â€œThere are a few basic principles in my life #1 is competing, # 2 is Bacon, # 3 is Pizzaâ€
Interview and Photos by: Richard Burmaster
We talk a lot about the good guys in sports, and we all know a few good guys who just hate to lose. Drew Ratichek is the epitome of the good guy who will not let you win. Itâ€™s rare to see Drew without a smile on his face. Itâ€™s also hard to not have a smile on your face when around him. Whether he is telling you a joke with words so big that you need a thesaurus to figure out the punch line, or he is punching you in the face, Drew always seems to be having a good time. Drew is not in the sport to be a star or to make a ton of money. He trains and competes because he loves to test himself. Drew will compete with you in anything you choose. Watch a fight with Drew and at some point he will offer a bet to you. Wise money is to not bet against Drew as he has developed a keen sense for talent. I was able to catch up with the reigning South Texas bacon eating champion of his street while he trained for his upcoming fight against Luke Hoffman at Lonestar Beatdown in Dallas, Texas on Friday, February the 19th.
TCD.net: How did you get started in MMA?
Drew: Interestingly enough, I was doing nothing for a period of about 5 years.Â Shortly after I got caught up at work with Sonic, and I had some free time, and I wanted to compete in something. I have always been very competitive.Â I had previously raced bikes in high school and college both on-road and off-road.Â So I went out and bought a bicycle and wasted about $2500 to find out that not only did I have no ability, but also zero desire to race bicycles anymore. So I looked for another activity to get into and one night while watching the UFC I settled on MMA. So I promptly got online and found nothing and after that point I revamped my searching methods and learned how to use a keyboard on a computer. (Laughs)
TCD.net:Â Where did you start training at in Houston?
Drew: I started training under Bruce McGraw in Friendswood, I started with Gi Jiu Jitsu a couple days a week. Bruce is such a monster physically which was good for me because he overwhelmed me which caused me to really work on my technique. I started opening up my repertoire and wanted to get involved in MMA and not just Jiu Jitsu. I competed in a few local tournaments, and I wanted to move forward with MMA. I spoke with Bruce, and he told me that Sam Hoger had opened a Miletich Fighting Systems in Houston. So I started going there to work on my full MMA game. Training with Sam was a very good experience, but a very long drive for me. Miletich closed, and Sam opened his Hoger MMA location, but I had not been going to Houston very often. So Bruce, Cooper and I had opened up American Combative Systems down in Clearlake which at the time was the only school that suited what I was looking for. Shortly after that we brought on Wrestling Coach Frank Heaney and a boxing coach
TCD.net: So you went from buying a bike that you would soon realize held no interest for you to opening a gym and now fighting. Whatâ€™s kept you motivated during this journey?
Drew: The enjoyment of the sport. I know thatâ€™s a clichÃ© you hear from everybody, but to be honest, Iâ€™m the one telling the guys at the gym, where I am a partner, that when new guys come in and they start working with our coaches and getting all passionate about it for them to remember where their bread is buttered. For many this is a hobby. For a lot of guys getting started at my age our goal is not to be the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Thatâ€™s a great goal to have, but itâ€™s unrealistic especially if you donâ€™t have a background in combat sports. For me itâ€™s just enjoyment. I enjoy training and competing. Sometimes we will stay up at the gym till 11:30 at night just working on new stuff. Developing new techniques and seeing how they work. Learning is a big factor for me.
TCD.net: It seems that a lot of fighters have a problem cross training at other gyms, but you seem to try to learn a little bit from many of the gyms in the area. Why is it you are welcomed in most gyms?
Drew: Basically, Iâ€™m considered to be no threat to anyone in the area.(Laughs)Â Itâ€™s kind of like the sad kid on the block who never has money for the ice cream truck.Â Everyone is always saying just câ€™mon in kid. Itâ€™s mainly pity why they let me in. Bob Perez here at 4oz has been helping me get ready for this fight. Bob is just top of the food chain in my humble opinion, and I pay a lot of attention to how people learn and teach.Â I may not be the greatest authority on MMA since I have only been doing this for about four years, but I can recognize a teacher and Bob Perez is one heck of a teacher. I have been really fortunate and blessed that he has been willing to take me in and do some work with me. I canâ€™t thank him enough, and I am in his debt for sure. The guys here at 4oz have been great, and they have a great team here. Itâ€™s been a real blessing for me.
TCD.net: Who are some of your favorite fighters to watch?
Drew: Jesus Rivera is one of my favorites.Â He is out of 4oz fight club. I knew him from when we both trained at Miletich and his attitude as a man and as a fighter.Â Whatâ€™s not to like about the guy. He is a gentleman and a heck of a competitor. Of course, since I trained with Sam, I am a fan of Sam Hoger.Â A lot of people donâ€™t know the real Sam, but when you get to know him, he is a real caring individual, and a heck of a talented fighter. I am inspired by guys like Dan Henderson who takes fights at different weight classes even at an older age, and his attitude is one of a classic warrior. Everybody looks up to Fedor. Also Jon Kirk, Jon is tough to the point of stupidity, to the point of sacrificing his career for some fights. I donâ€™t think he has ever pulled out of a fight. He has fought with a broken ankle and a badly broken hand.Â This guy is the real life terminator. People donâ€™t realize that a lot of his losses came when he was severely disadvantaged, but Jon wonâ€™t make any excuses, and you have to respect that.
TCD.net: Â Your last fight was at 205, and this fight will be at Hwy. Which one of the two is a better weight for you?
Drew: Depends on how much Bacon I am eating. There a few basic principles in my life #1 is competing, # 2 is Bacon, # 3 is Pizza. New York Pizzeria which has been the sin that has entered my life recently. They have a location within 10 minutes of my house.Â I should sue someone for that. I am a pretty big light heavyweight. Â I was about 232 the night of my fight, and I had cut down to 207 which was a big cut.Â I definitely felt it. It didnâ€™t help that I had run a 103 fever the night before, and still had a fever during the fight. I would like to say that I had been hitting the weights and bulked up to heavyweight, but the reality is I have just been eating bacon. I have not even touched any weights. I am a natural heavyweight. Â I walk around 245- 250 depending on whether I am working out or not. I can lean way down and make 205. To answer the question 205 is the right class for me, but HWY is more fun.
TCD.net: Your first fight was a year ago and even with the weight cut and the fever you still managed to pull out a win. How have you grown since then?
Drew: I have grown in the waist. (Laughs) My wrestling has grown dramatically thanks to Frank Heaney. The guy is a total stud.Â There are a few guys in town that know about his wrestling prowess. He was a wrestling camp coach at Ohio State, has coached 37 different state champs in the different places he has coached. Frank brings a very aggressive style of wrestling which suits me, and I enjoy them all. I have also worked on my striking to become more well rounded.
TCD.net: As a gym owner and someone who is a fan of combat sports how do you explain the poor showings by Houston with some of the most recent seminars like Relson Gracie and Urijah Faber?
Drew: I have asked people about that directly, and I have heard a pretty common theme. This is a competitive combat sport with a lot of guys who are very competitive. And most people still have this fundamental belief that they need to be loyal to their school in the sense that they donâ€™t go anywhere else except their school. I have noticed in this town a lot of trainers discourage their students from working with anyone else. Thatâ€™s understandable since they are trying to protect their financial dealing.Â At American Combative Systems we are about building our community. ACS is the main source of income for none of us.Â Itâ€™s wholly and truly about the students. Thatâ€™s why we have an open door policy to anyone in the area. The coaches we have Bruce, Sual, and Frank will work with anybody to help them see success in the sport. I donâ€™t see any competition between ACS and anyone else. When you look at the demographics, there is no question that the area is completely saturated with potential customers.Â There is no need to compete with anyone for potential students. A lot of people have the mentality that they are helping thier school by not going to another school for a seminar. I go anywhere where my training will be furthered. I encourage my friends and even our students to do the same. I have been to seminars all over town. Draculino has been very gracious and allowed us to come into his school to roll, and we keep the door open for any of his students that want to come to ACS to roll. Hoger MMa, Metro, Bob and 4 oz all share that openness.
TCD.net: Have you seen any footage of your opponent Luke Hoffman?
Drew: I believe he only has one fight. He mounted his opponent and won via TKo. If I have the quote correctly his trainer said that â€œthe birds pick the bugs off of his back that his tail wonâ€™t reachâ€.Â He is supposed to be an animal. Which is good because I am one of the only guys that has an absolutely monster physical specimen for a coach in Bruce McGraw. I know that he has a zero percent chance of being stronger or more technical than Bruce. That doesnâ€™t mean he canâ€™t win the fight, but I will probably have been in every position he can possibly put me in.
TCD.net How does this fight end?
Drew: These fights are 3 minute roundsÂ with 60 seconds in between so there willÂ be an end.( Laughs) If the question is who will win I can say that I guarantee that I wonâ€™t finish worse than second come hell or high water. Thatâ€™s my guarantee.Â Bet on it!
TCD.net : Any mottos you live by?
Drew: Besides bacon? (Laughs) My faith in God is what centers my values even though I am not always a great example.Â Itâ€™s very important to me.
TCD.net: Anyone you would like to thank?
Drew: Bob Perez for letting me work with him and his guys here at 4oz fight club. I am very thankful for their help.Â My coaches atÂ American Combative Systems and New York Pizzeria for keeping me at heavyweight.