“When I was 25 I thought I was too old to get back into training. But now at 29 I realize I’ve just grazed the surface…”
Levi “The Barbarian” Forrest
Interview and Photos by: Barry Laminack
Often as I write these introductions for fighter interviews, I try to think of descriptive words to use when talking about them. The goal of these introductions is to try and paint a picture as to the type of person they are, not just the type of fighter they are. So as I sat here thinking of the best way to describe Levi Forrest to you, the same two words kept popping into my head: “good guy”.
That’s it. Levi Forrest is a good guy.
I wish I could be more creative or more descriptive, but it’s hard to stray from the truth. He’s not flamboyant or boisterous and he’s not going to trash talk anyone. He’s a hard working husband and a father of 4 (3 step-daughters and a son) who loves MMA and loves to fight.
But Levi isn’t just a good guy, he’s also a good fighter. He’s undefeated at 6-0-0 and he is the #1 ranked Welterweight in Houston. Not bad for a guy who has only been fighting for 4 years. Now mix in the fact that he works in the Alaskan oil fields 14 straight days a month, leaving him only 14 days a month to train and it becomes even more impressive.
On March 20th, Levi is set to face what is undoubtedly his toughest challenge in the cage to date when he squares off against the #2 ranked Welterweight in Houston, Mike Bronzoulis. In between sparring sessions, I had a chance to sit down and talk with Levi about his roots as a fighter and his upcoming title fight.
TCD.net: How did you get your start in MMA?
Levi: I was living in a small town in Alaska at the time. My wife, her sister and her brother-in-law went to a local MMA show and after seeing it, she called me up and said that she thought I could be competitive at that level.
TCD.net: How long ago was that?
Levi: 4 years ago.
TCD.net: How long have you been a pro?
Levi: In Alaska there is no athletic commission, so there is no amateur or pro, so I got paid for my first fight.
TCD.net: Talk about your training up in Alaska?
Levi: I lived and trained in a small town. A couple of guys and I enjoyed the sport and learned a lot of stuff off the Internet. Most of us, including me, had a wrestling background. I used to wrestle back in Pennsylvania. There are two big schools in Anchorage Alaska, one is a Gracie Barra school and the other is a Gracie affiliate. So when I got a little more competitive and started fighting in Anchorage’s biggest show, I would go and do two week camps at the Gracie Barra school under Ted Stickel.
TCD.net: How did you get the nickname â€œThe Barbarianâ€?
Levi: I went up to that Gracie Barra school in Anchorage, and the striking coach their ended up calling my striking coach from the town I lived in and asked him, “who’s this guy you sent up here? He has no skill but he’s like a barbarian, beating up all my guys!”
My coach passed that on to me, and it just kind of stuck.
I also had a thick, full beard, so…
TCD.net: Any plans on growing the beard back?
Levi: No, this is as thick as I can get it. I work in an oil field in Alaska, 14 days on and 14 days off, so I have to keep clean shaven.
TCD.net: How do you manage to train and keep that schedule?
Levi: It’s like 2 steps forward and 1 step back every month. They do have a weight lifting facility and all the cardio equipment you could dream of up there, and over the last 3 years I have been able to talk them into adding a little mat room and a heavy bag, but with no training partners and no instruction, I just try not to lose too much. I mean you still lose that feel of the live sparing and grappling, but at least I can physically stay in shape when I’m up there.
TCD.net: What are you looking forward to in this title fight?
Levi: I just hope to not get hurt, not hurt my opponent and to put on a really good show. I’m in the best condition, best fight shape and am the best trained I’ve ever been. All I can do is hope to compete at my full potential.
TCD.net: What are the advantages of having an active pro fighter [Chad Robo] as your coach?
Levi: I think it’s a big advantage because they are still familiar with the emotions and intense feelings that go along with a fight. A coach that has never been in the cage and competed, I would assume, would have a real hard time understanding what their fighter is going through the last couple of weeks of preparation.
Having a coach that can level with you and make sure you can mentally prepare is important.
TCD.net: Who will you have cornering you in this fight?
TCD.net: Talk about the benefit of having that kind of experience in your corner?
Levi: I’ll have more confidence in this corner than any other corner I’ve ever had. Knowing that they have been there and done that gives me a huge confidence boost. Knowing that those guys, with their professional perspective, are watching me and correcting anything I’m doing wrong.
TCD.net: Do you have a preference between a TKO/KO or submission?
Levi: I’ll take advantage of any weakness I can, so no, I don’t really have a preference. A wins a win.
In this fight, I’d be really happy with a 5 round decision. It would really build my confidence because I know what kind of fighter Mike is. I’ve watched his fights, I’ve seen who he’s fought, so I’d like it to go a few rounds and be a close win or a late submission or stoppage.
I want to establish my name more and I think that me and Mike being ranked number 1 and number 2 are going to help, so I don’t think there will be any doubters after next weekend.
TCD.net: So, why do you fight?
Levi: I wrestled for 12 years and loved the competition. I’ve always been a gym rat, and loved the UFC. When I was 25 I thought I was too old to get back into training. But now at 29 I realize I’ve just grazed the surface, and watching the guys I idolize on TV I think I could have 8 or 10 years left; god willing I avoid injuries.
I could see myself start phasing it out as the kids get older.
TCD.net: How old are the kids now?
Levi: I’ve got 3 step daughters that are 12, 8 and 6 and my son if 4 months.
TCD.net: Do you think that Mike’s experience makes you a slight underdog?
Levi:Yeah, I put myself in the underdog position. I watched his fight against Kamal [Shalarus], great fight; and then his fight against Cleburn Walker was very competitive and Mike ended up winning with a big head kick in the first round. Those are two tough competitors and those where great fights. I don’t know if there is such a thing as a Texas classic, but those would be in there.
TCD.net: So, what is going to make THIS fight a Texas classic?
Levi: I think the intensity level that Mike and I are going to bring. We both train hard and we’ll both come in in good shape. Between us we have 15 or 16 fights, so we are going to bring it.
TCD.net: How do you see this fight ending? What is your prediction?
Levi: I don’t have a prediction. I have no idea. In fact, we decided not to even come up with a game plan. I’ve seen Mike ground and pound, I’ve seen him shoot double leg take downs and I’ve seen him throw spinning back kicks. I don’t want to come up with a game plan, I just want to go out there and fight with him.
Like I said, win lose or draw, I just hope we put on a good show and leave on our feet under our own power?
TCD.net: Anything you’d like to say to Mike?
Levi: With a week left, stay safe and no last minute injuries. We’ve both put way to much emotional and physical effort into this, so lets make sure we are 100% when we do it.
TCD.net: Anybody you’d like to thank?
Levi: My wife and kids for giving up all my time.
I want to thank Ted Stickel, Todd Moore, Chad Robo and Daniel Kim. Also, thanks to Ragan McDaniel, even though he never responds to any text messages, rarely an email and he NEVER answers his phone [laughs]. All kidding aside, he does a lot for me and takes really good care of me, even though he’s hard to get a hold of.
I’d also like to give a special thank you to my strength and conditioning coach, Jason Oman.