Thursday, April 19, 2012

MMATorch Interview: Trojan Free Fighters Owner Dan Richards and UFC 145's Che Mills on Team Trojan and more

By: Dan Moore, MMATorch UK Contributor

In part one of this interview with Trojan Free Fighters head Dan Richards, we predominantly discussed Team Trojan stalwart Che Mills. In this, the final part of the interview, we discuss other members of Team Trojan, and the expiring UFC TV contract here in the UK. I also briefly got to speak to a very busy Che Mills, to get his thoughts on his upcoming fight with Rory MacDonald at UFC 145 this Saturday night.

Dan Moore: Team Trojan fighters Mark Godbeer, Sam Mensah, Antanas Jazbutis and Matt Ewin all fought at BAMMA 9 last month with varying success. Four fighters on the same card of one of Europe's biggest fight promotions is great going. How did you feel the night went?

Dan Richards: Yeah we were really impressed with the guys. Matt Ewin stepped up for his fight at very short notice and Sam also stepped in at short notice too. We're very proud of the guys for doing that. We train hard throughout the year so our guys are ready to go as and when. Obviously everybody wants to have a full training camp, but opportunities come around, and you've got to take them. Despite going 1-3 on the night, the Antanas fight was bitterly close, and most actually thought he had won. Matt had Leeroy Barnes on his back for two rounds. Fair credit to Leeroy though for taking the punishment he did, and then finishing it like he did in the second. Same with Sam too. He came out throwing some really great strikes, took the guy down and took his back. Unfortunately he spent too long trying to go for the submission, and gassed himself out, so he ended up getting finished. They were all fights that we thought we did well in. It didn't do us any discredit by going in as late replacements either.

DM: Ultimately though, it's still a great learning curve for these guys?

DR: It is. It's a massive learning curve for them, as some of the guys hadn't been on such a big stage. Especially Sam who hadn't fought at that level before. All credit to Mark Godbeer too, who has just moved up in weight to Heavyweight, and still took home a great win.

DM: How hard is it to constantly keep them all happy?

DR: That's something we are always working harder and harder on. Paul (Sutherland) heads up the training as (Team Trojan) Head Coach, and he co-ordinates everything. He also makes sure the guys are peaking at the right time, and their always training properly. It's a very difficult job trying to make sure everyone is firing on all cylinders. We're a very close knit team, with everyone pitching together, and we're always ready as and when needed.

DM: After the recent addition of Mauro Xuxa Chimento. Is there anyone else that you're looking to bring into the team, or any young talents coming through?

DR: In terms of bringing someone in to the team. There are a couple of names that are coming over to see us soon, so watch this space on that one. As for the guys coming through, there are a stack of them right now. We have Piotr Ptasinski, Ben Constantine and Marc Allen, all of them making great progress with the team.

DM: Taking of Ben, he's headlining your Ultimate Impact card on 4th August in Cheltenham isn't he?

DR: Yeah that's right against Lee Caers which will be a welterweight title fight. The two fights they had previously have both been truly amazing. Steve Wickett of Addicted MMA had it down as his fight of the year, over everything including the UFC, so were obviously quite humble to have received that recognition.

DM: Who then, is most likely to be the next Team Trojan fighter, to get a call up to a big stateside promotion?

DR: That's a very difficult one to answer, but there are a few guys as you know. Mark Godbeer, obviously off the back of his recent BAMMA win has certainly brought a lot more attention to himself. Anything can happen in MMA though as the sport moves so fast. If you look back to 6 months ago, we didn't have anybody in the UFC, yet now we've got a guy fighting in a co-main event. Things change rapidly. Things happen that you just can't predict. All we can do is prepare ourselves, and be ready to take our opportunities when presented.

DM: The UFC's UK Television deal with ESPN comes up for renewal this August. As someone who has a vested interest, what channel would be your preference to take over?

DR: Goodness me that's a difficult one. There are a number of channels happening right now like The Active Channel and Extreme Sports. These channels are doing more and more, but for some reason they seem to be kind of underground TV channels. Mainstream wise, it would be amazing to have someone like ITV4, or Sky Sports onboard. Sky Sports especially could take on something like this, and they've already done a TUF series (season 12) before now. I'd like to think that with MMA becoming more and more mainstream, Sky will recognize that, and take it on as that would be amazing. You look at UCMMA who have a deal with Sky Sports, and they have their Cage Fighter show on there. Hopefully Sky will look at bigger picture of MMA, and also screen BAMMA and Cage Warrior events alongside the UFC.

DM: MMA continues to grow in the UK and garner new fans to the sport. Most newcomers see the UFC product first, so does their popularity ultimately have any impact on the growth of your own gym?

DR: I think as the sport grows anyway, there naturally becomes more and more interest. We are a local club, and a local team, in Worcester and Cheltenham, so it's really determined by what the local media are doing. It also depends on how our own advertising campaigns are doing and so on. Events that we put on in Gloucester, also help raise the profile of MMA in our area, so it doesn't just come down to how well MMA and the UFC are doing. We aren't just an MMA gym. We do lots of other things like Boxing, Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu and fitness classes that aren't exclusive for fighters. We have a lot of guys who come down here, with absolutely no inclination to get in the cage. They simply just want to keep fit. They may want to lose weight or tone up, and we can help them. Our fight team is certainly influenced by the growth of MMA in terms of the UFC though, but not the club itself.

DM: Thanks for taking the time to speak to MMA Torch. Lets hope Mike Goldberg has learnt how to pronounce Gloucester correctly by the time Che steps into the Octagon at UFC 145.

DR: (Laughs) He certainly struggled with it the last time didn't he. Thank you Dan, your welcome, anytime.

Dan then handed over the phone to Che Mills, and I got to ask him a few pertinent questions, ahead of his fight with Rory MacDonald at UFC 145.

Dan Moore: Hi Che, thanks for taking the time to speak to MMATorch.

Che Mills: Your welcome, no problem.

DM: After the fantastic win at UFC 138, next up is Rory MacDonald. Was it a surprise being offered that fight?

CM: Yeah I was a little surprised especially considering the calibre of opponent he has faced before. It's only my second fight in the UFC, and it's a big step up. But it's a massive opportunity that I just want to take with both hands, so I jumped at the chance.

DM: How's the training camp going?

CM: Yeah the training is going really well. Fitness wise, and conditioning wise I am pretty much all ready to go now.

DM: Have you made any drastic alterations to your training whilst preparing for this fight?

CM: I've worked a lot more on my actual physical strength, but apart from that, everything else has pretty much been the same. Obviously we make sure we cover absolutely everything regarding the fight itself, but that's no different to my last fight. We don't really specialise in any areas when we put these camps together. As I said before, it's just my actual physical strength that we've dramatically changed this time.

DM: When do you head off to America?

CM: I believe it's the 12th of April when we leave. We've booked a couple of extra days in advance, just to make sure I can acclimatize correctly.

DM: In only your second UFC fight, your now the co-main event at UFC 145? Has the increased exposure been a bit chaotic?

CM: Yeah it definitely has but you just have to get on with it, and not let it affect me in any way that might hinder my preparations. It's certainly been different in terms of the amount of increased media, and it's been pretty much full on.

DM: You came across as a quiet, and very humble guy during the UFC 138 press stuff. So how hard has it been for you to deal with this increased media you mention?

CM: I am quite a quiet person by nature, and it's just one of those things that isn't going to change. I've got to get on with this stuff, and try not to think about it. If i do start to think about it too much, I might start getting nervous. So to avoid that, I just get on with it as best I can.

DM: Your opponent Rory MacDonald has said he hasn't watched any of your fight tapes. Did you find that comment disrespectful in any way, and have you watched his fights?

CM: I've certainly watched his fights, at least those in the UFC anyway. That was before I even knew I was going to be set to face him. As far as what he says about me, I just let it go straight over my head. If that's the way he feels though, then good luck to him.

DM: By saying that though, he gives you all the extra motivation you need right?

CM: Exactly, but I don't really get caught up in all the hype, or trash talk and all that. I'll just stay focused, continue to take it all in, and use it to my advantage on the 21st of April.

DM: I know your extremely busy so i'll wrap this up. I have �25 on you to beat MacDonald with odds of 8/1 so when you win the beers are on me OK?

CM: (Laughs) Sounds like a plan.

DM: Thanks for the time, and on behalf of the MMATorch UK readers, very best of luck in the fight.

CM: I'll do my best, your very welcome.

For more information on Dan, Che and Team Trojan go to or follow them on Twitter @danrichmma @CheMillsMMA and @teamtrojan

For more information on Trojan Free Fighter sponsors please go to:

Sci-MX Nutrition -
Jaco Clothing Europe -
Punchtown -
Trojan Fit -
DR Creative Media -

Please feel free to follow me on Twitter and share your opinions - @dannymoore5515


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