“It’s only fun when you win, so I plan on doing whatever it takes to win.”
Interview by: Barry Laminack
In the business of covering MMA, it’s easy for us media folk to be sit behind the keyboard or microphone (or both in some cases) and talk about the fights, the fighters and the sport in general. You may see guys transition from the cage to the media chair, but it’s a rarity to see the it happen the other way around. It’s not often that you’ll see a media person go from talking about fights to being in one, but that is the case with AJ Hoffman.
He’s not only part owner of TheCageDoor.net, but he is also one half of the very popular ESPN Radio 97.5 show “The Blitz” that airs daily from 12pm-2pm.
AJ set aside his keyboard and microphone for the time being, in exchange for some 4oz gloves.
AJ: Man, you know me. I am a competitive son of a bitch. I have been training my ass off every day for the last year or two and doing pretty well in the jiu jitsu tournaments. Eventually you need that new high though, so I am searching for that new high. This is just one of those things on my bucket list I guess. I will always be able to say I got in there and did it.
TCD: How long have you followed/watched MMA?
AJ: I’m sure everyone with a TapouT shirt will say this, but I have been watching since UFC 1. I had two buddies come over and we watched it on pay per view for $15. I have not missed a “televised” UFC (or Pride FC for that matter) fight yet. I have always found a way to record them or get ahold of them somehow. I have been in love with the sport for a long time.
TCD: Before you started training, you were a portly fella. What made you want to start training and competing in BJJ?
AJ: Yeah, I got all the way up to 295 pounds. Really I was just tired of being fat, and I needed something I could do to get in shape. You know, I was an athlete growing up, and I was a soldier in the US Army Infantry, and one day I just realized I had let myself go to hell. I was interviewing a fighter at Paradigm and Gulled Ahmed offered to train me, so I started coming in and working with him on some kickboxing to just try and get some pounds off. Then I met Macaco and really just fell in love with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Been at it since and it has kept the weight off and given me an outlet to compete.
AJ: Amazing. I remember going to my first tournament in Austin and I was entered in 4 divisions. My first match I got smashed, and I thought to myself: “What am I even doing here. I am not ready to do this.” I ended up winning the next 8 or 9 matches that day and walked away with some gold medals. Right then I knew I wanted to really push myself to be better at it. It is also really an honor to train under someone like Macaco. There are a handful of guys in the world who get to roll with a guy of that caliber, and I get to every day. For him to give me my blue belt was an honor, and I can’t wait to get my purple under him.
TCD: If you win, are you going to fight again?
AJ: Really, I am doing this because I have another little boy on the way in May, and I realize my training time is going to be cut into pretty severely when he shows up. I am 31 now, so my body is not exactly getting better for this game. If I do fight again, it will be a while down the road. I just want to do this, then focus on my family and jiu jitsu for a while. Everyone tells me I will get the bug though, so we will see.
TCD: What do you know about your opponent?
AJ: Really not a lot. Which is surprising since I own a website that keeps up with Houston area fighters. He is kind of a mystery. I know his name is Gary Bolton and I know he is from College Station. He has one fight, and it isn’t online. My jiu jitsu and no-gi matches are all over the web, so he can use those. I am obviously adjusting my game for this fight though. I respect anyone who is going to get in the cage, him included. I notice everyone keeps telling me I am going to walk through this guy, but I am looking at him like he is Anderson Silva.
AJ: He is gonna come in and try to run his game on me, and I have to impose my will on him. I am just gonna use everything I have learned in the last couple of years, especially in the last few months, and do my best. Everyone keeps telling me to just have fun, but you of all people know how I am when it comes to competition. It’s only fun when you win, so I plan on doing whatever it takes to win.
TCD: You’ve been working your stand up like crazy, how’s that going?
AJ: Honestly, it has grown in leaps and bounds the last few months. We have a new Muay Thai instructor over at Gold Team. You may have heard of him, Cyborg Santos. So I have been working with him. Jace Pitre from Team Tooke has kind of taken me under his wing and worked with me a lot on my technique. I feel really comfortable now with it. I’m not afraid to get hit, which is something I believe everyone has to overcome. Doing all this stand-up has also really pushed my cardio to the next level, which will help in the fight and should help me down the road with my jiu jitsu.
TCD: Give us your prediction for the fight?
AJ: I am gonna go in there and try to hurt him. I don’t know exactly how yet, but every night I have been laying in bed thinking of new ways to beat him.
TCD: Do you like men?
AJ: No. I do like grannies though. The rowdier, the better.
AJ: I have a ton. God, which is cliche I know, but I have been blessed with a relatively healthy training camp. My family, especially my wife who gives up a lot of hours to the gym. Also my grandfather who just passed. He was an inspiration to me and he will be in my corner Friday night. Macaco, who has something new to add to my game every time I am in the gym. All my training partners at Gold Team- Craig, Lex, Alvin, Victor, Tommy, Drew Ratichek, Brian Q, Munil, Big Mike, James, Dave, Cyborg. Sorry, there are a lot of guys. If I left you out, it just means I am tired. Team Tooke. Jace and Andrew Craig brought me in like one of their own for this fight camp. They have been great coaches and have given me a ton of good sparring partners. G Moreira, Eric G., Levi, Jose Llanas, Sayed, Aaron Croon. Also thanks to Alex Morono, Cody “The Fightin’ Son of Texas” Phillips and Jeff Rexroad, who have given me some work this camp. Thanks to the Paradigm guys who got me started. G Ahmed, Reed Shelger, Jeff, Brian M. and Mike B. My boss and co-workers at ESPN, who don’t mind me showing up at work with black eyes and fat lips. My manager Ragan McDaniel at B3 Sports. All my sponsors- Ranger Up for the awesome walkout shirts and Dethrone for the shorts, Burger Guys (if you don’t know, get there. Best burgers in HTown), Proformance for the guard, Fox Reporting, Lone Star Veterans Association, Kidney Health Center and Nutrition Depot in the Galleria for all the help with my supplements. Thanks to Eric Garcia for talking me into doing this. Also thanks to everyone who has bought a ticket to come out and see the fight. Lastly, thanks to you Barry Laminack. Thecagedoor.net has really put this scene on the map, and there are a select few people who know the work it takes to make that thing go. You are the man.