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San Diego MMA Gym The Arena’s Fighters Make it to the Big Leagues

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Great interview profiling Felipe Portela, the latest fighter from The Arena to make it to the Big Leagues of MMA. Interview reprinted here:

Felipe “Balboa” Portela – SD’s Latest Fighter to Make It to the Big Show

Felipe Portela is the latest San Diegan to joins the ranks of Strikeforce, the MMA organization recently bought by the UFC. Together, the two organizations are the largest and most visible MMA promotions in existence today. We interviewed this exciting young fighter as he attempts his climb to the top.

RIS: You just got signed to Strikeforce and have your first fight in that organization this month. How do you feel?

FP: I’m very excited. To a young guy like me from Brazil, it’s a huge step to be fighting in such a famous fight promotion like Strikeforce. When I moved to the United States to become a professional MMA fighter, I dreamed this is where my travels would take me.

RIS: You’re still kind of a mystery to some people on the fight scene. Tell us about yourself.

FP: I am originally from Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. I grew up training Muay Thai and Kickboxing, as well as doing some Jiu Jitsu. I moved to San Diego 3 years ago and have been fighting ever since.

RIS: Yeah, we heard you are quite the kickboxer. But do think your striking abilities make you predictable as a fighter?

FP: I don’t think you. Of course I love to strike, but I’m also dangerous on the ground and I’ve really been working on my wrestling. I definitely look at myself as a well-rounded fighter these days.

RIS: What’s your record now?

FP: 7 wins, no losses.

RIS: That’s pretty impressive. Why do you think you have been doing so well?

FP: Honestly, I have been working hard on getting as good as I can. I also belong to a great team called The Arena. My teammates there are awesome and really help push me. Also, my coaches are incredible, definitely some of the best in the business.

RIS: Yeah, we’ve interviewed some of your teammates already, including Joe Duarte, the Cyborgs and Chris Cope. Tell us about them.

FP: Well, Joe is in Strikeforce like me and is doing really well. He just beat Jorge Gurgel in a huge victory last August, so he is climbing the ladder. The Cyborgs are also from Brazil like me and are a big inspiration. Cris and her husband Evangelista are these two really scary warriors when it comes to fighting, but are both very nice people in their everyday lives. And Chris Cope? Man, I don’t even know where to begin. He’s on his own planet sometimes, but he is a great training partner for me. Now he’s in the UFC, he seems to be getting better every day.

RIS: Most people in the sport have heard about The Arena and their fighters but might not know much else. Tell us what makes the gym so special?

FP: The fighters are obviously important because they are part of what makes this incredible team we have. But what also makes our team is the leadership. And we are really lucky to have great MMA coaches leading us, especially Pat Speight and Jeff Clark. Between the two of them, they have more MMA coaching experience than any gym in town and are definitely up there with any coaches anywhere in the world. They work together incredibly well and create the best training camps for fighters possible. They have run camps for over 30 fights this year and have only lost three times in 2011. I think they have one of the most winning records in MMA right now.

RIS: Jeff Clark is also your manager. How does it work having your manager also being your trainer?

FP: It works great. Because Jeff is always in the gym working with us, he knows exactly where we are at as fighters. This really helps when it comes to him guiding our careers. Jeff is one of the only trainers/managers in the business and the combination is a huge bonus. Plus he always looks out for us and gets us good fights, which is really hard sometimes in this business.

RIS: So where do you go from here?

CC: I’m just going to take it step by step. Right now, I need to concentrate on winning my upcoming fight. After that, I’m just going to concentrate on always improving and being ready to fight whoever Strikeforce throws at me.

RIS: We wish you luck Felipe. We will be following your career and hope to see you on the top.

FP: Thanks. I hope to talk to you again once I get there.

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