“I’m trying to get down with the get down where ever I’m at. I want to train with the best and get better. “
Interview by: Barry Laminack
When you talk with Chris Lopez about MMA, you get the feeling right away that he’s not just doing this for fun. Everything this San Antonio transplant says has a serious tone to it. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a cool guy who’s pretty relaxed and laid back, but start talking MMA and a switch flips within Chris. He becomes all business. You get the sense that in his mind he’s already made it, he just needs to put the rest of the plan in place to get the job done.
Chris: I started boxing 4 years ago at a gym in San Antonio. From there I started doing MMA at Texas Powerhouse, where I met Adam [Schindler]. We became best friends and we didn’t feel like we were going to get any better in San Antonio so we decided to make a move out here.
TCD: Who did you box under?
Chris: A guy named Jesse Cantu over at San Fernando Gym. I won the golden gloves 2 years in a row. I haven’t boxed in while though.
TCD: So was that the first time you did any kind of combative sports or martial arts?
TCD: So if we were to classify you, would it be safe to do so as a stand up fighter?
Chris: I guess people would say that because the striking really came easy to me, but for the last year that I have been training full time I’ve really been focusing on my ground game. I have a great coach in Travis Tooke. I believe he’s the best on the ground around here and I’ve been picking it up fast. I’ve also been doing my wrestling at Paradigm, with all the great coaches over there.
Having Adam as a roommate has really pushed me to another level. He’s been beating up on me for the past 2 and half years. I’ve gotten better but I want to keep stepping it up. This is my first fight in Houston. I’m looking to make waves in the 155 and 170 divisions.
TCD: So what is your record right now?
Chris: I’m actually 2-1. I just lost a tough decision in San Antonio. I don’t know if I really lost that fight, but I let it go to a decision so it was my fault. I don’t plan on that happening on Friday.
TCD: You said you left San Antonio because you didn’t feel like you would get any better. Why do you think that is?
Chris: I’ll be direct man. I felt we were training ourselves in the morning and it got to a point were we had classes in the morning were we would all go train, but then all of a sudden Adam and I were training on our on. It got kind of out of touch. It kind of turned into a thing that went back and forth between Adam and me and Jaime. We just felt that it would be a better move.
When Adam fought Brian [Melancon] he did that all on his own. That fight was just him and his balls man. He didn’t have any training for that fight. He didn’t have any sparring. I had shoulder surgery so all I could do was strength and conditioning. He pulled it out of his ass and then he moved out here and he’s been winning every since. He’s been on a roll right now and it just goes to show you what the MMA scene is like here in Houston versus other places. I think it’s the best place to train and to come up personally.
TCD: It sounds like you are a doing a lot of cross training here. Was there a lot of that [cross-training] in San Antonio?
Chris: When it comes to cross training, I trained my boxing at the same gym with the same coach and then I trained at Texas Powerhouse. When it comes to cross training here, I feel like you have to get better at everything. I feel like my MMA, my kickboxing and my Jiu-Jitsu is really coming along here with my two gyms, 4oz and Team Took MMA.
As for my wrestling, it’s hard to get Adam one on one, and to get to that level I think it’s something you have to focus on. Wrestling isn’t something we had in South Texas in our high schools. Now I’m playing catch up, so I’m training out at Paradigm. I’m glad they are giving me the opportunity to do so. There are a bunch of great guys out there and they have accepted me.
I want to train with the best. I’m not trying to be a super star in Houston. I want to turn heads on the amateur circuit this year and then make it out on the national scene. I’m not trying to become a Houston hero.
TCD: So how many more fights until you go pro?
Chris: I would like to fight 3 more fights. I want to fight the best they have to offer. The guys they feel that are the up and comers. I want to step in there with them. That’s how you get better and how you get ready for the pros. My first 2 fights I finished in the first 30 seconds of the first round. Most people thought it was a good thing, but I wasn’t very happy with it. You have to get experience and I wasn’t getting that, but I did in my last fight. It’s different when you are going 3 rounds and you have to get up for that 3rd round and the guy is looking right at you.
I’m lucky enough to do this full time, so I have to do it right. Bottom line, I want to fight the toughest 155’ers or 170’ers in Houston.
TCD: You keep saying 155 or 170. Is your plan to float between the two?
Chris: To be honest with you, when I was fighting my first couple of fights, I had a job so I was 185 and struggling with my weight. Now, I’m not struggling with my weight.
This fight is a catch weight at 160, mostly because I cut my finger when I was out at Jackson’s MMA, so I’ve had stitches for about 3 weeks. Other than that, 155 wouldn’t be a problem for me.
Also, I think 155 and 170 are two good divisions here. Unfortunately in the 170 divisions, my teammates at Tooke have it stacked and I’m not looking to fight any of my training partners. Anybody else at 170 or 155 I’ll go with.
TCD: Sound like you might be limiting yourself since you train at 3 very good schools in 4oz, Team Tooke and Paradigm. All of them have a bunch of outstanding amateurs.
Chris: With Paradigm, I have a lot of respect for them, but I just go there for my wrestling, so if it came down to having to fight somebody from there, I would respectfully go away until it was done.
Some people look down on cross training, but like I said, I’m not just trying to get better in Houston, I’m trying to get better with the guys in Houston and I hope all of us make it out together.
Chris: It was my second trip. The first time I stayed with Cowboy and Leonard at their house. It was supposed to be a 4-week trip but they are really cool guys and they let me stay a couple of extra weeks for free.
This second trip out, I really wanted to push it. Cowboy was getting ready for Mac Danzig and I really wanted to see what it was like to be in there with world class 55’ers and he was flying guys in. It was a grind for a couple of weeks. I got beat up, but that was the best thing for me.
Since it was my second trip, I noticed that I have improved and that’s what I want to continue to do.
TCD: Do you think it prepares you to come back and face our local guys here? Does it put you ahead of the game?
Chris: It really just depends on how hard you work. You can go out there and slack man and not get anything done. Every time you’re in a round over there, they are 5 minutes long and you know you are in for a fight. You think you are going to get a break next round because you just went with Cowboy, but then you look across the room and there is Diego Sanchez looking at you and nobody else to pick from, so you have to get down.
That’s what it’s all about. I’m trying to get down with the get down where ever I’m at. I want to train with the best and get better. If I run into someone down the line and I have to move to another school (like with Paradigm) I’d go away for a little while.
TCD: So lets see, you’ve been doing combative sports for 4 years, and training in mixed martial arts for 2. How long have you been wrestling and doing BJJ, because you’re ears say 10 years, but you keep saying 2.
Chris: [laughs] I started BJJ about two years ago when I joined Texas Powerhouse. As far as learning, I don’t want to be offensive to anyone, but I’ve really started picking it up since I came here to Houston. I have a better grasp on it and I’m really picking it up. I’ve learned to love it more than striking and kick boxing.
As far as the wrestling, I’ve been doing pure wrestling for about three months over at Paradigm. Those guys took me in and let me go in there and wrestle. I’ve been wrestling with a bunch of great high school kids, and with Brian Melancon and a some other great fighters over there.
I’ve been doing a lot of great drills and you can really tell a difference when you don’t wrestle.
TCD: So what do you know about Ryan Rivera?
Chris: I don’t know much about him man. I think he’s 2-1. I saw one of his fights at the Rumble in Humble because I was there ringside. If I recall, he won by arm bar.
He’s looking to come up and I’m looking to come up and we just happen to run into each other. I got respect for anybody that will fight.
I’ve been working hard for 7 weeks and I’m sure he has too, so come Friday we’re going to get down and find out who wants it more.
TCD: So do you game plan at all or just do you?
Chris: It’s hard in amateurs to do that. You never know if you’re opponents are going to back out or what. In this fight, I’m just going to go out and take the center of the cage. All I can say is I’m going to come forward and see how he deals with it. I’m sure he has a game plan. Bobby Powers has been training him; Bobby has seen me train a lot here at 4oz so he knows about me. I think it’s going to come down to who does what best, and we’ll find out on Friday.
TCD: Do you have a prediction for the fight? How do you think it’s going to do?
Chris: Anything can happen in a fight. I’m not going to be one of these cocky assholes and say I’m going to knock him out first round, and then go and get backhanded or something. All I’m going to say is that I’m not looking for a decision; I’m looking to stop it. I plan on going balls to the wall from bell to bell.
TCD: So you’ve already learned from you last fight I see.
Chris: Yeah man, I’m not taking any more risk like that. If it goes to a decision it’s because somebody held me down. Bob [Perez] trains us to finish and that’s what I plan to do. I know what needs to be done and I don’t plan on being in there very long.
TCD: So three more fights and then you go pro. Are you going to do that here in Houston?
Chris: I’ll leave it up to Ragan McDaniel. When it comes to my pro stuff, I know he knows what’s best. He’s taken care of Adam. I’ll fight anywhere. I’m not going to dodge anybody. I want to be one of the best fighters to come out of Texas, so I want to do it right.
Chris: Man there are a lot of people I need to thank! Thank you to Cutten Customs here off of Cutten Road. They have helped me with my gear and Glen is a great guy.
I want to thank the Men’s Club of San Antonio and also DJ Double R.
I also want to thank my parents. With out them I wouldn’t be able to train full time. Not many amateurs are able to wake up every day and chase a dream and because both of them are hard ass workers I have that opportunity.
TCD: Thanks for your time and best of luck on Friday.
Chris: Oh, one more thing. About y’alls podcast! Before Melvin Guillard comes and kicks my ass! It wasn’t a spinning back fist that knocked him out over at Jackson’s, it was a flying knee!
Let’s get that right man! When I heard that I was like OHHH NO!! [laughs]
TCD: Got it. I’ll set Cody straight next time I see him too.