremendous hunger for a fight.


JM: We have read that you trained with Mirko Cro Cop. What was it like?

PN: That was really hard, although it is not very different from the training I do. Mirko admitted me really warm at his place in Croatia, I was there because of his invitation. I will come back to the training with him as soon as I know the date of my fight and the name of my opponent.


JM: And finally, do you know of any Judoka who may decide to try out MMA?

PN: I think there is a lot of great Judo competitors, who can handle MMA, because Judo builds a physical and mental base. But they must have will to work hard on the things Judo does not have, and this is what not everyone can do, this is a totally different sport. I will not single out any name, because this is one of those things you must try out, before knowing if the success is within somebody’s range. MMA is a really difficult sport which gathers the best fighters out of many martial sports and everyone wants to get to the top. This must be remembered.

Post #1   9/5/07 12:27:12AM   

cmill21

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lol Another one training with Mirko. Awsome guy, I look foreword to him developing, although he's older I still think he could give the top guys a great run and beat a few.

Post #2   9/5/07 12:59:34AM   

richieb19

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Posted by cmill21

lol Another one training with Mirko. Awsome guy, I look foreword to him developing, although he's older I still think he could give the top guys a great run and beat a few.

With improved cardio and striking, I see very little people who could stand a chance with him to be perfectly honest...

Post #3   9/5/07 1:09:05AM   

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I'd like to see Nastula's next fight come against Mark Coleman. I think this would be a match that would be winnable for Pawel, and at the same time giving him some audience recognition. A convincing win over Coleman would give him a wider audience and would be a good test to see where he is at as far as defending the single/double legs. If Pawel is working his hands, he could actually have an advantage over Coleman in the stand up and that can only help his confidence in later fights.

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Post #4   9/5/07 1:26:19AM   

cmill21

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Posted by richieb19


Posted by cmill21

lol Another one training with Mirko. Awsome guy, I look foreword to him developing, although he's older I still think he could give the top guys a great run and beat a few.

With improved cardio and striking, I see very little people who could stand a chance with him to be perfectly honest...



I agree and he's apperently going to be training with a guy who knows a thing or two about striking, not to mention who his new coach can bring in to help.

Post #5   9/5/07 1:28:49AM   

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Posted by cmill21


Posted by richieb19


Posted by cmill21

lol Another one training with Mirko. Awsome guy, I look foreword to him developing, although he's older I still think he could give the top guys a great run and beat a few.

With improved cardio and striking, I see very little people who could stand a chance with him to be perfectly honest...



I agree and he's apperently going to be training with a guy who knows a thing or two about striking, not to mention who his new coach can bring in to help.

He never looked like a complete slouch standing, and although it is pretty sloppy it's apparent that his opponents to date don't wanna get too close to him. With that said, cardio has always been the major key. He was out grappling Barnett, Aleks and Nogueira before he lost composure. He may be old, but so was Couture when he started, and Nastula has even more promise than him. Hopefully all works well with his suspension and return, and I hope to see him again soon.

On the flip side, this guy is gonna be helping crocop immensely aswell.

Post #6   9/5/07 1:34:30AM   

cmill21

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Oh i know this is one of those great 2 way training session partners. I would like to see if the UFC would let him in there. He's obviously skilled, and Judo is a great base. I think he underestemated mma a bit, but when your as good at judo as he is it's understandable.

Post #7   9/5/07 1:46:32AM   

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Posted by richieb19


Posted by richieb19

I agree and he's apperently going to be training with a guy who knows a thing or two about striking, not to mention who his new coach can bring in to help.

He never looked like a complete slouch standing, and although it is pretty sloppy it's apparent that his opponents to date don't wanna get too close to him. With that said, cardio has always been the major key. He was out grappling Barnett, Aleks and Nogueira before he lost composure. He may be old, but so was Couture when he started, and Nastula has even more promise than him. Hopefully all works well with his suspension and return, and I hope to see him again soon.

On the flip side, this guy is gonna be helping crocop immensely aswell.



Thanks, cool interview. So many dumb people discrediting Nastula just because they see his record. Look at his opponents, best of the best AND HE DIDN'T GET DOMINATED at all. Very impressive. The guy could be tops for sure, especially his current MMA resume is much more impressive even in losses then guys like Couture and Sylvia which everyone ranks much higher.

Post #8   9/5/07 2:15:02AM   

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man i really enjoy watching him, i just wish that he will make it big,i mean with good cardio, and training come stand up, this guy would be almost be unstopable, too bad he started this late, but if gets his mind right, he can still make a huge impact in the MMA world... ...i dont know why, but he reminds me so much of andy hug.....

Last edited 9/5/07 7:41PM server time by juanez13
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Post #9   9/5/07 7:17:21PM   

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Posted by juanez13

man i really enjoy watching him, i just wish that he will make it big,i mean with good cardio, and training come stand up, this guy would be almost be unstopable, too bad he started this late, but if gets his mind right, he can still make a huge impact in the MMA world... ...i dont know why, but he reminds me so much of andy hug.....



I can relate to this post, if there were any men I looked up to as sports heroes as a kid they were Andy and Pawel. I think the connection comes from the fact that in many ways Pawel Nastula was to Judo what Andy hug was to Kickboxing. Tetsujin, the seemingly invincible Iron man with the heart of lion, whom wants nothing more than to fight well against the greatest men to except the challenge... and prove to himself and the watching world who is best. (/melodrama, haha )

And I definitely agree that Pawel, at 37 years old, can still make some pretty big waves in the MMA world, Especially if he's smart and takes his time building his skillset and working with great camps. It just saddens me that he didn't come in nine or ten years ago after taking his Judo career as far as he could. With at least three years of MMA centered training, with an emphasis on Striking skills(esp. Defensive) and body control without the gi, he would have amassed an amazing record and could very well have been the man to Defeat the stellar Fedor Emilianenko. He had the potential to be that good. Oh well, I'll still be rooting for him and expecting him to do great this with the time he has left competing in combat sports.

Post #10   9/6/07 10:34:11PM   

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I know this post is going to be unpopular but I really expected more from Nastula--maybe along the lines of Yoshida but in a larger frame that wouldn't give up so much size at HW. But already a guy specializing in newaza has been submitted twice in MMA. If his base skill (newaza) can't get him further then he's going to have trouble developing into a real contender at his age.

Post #11   9/7/07 10:17:15AM   

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Definitley needs more fights.
Showed big improvements.
Despite the doping scandal, the Barnett fight was his for the taking...shame.

Will be a threat wherever he fights.

Post #12   9/7/07 10:51:49AM   

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Posted by fullerene

I know this post is going to be unpopular but I really expected more from Nastula--maybe along the lines of Yoshida but in a larger frame that wouldn't give up so much size at HW. But already a guy specializing in newaza has been submitted twice in MMA. If his base skill (newaza) can't get him further then he's going to have trouble developing into a real contender at his age.

His newaza skills are unbelievable, he fell short against Aleks because he was tired and just basically gave up. Barnett and his toe hold is something else entirely though, two different types of grappling entirely and he simply got caught.

Post #13   9/7/07 1:33:20PM   

Believe-in-judo81

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Yeah, even really great judo guys seem to just ask for those Sambo and Catch Wrestling specific leglocks sometimes. The more he works and builds his skillset and mental process while fighting into an MMA and not judo centered one, the more he will improve.

Post #14   9/8/07 12:59:01AM