E-Interview with Mike "Highlander" Yanez

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Mike "Highlander" Yanez, an established BJJ competitor and new pro fighter, who owns Highlander MMA in Louisville, KY. The Highlander MMA camp is an established team with a 98-23 overall fight record. I'll be following them as they get to win 100 and beyond.

Check after the jump for the whole interview.

That's Mike, at Highlander ---->

You can check out Highlander MMA online here, and on myspace here and you can see some videos and highlights of some of the Highlander guys' fights here.

How did you come to start Highlander MMA in Louisville, KY?
I lost my first fight and my student Montrell Parker wanted to fight

What kind of classes do you offer at Highlander?

Can your average joe off the street come and in train, long-term, or are you mainly geared towards fighters?
I pride myself on taking an average guy and turning him into more then he thought he could be.

How much time do you usually spend at Highlander on a given day?
3 hours

Where did you get the nickname “Highlander”?
Highlands Ky - a trendy part of Louisville Ky, but the name has taken many forms and fits perfectly.

What do you think of the fact that the Highlander Fight Team has clearly enjoyed some success, with a current record of 98-23.
Even surprised me.

First, are these wins and losses made up of pro and amateur fights, BJJ tournaments, or what?
Pro and Am fights only. Grappling tourney wins are too much to count.

Second, approximately how many people have contributed to these 98 wins?
Some have come and gone, ironically some left as winners and then added to our wining record when they went to another school. Karma is a bitch I guess. The record stands for me in their cornor when they're wearing the colors of Highlander

Third, how quickly do you think win # 100 will come around?
Within our next couple fights for sure!

You’ve been on both sides of the cage, as a fighter and as a coach – do you prefer one more than the other?
I would trade places with any of my teenager students ( I have a few now)

How important is the role of a coach in a fighter’s corner?
Depends I think. I'm really loud and I really get into the opponent's head. I ve had great coaches in wrestling and Jiu Jitsu I have been blessed. I've walked guys through their matches before, and I've met them with their hands raised just to tell me “thanks for showing that, just like practice”

How has playing both roles changed your perception of them?
I realized that coaching can be like a video game when you're trying to control somebody's moves (and I'm good at video games. ha ha)

What is your training background in?
Wrestled 8 years and BJJ for 13

Tell us about your BJJ lineage.
I got my Black belt in BJJ under 10 years from world champion and number 1 ranked Pablo Popovitch and his father Jorge Popovitch who come from the Carlson Gracie side of the family tree. Our style is a very aggressive style, Pablo beat Renzo Gracie 2 years ago 7-0.

What initially inspired you to get into the fight game?
Tired of people saying "That’s just jiu jitsu, its not mma." Well I proved everyone how easy the transition was! I think any idiot can throw a punch- but you have to be a chess master to become the master ground fighter

What is your current record?
That’s the funny part just 1-0 as a pro!

In what promotions have you fought?
Revolution Fight League (PV's note - you can find them on the web here.

Are you able to do a typical “training camp” before a fight, and if so, how long does that generally last?
It depends because I try to work on what im not good at.

How closely do you monitor your diet when preparing for a fight?
It's top priority

Are there any supplements you take?
What ever they tell me (PV note - Mike clarified that "they" were info from magazines, other people in the game he knew and other BJJ black belts).

What’s an average day of training like for you?
Lifting and bjj with a lot of wrestling and kickboxing.

Who do you typically train with before a fight?
I like to get to Nashville mma and down to florida for a bit

What kind of mental preparations do you go through for before a fight?
That’s an everyday thing, like death in life, once you accept the worst that can happen then you can focus on the best witout the fear of loss.

Is there one particular training aspect you single out as being more important than the others?
Good support or isolation, which ever is available just as long as its not negative - you must discard the negative! ( Wives,Girlfriends, drinking buddies, family, etc - if they love you they will be there at the afterparty.)

What is your normal pre-fight routine?
MUSIC!!!! Nine Inch Nails, Deftones and Disturbed.

At this point in your career, if there’s one fight you could do over again, which would it be?
Of course my loss as an amateur fighter.

To date, what do you consider to be your biggest achievement in the sport?
Me as a coach for sure

What is your favorite technique?

Before fighting in MMA, did you compete in any other combat sports (i.e. BJJ) and if so, in what tournaments did you compete and how did you place in those tournaments?
That’s what I did so much of - 3 Arnold world golds, Budweiser worlds champion, Florida state champion 6x NAGA champion, all mostly as a purple belt.

It seems like fighters are being sponsored by companies from all industries – at any given event, you’ll see logos for mortgage companies, energy drinks and the ever present Condom Depot emblazoned across a number of fighters’ asses – do you think this kind of exposure helps or hurts the sport?
Helps - we need to get paid, so I hope it grows! Ill be a logo whore!

As you recently had your pro debut, did you have sponsors for this fight?
Nah, but I made PLENTY

As a trainer/coach, what kind of things do you to do help your fighters get sponsors?
Everything but prostitution.

Who is your agent and/or manager?

You recently had your first pro fight, a first-rounds submission win, over Craig Schoonover, at Revolution Fight League – Hostile Takeover. How did it feel going into your first pro fight?
Relaxed - as if it was a movie I had seen 20 times.

Is competing on the pro level something you want to continue to do, and if so, for how long?
I may fight a few more times

How do you feel about organizations like the American Fight League (AFL) out of L-ville?
My team had about 50 wins and 6 losses - we had 4 title holders, 2 undefeated still (have the belts to prove it). When they needed sponsors, their promo videos were footage of mostly my guys - then not one phone call - Guess they never liked us, we hate them - period!

Do you think that promotions like this that start on a local level will ever be able to compete with organizations like the UFC?
Not AFL they have no integrity! John Prisco’s XFC out of Florida can though!

Junie Allen Browning, out of Four Seasons in Lexington, KY, recently made headlines because he landed a spot on Season 8 of The Ultimate Fighter – what do you think this kind of exposure does for MMA in Kentucky?
I'm a fan and I'm proud of him, he shows loyalty to his school and instructor and he may be a little crazy, but its TV, no one gets famous being the quiet one!

In the time you’ve been in KY, how have you seen the MMA scene evolve?
We are very evolved, at least the top schools are anyway - some states don’t have amateur fight events so they don’t have the experience a lot of the seasoned pros have here!

A number of websites publish the fighters’ salaries after events along with the winners of bonuses such as the UFC Fight of the Night, KO of the Night and Submission of the Night bonuses, and they do it with a disclaimer that the figures don’t include costs of medical examinations, travel and the like – what kind of expenses do you deal with as a fighter, a trainer, and a coach that most people wouldn’t know about?
Just the standard expenses - mostly training and training supplies. With getting paid, everyone starts low 200 or 300, I just had a fighter go from 300/300 (win/show) to1500/1500 in 5 fights - he's winning of course.

In your opinion, who is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world?
Minotauro, but im biased - I've trained with him, and I just like his style!

Who are some fighters, past or present, that you admire?
Vitor Belfort, Tito Ortiz, Ramino Sato, Genki sudo.

What kind of hobbies do you enjoy in your down time?
Video and art work

How do you your family and friends feel about your fighting career?
If they don’t like it then I'm not around – my team is my family

Thank you for all this, Mike – are there any people or sponsors you’d like to give a shout out to?
Yes definitely! My Instructors Jorge and Pablo Popovitch, Brawl and Maul, My mother for making me as tough as she is - all my good friends Kelly Carter ,Chris Chard, Vagner Rocha, My students most of all for making my journey in this life complete.
So there you have it. Keep a lookout as I follow Mike and the Highlander guys as they work towards their 100th win.


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