Friday, April 23, 2010

Q&A with North Philly MMA star Anthony Morrison

North Philly native Anthony Morrison (26 years old) is one of the best 145 pound Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters in the world. He fights for World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC), a 10 year old company that, in the past 18 months, has surged in front of a sea of competing MMA promotions. This Saturday they host WEC 48, their inaugural pay-per-view event — their first (and possibly only) chance to galvanize their emergence. Anthony Morrison is on the undercard, meaning he will only be televised if 1) he fights his ass off and 2) some quick knockouts on the main card free up time in the broadcast.

So why is Morrison important?

This event should succeed, the WEC is pulling out everything in their arsenal. The real question is, can they maintain the momentum? That is where Morrison comes in, he swims in a sea of young contenders trying to distinguish themselves. Of course they need to win to do that but they also need to draw. This translates to having aggression and style that makes fans call out for more. Those who draw and answer those calls keep fighting and keep the promotion going.

Morrison still lives and trains in North Philly save for excursions out of state to work with other camps. We caught up to “Cheesesteak” while wrapping up a session in Georgia earlier this week.

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Charles Cieri: Before we go through your rise to prominence, can you talk about ‘dojo crashing’ back in the day?

Anthony Morrison: Funds was low. I used to go to a gym and see the free week pass [promotional trial offer]. I knew if I beat people up straight of the gate, they would be like ‘sign the contact’ and I knew I didn’t have anything to pay them with. After a while people seen my passion and some gyms would let me train and say ‘pay us when you can.’

CC: Now that everyone knows not to get lippy with that new white belt at their gym. How did you get started on the path?

AM: Because of my stature — I was a real small kid — I was automatically a target for bullies and I used to tear them apart. After a while I started proclaiming myself the bully of bullyiers. I had a little mean streak in me, maybe its my Napoleon Complex, if you came up picking for me, I didn’t turn down no fights.

CC: When did the fighting get structured?

AM: I was 14-15, I saw boxing and thought I could do it. I wrestled in high school and that was a good passion for me. I had three older brothers and, not thinking we were training by roughing each other up, it was being bread into me. I started Putting it all together in 2002. One day I was watching UFC 39, and I thought I can do that- its Wrestling and boxing. I started training at my friend's house, we would move everything out of the living room and me and him would just go over what I already knew and put together what I saw on TV.
Within two months of [competing] I beat two guys in one night that had way more MMA training. I was [training] out my friend’s living room and ran up my record to 5-0 until I ran up against a guy with more experience. As far as wrestling and boxing, no one could take me but it was a guy with the jui-jitsu. Thats when I realized jui-jitsu is a big factor.

CC: Lets skip ahead a bit, did things keep rolling or were there bumps?

AM: Hell yea, man. I messed up my back real bad and got pressured into a fight where I ended up losing because of the injury. I said, “I’m sick of this, if I had a job with benefits, they would’ve fixed me up with time off and I would have went back to work.” It sucked, I stopped fighting for a while and worked two full time jobs in Plymouth Meeting, 16 hours a day. I would go to Target and work 8 hours and cross the street and work overnight at Loews.

I wasn’t training at all but every lunch break I would go over to the Barnes and Nobles and look at fight magazines and see friends I used to train with and it was motivation. One day, I got tired of it. I ran six miles and my lungs were burning, there was a burning desire telling me it was time to compete again — to put all my chips in — and thats what I did.

CC: How do you end up on the WEC radar?

AM: I knew they where eyeing me because I was fighting prospects that were looking to get in there.
I fought Jeff Lentz, and he is a tough guy out of New Jersey who trains with [UFC 155 pound contender]Kurt Pellegrino. I knew [Lentz] was on the tear, undefeated with wins in a variety of different ways. Then a month before, he knocked someone out in 16 seconds, “I was like damn, this guy’s a fucking beast!” Then I went in and demolished him.

Then, two weeks latter, for me to go out to Colorado, unacclimated and destroy a guy out there. I was like, ‘Two prospects back to back plus a lot of people I defeated in a long run — they got to have me in their eyes.’

CC: Your first fight in the WEC was a tough assignment- Mike Brown in his first fight after losing his belt. How did you change your game after your debute loss?

AM: The biggest thing I wanted to work on was my life outside the cage, lot of things weren’t right. Any fighter will tell you if things aren’t right outside the ring, they wont go right inside. You got to be 100 percent.
I focused and dedicated a lot of time to my family and catching up. I got all that together.

CC: I have talked to fighters in the past, specifically BJ Penn and Kurt Pelligrino who both — like you — have young kids. They described a need to separate themselves from their kids for a period of time before they fight because the kids make them too happy and take away their anger. Do you find that to be the case?

AM: I isolate from the distractions, but my family isn’t one of them. I train in Philly and the two fights that got me here- I trained for them in Philly. I just isolate myself from my friends, playing around and the streets.

CC: Lastly, in the Brown fight you were introduced as ‘fighting out of Virginia’? You were yelling North Philly into the camera but still, you’re going to sort that announcer out for this fight, right?

AM: When I go back HOME, its Philadelphia and I got a lot of shit from my friends for that. I take pride in where I’m from and this time he will most definitely be saying “from Philadelphia.” Morrison gave love to his coaches: Fred Jenkins at ABC gym in North Philly and Brad Daddis at Daddis Fight Camps in South Philly.

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WEC 48 will be broadcast live on pay-per-view this Saturday night at 10pm ($45 charge). Spike TV will be showing two undercards at 9pm- Alex Karalexis v Anthony Pettis in the 155 pound devision and Leonard Garcia v Chan Sung Jung in the 145 pound devision. The pay-per-view will also be shown at The Fox and the Hound at 15th and Spruce. As of press time, they were not sure if they would charge a $5 cover or show the fights for free.
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