In 2004, Gracie Tampa opened its doors. Since then, Gracie Tampa has produced The Ultimate Fighter Season 5 star Allen “Monsta Lobstah” Berube, TUF 6 and current UFC fighter Matt “No Regard” Arroyo, and former NFL player turned pro-fighter Marcus Jones. In addition, unconfirmed reports indicate that Brandon “Murder” Sene from Gracie Tampa will be a TUF 7 contestant.
I had the opportunity to sit down with the head instructor and Royce Gracie jiu-jitsu black belt Rob Kahn to talk about Gracie Tampa.
MMAFightLine.com: Rob, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk to MMAFightline about Gracie Tampa. Tell me about your school.
Kahn: 2007 was a banner year for us. We moved to a new facility and it’s allowed us to step up the training. We have two rooms set up and now my professional fighters can get a lot more training, but I can still teach my traditional classes to pay the bills. We moved here at the end of last year, and last year we had our best year in MMA. We’ve had two guys fighting in the UFC – Allen “Monstah Lobstah” Berube and Matt Arroyo. We fought in the Bonecrunch League last year, and we’ve been fighting locally in the Real Fighting Championships (RFC) and World Fighting Championships (WFC) as well as other promotions around Florida. I get calls now all the time from promotions all over the country so there is no shortage of events for our fighters.
MMAFightLine.com: You are a black belt under Royce Gracie right?
Kahn: Yes, I moved to Tampa in October of 2004. I opened the school in November 2004, and we’ve been around for almost 4 years now.
MMAFightLine.com: Now, you have 2 schools in Tampa.
Kahn: That’s right – we opened our South Tampa school. I’m down there a few times a week, and Matt Arroyo and Rob “Ferret” Neagle run that school who are both brown belts under me. This school (North Tampa) is my school, and I along with Cristina “Midget Twister” Rodriguez are pretty much here every day.
MMAFightLine.com: That’s got to be the best fight nickname – Midget Twister (laughs). Where did she get that nickname?
Kahn: (laughs) The Midget Twister is a move that was named by one of my first students Justin “Chim Chim”Garcia in New York, and she liked the move so she took the nickname. She is a spectacular grappler. She won the bronze medal in the World Grappling Championship. We’d like to get her into Abu Dhabi in 2009.
MMAFightLine.com: You’re also a pro-fighter yourself right?
Kahn: Yeah, I’m 2-0 in MMA and a bunch of amateur boxing matches back in the day.
MMAFightLine.com: Any plans to fight in the future?
Kahn: Yeah, you know I really didn’t want to take this much time off between fights, but last year I had a back injury. I’d like to get back in the cage in March or April of this year.
MMAFightLine.com: Anybody in particular you’d like to fight?
Kahn: You know, I’m getting old. I’m not getting old – I am old. I want big fights – I’d like to get on a bigger show as soon as possible. I don’t have a lot of fights, but I have a pretty good pedigree as far as producing fighters.
MMAFightLine.com: What’s your walking around weight?
Kahn: About 185.
MMAFightLine.com: So do you fight middleweight or welterweight.
Kahn: 170 but I’m thinking of going to 155. A lot of those guys at 55 walk around over 175 so I’d be a big 155er, but I’m not a big 170.
MMAFightLine.com: What’s going to happen the next few years at Gracie Tampa?
Kahn: Considering the success we’ve had, we’re now getting a lot of notoriety. We are getting a lot more talent. We are starting to see the new generation flourish. Gilbert Burgos – he’s 2-0 in MMA. John Turner – he’s another guy – he’s a stud and they both train here. I’m starting to field guys that have MMA records already. I’ve got a guy coming down from Tennessee that’s 5-0 and another guy from the Midwest whose 4-0 to train down here. Before it was whoever walked in the door, but now we are getting guys that are focused, talented and dedicated to doing MMA for a living, so I imagine we will be a bigger presence at a lot of the bigger shows. We are a commercial school which is what I do for a living, but I aspire to be one of the top professional fight teams in the nation like ATT and Militech.
MMAFightLine.com: MMA in Tampa has exploded over the last 3 years.
Kahn: Yes, it has. From what I understand, the Tampa market is really important to the UFC in terms of the demographics, because it’s one of the stronger pay-per-view markets. There are more buys here than other areas.
MMAFightLine.com: How long before the UFC does a show in Tampa? Maybe, an Ultimate Fight Night?
Kahn: That idea’s been thrown around. On some of the smaller shows attendance has gone down. But UFC is the big fish so maybe they come here and knock it out. The UFC usually looks for numbers around 15,000. That would be pretty cool to have one here because then we’d have local guys on the show.
MMAFightLine.com: In looking at your facilities and what you offer, it’s truly amazing. You have a full staff including a well-known sports psychologist.
Kahn: Yeah, it’s great. Take a look at our website (www.gracietampa.com) and you’ll see the quality of our staff members. Randy Borum, our sports psychologist – he’s really a top guy. Don’t tell him I said this, but he’s a really smart guy.
MMAFightLine.com: Any other Gracie Tampa news?
Kahn: Yeah, we just have a lot of young talent. Gilbert Burgos, John Turner, Gabe Maldonado, Joe Wissmann, Marcus Jones, and Miguel Gonzalez are all going to have big years this year. If those guys are any indication, we are going to have an amazing 2008. We are holding it down for Tampa.
Kahn: Any sponsors you’d like to plug? Dean Albrecht, MMA Warehouse, The Abacus Group, Bubba the Love Sponge, Tampa Jaguar, Randy Borum, and NHBGear.com.
MMAFightLine.com: Thanks, Rob for taking time out of your schedule to speak with me. You’ve got an impressive school, and I look forward to continuing to hear about your accomplishments.