After a brief hiatus, we're back with part 4 of this 32 part series, interviewing all of the Bellator season 4 tournament fighters. Originally posted on the Toledo MMA Examiner.
Chris "The Cleveland Assassin" Lozano is on the fast track. He took his nickname as a tribute to the late great Cleveland Browns linebacker Eddie "The Assassin" Johnson, who was a family friend and father figure to him growing up. Training out of the Strong Style MMA Gym in Cleveland, he was a quick study under Marcus Marinelli. After a 6-0 start to his career, he'd already found himself invited to the Bellator season 4 welterweight tournament. Chris fights for not only himself, but his family. He fights for his brother who was recently diagnosed with MS and that was one of the deciding factors in his decision to accept Bellator's offer.
Chris recently sat down for an interview with me about his thoughts on the tournament field, his confidence and growing up in Cleveland. He wasn't afraid to share his strong opinions.
Brian Hemminger: You earned an invite into the welterweight tournament by defeating Yoshiyuki Yoshida which made two consecutive stoppage victories over UFC veterans if you include Jason Dent last June. How high is your confidence right now?
Chris Lozano: It’s sky-high man. It was sky-high before. I always believed in myself but after I got to fight the first UFC veteran I was like "Ok, I just did well against a UFC veteran" and then the second one I was like "This is more than just a dream, it’s a reality now." I’m just enjoying this moment of my life, it’s not gonna last forever. How often are you going to have people giving a damn about what you have to say?
BH: Every one of your fights has been finished by knockout or TKO. Can you tell me about your finishing mindset?
CP: I don’t know man. I don’t fight for a decision. I feel like a fight is something where you want to break the other guy’s will. I don’t want to ever get to the end of a third round and be like "who won, me or you?" I want the guy I fought to know that I was the better man. I want the crowd to know I was the better man.
I want the fans to get what they paid for. They don’t pay for two guys to lay on each other and dry hump. They pay for a war. They want to see something exciting. I come to fight. I come to finish people. It’s just the way you approach it. I think a lot of the wrestlers come in treating a fight like a wrestling match, get ahead in points and try to ride the clock out. I will never have that mentality.
BH: Does your extensive family background in boxing and combat sports help you get those knockouts?
CP: I think so. Growing up, we didn’t just wrestle and goof around. Me and my brothers fought hard until someone was crying or somebody got the wind knocked out of them. We loved each other too, but that was just our mentality. If we were wrestling or anything, we were going at it hard, boxing, wrestling, whatever we were doing. I was always a rough kid because of growing in a family of fighters, my dad, my brother’s dad, my brothers, everybody was a fighter.
BH: We haven’t had a chance to see it much yet, but how confident are you with your wrestling and jiu jitsu skills against the rest of this Bellator welterweight tournament field if the fight were to go the ground?
CP: I’m very confident. I’m excited to see what the rest of this tournament field has to offer. I think with the field that I’m in, there’s a lot of wrestlers, jiu jitsu guys. It’s just a matter of time until I end up on the floor. I’m confident that I’ll do well there. I’m excited for the fans to see that I’m a well-rounded fighter.
BH: How does it feel, knowing that Bellator matched you up with the former champion for your first round fight?
CP: I feel like Bellator looks at me as a walkover. I feel like they want to get all the guys that they want to see make it through a weaker opponent. I feel like they gave Jay Hieron a weaker guy (he’s now facing Anthony Lapsley after Steve Carl was injured). I feel like they gave Dan Hornbuckle a guy in Brent Weedman who he’s already defeated before and they feel like he can beat again and I think they gave former champ Lyman Good a guy like me who they feel he can dispatch quite easily. All that did was piss me off. If they really want me out, they can think of me as a walkover. I’m okay with that though because that’s how people have been looking at me since I started my career and look how it’s been going.
BH: What are your thoughts on Lyman Good as an opponent?
CP: I think he’s a very challenging fighter. I think he’s a hell of a dude. I’ve had a chance to meet him and talk to him. I think he’s a class act. I think he’s the best striker in the tournament. I think he’s good for the sport. I don’t have a bad thing to say about the guy. I’m excited to fight him. I remember when he was champion fighting for Bellator and I would think "man, one day I’m gonna end up fighting a dude of that caliber" and just thinking that it would be a tough fight and here I am now actually in a fight with that guy. I think he’s one of the top welterweights in the sport. His only loss came from an Olympic wrestler who just outwrestled him, didn’t hurt him or beat him up, just outwrestled him. I think he’s a hell of a fighter with a ton of talent.
BH: Have you watched a lot of film of his fights? He’s had four fights televised on major networks with him winning the Bellator season 1 tournament. Have you found any holes in his game you think you can exploit?
CP: I’m not gonna divulge what I’ve picked up on but he’s beatable. We’re all beatable. We’ve all got tendencies, nobody’s perfect. That’s the beautiful thing about mixed martial arts. You can practice your whole life and you still won’t be perfect. Sure I’ve seen things that I think I can exploit but I’m sure he’s seen things in my game that he’ll try to take advantage of. If there’s anything possible to watch of Lyman Good, I’ve watched it numerous times.
I’ve already fought Lyman a couple thousand times in my mind, in my dreams , in my daydreams. I’m definitely preparing for his weaknesses and his strengths.
BH: I’ve heard there’s some bad blood between you and fellow welterweight tournament fighter Jay Hieron. How did that get started?
CP: I started following Jay Hieron on twitter along with all the other tournament welterweights to get to know them better and all the guys were super respectful. Any time a fan would ask something about the tournament they’d be humble and respectable which is the way martial arts is intended to be. This dude (Hieron) comes in with this thug mentality with the way he carries himself, the way he acts. People would ask him about how he feels about his opponent and he’d say "I’m not worried about none of these dudes." I’m from the streets too, but just because you’re from the streets doesn’t mean you have to be disrespectful.
He rubbed me the wrong way and I didn’t like him. So one day somebody was talkin to (Jay) on twitter "what’s gonna happen when you fight Ben Askren" and I said "it’s gonna be a blanket party" even though Jay Hieron has more of a tendency to throw his hands than Ben Askren does. I said it anyways because he’d been disrespectful so I was disrespectful back. He came back and called me a clown and we went at each other. I felt like I won the battle of the battle of the wits because everything I came up with, I was cracking up and all his comebacks seemed lame. By the end of it, he ended up blocking me like a little girl. That’s okay though because the fact that he blocked me lets me know that I got in his head.
BH: How badly would you want to face him in the second round if you both get past your opponents?
CP: The bracket hasn’t been released, just the first round so I don’t know if I’d see him in the second or third round. The way I hear it, he’d be facing me in the finals. I don’t think there’s a better fight for the finals than me against him. If I meet him there it would be awesome. I’d be able to fight this guy for a chance to win the tournament, for a shot at the belt and I’d get to beat his ass. He acts like a thug, bully, gangster and those are my favorite types of guys to fight. I love to beat up on bullies. If I meet him, if we get a chance to fight, it’s not gonna be a very friendly fight.
BH: You’ve said that the only thing you care about is being a champion, and that means you’ll have to get through Bellator welterweight champ Ben Askren. How do you think you match up with him?
CP: I think I match up with Ben Askren the same way everybody else does, even wrestlers. You’ve got him beat in every area except wrestling. He’s a wrestler. He’s the best wrestler in MMA right now as far as true wrestling goes. As far as MMA wrestling, most likely GSP or Koscheck but as far as amateur wrestling goes, he’s the best wrestler in MMA. He’s got that Olympic level ability, like Dan Henderson or the guys from the past did and he’s the most accomplished and the freshest out of it. If you can avoid getting into a wrestling match with the guy you will stomp a mudhole in his ass. The key is finding a way to do that because nobody’s been able to do that yet. If I find a way to do that then I beat him.
BH: Let’s talk about your gym a bit. Strong Style Martial Arts has really been turning out the talent lately. You’re in the Bellator tournament and Brian Rogers is fighting on the Strikeforce: Columbus show. It’s got to be an exciting time for you guys.
CP: The place is buzzing man. We’ve all been seeing this coming three years ago. We were all amateurs, turning pro and we all knew what we had. We all knew we had something special with Strong Style Martial Arts and our trainer Marcus Marinelli. Marcus takes time away from his family to make sure we have the best training possible. We train with the best he can find, even if he’s gotta pay out of his own pocket. He’s done what he can to bring his fighters along and we’re like a family. We stuck with this guy because we knew it was gonna happen someday. There are fighters that jump from gym to gym because there are "names" there but If you just stay loyal to your gym, you get the right people around you, you can be a Greg Jackson’s gym or ATT or any of those big gyms. You just need the right people. We’re about to be a big gym like that because we’ve got something special.
BH: Can you talk about your trainer Marcus Marinelli? I know you’ve mentioned in some interviews that you think he’s the best coach in the country.
CP: Marcus Marinelli is just an amazing person, he’s the heart of it all. He’s a very loyal person, he’s got great principals. He’s got a great catch wrestling background, Muay Thai. He’s actually understands and knows mixed martial arts. The things he wasn’t great at, he brought in guys that were great. He understands boxing but he wanted us to take our boxing to a more sophisticated level so he brought in a guy who’s trained world champions. We've worked jiu jitsu with Rodrigo Comprido, Brock Lesnar's BJJ coach. I've trained with Greg Jackson before and I think Marcus is just as good of a coach if not better than Greg Jackson and the world is gonna find out about it as his fighters continue to develop and show the world what he teaches us.
BH: How did growing up in a tough city like Cleveland shape you as both a fighter and a person?
CP: Growing up in Cleveland, I was lucky enough to have some good people around me. My father was in and out of his own problems. I was out in the streets a bit but some people gave me some proper guidance when it was most needed. Cleveland helped make me the man I am and I learned about the full spectrum of society. I’ve dealt with it all. I was lucky enough that I had family in the suburbs so even though I lived in the hood, I used their address, hopefully I won’t get in trouble for this, but I used that to get a good education in the suburbs. I was a kid from the streets but I was educated in the upper class suburbs area. I got to meet all types of people from the worst to the best and they all helped make me the man I am today. I don’t regret anything
BH: I’ve heard you’re a big fan of kung fu movies. Is there one that stands out to you above the rest?
CP: I’d have to say my favorite kung fu movie is called "Ip Man." It’s a movie about the guy that taught Bruce Lee, Wang Chung. If you ever get a chance, check it out. It’s a phenomenal movie. It’s a got a great story and it’s a true story. It’s about the founding father, the people who had a great hand in martial arts coming to North America.
BH: Do you have plans on keeping your epic beard for the Bellator tournament or is that monstrosity getting lopped off when you cut weight?
CP: (laughs) That’s a good one that you describe it as a monstrosity because that’s what my mom calls it too and everybody else. I thought it was cool but I’m starting to realize that it’s not that cool because I haven’t heard anybody say anything good about it. I am definitely cutting it off. I watched Rocky IV and after Apollo died, when Rocky was training, you knew he was serious when he went up into the mountains, training in the snow. I told myself I’d grow the craziest beard that I can. My job allows me to do it and the night before my fight I’m gonna come in clean cut and it’ll be like me shaving off the old me and coming in all new. It’s kinda like a mental thing but I had a thought in my head and stuck with it.
BH: Prediction time for the fight with Lyman Good. How do you think it plays out?
CP: It will end in devastating fashion. It definitely won’t go to a decision.
BH: Got any shoutouts?
CP: First and foremost, Dom Fight Gear. Those guys are onto something. Bas Rutten’s MMA systems, I learned a lot from those videos, all the transitions and he teaches you how to go to a new level. Shoutout to John P. Lennon, Faction Mouthguards and also the Muscle Speed supplement which really gives me an edge when I work out.