Interview: Jonathan “The Mack Truck” Mack

“This fight is so near and dear to my heart that I am coming out there with a purpose”

Jonathan “The Mack Truck” Mack

Interview by Eric Hostetter

If there were awards, such as Mr. Congenitally or Mr. Eligible Bachelor, handed out to the Houston MMA scene Jonathan Mack would be a shoe in for the Mr. Personality Award. However, this reputation that “Mack” carries is not the only cargo that “The Mack Truck” has. This truck carries two hands and two feet that come full throttle, looking to obliterate his opponent with malice intent.

I caught up with Jonathan this week to see what fuel this truck has before he faces Artenas “The Machine Gun” Young this Saturday, April 9th, in a Legacy FC Middleweight Fight at the Houston Arena Theater.

TCD.net: Aside from the obvious (your name), how did you get the nickname “The Mack Truck”?

Jonathan “The Mack Truck” Mack: Well, there are actually a few different reasons on how I got this nickname. Number 1, when me and my older brother were coming up… they called us so many different names. They called my brother “Jonny Mack” and me “Jonny Mack #2”… anything that had to do with the word “Mack”. Macaroni, Big-Mac, Mac-n-Cheese, all of that stuff that you can think of, we were named it. Fast forward a little bit, and my brother actually started to drive Mack Trucks, so of course that nickname got tacked on to us. So I decided to keep that one as a nickname.

TCD.net: Have you ever driven a Mack Truck?

Mack: Actually, I have. The first time I ever drove a truck was this one time I was riding along in a truck that was on I-10 going from El Paso to San Antonio when I was 17. We originally started the trip from all the way out in LA. Well the driver got a little tired around El Paso, and he turned to me asked, “Do you know how to drive a truck?” and I said, “No, but I can learn.” He then said, “Look, let’s switch seats real quick and I am going to teach you.” So we switched seats on the highway. So yeah, I drove from El Paso to San Antonio, while the driver was catching some Z’s.

TCD.net: Wait, y’all swapped seats while you were in a moving truck?

Mack: Yep!

TCD.net: Insane, but awesome at the same time. How did you get started in MMA?

Mack: I am a boiler maker by trade. I was at work this one time in Kentucky, and I was staying in Indiana, and a partner of mine was telling me that there is an MMA fight happening in the area and I should go sign up. So I did as soon as I got off of work.

The guy that they matched me up against was the Heavyweight Champion of the whole promotion (Battleground MMA). I went out and beat him in 1:30 of the first round with an armbar.

TCD.net: Wow! Talk about plunging right into the big time.

Mack: So after that, I thought to myself, “Well I guess I need to start training, and maybe I can do something with this.” That’s basically how I got started in MMA.

TCD.net: What gym(s) have you trained at?

Mack: Well my first bit of training came from the hood, with the likes of a Dragonfly Jones or a Kung-Fu Joe in the hood. Anytime anyone claimed that they knew karate; we had many masters. One of my best friends, Ed, was a 6th degree black belt and one of the main guys that taught us.

Believe it or not though, I learned most of my technique from reading books. I know people think that is crazy, but I learned a lot from watching fights, martial arts movies, and just reading books.

When I was living in Indiana, I took some karate classes up there for awhile. To me, my biggest accomplishment while I was there was that I was able to break one wooden board and the belt that I got to was a double striped white belt. However, I was still beating all of the black belts in the gym in sparring.

[laughter]

Since I’ve come back to Houston, I was training with Rocky Long for awhile, and now I am with RSKA and Silverback.

TCD.net: How do you like training with the likes of Derrick Lewis, Jason David Frank, and Coach Tony?

Mack: Shortly after I fought Jason David Frank, he came into Rocky Long’s gym while I was there. Everyone there was like “Be cool, be cool”. I honestly had no problem with the dude. We went at it pretty hard. All I can say after that, is that I have not met any other human being that can kick as hard as that dude. I’ve watched him lay out countless people at the gym, especially guys that come in being all cocky. I’ve seen him knock people straight out with those kicks. Training with him, I’ve learned a lot from him. His kicks are just unbelievable. The angles that he is able to create and come in on to knock you out is just amazing. A lot of the guys call those kicks “Spinning Power Ranger Kicks”. So yeah, the training I do over at RSKA is a lot of stand up work, and it is second to none. Training with the Patrick Hutton, Mike B, Ike, Drew, Kolton Englund.  Just a good pool of talent over there.

Now with Silverback, I just started with them last week. I just love it over there. Tony does a great job in training all us, he cares about us as a person, and honestly feel that this is the best place I can be for my MMA training. He has opened my eyes to a lot of things. I really want to thank him for that, and if I make it to the UFC, I want to be announced as “Jonathan ‘The Mack Truck’ Mack, fighting out of Silverback MMA”.

[Authors Note: My phone was acting up so I had to hang up and call Mack back. When I did, I explained that he was sounding a bit robotic and I was having a hard time understanding him, to which he responded, “No problem. In my off time, I am a transformer and I roll around as Optimus Prime.”]

TCD.net: What particular training routine(s) do you feel will pay dividends in the long run (or the short term)?

Mack: Three things. Learning better technique, having better cardio and sharpening my ground work. I’ve always had good stand up. I know I am not invincible, but I feel that I am pretty good. I feel like I am better within the moment, while I am learning my opponent as I am fighting them. I feel that it works pretty well for me. I can honestly say that I feel that I have not been out struck in a fight, well not since I was 6 years old and my best friend Fred beat me up. I am still looking for him.

[laughter]

TCD.net: Are you issuing a challenge out to your friend Fred to come on down to Houston to settle the score?

Mack: You damn right I am. When Fred gets out of prison in Mississippi, I’ll buy your ticket to come to Houston and come settle this in front of the world. When I was 6, you hit me in my stomach and made me cry. This time now I know I am ready for it and I won’t cry this time.

[Laughter]

TCD.net: Where do you see yourself in 2 years as a fighter?

Mack: I really don’t know. This fight has a lot hinging on it. If I win then obviously it will reinforce my motivation to keep doing this and dedicate more time to this. If I get enough time to train, I feel that I can go really far in this sport and be the best in whatever weight class I fight in.

TCD.net: With the TCD.net rankings that came out recently, were you surprised at all with not only your own ranking, but other people’s rankings?

Mack: I can’t say that I was surprised. It was ok with me. I saw that I slipped a little bit in the rankings because I was inactive. I was glad to be there at #7.

Me personally though, I don’t put a lot of stock into the rankings per say, until I go out of town. I love to tell people that I am the #5, (#7 now), welterweight fighter in Houston.

TCD.net: Poke out that chest a little bit further to your company, eh?

Mack: Exactly. I put on my medium size Tapout shirt so my chest and arms look big and get a reaction from people and they say, “Oh wow what do you do?” and then I tell them to get a few laughs.

But what is really important to me though is being in, and winning, the fights.

TCD.net: Tell us your thoughts on your upcoming match against “Machine Gun” Young?

Mack: My thoughts with my match with “Machine Gun”, is that it’s not about him. It is about me. I am at the point right now in my life that I need to think about where I am going professionally. My coaches and I have studied Chico and are coming into this with a strong game plan. I tell you one thing, I am coming into this fighting my heart out. This will probably be the best that you have ever seen out of “The Mack Truck”. This fight is so near and dear to my heart that I am coming out there with a purpose. This is the reason why you haven’t heard any trash talk coming from me. I am so serious about this fight that I cannot say anything personally about Chico as a fighter. I see this fight as me fighting my personal demons and everything that I need to do in the sport. My back is against the wall, everything is on the line. Win, lose or draw, I won’t be walking out with my head down. I will be in there doing the best I can do.

I got respect for Chico. I hate the fact that there has to be a loser in this. I don’t want to be that loser. I feel though that I get very little respect as a fighter sometimes, because either they haven’t seen me fight or have trained with me. I do wonder though how Chico will feel if he does lose this fight. I want this brother to go far in his career. If he loses, I don’t want to affect him too much negatively. I am saying this because people don’t think that I am a good fighter. Right now I feel that the whole community is thinking that Chico is gonna run right through “The Mack”. I want to prove them wrong and run through this wall that has been put up in front of me at 10,000 mph.

TCD.net: Ram through like a Mack Truck. What would you rather have, Fight of the Night or Submission of the Night Honors?

Mack: Definitely Fight of the Night. I’m a submission machine ever since I got the guillotine on the world great Taylor Moses. Everyone knows that this guy is a jiu-jistu machine, but after I submitted him, it really opened a lot of people’s eyes.

As long as the fans are happy with show, I am happy with that.

TCD.net: Fight of the Night or Knock Out of the Night?

Mack: I’ll still go with FoTN. People say that I have heavy hands, and I’m prone to have a knockout here and there. But in my career, I don’t have one tko win to my name. So I cannot even consider myself a knock out artist until I get a few more under my belt.

I want people to remember me more though as a great fighter, or a FoTN type of guy, than a quick knock out kind of guy. I still want the fight to be exciting. If a knock out comes then great, but I am not exactly aiming to end it fast.

TCD.net: Who are your favorite fighters? It can be local fighters or fighters up on the big stage.

Mack: On the national level without a doubt is Mr. Anderson Silva, Jon Jones and Alistar Overeem, anyone that has real natural fighting skill.

One of my favorite at the local level is Nate Garza. I believe that he has the skill to make it to the next level. Also, the guy that he is fighting, Angel Huerta, I like watching him fight too. I got to root for my boy Nate, but I respect Angel. Daniel Pineda, Adam Schindler, Ray Blodgett, Rey Trujillo. Anyone that just goes balls to the walls, I like them.

TCD.net: Is there anyone you would like to thank or give a shout out to?

Mack: I’d like to thank my wife, Caroline. She makes me the man that I am today. She does everything for me, I can’t say enough for what she does for me. I’d also like to thank my kids. They are probably one of the main reasons I fight, because they think it is cool. Whenever I go to their school, I’m filling out autographs. Rocky Long, Coach Tony, and Jason David Frank, all of my friends and family, and all of those people that are going to cheer and boo me.  

TCD.net: Thank you Jonathan for your time. Good luck in your match!