Interview: Jace Pitre

“I want guys to think, ‘Man I don’t want to stand with him, but I may not want to go to the ground with him either’.”

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Jace Pitre

Interview by: Richard Burmaster

Photos by: Barry Laminack

Jace Pitrie is used to getting things done quickly. The 3 fights that he has had in the cage (all 3 wins) have amounted to a total cage time of less than 6 minutes. In fact, his pro debut lasted just 43 seconds before he latched on a deep triangle and forced a tap.

Fast starting people usually don’t follow the basics, but Jace is not one of those people.  Time and time again, his boxing coach, Lewis Woods and his BJJ /MMA instructor, Travis Tooke, have drilled into him the basics.  They have also drilled into him a core belief in great technique, and after watching his most recent training session at Team Took, it appears to be working.

I was able to slow down this fast starting, high energy guy long enough to talk with us about his style, his history and his upcoming Legacy FC pro fight against Jesus Rivera on November 7th at the Houston Arena theatre (http://www.lonestarbeatdown.com/).

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TCD.net: How did you get your start in MMA?

Jace: To be honest with you, I was in Austin, and I started trying jiu-jitsu.   Like everybody else, I saw the UFC.  I was fourteen, and I loved it.  Royce Gracie actually inspired me.  It’s kind of a cliché story, but it’s true.  I started taking jiu-jitsu with a Carlos Machado Black Belt named William Vandry.  I had already been training for 5 and half years in just jiu-jitsu and one and a half year’s with my boxing coach Lewis Woods.  At that time, MMA wasn’t sanctioned in Texas, so I didn’t really get my start in MMA until last year.

One of my best friends is a stud pro fighter named, James Head, I think his record is 5-1.  He just fought Jesse Forbes who was on the Ultimate Fighter. He lost that fight, but he lost to a close decision. I helped him train, and he was like, “Dude you have to fight.  Do you want to fight on the same card I am fighting on? It’s a pro/am card.  It’s in 3 days”. I was coming off a couple of injuries, so I told him, “You want me to fight in 3 days?   I’ve never fought before.”  He was like, “no you’re going to kill the guy”.  I said screw it, took the fight and I won in 40 seconds by rear naked choke.

TCD.net: How many amateur fights have you had?

Jace: I’ve had two amateur fights. One in Oklahoma, and then one against a real tough guy  in Hammond LA named Chad Ferris, who reminds me of the guy I’m about to fight, Jesus Rivera.  That fight went to the 2nd round, and I ended up getting a triangle choke.

TCD.net: Would you say your background is more of a standup fighter or a ground fighter?

Jace: A lot of people ask me that.  Yes, I’ve been training jiu-jitsu for a long time; I’m a brown belt.  I want to get my black belt soon.  When I started training with Louis Woods, Rocky Long, Yves Edwards, and Todd Moore, those guys really opened my eyes to what MMA is, and it’s not jiu-jitsu. You know a lot of guys think, especially in jiu-jitsu schools, that because they wear a brown belt or a purple belt in jiu-jitsu that they can be an MMA fighter and that is absolutely not the case.  I found out that a lot of my stuff in jiu-jitsu does work really well, but a lot of my stuff doesn’t work.  So to answer your question, yes I feel like I’m more of a ground guy, but after working with those guy, I really developed a passion for standup.  I’ve been working so hard on that for the last two years.  When they think about fighting me, I want guys to think, “Man I don’t want to stand with him, but I may not want to go to the ground with him either.”

TCD.net: There are some very high level coaches here at Team Tooke. What does it mean to you to have that type of experience in your corner?

Jace: Man, it mean’s a lot you know.  In my second fight with Chad Ferris, I had him in the triangle choke for like 35 seconds, and if you get in a triangle choke and it is tight, you don’t last 35 seconds, but I just could not get him.  I could not put enough pressure on the choke to finish him, so I looked over at Travis as I have the triangle locked up, and I threw my hands up like, “what do I do”? Travis yelled, “Hug your leg”, so I reached over and hugged my leg and 2 seconds later he’s tapping.  That kind of experience in your corner, somebody that really knows your game that well, that’s invaluable. Lewis Woods  has over 100 amateur boxing matches and 33 and 1 as a pro boxer.  I mean the guy fought Oscar de la Hoya.  This guy knows the game!  To have that kind of experience in your corner, it’s almost like 2 people fighting one person.

TCD.net: Speaking of  Lewis Woods, he’s known for having a very technical and aggressive style. Do you try to incorporate that into your fighting style?

Jace: When I fight, I like to come forward.  I don’t feel like I’m a counter puncher. I feel like that’s also just something that’s in my nature, not necessarily something that Lewis has put into me, but something that maybe I was born with and I’ve kind of developed from working with him.

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TCD.net: How did you get connected with Lewis Woods?

Jace: Through Yves Edwards. Yves is someone I look up to and who really inspires me. I started training with Coach Woods, and he became a mentor to me.

TCD.net: You are one of the instructors at Team Tooke. What is the most important thing a student needs to remember at all times?

Jace: Honestly, just be humble.  There is somebody around the corner that may not have even trained as long as you that is going to put you in your place, so just be humble and come to learn.  There are some people who are like “no you can’t teach me anything”.  I feel like even as the instructor I am always learning, even from the students.  If you see something in my technique just say, “Hey I’ve seen it this way, have you thought about it this way?”  I like to keep an open door policy.  Yes, I teach the class and I run the practices, especially the MMA on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, but if you have something to offer, I’m going to open my mind to that.

TCD.net: Your last win was a submission win over Gilbert Jimenez in 43 seconds of the 1st round. How did it feel to get that first pro win?

Jace: It felt awesome.  It really felt like it validated all the training that I’ve been doing.  I had heard he’s a real tough guy. I just didn’t want to get caught with anything scrappy.  I know that Gilbert is 7 and 2 as a amateur and he’s won a couple titles.

It felt good to get out there and cut my teeth on the pro level.  To be in the back, where I feel like I belong with all the guys, like Ricco, Nick Gonzales, Daniel Pinedia, and Marcus Hicks.  All these guys get a lot of respect around town, around the scene and even on the national level. It felt good get to that spot and win because I felt like I’ve worked so hard for so long.  That was the first fight too, so it was even more nerve racking.  I was the first fighter to walk out.  I was the first fight of the night, so I was like “I guess it’s better to just get thrown to the wolves”.

TCD.net: You have a strong background in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Boxing. Which is a better starting ground for new fighters?

Jace: It just depends on what you are interested in.  I feel like either one can be a solid base if you have the correct instruction.  Personally, I started with grappling.  I was inspired by the early UFC fighters, the wrestlers, and the jiu-jitsu guys like Royce Gracie. I know guys who come in, and they start with a boxing background, with a really technical boxing instructor, and they learn how to sprawl and do some standup.  I’ve been working a lot with a guy named, Michael Corley, everybody calls him Irish, and he’s got some decent defenses on the ground, but his Muay Thai is awesome.  He’s probably going to fight MMA soon. You guys need to watch out for him because he’s going to bang some guys up.

TCD.Net: Who are your favorite fighters?

Jace: I love GSP, Georges St. Pierre.  The guy’s work ethic and just his humbleness, if that’s even a word, is unbelievable.  He’s a beast!  You know who else really inspires me is Donald Cerrone.  That guy is so tough, he’s tough as nails.  I really enjoy watching those guys fight.  All the top level guys you’ve got to like, but those two guys really stand out in my mind.

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TCD.net: How did you get started with Team Tooke?

Jace: I was in California where I was training with a Rickson Gracie black belt named Fabio Santos, then I moved back to Houston. I had been in the Carlos Machado network of jiu-jitsu before, so I started training with Alvis Solis over at Solis Martial Arts.  I’d heard so much about Travis Tooke, but he was in Brazil at the time.

When he came back, somebody said “You’ve got to go train with Travis.” I was a blue belt at the time, so I went over there, and we started training in his garage.  I mean we were on mats that weren’t even full size.   Jayson Rogers and I were like the first guys to grapple with him in his garage, and he literally made me feel like I didn’t know a day of jiu-jitsu.  He passed my guard like it wasn’t even there and tapped me in like 2 seconds and I was doing well at the time as a blue belt.

We rolled last Monday night, and you know, he did me the same way he did five years ago in that garage.  People just don’t realize how good the guy is at everything.  I’m not taking anything away from any other schools; there are a lot of really tough guys in Houston.  I’ve actually cross trained with a lot of guys, like Chad Robo, and Jordan Rivas from Elite Martial Art, who is a really tough guy.  Travis Tooke is amazing.  People need to watch out when they roll with him because he’s just so technical.

He’s also the nicest guy in the world, and so humble.  Good things happen to good people, and Travis Tooke is one of the best people I’ve ever met.

TCD.net: Any words for your opponent Jesus Rivera?

Jace: I’m not big on the smack talking. I like to leave that to the night of the fight.  I have respect for Jesus.  I think he’s a technical striker.  He’s a tough guy, a very credible opponent.  I know he’s going to be ready, and I’m going to be ready too.  It’s going to be a good one for the fans to watch.

TCD.net: Any advice for young fighters just now starting?

Jace: Listen to your coaches.  The biggest thing in my mind to be a good fighter is determination.  We have a high turn around rate in this sport.  There are a lot of guys who come in and a lot of guys who train for a couple weeks, and then it’s too hard.  Just keep coming.  You keep coming, and you’re going to get better.  If you keep an open mind, eventually you will get to the point where you are reaching your goals.  I know that’s what most trainers say, but it’s the truth.  Keep and open mind and keep your ego out the door, and you’ll do fine.  You will develop into somebody that you want to be.

TCD.net: At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to make your living as a martial artist?

Jace: Just recently.  I’ve been training for so long, and it was just a hobby for me, until last year when I took that first fight.  I had been battling a lot of injuries.  I talked about this after my first win, on King of Combat during the post fight interview.  I had fractured a couple vertebrae in my neck and a herniated disk. That’s an injury that just nagged at me.  The doctor wanted to do surgery, but it’s something that I felt like I could overcome.

When I took that first fight last year, I said, “Okay I’m going to try and make this happen.” Then, less than a year later, I turned pro. I didn’t have that many amateur fights because I was trying to get over that injury, but now I’m healthy and feeling better.  I just recently made the decision that I’m going to put everything into it.

TCD.net: Anything you’d like to say to the fans, friends, or family?

Jace: To my family, my friends, and all my training partners, I just want to say,”Thank you, and look out for November 7th, there’s going to be some fireworks, and you don’t want to blink. It’s going to be the fight of the night.”