Saturday, July 3, 2010

Blackhouse, so much more than just a gym

Look up the word black in the dictionary and you'll find numerous definitions, all with negative connotations to them. Therefore, the casual person may assume that a place called Blackhouse can't have anything good associated with it, big mistake. In the world of Mixed Martial Arts, fans and people alike know that Blackhouse is just the opposite; it is something good. So good, it is the home of multiple world champions and some of the sports elite; Anderson Silva, Jose Aldo, Lyoto Machida and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira to name a few. However, it is more than just a gym and after talking to Ed Soares, Manager of Blackhouse, I found out "it is the mentality the entire organization runs under everyday; everybody is here to help each other."

Soares, along with his partner Jorge Guimaraes, runs Tough Media, Inc., the management firm that oversees Blackhouse. Originating in 2006, it was Guimaraes who came up with the name Blackhouse. When I asked Soares to explain the origins behind Blackhouse, he told me, "the idea we came up with was to have a place for our fighters to come together and train under one roof."

You might ask, what's so different about that? It's very simple, Blackhouse is a private gym in Los Angeles, which only caters to their fighters. Each of their fighters are individuals who have their own respective fight teams and gyms where they work, but when it is time to come together this is the place where they converge, unite and become the best in the world. According to Mike Ramirez, a member of the Tough Media family, "I've never been around a group of guys like this that are totally down with one another."

I witnessed this first hand Memorial Day weekend when I was in Las Vegas for UFC 114. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira was fighting on the card and the entire Blackhouse team was in town to support him. However, this wasn't just a bunch of guys that trained together. It appeared they had a genuine love for one another. When I brought this up, Soares said, "it comes down to the people we choose to represent. These are not just great fighters, these are great people."

This explains something else many people may not realize. This group of fighters that are some of the most respectful, in terms of etiquette towards their opponents and serious when it comes to their work ethic are also some of the biggest clowns when it comes to joking around. The photo above, featuring WEC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo and UFC Heavyweight Contender Junior Dos Santos, was taken in the green room of the Junkie Radio studio while they were waiting to do a segment on the radio show. During their wait, Dos Santos, who is still learning English, was killing time by rapping the lyrics to 'Rapper's Delight' and singing his own rendition of 'Viva Las Vegas'.

Meanwhile Aldo, who I found out is a huge basketball fan and was totally engulfed by the Lakers-Celtics play-off game being played on the big screen at the Mandalay Bay Race & Sports Book, also has a great sense of humor. According to Soares, he and Anderson Silva, two of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, if not the best, are also the two biggest jokers. He told me, "Aldo is quick to snap a joke on anybody; he's that funny."

A problem managing so many of the world's best is that inevitably it may get to a point where two of them may have to fight one another. I asked Ed Soares if he could see a scenario where two Blackhouse fighters would face each other? His response was, "I'd really like to say no, but I understand it may come about eventually." One example that was brought up was Lyoto Machida and Rogerio Noguiera, who are two of the UFC's top light heavyweights. Aware of this Lyoto once told Soares, "the same way I want to be champion, I know he wants it as well. Why, would I want to stand in the way of that? Plus, if I lost, then at least I lost to one of my own."

The gravy train doesn't stop there, as there are others in the stable slowly, but surely making their mark. Rafael 'Feijao' Cavalcante will fight next month for the Strikeforce light heavyweight title against Muhammad 'King Mo' Lawal. Some other up and comers to look out for who are already making noise are Mario Miranda, Andre Galvao, Jordan Smith and Glover Teixeira just to name a few.

As for Soares, he's extremely busy, but thankful for where he's at. Owner of his own clothing line as well, the popular 'Sinister' brand, he told me he's very excited because Sinister just became an official brand of the UFC. He also announced that he just inked a deal where as early as late July, Sinister clothing can now be purchased at K-mart. "I'm very happy because I grew up poor, so I know what it's like to want to wear cool clothes, but can't afford them, Soares said. This deal will allow people to purchase some cool gear at an affordable price between $9.99 and $14,99." As not only a fan, but also parent of two teenagers who love the gear I say, thank you. I also asked if he would consider managing boxers besides MMA fighters and he said, "I love combat sports, so it's something I would like to do in the future, though it's not my forte."

Elite level fighters, training partners, jokers, etc. I think Mike Ramirez summed it up best when he told me, "I don't look at this as a job because it's such a family atmosphere. I don't even feel this kind of love from life long friends, that's brotherhood;" and that's what makes Blackhouse so much more than a gym.

I want to thank Ed Soares for giving me the time in his busy schedule for this interview and Mike Ramirez for not only his time, but also his assistance in setting this up.

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