Interview: Tony Orozco

“People hate me because I am honest, but I am going to tell you the truth.”

Tony Orozco

Written By: Eric Hostetter

If you been around the Houston MMA and have not heard of Silverback MMA, let alone the CEO and GEO of the gym Tony Orozco, you need to crawl out from under the rock you have been living under for the past 5 years. Tony has been known to speak his mind, but also his what he believe is the truth, from time to time. Some people like that forwardness and other people don’t. My thoughts are that if you are one of the people that doesn’t like to hear what Tony has to say, then perhaps Col. Nathan R. Jessep was correct, “you cant handle the truth.”

Tony is set to take on Shawn Machado at IXFA on Feb. 26 at the Verizon Wireless Theatre in down town Houston. I stopped by and visited with Tony to talk about his fight and to get more perspective about his background.

Warning, cuss words ahead!

TCD.net: No disrespect Tony, but I’m sure a lot of people will be asking themselves this question when they see you enter the cage and we would like clear the air a little so that people have the facts when they see you walk out. What’s your age, sir?

Tony: Well I appreciate the comment, but to clear the air I am 43 years old.

TCD.net: Coulda fooled me. Honestly, you don’t look a day over 30.

Tony: Funny you say that. The other day, I went to the doctor to do a little pre-fight checkup before my match. You are not going to believe what the doctor told me what my resting heart rate was.

TCD.net: No clue. What was it?

Tony: 39 beats per minute. The doctor thought I was dying or something, jokingly. But they said that I have a heart of a well-trained athlete that is around 19 to 21 years old. They honestly thought my age was somewhere in the low 30’s and have a resting heart rate of somewhere around 51 bpm, but no I am 43. I am doing a stress test for them again, so that they can really be sure that I am ok.

TCD.net: Wow that is amazing. Only a few people come to mind that I have heard of having resting heart rates that low, Lance Armstrong and GSP. If you are resting heart rate is that low you are definitely in a rare tier of athlete . How long have you been a coach, manager, CEO and GEO for MMA fighters?

Tony: I’ve been “El Jefe” (the chief) of my gym since 2006.

TCD.net: How have you been training?

Tony: I’ve been training for 13 years. I started in the game real late.

TCD.net: So then where do your training roots start out from?

Tony: I started with a gentleman by the name of Tom Dinklage, I believe he is in a gym just off of Barker-Cypress and West Little York. He was my first ju-jitsu coach. I trained with him for about 3 years and then I went to TNT Jiu-Jitsu, which was right off of Gulf Bank. While I was there I was coached by Calvin Carter, and I earned my brown belt from Pedro Valente of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in Miami. Pedro Valente was Hélio Gracie’s first black belt out of Brazil.

TCD.net: Why has taken this long for you to have your first professional fight?

Tony: When I first got into this in 1997, I was a power lifter walking around weighing around 215 lbs, bench pressing 420 lbs and I thought I was the shit, and to add on top of that I was a bounty hunter. One day my cousin told me to come over and watch some UFC. So I went over there to watch a few fights, after it was over.  I thought to myself, “Oh these guys aren’t shit!”.

A few days later, I went over to Tom Dinklage’s camp and they paired me up with this little guy all of about 5’3”, 130 lbs, but this guy was ripped. I thought to myself, “I am about to f**k this kid up.” Well I was wrong, this guy tapped me out in less than a minute. I then said, “Let’s do it again!” So we start rolling again and he takes my back and starts to sink in a rear naked choke. He then starts to whisper into my ear, “go to sleep, bitch…”

[laughter]

Tony: I am tapping like crazy, but he wasn’t letting go. I eventually passed out, but when I came to I was asking everyone where and when can I sign up! I stopped power lifting after that. I wish I could remember the guy’s last name that did that to me. Eric something. I can’t remember.

He was 130 lbs and I was 215 lbs. It was probably one of the most humiliating things that has ever happened to me. I have been in plenty of fights. I’ve been hit by 2×4’s, stabbed with a knife, an icepick, those all didn’t bother me. Being tapped out by that little man was the most humiliating thing ever, but I have been learning jiu-jistu every since.

TCD.net: I can honestly say that I have never heard anything like that before.

Tony: I’ll be a man about it. When I get my ass whooped, I am man enough to admit it and shake his hand. He whipped my ass.

TCD.net: What does it mean to you to have fighters, such as Derrick Lewis, Larry Crowe, and budding amateur fighters, David Armas, Jacob Silva, and even your son Little Tony, making their MMA home gym with Silverback?

Tony: All of those guys that you just named started with me. They had no idea how to throw a punch or a kick, they didn’t know anything about jiu-jistu, nothing! Anyone can think they know how to throw a punch, but to throw a proper punch, that is something different and that is a basic that we teach here. I have yet to bring in a bad ass black-belt Jiu-Jistu, Muay Thai, or boxing coach here to train my guys. I am a honest coach and I teach my guys all that I can to further them along and push them forward from nothing to something. To see them all grow like they have, it makes me feel good. I can honestly say that I am an authentic coach. Saul (Soliz) has always told me, “Tony, if you can bring a guy from the bottom to the top, then you are the man.”

There are a lot of coaches that take in fighters from other camps and school and they refine or tweak a little bit in a fighter to fix some rough or not yet smoothed out areas, but then take all of the credit. That to me, makes me not consider them to be a real coach. People hate me because I am honest, but I am going to tell you the truth.

TCD.net: Tell us a bit of your thoughts on your upcoming match against Shawn Machado?

Tony: Well, there are people out there, specifically Sam Hoger’s team, that thought I took this fight to prove a point to Team Hoger. People also say that Shawn is Sam’s protégé, and Derrick is mine. What better way to make a statement than to call out Sam’s fighter, right?

That is not the case. I saw Shawn as someone that is close to my age, he is 39, I am 43. I am thinking to myself that this is going to be a good fight. He is a strong guy. I know that he is going to come at me hard. I am gonna have to weather his storm, but I am going to have to knock his ass out. I am going to go in there and try to rip his head off, just like he is going to try to do to me.

I have respect for Sam. I have respect for Shawn. I have respect for everybody, but they [the pundits] sit there and talk shit about how Sam is the #1 heavyweight fighter and Derrick is the #2 heavyweight fighter as if it’s absolute.  Is it really?  The only way to settle it is have #1 fight #2 to see who is better. When we (Silverback) call someone out, we are met with responses that we are being disrespectful. I don’t see how that is any different than Machine Gun calling out Jason David Frank, saying that he will fight him for only a dollar. That is probably one of the most disrespectful things I have ever heard.

Do I judge? No, but there sure isn’t the same kind of uproar that we get when we call out a big name.

TCD.net: Are you nervous at all, since this is your first professional fight?

Tony: Nervous? Yes. Scared? No. The only person I am scared of is God. That’s the God’s honest truth. I don’t fear no man… nothing.

I may be coming into this at the tender age of 43. I have a lot of people looking up to me. I got a lot of people that hate me and want to see me fail. I know they do and they are trying to be my friends, but I see it in their face. I say this to anyone. Regardless if you are a nice guy, fat, skinny, old, young, cute, ugly, rich, or poor… people will always talk bad about you no matter what. If you don’t like the way that I am, too bad, this is the way that I am.

TCD.net: Who are your favorite fighters?

Tony: I personally like to watch Mike Bronzoulis. I think he is a great guy, and one tough son of bitch. If I were to have to fight him in the streets I would probably have to shoot him, ’cause that is how tough he is! He is an amazing fighter.

I also like to watch Angel Huerta, another great upcoming 135’er that I like to see fight

Jesus Rivera from IVoz. I love the way he operates. He does not talk shit about anybody, he just goes in, performs at a high level and leaves it at that.

John Malbrough is another fighter that comes to mind. He is tough, has a huge heart, and I just love the guy. Every time I talk to him, I just want to hug him cause he is someone that you just like and pull for. You cannot hate that guy.

I like Machine Gun, I just wish he was more active. I know his style is like Muhammad Ali and he wins. I like the way that he sells himself.

Just to name a few. For the most part I like guys that do talk some smack, but also back it up.

TCD.net: What are the goals that you have set for Silverback as a whole?

Tony: My goal is to facilitate a lot of young people that are on the street, much like I was when I was young in and out of jail, a place where they can make a change from their problems. Anyone that can survive the streets, jail or prison has really received a gift from God to have a second chance. I want to help people to stop being a dumb ass and offer a different choice and new way of life; to get them to stop doing what got them into trouble or put them where they are now. God gives us a gift, it is up to us to find it, regardless of what your walk of life is. You have to find that gift.

I have different people all the time come in here. Some guys have come in here and when they get hit they get mad, fight back, and want to learn more. I have had others, such as your typical tough guy, all tatted up think’s he is a bad ass, get hit a couple of times, and never come back.

My vision is that I see my gym growing into 10,000 sq ft facility, with new weights to lift, a day care and bus system for the kids, an office for us to have a proper place to do our administration work and a study hall where kids and fighters can get their homework and studies done.

I want to grow my gym. I love what I do. I love to help people out.

TCD.net: I hear it in your voice, your words, and also from your fighters. I have interviewed a few Silverback fighters and all of them have said that this place is like a family to them. That this place has been really good to them to turn around what was going wrong, into something that is going right for them.

Tony: I try to teach all of my guys to be respectful, just like my dad has always taught me to be respectful and how to be, which was that you let whoever you are talking to know who you are and then leave it at that no matter how much you dislike or hate a person. Once they put hands on you then it is on, before that, just walk away. If anyone comes after my kids, I’ll come right back at them, either verbally or physically.

I love my kids, but I know at some point that I may have to let them go so they can grow on their own. I think that is a problem with some gyms overall here in Houston, they do not know when they have to let their fighter go after they have taught them all that they can.

If I get to the point where I cannot help any one of my fighters grow any further than I have already taken them, I am man enough to tell that person, like a father to a son, that it is time for them to move on. Move on to college, if you will, because I have done everything that I can for you and you still need to grow.

If someone like Greg Jackson, Freddie Roach, any other major name you can think of, comes along and want to pluck one of my fighters from me I would be completely stupid if I were to say “No, he is my fighter. I am not going to let him go”.

I have to let them go so that they can grow. What does it really mean to have all of the belts and trophies here in Houston really? It just means you are a local fighter and if you don’t pursue any further than that, then that is all you are going to be. You can win all the belts here that you want, but if you are not national… what are you really?

The day that I have one of my guys sign a contract with a national promotion and fight on TV, that is when I know that I have made it. That’s my dream. I consider myself to be a father figure first. A stepping stone second for people to use as an example that you can come from nothing to be something. My parents worked their asses off. Not only did they make less than $3 an hour but for our family vacation, we use to drive to Florida, not to have fun in the sun, but to pick fruit to make a little extra money for my family.

We have all made our mistakes, we have all had our rough spots. But we have to do what we can to get through them and push on. I love my school, my kids, my family. We take care of each other here.

TCD.net: Is there anyone you would like to thank or give a shout out to?

Tony: Two people that I really want to thank, Bobby and Elaine Chase. Two people that were almost complete strangers, gave me $5,000 to start my first gym 5 years ago. I have never really thanked them enough for letting me borrow that money. Even to this day, they have yet to ask for their money back. I am forever thankful, and humbled because of them.

I’d also like to give a shout out to Rick “The Viking”, the most handsome Viking in the world. He owns Babe’s Cabaret and Bikini Bar. Mr. Silva of Milan Motors. All of my fighters, I am here because of all them. And last, but not least, the Vivian and Ray Santos my new partners. Thank you all so much!

TCD.net: Thank you Tony, for your time. Best of luck to you in your upcoming match against Shawn.

Tony: Thank you TCD!

“People hate me because I am honest, but I am going to tell you the truth.”

Tony Orozco

TCD.net: No disrespect Tony, but I’m sure a lot of people will be asking themselves this question when they see you enter the cage and we would like clear the air a little so that people have the facts when they see you walk out. What’s your age, sir?

Tony: Well I appreciate the comment, but to clear the air I am 43 years old.

TCD.net: Coulda fooled me. Honestly, you don’t look a day over 30.

Tony: Funny you say that. The other day, I went to the doctor to do a little pre-fight checkup before my match. You are not going to believe what the doctor told me what my resting heart rate was.

TCD.net: No clue. What was it?

Tony: 39 beats per minute. The doctor thought I was dying or something, jokingly. But they said that I have a heart of a well-trained athlete that is around 19 to 21 years old. They honestly thought my age was somewhere in the low 30’s and have a resting heart rate of somewhere around 51 bpm, but no I am 43. I am doing a stress test for them again, so that they can really be sure that I am ok.

TCD.net: Wow that is amazing. I only a few people come to mind that I have heard of having resting heart rates that low, Lance Armstrong and GSP. If you are resting heart rate is that low you are definitely in in a rare tier of athlete and human performance. How long have you been a coach, manager, CEO and GEO for MMA fighters?

Tony: I’ve been “El Jefe” (the chief) of my gym since 2006.

TCD.net: How have you been training?

Tony: I’ve been training for 13 years. I started the game real late.

TCD.net: So then where do your training roots start out from?

Tony: I started with a gentleman by the name of Tom Dinklage, I believe he is in a gym just off of Barker-Cypress and West Little York. He was my first ju-jitsu coach. I trained with him for about 3 years and then I went to TNT Ju-Jitsu, which was right off of Gulf Bank. While I was there I was coached by Calvin Carter, and I earned my brown belt from Pedro Valente of Gracie Ju-Jitsu in Miami. Pedro Valente was Hélio Gracie’s first black belt out of Brazil.

TCD.net: How come has it has taken this long for you to have your first professional fight?

Tony: I basically, when I first got into this in 1997, I was a power lifter walking around weighing around 215 lbs, bench pressing 420 lbs and I thought I was the shit, and to add on top of that I was a bounty hunter. One day my cousin told me to come over and watch some UFC. So I went over there to watch a few fights, after it was over I thought to myself, “Oh these guys aren’t shit!”.

A few days later, I went over to Tom Dinklage’s camp and they paired me up with this little guy all of about 5’3”, 130 lbs, but this guy was ripped. I thought to myself, “I am about to f*(% this kid up.” Well I was wrong, this guy tapped me out in less than a minute. I then said, “Let’s do it again!” So we start rolling again and he takes my back and starts to sink in a rear naked choke. He then starts to whisper into my ear, “go to sleep, bitch…”

[Thunderous Laughter]

Tony: I am tapping like crazy, but he wasn’t letting go. I eventually passed out, but when I came to. I was asking everyone where and when can I sign up! I stopped power lifting after that. I wish I could remember the guy’s last name that did that to me. Eric…. Something… can’t remember.

He was 130 lbs and I was 215 lbs… probably one of the most humiliating things that has ever happened to me. I have been in plenty of fights. I’ve been hit by 2×4’s, stabbed with a knife, a icepick, those all didn’t bother me. Being tapped out by that little man was the most humiliating thing ever. But I have been learning ju-jistu since.

TCD.net: I can honestly say that I have never heard anything like that before.

Tony: I’ll be a man about it. When I get my asswhooped, I am man enough to admit it and shake his hand. He whipped my ass and whisper into my ears “go to sleep, bitch…”

TCD.net: What does it mean to you to have fighters, such as Derrick Lewis, Larry Crowe, and budding amateur fighters, David Armas, Jacob Silva, and even your son Little Tony, making their MMA home gym with Silverback?

Tony: All of those guys that you just named started with me. They had no idea on how to throw a punch or a kick, they don’t know anything about ju-jistu… nothing! Anyone can think they know how to throw a punch, but to throw a proper punch, that is something different and that is a basic that we teach here. I have yet to bring in a badass, black-belt ju-jistu, muay thai, or boxing coach here to train my guys. I am a honest coach, and I teach my guys all that I can to further them along and push them forward from nothing to something. To see them all grow like they have, it makes me feel good. I can honestly say that I am an authentic coach. Saul (Soliz) has always told me, “Tony, if you can bring a guy from the bottom to the top, then you are the man.”

There are a lot of coaches that that take in fighters from other camps and school and they refine or tweak a little bit in a fighter to fix some rough or not yet smoothed out areas, but then take all of the credit. That to me, makes me not consider them to be a real coach. People hate me because I am honest, but I am going to tell you the truth.

TCD.net: Tell us a bit of your thoughts on your upcoming match against Shawn Machado?

Tony: Well, there are people out there, more specifically Sam Hoger’s team, thought I took this fight to prove a point to Team Hoger. People also say that Shawn is Sam’s protégé, and Derrick is mine… What better way to make a statement than to call out Sam’s fighter, right?

That is not the case. I saw Shawn as someone that is close to my age, he is 39, I am 43. I am thinking to myself that this is going to be a good fight. He is a strong guy. I know that he is going to come at me hard. I am gonna have to weather his storm, but I am going to have to knock his ass out. I am going to go in there and try to rip his head off, just like he is going to try to do to me.

I have respect for Sam. I have respect for Shawn. I have respect for everybody. But when they (pundits) sit there and talk shit about how Sam is the #1 heavyweight fighter and Derrick is the #2 heavyweight fighter as absolutes. Is it really? The only way to settle it is have #1 fight #2 to see who is better. But when we (Silverback) call someone out, we are met with responses that we are being disrespectful. I don’t see how that is any different than Machine Gun calling out Jason David Frank, saying that he will fight him for only a dollar. That is probably one of the most disrespectful things I have ever heard.

Do I judge? No, but there sure isn’t the same kind of uproar that we get when we call out a big name.

TCD.net: Are you nervous at all, since this is your professional fighting premiere fight?

Tony: Nervous? Yes. Scared? No. The only person I am scared of is God. That’s the God’s honest truth. I don’t fear no man… nothing.

I may be coming into at the tender age of 43. I have a lot of people looking up to me. I got a lot of people that hate me and want to see me fail. I know they do and they are trying to be my friends, but I see it in their face. I say this to anyone. Regardless if you are a nice guy, fat, skinny, old, young, cute, ugly, rich, or poor… people will always talk bad about you no matter what. If you don’t like the way that I am, too bad this is the way that I am.

TCD.net: Who are your favorite fighters?

Tony: I personally like to watch Mike Bronzoulis. I think he is a great guy, and one tough son of bitch. If were to have to fight him the street… I would probably have to shoot him, cause that is how tough he is. He is an amazing fighter.

I also like to watch Angel Huerta, another great upcoming 135’er that I like to see fight

Jesus Rivera from IVoz. I love the way he operates. He does not talk shit about anybody, he just goes in, performs at a high level and leaves it at that.

John Malbrough is another fighter that comes to mind. He is tough, has a huge heart, and I just love the guy. Every time I talk to him, I just want to hug him cause he is someone that you just like and pull for. You cannot hate that guy.

I like Machine Gun, I just wish he was more active. I know his style is like Muhammad Ali and he wins. I like the way that he sells himself.

Just to name a few. For the most part I like guys that do talk some smack, but also back it up.

TCD.net: What are the goals that you have set for Silverback as a whole?

Tony: My goal is to facilitate a lot of young people that are on the street, much like I was when I was young in and out of jail, a place where they can make a change from their problems. Anyone that can survive the streets, jail or prison has really received a gift from God to have a second chance. I want to help people to stop being a dumb ass and offer a different choice and new way of life to get them to stop doing what got them into trouble, or where they are now. God gives us a gift, it is up to us to find it, regardless of what you walk of life is. You have to find that gift.

I have had different people all the time come in here. Some guys have come in here and when they get hit they get mad, fight back, and want to learn more. I have had others, such as your typical tough guy, all tatted up think’s he is a bad ass, get hit a couple of times, and never come back.

My vision is that I see my gym growing into 10,000 sq ft facility, with new weights to lift, a day care and bus system for the kids, an office for us to have a proper place to do our administration work done from, a study hall to where kids and fighters to get their homework and studies done in.

I want to grow my gym. I love what I do. I love to help people out.

TCD.net: I hear it in your voice, your words, and also from your fighters. I have interviewed a few Silverback fighters and all of them have said that this place is like a family to them. That this place has been really good to them to turn around what was going wrong, into something that is going right for them.

Tony: I try to teach all of my guys to be respectful, just like my dad has always taught me to be respectful and how to be, which was that you let whoever you are talking to know who you are and then leave it at that no matter how much you dislike or hate a person. Once they put hands on you then it is on, before that, just walk away. If anyone comes after my kids, I’ll come right back at them, either verbally or physically.

I love my kids, but I know at some point that I may have to let them go at some point that they can grow on their own. I think that is a problem with some gyms overall here in Houston. They do not know when they have to let their fighter go after they have taught them all that they can.

If I get to the point where I cannot help any one of my fighters grow any further than I have already taken them, I am man enough to tell that person, like a father to a son, that it is time for them to move on. Move on to college, if you will, because I have done everything that I can for you and you still need to grow.

If someone like Greg Jackson, Freddie Roach, any other major name you can think of, comes along and want to pluck one of my fighters from me. I would be completely stupid if I were to say “No, he is my fighter. I am not going to let him go”. I have to let them go so that they can grow. What does it really mean to have all of the belts and trophies here in Houston really? It just means you are a local fighter and if you don’t pursue any further than that, then that is all you are going to be. You can win all the belts here that you want, but if you are not national… what are you really?

The day that I have one of my guys sign a contract with a national promotion and have fought on TV. That is when I know that I have made it. That’s my dream. I consider myself to be a father figure first. A stepping stone second for people to use as an example that you can come from nothing to be something. My parents worked their asses off. Not only did they make less than $3 an hour, but for our family vacation, we use to drive to Florida, not to have fun in the sun, but to pick fruit to make a little extra money for my family.

We have all made our mistakes, we have all had our rough spots. But we have to do what we can to get through them and push on. I love my school, my kids, my family. We take care of each other here.

TCD.net: Is there anyone you would like to thank or give a shout out to?

Tony: Two people that I really want to thank, Bobby and Elaine Chase. Two people that were almost complete strangers, gave me $5,000 to start my gym first gym 5 years ago. I have never really thanked them enough for letting me borrow that money. Even to this day, they have yet to ask for their money back. I am forever thankful, and humbled because of them.

I’d also like to give a shout out to Rick “The Viking”, the most handsome Viking in the world. He owns Babe’s Cabaret and Bikini Bar. Mr. Silva of Milan Motors. All of my fighters, I am here because of all them. And last, but not least, the Vivian and Ray Santos my new partners. Thank you all so much!

TCD.net: Thank you Tony, for your time. Best of luck to you in your upcoming match against Shawn Machado at IXFA February 26th at the Verizion Wireless Theater.