Interview: Chad “Robo” Robichaux

“When I put you in an a submission hold, the tap ‘t for me, it’s for the referee, so you better tap quick and make sure he sees it, because I’m not letting go”

Chad "Robo" Robichaux - Gracie Barra The Woodlands

Chad "Robo" Robichaux - Gracie Barra The Woodlands

Chad “Robo” Robichaux

Interview and Photos by: Barry Laminack

Ask anyone who is in the know around the Houston MMA scene, and they’ll tell you that Chad “Robo” Robichaux is a rising star in our city.   Sure he loves to fight and he’s good at it too, his perfect 7-0 pro MMA record speaks for itself.  What sets him apart from many of the fighters in the Houston area is respect.  Not just the respect he gets from, but also the respect he gives to, his fans, his students and his art.

As a fighter, Robo gets respect in the ring because he goes non-stop, pressing the action and constantly working.  He’s also a highly regarded trainer, holding a black belt under the legendary Master Carlos Gracie Jr.  During my visit to his school (Gracie Barra The Woodlands) to interview him, I got to see him present WEC and Dream veteran Tim Moore with his Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

But respect is a two way street, and Chad gives as much as he gets.  To the fans of MMA he’s a fighter, but to his students and training partners, he’s a mentor and a role model.  He cares about the people around him; you see it in the way he greets his students and interacts with them (on and off the mat). Yes, he loves to fight, but what he loves even more is promoting Jiu-Jitsu.  â€œIf I could have everybody in the world doing Jiu-jitsu I would, it’s just that great.”

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Chad about his past, his upcoming Legacy Fighting Championship 135lb Title fight with Lewis Mackenzie on November 7th at the Houston Arena theatre (http://www.lonestarbeatdown.com/), and what’s on tap for him in the coming months.

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TCD.net: As an undefeated pro fighter, how do you feel about the philosophy that you need to lose to become a better fighter?

Robo: I think some of my amateur fights have been tougher than some of my pro fits.  I lost my second amateur fight to Din Thomas, a very accomplished UFC fighter, and then lost my third one to a long decision.  Since then, I’ve had a 12 fight win streak, so I definitely learned a lot from those two loses, so I can see where people would say that, because I’ve experienced that myself.   But while I do agree with people who say that, I also believe that if you are training right, you are going to lose.  You don’t have to lose in front of fans to lose, because in here, every day I get beat up by my training partners and lose to them.

TCD.net: I see Todd Moore is here today.  How has he helped you in preparing for your upcoming fight against Lewis Mackenzie?

Robo: Anybody that has ever watched Todd knows that he is a phenomenal wrestler, so I definitely get that wrestling experience with both Todd and with my wrestling coach Jody Trantham (a two time NCAA wrestler).  To have that experience in the room is a tremendous asset, because even though Lewis is an accomplished wrestler, he’s not nearly as good as those guys or me for that matter.  So my opponent’s strongest point is something we are already better at, so we are one step ahead.

Another thing that Todd brings to the table is that he is so well rounded.  He takes his wrestling and really has adapted it to his Jiu-Jitsu well, so he’s got a solid Jiu-Jitsu game.  We both come from the same striking coach (Lewis Wood), so we have the same style and that really helps me train.

TCD.net: I know you speak very highly of Lewis Wood.  What has he done for your boxing game?

Robo: To me, he’s the best striking coach in MMA.  His style is so different from traditional boxing, and he blends it into MMA so well, with setting it up for take downs and takedown defense.  Since I’ve started training with him, I feel like I’m always in balance and I can transition from standing to ground at will, allowing me to dictate where the fight takes place.  To me that is the biggest part of fighting, having that ring control and being able to dictate where the fight takes place.  Having the ability to control the fight gives you a lot of confidence.

I’ve trained in gyms all over the world, and nobody trains you like Lewis trains you.  Going into my last fight was the first time I had zero anxiety and was not nervous at all.  I was curious, thinking to myself, ‘why am I not nervous for this fight’, but when I thought back, it was like, shoot, I’m only fighting one guy.  Lewis will bring in a whole entourage of guys, and every round I’d have a fresh guy and they would beat the hell out of me, so it was a relief to only have to fight one guy at my weight.  When I took this fight with Lewis Mackenzie, I got nervous, not because I had to fight him, but because I knew I was going to have to go through that training again with Lewis Wood.

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TCD.net: When your name is attached to a gym, your reputation as a fighter can mean a lot when it comes getting new members to join.  Do you ever worry that losing a fight could cause gym membership numbers to suffer?

Robo: Yeah, that’s actually been on my mind a lot in the past, especially when deciding to take some of the bigger fights.  It’s kind of twofold.  I could just ride the coattails of a 7-0 pro record and just be an undefeated coach out here, or I could go out and represent Jiu-Jitsu and win using Jiu-Jitsu and show my students what our art can do.  I’ve always been an advocate of Jiu-Jitsu and always want to promote it.  When I fight, I fight to represent Jiu-Jitsu, you always see me walk out with my Gi on, and like I’ve said, I’ve submitted my last 12 opponents, and it’s all because I believe in my art.

I think I’m one of the few fighter out there right now, there are some other great guys, but I’m one of the few fighter that really truly tries to represent their art.  I don’t think Mixed Martial Arts is an art, I think it’s a sport for Martial Artist, but a lot of guys get fixated on making MMA an art, but it’s more of a fad.  Me and some other guys (especially here in the gym) are trying to bring the martial arts back to mixed martial arts, and really represent it with professionalism and good character.

TCD.net: You have won all of your fights by submission. Are you itching to get a KO victory or are you content with ending it on the ground?

Robo: I’m 100% confident that if Mackenzie tries to box with me, he’s going to lose.  There is no way he could train for this match and catch up with me on my level of striking.  I think he’s looking to pull off a decision win by trying to stall me with wrestling.  So he can try and box and get hit, or he can try and take me to the ground, but he’ll end up on the bottom and I’ll submit him.  I don’t really care how I win, it’s like I said, whatever opportunity presents its self, I’m going to take it.

I do know that he (Mackenzie) doesn’t like to tap.  He’s been in a lot of bad positions and not tapped; he’s even won matches because of his strong willingness not to tap out.  But I have a philosophy, and there are a couple of guys that I have fought that have ended up with broken arms because of it.  Tapping is for training.  A lot of Jiu-Jitsu guys get in trouble because they take that mentality of tapping and protecting their training partners into competition.  When I put you in a submission hold, the tap isn’t for me, it’s for the referee, so you better tap quick and make sure he sees it, because I’m not letting go; I’m going to put a lot of pressure on it and my intent is to break the limb.  A lot of people think that’s un-sportsman like, but it’s really not.  If you have a boxer, he’s not going to hold back his right cross, that’s his weapon.  So if an arm bar is my weapon, I’m not going to hold it back.  A lot of Jiu-Jitsu guys try and look for the tap, and when their opponent doesn’t tap, the next thing you know, they are on the bottom getting punched.  Bottom line, if he gets into a submission and doesn’t tap he’s going to be in trouble, and if I get him in a choke and he doesn’t tap, he’s going to go to sleep.

TCD.net: All 7 of your fights have ended by the second round.  What is your prediction for how long the Lewis fight will last?

Robo: Everybody says I push the pace because I’m real intense.  I never try to finish in the first round.  My first round wins have been from me putting pressure on the guy and him making a mistake.  I’ve heard some other Jiu-Jitsu guys say, “I don’t win the fight, the other guy loses”, and I really like that philosophy.  I just do what I do and put the pressure on the guy and if he makes a mistake, I’m going to capitalize on it.

TCD.net: Mackenzie likes to wear a wrestling singlet in the cage. If he is allowed to do so in this fight, could that work to your advantage by giving you more handles to latch on to?

Robo: I’ve heard they are not going to let him wear it.  Legacy is a very prestigious show, they have a great reputation, and plus NBC is going to be there filming the fight, so I’m almost certain they won’t allow him to wear it.  But in the event they did let him wear it, it wouldn’t bother me.  Now, I’d love to have the opportunity to choke him with it, but they won’t let you grab anything the opponent wears, so I won’t have that chance.  If anything, I think it would be a disadvantage for him because it would dry him up, and when you are fighting a guy like me, you probably want to be as slippery as possible.

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TCD.net: I saw your recent Tweet (http://www.twitter.com/chadrobo) to Dana White asking him to consider adding the 135lb weight classto the UFC.  Why don’t you think the UFC shows the lighter weight classes any love?

Robo: Man, I don’t know, it blows me away.  The most entertaining fights to watch are the 135ers.  We are the most technical guys.  When you watch the world championships in Jiu-Jitsu, everyone wants to watch the Puma weight and the Rooster weights, because it’s the most technical guys.  Nobody wants to watch the heavy weights.  You watch the Ultimate Fighter serious, and you see a guy in the first round hanging over the cage trying to catch his breath.  He’s supposed to be a professional athlete, but he’s got his arm on the cage trying to catch his breath after 3 minutes of fights, it’s just ridiculous to me.  It’s embarrassing to me as an MMA fighter.

Now, obviously Dana White knows what he’s doing.  He’s done more for our sport than anybody and I totally admire the guy, but I think somebody is missing the boat on the 135 class and why it’s not in the UFC.  I know guys who have 15-0 records who can’t get a fight on a big show because they are 135 or 145 pounds.

TCD.net: What has been the key in growing your gym to be the second largest Gracie Barra Academy in the nation?

Robo: I think it’s because not only can we produce top level MMA athletes, but we can also train anyone who wants to come in and learn the art.  We teach something we really believe in, and believe that anyone should be able to come in and learn it.  We’ve got training available for any type of individual that comes here and we are going to take care of them and help them meet their goals.  You’re not going to get stuck sparring in an MMA class your first day here.  In fact, we make everyone go through a 4 month fundamental Jiu-Jitsu class before they are allowed to do an MMA class or an advanced Jiu-Jitsu class.

This isn’t a gym, it’s a school.  It’s a school where people come to learn, and we are team and we have a reputation for team play.

TCD.net: What are your thoughts on the current MMA scene here in Houston?

Robo: Man, some of the toughest fighters out there are coming out of Houston. I get to see it at all levels.  One of the cool things about this school and how we compete is that we get to go around and train with other people.  You hear a lot about people who train in California or Brazil.  I took 3 of my blue belts to Brazil last year and none of them got submitted by any blue belts in Brazil.  They were like at a purple belt level in Brazil.  We’ve got our Thai coach competing in Thailand and some of our Thai guys with only 1 year of training winning the world championships.  So in this academy we represent Houston and Texas and show that we have the same skill level as anywhere else.

Now in MMA, sometimes, you’ve got to be close to a flagship to get in the circuit. If I lived in Las Vegas, or if Todd Moore lived in Las Vegas, we’d probably get a little more activity and get more fights.  So, you have to work a little harder.  Todd had a great opportunity to fight in WEC and Dream, and I think it’s coming back around for him again.  He’s got a phenomenal pro record of 11-3, along with 18 amateur wins.  He’s a tough guy and he’s still young.  He’s learned a lot from his losses in WEC and I think he’s ready to take on the world right now.

TCD.net: What do you prefer, Gi or no Gi? Why?

Robo: I’m probably more successful no Gi, but I enjoy the Gi more.  It’s more complicated and more technical so I enjoy it more.

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TCD.net: Tell our readers me more about your upcoming appearance on “The Fight Life”?

Robo: Mick Maynard, who is running the Legacy show, called and asked if I minded if NBC came out and filmed my fight, so they are going to be at the show on Nov 7 to film my bout.   The show is going to have some big name UFC and WEC fighters who are going to be coaches on the show.  It’s going to be on in prime time and get a lot of exposure.  The way the show is set up, man, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Todd and I were asked to go out and do a private casting for it and we are supposed to get some contracts in place soon to be on the show.  We’ve done one day of filming already, and are supposed to do more in January or February.  It’s like 4-6 weeks of filming too.  But they will be at the show November 7th, so the fans should come out and be a part of it.

TCD.net: What’s the single best piece of advice that you would give to the casual fan that is looking to start training MMA?

Robo: Learn a fundamental art!  Don’t be so anxious to just fight.  MMA isn’t a fight.  If you want to fight, go to a bar and pick on a drunk guy.  This is a sport with rules and strategy.  You have to represent something.  In my opinion, if you don’t represent something, you’re just a thug looking to fight.  If you have something you believe in, you have something to fall back on.  Too many guys just want to fight.

90% of the guys that come to this gym want to be UFC fighters, but if you look at our MMA class, we have 5 people in our class, and we have 50 in our fundamental Jiu-Jitsu class.  Somewhere between when they walk thru that door and reality, they fall in love with Jiu-Jitsu.  Jiu-Jitsu is just an awesome thing.  It changes people’s lives in a positive way because they become so involved with something, become connected with people in here.  That’s what I love about it, to see the positive impact it has on people.  It’s one of the reasons I still fight, to continue to promote Jiu-Jitsu.  If I could have everybody in the world doing Jiu-Jitsu I would, it’s just that great.  I’ve seen guys come in here with low self esteem and see how Jiu-Jitsu changes them over the course of a year.

So my biggest bit of advice is to learn an art.  I’m not saying it has to be Jiu-Jitsu, it could be Tai-Kwon-Do, just put 100% of your effort into it and really believe in it and go out there and represent your art.  Just do it in a positive way and don’t make an ass out of yourself [laughs]

TCD.net: I hear you had some good news today.  Share with me what that was all about.

Robo: We just closed a sponsorship deal with Full Tilt Poker and FullTiltPoker.com.  They are a phenomenal company who has done so much for our sport and helping our athletes.  Anybody that really follows this sport knows there are only a handful of guys that really make a lot of money.  So for most guys who compete, they need the sponsorships to continue to do this.  Full Tilt Poker has done a really good job at picking some of the better athletes and backing them up and supporting them so they can compete.  If it wasn’t for the sponsors in this sport, the fans wouldn’t get to see all of the guys who have the potential to compete, because the reality of it is not everybody could compete and put groceries in their refrigerator.

To learn more about Chad’s MMA School, Gracie Barra The Woodlands, visit their website at http://www.mmathewoodlands.com.  For updated information about Chad and his MMA career, go to http://www.chadrobo.tv, or follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/chadrobo.

UPDATE: Catch Chad on ESPN Radio’s (97.5fm) “In The Cage” hosted by Adam Villarreal Tuesday 7-9.