The Blackzilians camp, one of the most talent rich gatherings of athletes in combat sports, has hit a rough patch recently; a pothole in the road leading to success. The young team, not even two years into it's lifespan, has experienced ups and downs, but thanks to the guiding hand of team manager, Glenn Robinson, adjustments are quickly made in an effort to keep them a force to be reckoned with.
Robinson, who heads up several successful enterprises, applies no limitations when it comes to what he feels is in the best interest of his team. They have a state of the art gym, world class training partners, housing, and lately, they've been adding truly elite level coaches to the mix. Just last month, Glenn put highly decorated boxing trainer, Pedro Diaz on staff. Diaz is best known for helping to lead Miguel Cotto to a successful title defense in 2011.
Just a few weeks after bringing Diaz into the Blackzilian family, Robinson has made another bold move to ensure team success. He's hired Olympic wrestling legend, Kenny Monday on as the permanent wrestling coach for the team. Monday, who most recently was the assistant wrestling coach at Oklahoma State, is currently making preparations to relocate to Florida with his family to begin his new career path with the camp. I caught up with Kenny yesterday to get the details of his new venture with the burgeoning team.
Stephie Daniels: How did this coaching opportunity find it's way to you?
Kenny Monday: They were looking for a wrestling coach to be a part of the team. I went down a couple weeks ago to the gym and checked out the facility and met the team. I talked to Glenn, Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort, then went through a couple practice sessions with the guys.I was kind of getting a feel for the flow of the training environment.
I liked what I saw. I'm very excited about the talent that I saw in that room. The other coaching staff is top notch. It really felt like I am being given an opportunity to kind of carve my niche in with the team. I was very impressed with everything out there.
SD: The current roster of coaches is Henri Hooft, Pedro Diaz, Mario Sperry and yourself, correct?
KM: No, Mario is not there any more. He went back to Brazil. Henri is there and Pedro is there and a few others.
SD: I didn't know that Mario had left the camp. Is that a permanent departure, or is he on vacation or some type of leave?
KM: It's permanent.
SD: Is it possible that at some point, you'll return to coaching college athletes?
KM: Not right now, but maybe. Both my sons wrestle, so I will still be very involved with their careers. I've also got a lot of post graduates that I work with that are training for the Olympics, so I'll still have the opportunity to bring some of those guys in from time to time. I wom't be on the college scene, but I will still be involved on the international scene to some extent. I'll still be somewhat connected to wrestling.
SD: You helped bring Oklahoma to 2nd place in the NCAA Championships and saw two team members crowned as national champions. How hard is that to walk away from?
KM: It's very difficult. That was probably one of the toughest decisions that I've ever made. I'm so invested in Oklahoma. I'm an alumnus from Oklahoma State, and then having the opportunity to go back and work with the team, and help to build those guys back up was amazing.
The year before I came back, they were 16th in the country. We were so close to the title this year. It really was a great year and it was good to see them do so well. That's what made the decision such a difficult one for me. I just feel like this is a great opportunity for me to go to the professional ranks and help to create a great environment for the Blackzilians.
SD: Do you feel you gave your Oklahoma State athletes and coaching staff a solid base to work from moving forward without you?
KM: Yeah, I really do. I like the culture that exists at Oklahoma State right now. I think I brought a lot of energy and experience, which brought a lot of positive feedback. We had a very experienced staff with John and Zach Esposito and those guys. I really feel that the atmosphere we created is putting Oklahoma State on the rise. There's a great team coming back with five All Americans. I feel very good about where the team is right now, and I'm sure that they will continue to do great things.
SD: We've seen a few coaches come and go over the last year and a half at the Blackzilian camp. Does that sort of make you tread more carefully or take some measure of caution there?
KM: Not really. When I was doing my research on the team, I kind of looked at the situation and why those coaches left. I kind of understand why they're no longer there. I'm a very positive guy and I'm not afraid to take a risk. I like the vision that Glenn has. I like the direction they want to take the team.
I think I'll bring a different element with my experience and my mentality from being a champion and knowing what it takes to get to that point. I feel like I bring that missing link. I'm approaching it with a positive attitude and I'm looking forward to being there. I'm not looking at the past, I'm only moving forward, looking at the future. I want to do great things with this team.
SD: What's the term length of your contract with the team?
KM: I signed a three year contract. We're all in and on the same page. I feel good about it,, and I'm confident with the direction I'm going with the Blackzilians. I'm very excited about making this move.
SD: How will this move impact your work with Battlegrounds MMA?
KM: I think it works hand in hand. I developed Battlegrounds with Bryan O'Rourke out of Oklahoma just to try to create more opportunities for fighters in and around Oklahoma, and ultimately, across the nation. MMA is growing by great leaps and bounds, and being the wrestling coach for the Blackzilians really allows me to get on the ground and develop fighters that might be able to be incorporated into some of those shows for Battlegrounds. I think it's going to work out well.
SD: Will Glenn be advising or helping you out with Battlegrounds?
KM: Well, Battlegrounds was established before I came to the Blackzilians, and so as far as sending fighters to do shows, that's probably where he'll be able to help. He has the expertise, because he's been around the game some, and understands how it all works. He knows how the fighters think and he knows how to promote shows. He's a very bright guy and is very studied. I'm sure he'll give me some great advice.
You can follow Kenny via his Twitter account, @KennyMonday