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20 Questions For Oakdale MMAs Tom Theofanopoulos
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Oakdale MMAs Tom Theofanopoulos has his gym humming in a new downtown location in Oakdale, has seen an increase in people interested in the sport, and is training multiple fighters for upcoming mixed martial arts bouts.

Q: Country of origin?

A: Born in Corinth, Greece, but conceived in Sparta.


Q: When was the last time you were there?

A: 2004 Olympics in Athens. I went with my father and son to watch Judo and soccer.


Q: When did you start promoting fights?

A: Basically, Bound by Honor was my first show because the year before a promoter cancelled five days out for Merced MMA and it irritated me so much I had to do something about it.


Q: What intrigued you about putting on events at the Chicken Ranch?

A: I really didn’t want the responsibility … but I could get 10 of my fighters on a card half an hour away instead of guys splitting and traveling all over to take fights; logistically it makes sense.


Q: What’s the atmosphere like?

A: Before every show – except for my first one which in the end I ended up wishing I would have, I grab the microphone and announce to the crowd that I don’t like booing or cursing during fights and I’ve never really had a problem controlling that at events. No alcohol or ring girls in bathing suits either, we promote a family sporting event.


Q: Would you rather build a fighter from boxing or wrestler base?

A: I feel wrestling is the most important base art. I would rather bring in a wrestler and teach him Ju-Jitsu and how to strike than bring in a striker and teach him how to grapple.


Q: Who introduced you to wrestling?

A: My cousin Terry “The Golden Greek” Markou who was a two-time CIF state champion at Pacific High School and a scholarship to Cal Poly-SLO. I was trying to follow in his steps, but I had an injury at 15 years old that took two years to recover from. I looked up to Terry, he had tremendous physical attributes, but was very mild tempered and had an almost Superman mentality.


Q: How many students do you have between Oakdale, Sonora and Merced MMA?

A: 600.


Q: How many days a week do your fighters train?

A: Monday through Friday, Saturday and Sunday off.


Q: Do you train with other fight camps?

A: We don’t cross-train with anybody. A lot of people think we’re going to get better that way but they’re confused about that…iron sharpens iron.


Q: Why do fighters jump camps?

A: Dissatisfied with coach, training partners, they always think they could do better someplace else.


Q: Do issues resurface?

A: We have 20 guys right now sparring at about 90 percent without helmets on and they still manage to maintain self-control and not hurt their training partners because there is a brotherhood here. If somebody from outside comes in and gets hit he will react more personally if he’s not grinding daily with the team.


Q: So you’re not taking new fighters?

A: In the old days of martial arts you had to come with a letter of recommendation from your teacher if you wanted to join another camp. I usually tell guys who are having problems in other camps to go reconcile with their teachers and to make themselves better there because whatever issues he had with his instructor he will likely have with me. That’s one of the problems in MMA today with this Tank Abbott mentality where all you have to do is be able to fight. No accountability, hierarchy or team structure with people helping each other. I didn’t get involved in MMA to make better fighters, I got involved to make better men.


Q: Who impressed you on the latest Chicken Ranch card?

A: Eloy Garza. He wasn’t training for a full six weeks and still dominated after a rough first round. He’s got straight rights, uppercuts, liver shots; all the punches. Strong jaw, good footwork and great ring generalship – he knows when to attack, when to counter, when to duck and recover.


Q: In a word describe Michael McDonald?

A: Analytical.


Q: How’s his training for the Dec. 14 UFC card against Uriah Faber?

A: Very well rounded, we’re spending time in all areas, which you need to with Uriah, concentrating on wrestling and keeping Mike injury-free. His wrestling partner Jordan Keckler (who upset Uriah’s training partner Chad “Money” Mendes at the CIF state tournament his senior year) is moving in with Mike for training camp, they’re the same weight and Keckler is always ready to train.


Q: What’s McDonald vs. Faber matchup come down to?

A: Can Uriah takedown and control Mike or will Mike pick him apart? It’s going to be real simple. Uriah may try to stand and punch with Mike until he gets hit and then he will try to wrestle. From there is Uriah’s Jujitsu defense good enough? I don’t think he’s ever been submitted in competition.


Q: What are McDonald’s best strikes?

A: Left hook and straight right. Most of his early fights are first round knockouts.


Q: Greatest asset as a fighter?

A: Very agile, lots of power, reminds me of a wound-up spring. He knows when to attack and he’s a great counter puncher who catches a lot of people on the way in. He is very well prepared and is one of the smartest fighters I have met in my life, but the most dangerous thing about Michael is his mind. He is ready for anything and has the fight and angles in the fight already figured in his head. In the rematch with Miguel Torres, instead of running from Torres’s jab he slipped it and finished with a straight right, dominating the rematch at Tachi Palace after being dominated the first fight.


Q: What comes after the McDonald-Faber co-main event at Arco Arena?

A: Mike’s 22. We’re going to call his manager and see if we can get his fights down to twice a year. We don’t want to burn him out and it happens a lot – they’re not machines.