Interview: Yves Edwards

Fighting and making money is nice, but I don’t do it for the money…I fight because I love fighting.

Yves Edwards

Interview By: Barry Laminack

Yves Edwards is a Houston Legend.  There really is no other way to put it.  If they ever made a movie about the 6 degrees of separation for Houston MMA, Yves Edwards would be Kevin Bacon.  He’s left an indelible mark on Houston MMA.  Many equate his legacy with having already been written, but don’t tell him that.  Yves may have been to the mountaintop of MMA at one time, but he’s heading back up that mountain again.

I sat down with him back in May of this year when he was in town training with Todd More for a fight up in the North East. During that team he said that it was his number one goal to get back to the UFC.  Tonight, he reaches his goal, but something tells me he won’t settle, he won’t stop and he won’t disappoint.

TCD.net: What have you been up to lately?

Yves: I moved down to Florida and got with American Top Team and started training with those guys.  Mike Brown and I spent a lot of time together and trained a lot together and really helped each other out a lot and just got better and better you know.  Of course the crew and guys that are down there including Thiago Alves and Luigi Fioravanti and my wrestling coach Tyron Woodley started coming down (he’s fighting in Strikeforce at 170) so I had some good guys to train with.

Then my wife got a job in Austin and I was like, I miss Texas and my son and daughter are here s I figured we could come back and I could go back down there [Florida] for training camps.  I’ve been bouncing around fighting; trying to fight some tough guys and get some good wins. I fought for MFC, Raging Wolf and last year I fought for Shine.  Right before that fight I was out for 10 months with an orbital fracture, so the Shine fight was my first fight back.

TCD.net: Are the fans in Houston ever going to get to see you fight in Houston again or is the goal only to get back to the UFC?

Yves: The goal is to definitely get back to the UFC. There are still a lot of guys I want to fight there.  Until then, I’m basically a mercenary.  I would love to fight in Houston again. I fought in Dallas a few years ago and that was a lot of fun just being back in Texas, but I haven’t fought in Houston since 2001 I think. Yeah, I would love to fight here again, that would be big for me.

TCD.net:  For those that don’t know what it is, talk about Thug-Jitsu.  What is it?

Yves: Really it’s just a name. We have a lot of guys that throw the Thug-Jitsu name on their stuff; guys that I train with that are really good friends of mine like Tim Credeur and Carlo Prater.  The three of us have completely different styles you know, for example Tim’s Jiu-Jitsu is really really good and his hands are getting better. So Thug Jitsu is really just finding that weakness and exploiting it, it always has been.  The modern art of the beat down which is find where you are beater and keep it going there.  It doesn’t matter if you are a better wrestler, better striker or a better grappler, what ever it is, just figure out what you are better at than the other guy and exploit it over and over again until he either quits or the ref says that’s enough.

TCD.net: So, you’re 33 and you’ve had 50+ fights thus far. Is it starting to take its toll on you or do you still feel fresh?

Yves: I still feel young until I get beat up by these young guys out here.  Guys are getting better and tougher, but I don’t feel like “ohhh, I’m soo tired” and I’m not getting injuries and then not heeling. I’m still getting good rest and I’m still healing up.  The good thing about my style is that I haven’t been in a lot of wars and the ones I have been in were one sided.  The guys who are tough and like to bang have usually been the guys who couldn’t either keep up with my speed or technically I was a little better so even though I couldn’t put them away I was able to get the best of it and not take much of a beating.

Of course, I have some losses but it’s I’ve either gotten out shined or clipped.  The wars I’ve been in that I lost include me and Hansen and that was fun, and that guy STINKS! No I mean like, he smells.  He smells bad.

TCD.net: Do you think that was part of his strategy?

Yves: You know, I don’t know. He’s a friend of mine but he seems like he doesn’t know that he stinks.   No, he really does. I mean literally, I got out and there and we started fighting and I was like, “What the hell is that smell, “ and then I was like, “It’s him, it’s him!”

When we tied up and it felt like, “uhhh, I don’t want this guy on me, he stinks really bad.”

TCD.net: Was it distracting?

Yves: Yes it really was. At that point, I had had 30 fights and I have never smelled anything like that before in the ring, so I was distracted for a second. There was a time when the referee broke us up and separated us and we were a couple feet apart and I could smell it on me and I was like, “you know, it’s too late I can smell it on me so lets go.”

TCD.net: Who’s the toughest guy you’ve ever fought?

Yves: My toughest fight was me and Hansen I think. Kawajiri he was tough, but it wasn’t the fight, he was just too strong. He was ridiculously strong.  At the time I didn’t know how to wrestle at all. I could sprawl but that was about it.  He would take me down and just sit inside my guard. Not really even pound away he would just win the round on top. I couldn’t push his head, I couldn’t sweep him or anything, he would just lock down and he was just really really strong. But now he doesn’t fight like that, now he gets in there and mixes it up and now I can wrestle so it would be a different fight. I’m not saying I would win but it would be a lot more dynamic and a lot more fun.

The first Hermes [Franca] fight was tough. The second Hermes fight was tough but I had some personal things going on because my son was in the hospital so I didn’t really train. The guys at American Top Team tried to help me and that is the reason why I felt like I could trust those guys. Even thought Hermes and I were fighting, they tried to help me and rectify the situation and help me get ready for the fight.

The fight itself, the second time was tough because I gassed in the first round. That and he punched me square in the eye. Like his knuckles went into my eyeball so that hurt for a while.
My fight with Ludwig, that hurt. That’s were I fractured my orbital. It was freaky. I was on top of him inside his guard and he threw a punch up at me, hit me square in the eyeball and fractured my orbital.  I just remember thinking, “Fuck that hurt!”

I put my head down and tried to pass his guard.  I was like, “OK, pass him, mount him, punch him out, get his back and choke him.”

That’s all I kept thinking the whole fight. There where different things I should have done, but I just wanted to get out of there but I just couldn’t do it. I was throwing up after that fight; it was bad.

TCD.net: Was that the worst injury in your career?

Yves: Yeah, that was the only injury I have had during competing. I mean, I’ve broken my draw in practice.

TCD.net: Sounds like that was probably a low moment in your career.  So what’s your favorite moment, or the one thing you’ll always remember about your career?

Yves: There are 2 things that really stand out.  Of course my fight with Josh Thompson stands out because the finish was so dynamic. It wasn’t like I said I was going to jump and kick him in the head. It was just at the moment and being in the moment felt really good at that time.  Unfortunately it wasn’t for the belt like we were told before hand, but it was really cool because it was a big fight and at the time we were the best guys in the U.S.

Really the moment that was the best for me was when I wasn’t sure of myself and I didn’t feel right. I had just lost to Mark Hominick and I went back to Pride and fought Ikemoto. Before the fight everybody was telling me not to let the loss get me down, that it was a one-time thing and I didn’t look like myself.  I wanted to believe them but I couldn’t believe I let that happen.  I walked in thinking it was going to be easy and it wasn’t.

So when I fought Ikemoto, that was a decision win, but it was a really dominant fight for me. I won pretty much every minute of the fight.  After the fight I got a standing ovation from the people around the ring.  Not necessarily form the fans and crowd but from the people that knew me somewhat on a personal level you know.  Guys that were in and around the cage inside the fenced area like the guy that announces the Pride fights, Bas and all the guys commentating, the guys that were sitting inside the fenced area who watched.  I really appreciated that.  It made me feel good because this was the world that I lived in and these guys appreciated the things that I’ve done and wanted me to stick around.

TCD.net: What advice would you give to the young guys coming up that are trying to take it to the next level and make that next step?

Yves: I’ll say this because most people that are going to read this are from Houston. I tell this to my good friends and I wouldn’t want everyone understanding this, but I don’t think everyone will just because I say it but there are only two things that are important in fighting.  Winning fights is one of them.  Winning solves everything.  Of course you don’t want to be boring, but winning solves everything. You go out and fight your fight and don’t worry about things.  If you have to be dynamic you be dynamic, if you have to be a grinder you be a grinder, but remember that winning solves everything.

The other thing is that it doesn’t matter if you have steam rolled 20 guys in a row, that 21 guy wants it just as much as you do, so every time you step in there you have to want to break that guy. If you go in there and think he’s going to break for you and he doesn’t then the fight dynamic changes and it gets tougher. You have to go in there and want to go to war every single time. No matter how tough you are and no matter how the odds say you are supposed to win, you have to go to war.

TCD.net: What do you think Houston needs to do to take that next step and get more national recognition?

Yves: I still stay in touch with some of my buddies here in Houston.  There is still so much separation here man.  You get the young guys that are more modern in their thinking and are willing to go train with this guy or that guy and help them get ready. Then you still have some of the other guys who are like don’t go train over their or don’t go train over their.  That really just hinders the development.  I understand that some guys might fight guys from one gym fight guys from other gyms in town, but at the same time you guys have to get past that and not be fighting north side versus south side or what ever. Eventually you want to fight guys from Louisiana in Canada, or Oklahoma in Japan or from Lubbock in Vegas.

Everybody should help everybody get better. I completely understand the “I don’t like that guy,” or “I don’t want to train with him because we are the same weight,” or the fact that you might fight him one day, but once you get past that just train with guys.

Tim Kennedy is in Austin, Roger Huerta is in Austin, Kamal Shalarous is in Austin.  3 guys at the same weight, none of us on the same team but we’ll get together and fight.  I mean, we all know our experience and it’s not likely we are going to fight each other.

I mean, how many times do you get guys from Houston fighting other guys from Houston once you get past 5 fights.  If you have more than five fights, try and help each other out and try and help each other get better, because you’re going to be fighting guys from Dallas, Oklahoma, Florida or New York.  You won’t be fighting each other anymore.  The game is so big now.

TCD.net: Why do you think Houston is like that?

Yves: It’s not just Houston, a lot of other places are like that too.  Houston is more of a Jiu-Jitsu city than an MMA city.  I think its always going to be like that.  So you have this Jiu-Jitsu mentality of don’t train with those guys, but MMA is a different breed and a different sport, it just has aspects of Jiu-Jitsu in it.

TCD.net: You had a gym here in Spring back in the day. Talk about that a little bit.

Yves: I was the only gym in this area for a long time.  MMA wasn’t what it is now. This was before The Ultimate Fighter. I mean yeah I was fighting in the UFC. I started training with Tim Mousel a long time ago back in 97 or something like that then I trained with Saul Soliz, even when I had my gym.

So I started my gym here in The Woodlands and a lot of people didn’t even know what the UFC was at the time.  The first two people that joined my gym were Rocky Long and Jason Heck.  They both trained for a while. Rocky wanted to fight and Jason wanted to train.

Rocky was my sparring partner for along time.  Any time I needed somebody to train with Rocky was there. Round after round after round. A lot of my UFC fights I doubt I would have won with out that guy.

It’s so different now. Driving in down 1488 I saw another Gracie Barra gym.  I hear about the gyms that are out here now and it’s like, wow.  I had a tiny gym. It was 996 square feet. 2 small bathrooms, no shower, a ring and two heavy bags hung up. It was like hitting a bag in a prison cell. That was it, that’s all I had.

TCD.net: What is your career path or strategy now?

Yves: My strategy goes back to winning solves everything. You just keep winning and things will work themselves out. Yeah, I’d love to be back in the UFC because my goal is to get the number 1 spot, hold it as long as I can and then retire. Of course it’s a tough goal to achieve, even getting back in the top 10 is tough.

If you don’t have goals then what are you doing?

I love my wife, I have good kids and I’m satisfied with my life as far as the people who are in it. I don’t want to fight to be famous. Fighting and making money is nice, but I don’t do it for the money. Money of course helps facilitate doing it. I fight because I love fighting.

Kenny Monday said it best once.  If you are the best in the world at marbles, then you are the best in the world at that. There is nobody in the world better than you. I don’t care if its shooting marble or chewing gum, if you are the best in the world at something that is something you can be proud of.  To have that goal and to achieve that is a really good feeling. I’ve been arguable the best in the world at one point, so I’d like to get there and have no argument. I have a glimpse of the feeling and I want to achieve it.

TCD.net: Any thing you want to add before we go?

Yves: There are a lot of good guys in Texas that have helped me out a lot. Guys like Rocky Long, Todd Moore, Travis Tooke and Saul Soliz.

For the guys here in Houston – I’m sure there are some guys here who are like, man Yves Edwards, that guy’s awesome I love that guy.  In the same token, I’m sure there are some guys who think I’m a douche.  But I love this sport and I appreciate everybody who does this.

There was a time when I was coming up that I would go to a show and be like, “these guys suck, these guys absolutely suck.  They are horrible.”

I’m a pro and I’ve had 20 or 30 fights and these guys are amateurs, so why am I thinking like that.  So I step away form that and I watch these guys fight and I’m like, man this guy is going to be good and that guy is going to be good and this is fun to watch.  I don’t know if everybody has that tendency or not, but if you do man, back away from that and just watch it for what it is.  These guys are young guys coming up so look for their potential.

Don’t hate!

Don’t hate man. Especially on these locally guys.  There is a lot of work that goes into this.  The kids here in Houston that are trying to do this, support these guys.

TCD.net: Anybody you’d like to thank?

Yves: Yes. I want to thank MMA Warehouse and my guys over at America Top Team.  Also, everybody here in Houston that has ever supported me or said, “man, I like watching that guy fight.” The Houston fans are some of the most loyal in the world man and I really appreciate that, and that’s why I want them to support these local guys too.

Follow Yves on his new website at http://www.yvesedwards.com