Exclusive Interview: Kimo Leopoldo
By Rick Caudle
As one of mixed martial arts’ original pioneers, Kimo “Therapy” Leopoldo continues to be an innovator. Spearheading a fresh approach to the business, Leopoldo’s experience and shear tenacity are translating into one of the best opportunities in the country for up-and-coming fighters.
Along with savvy businessman Ron Kort, together they enter the age of New Era Fighting.
Q. I’m very curious Kimo, how did the deal with New Era Fighting come about?
A. The owner, Ron Kort, and I are old friends. We began talking one day and realized we had similar thoughts about the MMA industry. We felt that the sport was becoming too political, and there was no justice for both the competitors or the audience. And honestly, we think they deserve to know the truth. So far, no one else has stepped up and shown they really care about the fighters and the fans.
Q. How does the NEF differ from other MMA organizations?
A. The NEF is different on many levels. First of all, we will take 50% of the gate and divide the remaining money between the fighters. It’s like they have an equity stake in the company and we believe this will instill pride in them. Unlike most organizations, we are taking a non-greedy approach. There’s a lot of money in MMA and we want to share it with the fighters. They are the ones putting it on the line for us.
Secondly, we are going to have competitors that you can get to know and follow. We will have the same violence in the ring as MMA, but with characters like you see in wrestling. Guess you could say it’s WWE meets MMA. NEF is not just brutal fighting, it’s sports entertainment as well.
Also, our rules will ensure that the matches are action-packed so the fights don’t get boring like the UFC has become. You know, if you lose a few fights in the UFC, you’re basically out. But with the NEF, win, lose, or draw, you still have a place to fight.
Q. Can you tell me a little about the World’s Toughest Man Contest that the NEF is running?
A. Our first event will be a three day tournament where we will be looking for fighters to sign on to the organization. The winner of the tournament will be presented a belt, and then go on to face me in a winner take all match, with a purse of $1 million.
This is unprecedented in the MMA industry. Everyone is welcome to come to the tryouts. The only requirement is to weigh 205lb or more. This is a great opportunity for new fighters.
Q. Has a date been set for this first event yet?
A. Yes, the tournament for the World’s Toughest Man Contest will be held on June 15th through the 17th in Southern California. Also, we will be putting on our first competition on August 18th at the San Diego Sports Arena. This will be our “Support the Troops” show and anyone with a military I.D. or dressed in fatigues will get in free.
Q. Looking back on your career, what was the toughest fight you ever had?
A. Every one of them was tough, so it’s hard to single out one match. They were all different. Some were bigger, some had better cardio, and some were great strikers. They all had different angles to overcome. Even if I won the match quickly, it was still very difficult. Beating the odds in the MMA world, I’d have to say, was the toughest battle of all. I would always take any fight that was offered to me. Even though I don’t consider myself a striker, I agreed to fight Bob Sapp in a standup match. He also outweighed me by over 100 pounds. For me, it was never about the paycheck. I never enter a match thinking I am going to win or lose. I go in confident and always do my very best, no matter what.
Q. Who would you like to fight in the near future?
A. I would like to fight Tim Sylvia. I have never said anything negative about him, but for some reason, he decided to bad-mouth me. I can’t say he was a great champion, but he put his time in at the gym and won it fair and square. I’m glad Randy came back and became the Champ again.
Q. Who are you training with these days?
A. The same man I have trained with for the last 9 years, Joe Morriera. He choreographs all my moves, gets me training partners, and takes good care of me. He will be with me for life.
Q. Are you at liberty to discuss the feud with UFC President Dana White?
A. White started the trash talk about me and now he won’t say a word. I did nothing to cause him to put me down but he took it upon himself to do so. Now, I think he is just scared he’s going to run into me! He started it but he won’t finish it.
Q. You are one of the true legends of this sport. What advice do you have for the young men and women who are just now entering MMA competition via the NEF or any other organization?
A. Be well aware of the cost and make sure you are willing to pay the price. There is a lot of deception, misrepresentation, and illusion in the industry. Make sure you have a lot of support. Don’t try to do it alone. Be part of a team. Remember, everyone is human. We all have good qualities and bad qualities. No one is perfect. We even have good days and bad days. Train with different people, but don’t elevate them to idol status. Take a little from everyone and make it your own.
Q. Any shout-outs you’d like to give or sponsors you’d like to thank?
A. I’d like to thank J.D. Stakes, Silver Star Casting, my trainer and Sensei Joe Morriera for sticking with me through thick and thin, the ups and downs, the good times and the bad times. It’s great to have friends to back you up. Because of the support of my family and loved-ones, my will to win becomes stronger and stronger.
Q. What would you like to say to the fans that have followed you since your early days in The UFC?
A. First of all, a big thank you. You are the reason I am still around. I have a lot of respect for the fans and they are a big part of my motivation. I appreciate all of you.
*If you think you are a fighter who has what it takes and you weigh 205lb or more, then go to www.newerafighting.com and fill out an application to enter the World’s Toughest Man Contest. You just might become a millionaire!