What do you get when you combine a group of elite level athletes, world class coaching, a state of the art training facility and a manager and team owner that is willing to go the extra mile to ensure success, regardless of cost? You get the Blackzilian team. South Florida's newest combat sports hot spot has been a sizzling topic of late, whether it be for it's outspoken athletes, comings and goings of fighters and trainers, or their win / loss ratio. One thing is certain, they ARE being talked about.
I recently spoke with team owner, Glenn Robinson, who discussed the internal workings of the team, Melvin Guillard's recent departure, and the changes he's made in the coaching staff. The most obvious thing that I learned from this interview, is his absolute dedication to a team that he is determined to take the top. Here's what he had to say:
Stephie Daniels: Because the incident is so fresh in everyone's mind, I have to ask if you have anything to say regarding Matt Mitrione.
Glenn Robinson: Unfortunately, I don't. That's a matter that is between Matt and the UFC.
SD: I read an article that Alistair Overeem is doing some training on a temporary basis at Mike's Gym in Holland. Is there a story behind that, and will we be seeing another possible partnership, especially since you've been adding some heavy hitters to your coaching roster?
GR: Media can be a great thing, or it can be a job to handle, which is why a lot of times, we just kind of ignore it. Alistair went to see his daughter and his mom. There was really nothing behind this at all. Of course it turns into a whole other thing, but there's nothing to it.
I mean, before he left, he introduced me to Mike Passenier, and said, 'Hey, this is where I'm gonna train while I'm over there.' We got on Skype with Mike and talked for a few minutes. He's a great guy. I thanked him for helping Alistair out while he's in Holland. He seems like a really good guy, and probably someone we'll do stuff with in the future.
Henri Hooft is our guy, though. I love him. He's an amazing guy. There could be things we do in the future with Mike, but as far as the Blackzilians are concerned, Henri is our head striking coach and will remain so.
The way I see our future endeavors with Mike is a talent exchange for training or maybe some seminars. It's easy to do business when two people want to work together. It doesn't necessarily mean they have to go into business together, but they can do business together.
SD: We got to hear from Melvin Guillard about his departure from the team on Ariel Helwani's show. He was very complimentary of you as a manager, but was not very complimentary of the team. What's your take on why he left?
GR: Chemistry takes two elements that get along when put together for it to work. When you put two elements together, that don't get along, you don't have good chemistry. I like Melvin very much. I think he's a great guy, but he felt that it was time to go back to Jackson's MMA, so I told him that whatever he decided, we supported 100%.
It ended up being Grudge MMA that he went to, but we still manage him. Melvin is a great kid with a lot of athleticism and a lot of years left in him. He's a journeyman, and he needs to find the right place. We weren't the right place for him. There are no hard feelings there.
He made a statement saying that the chemistry wasn't there which was why he wasn't there to support a lot of the guys in his weight class. He felt that it wasn't fair to them. He felt that he didn't gel well with the rest of the team. I think that's pretty much the best statement to sum up why it didn't work out for him with the team.
I'm just happy he found a great place to train. I spoke with Trevor and I know he's really focused on Melvin right now, and that he'll take good care of him. I think this change is going to show a new side of Melvin and that it will be clear in his next fight. He'll win, and it will be impressive.
SD: The camp has been experiencing a rough patch recently. Has there been a point where you've thought to yourself, 'Shit, what am I doing here?'
GR: [laughs] Yeah, about two hours ago. I got a text about two hours ago that made me very sad. I can't get into what it was, but that's life, and I love what I'm doing. I got a text from Rashad last week, out of the blue, that just said, 'Hey, you're my best friend. I just wanted you to know.' That makes it all worth while.
I love all the guys. I want to see them to success, and I'll do whatever I can to help them realize their goals. We've had some potholes along the way, it's true, but we are still doing well.
SD: You have been in constant motion, fine tuning your team. You're hiring some of the biggest names in the business to coach your guys, which I imagine can't run cheap. Is there a limit to how far you're willing to go financially to ensure their success?
GR: Everything is very closely analyzed. You've got to remember that our 30,000 square foot gym is also open to the public and we have 1700+ paying members. I get to use the income from the gym to help offset some of the MMA costs for the camp. My business model allows me a little bit more leverage, and I've chosen to invest that leverage into MMA. When you get involved with something, you try to do the best that you can.
Yeah, there are some bumps in the road, and you're not going to win every fight, even though that is your objective. The thing is, you have to make efforts to smooth it out.
SD: Why did Mario Sperry leave?
GR: Mario had some business to attend to in Brazil. It wasn't a bad situation or anything like that. We sat down, and he felt that with the time he had available, that it just wasn't enough, so he went back home. It was a very amicable parting of the ways.
SD: Do you think that people are too quick to judge the team, especially considering it's only been around for a year and a half?
GR: You want to know something? I don't give a shit what anybody thinks. Look, Michael Johnson unfortunately lost on Saturday, but Ryan LaFlare, who trained part of his camp with us, won his debut, and Matt won in 19 seconds. The week before, we had three people win at World Series of Fighting, so five out of six is not too bad.
All I care about is the guys winning. What people think about me or the team doesn't matter. All I care about is helping the guys win. The people that support us, we're very thankful and appreciative of them. You're always going to get people that don't believe in you or are critical of you. There's nothing I can do about that. I just keep marching forward, doing the best that I can to get the team to the level that it needs to be.
SD: A lot of people think that you lure the top athletes over to the Blackzilian team by offering them money to join. Is that true?
GR: Tell them to go get some proof, and then go post it. I said it a thousand times, I don't do that. If somebody needs a loan, do I help them? Sure, but I don't pay the fighters to stay here. They're free to come, free to go. We're not a prison.
I'll tell you what it is. The other teams and coaches are just jealous that I've accomplished in a little over a year, what it took them a lifetime to do. That's really what it is. I did in 18 months, what it took other people 10 years to do. I can't help it if they're slower than me.
The naysayers within the industry are just looking for reasons to poke holes. At the end of the day, don't send me a Christmas card. As long as my guys are doing good, I don't give a shit what any one of those people think.
SD: There's a big variety of athletes at your gym. Wrestlers, boxers, NFL players, MMA fighters; are you looking to expand the gym into a more all encompassing affair? Maybe make it a contact sports gym?
GR: It's a full on sports gym. We believe that if you're a good athlete, we can help you and we're the right gym for you. We have something for everyone. Crossfit, MMA, we're branching into boxing ... I believe Tyrone Spong will be a three sport champion one day. He's already got multiple titles in kickboxing, he'll be winning an MMA belt in the near future, and we'll be crossing him over to boxing, where he'll kick one of the Klitschko's asses.
Our job is to improve the athlete. We work with everyone. Today is today. Tomorrow is tomorrow. We'll see what the future brings.
SD: Final question: What's been the biggest challenge for you with the Blackzilians, and the most rewarding thing working with them?
GR: There's been no challenges. Any business you start has it's ups and downs. If you go into business and plan for a straight ride up to the stars, you're going in with false expectations. I went in knowing there were going to be bumps in the road. I had back up plans in place so that when things got a little rocky, we could act quickly. I treat it like a business. You have a problem, you handle it.
The most rewarding thing is that I have met some people along the way that I really care about. All my athletes are great guys, and when I see them win, that's my reward. Knowing that some of the guys consider me an important part of their lives, and not just in MMA, that means a lot to me. That's the best part.
You can follow Glenn via his Twitter account, @GlennAuthentic