“He can look for the shot all day, but I don’t need a shot to take you down. I’ve got other ways to do it.”
Interview By: Barry Laminack
Gold Team Houston fighter Lex Pappas is making the most of a great situation, but then that’s nothing new to him. His whole life has been about seizing the opportunities that are put in front of him. Whether it be to move out of his home state for a chance to better himself, or to take a job at a gym that allows him to do what he loves full time, Lex is willing to seize the moment. The same is true for his title fight with Ike Villanueva at IXFA 6 on Saturday night. When he was offered the fight, he jumped at the chance.
I called Lex the night before his fight to find out more about him as a person and as a fighter, but to also find out what was going through his mind leading up to the biggest fight in his young career.
TCD.net: What do you normally do the night before a fight?
Lex: Eat a lot of carbs, drink a lot of water, pump my self full of electrolytes and try and give myself as much fuel as possible. I try and rest and not get too worked up.
TCD.net: Are you nervous the night before?
Lex: No. I’m usually nervous up until the weigh-ins. Then at the weigh-ins I chill out and relax. At that point everything is done and now it’s just time to do it. I’m a big believer in train as hard as you can so that when you get to the fight it’s as easy as possible. That’s Jorge’s thing too.
TCD.net: It’s no secret that Ike is a guy who likes to come out head hunting, looking for the KO. Does training with Macaco, who’s also a very aggressive fighter, help you in a fight like this?
Lex: It gives you a lot of advantages. Not just in sparring but in everything. It’s all done to make you stronger.
It’s not just from what he’s done, but all the people that he has trained and worked with and the caliber of fighters that he has helped produced. It really makes you shut up and listen.
TCD.net: Where were you before you went out to Gold Team Houston.
Lex: I originally am from Cincinnati. I trained under Neal Rowe, who is Rich Franklin’s Muay Thai instructor.
TCD.net: Interesting that you trained with a stand up guy. I know you are a wrestler too. What would you say your base is?
Lex: I’m pretty comfortable with everything, but my background in wrestling. As a kid in Ohio you start learning wrestling about the same time you learn how to walk. I started in the kids programs, and then my high school was 6th in the nation. I wrestled under Archbishop Moeller High School, which produces a lot of athletes. It’s an all male school that is very competitive. I wrestled in college at a school in Pennsylvania. I competed on the USA wrestling club, doing both freestyle and Greco Roman.
TCD.net: How did you make the transition into MMA?
Lex: I needed something to do after college. I got bored just sitting around. I was always one of those kids that was always doing something. I played football, basketball, baseball, lacrosse and I wrestled so I always had something to get into. When I got older I needed something to get into so a friend of mine helped me out and got me an in with Neal and I started training with him. Obviously the first thing I needed to work on was my stand-up.
I worked with Neal for a while and l learned a lot of Muay Thai. I even fought under him as an amateur.
TCD.net: So you fought up there in Ohio as an amateur, but made your pro debut down here in Texas right?
Lex: Yeah, things are not exactly great up there in Ohio, times are tough and jobs are low. I had a buddy of mine offered to let me live with him in a nice house. I needed cash at first so I was like, screw it I went undefeated as an amateur, let me see what I can do with this.
I didn’t really train for my first two fights as a pro and the performances speak for themselves. I met up with Jorge and started training and really put forth the effort. I went back to my old ways where I put 110% into it. I started winning and though my record isn’t great now, I’m turning it around.
TCD.net: You work at Gold Team Houston full time right?
Lex: Yeah, I do the office stuff there and I also coach wrestling and teach the kids program there.
TCD.net: So do you like the teaching side of it?
Lex: Oh yeah, it’s fun. I had coached before for a junior high. I was even offered a job from my old high school to be the wrestling coach, but I wasn’t looking to do that at the time.
TCD.net: You mentioned you went to college. Did you end up finishing?
Lex: No I got in a bit of trouble and never did finish.
TCD.net: You know I have to ask…what kind of trouble?
Lex: Fighting. I went through some other problems for a while too when I was just killing time and didn’t really have a direction to go in my life. You go out and you drink. I don’t know if you have ever been up to Ohio, but it’s a big tough state. People are a bit more rowdy up there and especially when you live in the city, it’s a big bar scene so you get in trouble quick. I would tend to be the one who would come out on top so when the cops would get there I would have 3 or 4 guys laid out and they are questions me as to what happened.
One time I had gotten arrested and had 6 different counts of assault from different people.
I credit a lot to this sport for changing me and giving me some place to go.
TCD.net: Has MMA suppressed that urge to fight outside of the cage?
Lex: Definitely. Since I started fighting MMA I have not gotten into one street fight. IT helped me to really channel and control a lot of the aggression. It has given me a time and place to do it. On top of that I have found myself not wanting to get into bad habits. I felt the effects of the bad habits when I was training, so I decided that the drinking and stuff had to go. I still drink on occasion, but not nearly as often as I used to.
TCD.net: How old are you?
Lex: I’m 27.
TCD.net: Is MMA a career for you? Is there and endgame so to speak for you with this sport?
Lex: Yeah, this is a career for me. I can’t do anything else. I’m not an office guy or a 9 to 5’er. There is nothing wrong with that; I’m just a gym rat. I need competition. I feel that this sport is where I need to be and what I need to do.
Endgame? I want to be and compete at the highest level. Then, when it’s time to end I want to go to the next level coaching and help people reach their goals and dreams.
TCD.net: Lets talk about your fight with Ike. Do you prepare any different for a guy who is heavy on the boxing like Ike or do you have a set camp that you do?
Lex: Yeah, little things here and there, but it’s still about putting good combinations together and looking for opportunities. Just kind of seeing what he gives me and just be smart. Using your head is always important.
TCD.net: You guys have a common opponent in Artenas Young. Do you use anything from their fight vs how you felt in your fight with Young to help you prepare?
Lex: To some degree yes and to some degree no. There fight didn’t really give me a lot. They mixed it up some, but then again they really didn’t. I took a little bit from it here and there but I don’t think I can get too much from it. I think he [Ike] think he has me on the feet, so I don’t think he is going to give me the respect that he showed to Artenas. I think he’s going to come after me, as opposed to with Aretnas where I think he respected his hands more.
TCD.net: Do you have a preference or do you care where the fight takes place?
Lex: Yeah, I prefer the ground. I’m a ground monster. On the ground I’m very hard to control and very hard to get off of. I keep moving, I change positions a lot and I’m very fast. It is what I prefer, but at the same time I can handle what ever.
TCD.net: Is there anybody here in Houston that you are training with to keep your wrestling skills sharp?
Lex: Not really. I have some guys that I’ve trained with that have a bit of a wrestling base and I’ve had some guys come in from California that have some wrestling that also want to train with Jorge. I also have a lot of guys at the gym who are catching up really fast. Also, Jorge is an incredible grappler as well.
TCD.net: Are you belted in BJJ?
Lex: Yeah. I have my blue belt under Jeff Messina at Revolutions Dojo. I’m working on my Purple belt under Macaco.
TCD.net: Do you have a prediction for the fight? Do you see it going a certain way?
Lex: You know, I don’t like doing predictions. I know I’m going to win, it’s just what ever happens. I’m ready to go. I like deeper waters. I’d like to take this a couple of rounds or so because I don’t think he has the gas tank.
TCD.net: Will you use anything from his last fight against Brian Lightfoot to help prep you for this one? He seems to do well stuffing the shots in that fight.
Lex: I don’t know. I didn’t really study that one too much. If I want to take him to the ground, he’s going to the ground. I’ll find a way. It’s not just about shots, I’ve got Greco too, I’ve got freestyle, I’ve got throws…there are many different ways for me to take him to the ground. He can look for the shot all day, but I don’t need a shot to take you down. I’ve got other ways to do it. My Judo is pretty nasty too; I have a lot of different weapons. I’m a true mixed martial artist.
TCD.net: If you win the title, what’s next for you?
Lex: Personally, I’d like to fight Artenas again. I told AJ Hoffman that as well. I don’t agree with that decision in the first one. I’d like to go fight in Legacy too. There is talk of me maybe going to Korea or New Jersey. Plus, I’m sure IXFA will have somebody ready who wants to rip the belt off my waste too.
TCD.net: Anybody you want to thank before we go?
Lex: Yeah. Zebra Mats, Igloo, Gold Team and Fresh Catch on Highway 6. Also thanks to all the guys at the gym for all the help and support.
TCD.net: Thanks for your time Lex, good luck tomorrow.