Last week I had the pleasure of visiting Cincy MMA and Fitness, home of Team Xtreme and Intimidation Cage Fighting’s first signed pro fighter, Chad “The Hitman” Hinton.
Check after the jump for the full write-up, including a number of comments from Hinton on a lot of aspects of the fight game, as well as comments from other members of Team Xtreme.
About 15 minutes outside of downtown Cincinnati, it's not hard to find Cincy MMA & Fitness. Taking up about 9,000 square feet, the gym has a full mat area, free weights and cardio machines, heavy bags and speed bags, and a boxing ring. They offer classes in boxing, American kickboxing, BJJ, Muay Thai, TKD, Submission Grappling, Wrestling, and MMA classes. In addition to this, the gym sells a number of supplements and clothing items.
Hinton co-owns the gym with Tony Brucato, and they were nice enough to let me hang around for a few hours and check things out. I decided to do my first team profile with Team Xtreme because I have seen a number of their guys fight and even on the outside, it’s not hard to see that they have a great relationship as a team and great rapport within their organization.
Hinton was nice enough to take some time out of his day to speak with me about how Cincy MMA & Fitness and Team Xtreme came about, his own history in MMA and his new deal with Intimidation Cage Fighting. After speaking with Hinton, I was able to speak with a few other guys from Team Xtreme with fights coming up at this weekend’s ICF: Shattered event.
What you'll see first are Hinton's comments on a number of different areas.
About Cincy MMA & Fitness:
Me and my partner Tony went to another gym on the west side, it was a fitness center, and we sort of formed our own fight group. Marty Sloan was kind of in the middle of the group, he was teaching cardio fit-fighting classes and I had a background in boxing and wrestling and Tony [Brucato] has a long history of boxing, so we kind of all got together and formed this little club and next thing you know, we have 4 or 5 guys competing at the Arnold [Sports Classic in Columbus, OH] and winning medals.
It was a cool experience for us and when we came back to the gym and we’re all up there one day and we said “Man, wouldn’t it be great if we got our own place together?” Because we all have a passion for MMA and martial arts in general, so that’s kind of where it came from. Tony and I got together and met quite a few times and eventually came up with a pretty good business plan and here we are. Everything [ including the apparel and supplements] was always part of the business plan. We have a great positive environment here, they come and join up, they see our products and they want to pick up a sweatshirt or a t-shirt, and we’re constantly running out of those.
About his role at Cincy MMA & Fitness:
I like setting a good example for some of these younger guys. I like a lot of things about it. I love the place, this is the best gym I’ve ever seen. We’re really proud of it. I like the energy here. I’ve been to a lot of gyms, a lot of boxing gyms a lot of weightlifting gyms, and one thing we don’t have here is a bunch of over-sized egos. Nobody is ever sizing each other up because there’s no reason for it. There’s a lot of good, solid camaraderie, so we’re really proud about that.
On his training:
For me, actually training, if I get in an hour-and-a-half to two hours a day, I’m doing good. I try to get in as much time as I can here to help run the place with Tony, but the good thing is I have a good, dependable business partner [Tony], so when it comes time to actually fight, that takes some of the pressure off me. Of course, Marty Sloan, our general manager, and June Haile, they both run the place for us, too.
We try to stay in the best shape we can, year-round. If we have enough notice, we try to run a ten-week session for our camp. We’re working on developing a good system that pays enough attention to technique – ground, standup, strength training, cardio – basically, we’ve got this ten-week cycle we’re focusing on. We try to run everybody through this cycle. Sometimes the amateur fighters might want to take a fight on a couple week’s notice, but if they’re committed even when they don’t have a scheduled fight, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be ready.
On his new deal with the ICF:
The structure of my contract – basically, it’s a one-year management and a one-year organization exclusivity contract. I’ll be fighting for the ICF two times in 2009, the first will be April 11th at US Bank Arena as the co-main event. We’re looking at bigger organizations for my opponent, hopefully someone [former fighter] from the UFC or Strikeforce.
About 11:30am today, we met down at their new headquarters. It was a long negotiation, just making sure that all the documents were drawn up correctly. It’s not something that just popped up, it was a hard decision, but at the end of the day I think we made the right choice. It was a decision that I made with my team, my coaches, my business partner, my family, so it was good. I feel comfortable with the decision we made and I think it’s going to be a good relationship with the ICF. They have a lot to offer. They’ve established a good fanbase here in the Cincinnati area. With them making the move to the US Bank Arena – that was the final peg for me. For them to do that and prove they want to get on to bigger and better things, that’s something I’m interested in.
On getting his pro card:
I had my first fight about a year-and-a-half ago. I came in, in really good shape, and I guess I fought well because I was approached by a promoter who asked me if I wanted to go pro. At that time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, I thought I wanted to get a couple more fights under my belt, but with everything going on at the gym and with my age being a factor [Hinton is 37], I thought well, if I had the opportunity, I’m going to go ahead and do it. So last November we went ahead and decided that I’d turn pro. So far so good.
Basically there was a promotion backing me as a pro. There’s a licensing process with the Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Association – there’s not a whole lot to the process. I filled out the paperwork just stating the facts, who the organization was I was fighting for, sponsorships and so on.
On his deal with ToeZup:
Well, what I was making [before the ICF contract], it [the sponsorship deal] is more. What I made in my first couple fights as a pro – I made more in one sponsorship than I did in all of my first few pro fights together. One thing I liked about ToeZup – I like a lot of things about ToeZup – Tony Palazzo [PreView’s note – Palazzo is the managing member and founder of ToeZup – watch for an interview I did with Palazzo and some awesome prizes that he graciously donated for FightTicker’s UFC 94 giveaway.] is a down to earth guy, they’re easy to work with. I even asked him, if I get other sponsors and they want to get on my clothing, would you mind? He said not at all. That meant a lot to me, because it doesn’t lock me into a situation where I can’t make more money.
Tony actually contacted me via email about sponsoring me and we’ve had a good relationship ever since. Basically, they’ll provide us with shorts, shirts, stuff like that to our amateurs.
We also have a great relationship Cincinnati Chiropractic, Dr. Andy Limle, he works on a lot of the Bengals and Reds players. Energex Nutrition is our nutritional supplement line.
FT: One of the first things I noticed about Team Xtreme was your professional look. All of the fighters wear similar ToeZup fight shorts and shirts – do you think this uniformity helps with your fighters’ mindsets as they go into a fight?
Hinton: I think it’s huge. I think it definitely brings the team together. Even though my guys are not all professional appears, we have a professional appearance and it reflects on our gym. We’re very structured – they’ll [promoters] never have to look for one of our fighters at an event. [Laughs] You see these guys running around asking, “Where’s this guy? Where’s that guy?” They never have to worry about that with us, we’re always warmed up and ready to go.
On Team Xtreme and his role with the team.
I’m the only pro fighter with Team Xtreme right now. I’ve got a couple guys that are ready. We’d like to see them get a couple more [amateur] fights first. I’ve got one, no, two, of my instructors that could go pro tomorrow if they wanted to, but they’re just choosing to focus more on teaching at this point.
I teach the guys some, I like to think of my role as more of a team captain. I don’t want to give myself the title of instructor because I don’t feel I specialize in any one martial art. I think I’m somewhat well-rounded.
Our team dynamic is outstanding, it’s exceptional. I’ll look at some of these other teams and you can just kind of see when they have internal issues with egos and what not. That’s one thing I’ll say about our guys, there’s nobody that’s better than the next guy, we’re all human beings, we’re all teammates and that’s one thing that’s really helped our guys out with their confidence and getting better – they know we all care about each other and that’s really important.
On some of the members of Team Xtreme and the upcoming ICF: Shattered:
We started Team Xtreme about 6-8 months ago. I’d say there are probably seventeen guys and one girl on the team. We practice as a team Monday through Friday. A lot of guys have conflicting schedules, we have a lot of firefighters and police, so some train in the mornings, some train in the evenings.
We’re very freestyle and well-rounded. We incorporate strength and conditioning every single day, just working out with different methods, different techniques. Pretty much Mondays and Wednesdays we focus more on standup, Tuesdays and Thursdays we’ll do a lot of groundwork and Fridays we go full MMA. We do probably two days of technical sparring, two days of technical rolling, and Fridays is when we do full-contact sparring. Everybody trains with everybody, trying to get all different looks. Try to get a guy that’s bigger and stronger or smaller and faster, more technical – everybody spars with everybody.
We also have a lot of people who want to be fighters that practice with the team that aren’t ready just yet. We’re very selective about who is on the team. We evaluate it as a team, a lot of the instructors. We actually have criteria that these guys have to meet before they step in the cage.
Matt [Egner, ICF Amateur LW Champ] has a pretty tough opponent in Steve Muldrow. If he makes a statement in that fight, he’s ready [to turn pro]. This is going to tell where he stands. Matt has gotten better and he’s getting even better in here. If he really does the job, he’ll be ready.
If it was up to Marcus [Finch, former ICF MW Champ], he would’ve been ready [for a re-match] yesterday. That’s all he talks about. I try to get him off the subject, but everyday he comes in my office and talks about it. He’s bound and determined. He knows he made some mistakes and deviated from the gameplan. He’s ready. He’s gotten a lot better since that fight. He’s probably got, if not the best, one of the best work ethics in here.
On the “ICF: Un-Civil War” event coming up:
To be honest, I haven’t given a whole lot of thought to it. I’ve had a lot going on trying to figure out what I was going to do and how my guys are going to do on the 24th. One thing I don’t like to do is look past an event like Shattered. We try to stay focused. I know who Highlander is, they’re a really solid team so we’ll just have to see – once they establish who their guys are that are coming up to fight, we’ll try to match guys up as fairly as possible.
Here are a couple pictures Chad sent me, as well as one from Denver Cavins, Executive Producer for ICF. Chad was nice enough to take the time to put in some notes identifying people in the pictures.
In addition to all of Chad’s time that I took up, a number of the other Team Xtreme guys were also willing to talk to me on their own backgrounds and . Here is what some of them had to say.
I’m 22, 2-0 right now. I fought Joe Miller in my last fight at ICF: Redemption, won by armbar in the second round. I’m actually dropping a weight class, going down to 174. I started at 205 and working my way down. My coaches, especially Chad, got me on a new diet, hit the cardio really hard, just trying to get in the perfect fight condition.
I’d been doing Jiu Jitsu here for about two months after I got back from college and I’d done Jiu Jitsu there for about a year. Chad told me they had an opening at 205 on an MMA Big Show card and I figured I’d be a big chicken if I said no [laughs]. I’ve been with Team Xtreme since September – I’ve made a lot of friends, and I love my team. We’re a big family here, so that’s the biggest thing I enjoy. Of course fighting is the other one [laughs].
My dad was a boxer and lot of my family were wrestlers, so I try to keep in shape, I love competition. I was a terrible wrestler in high school, and I had to get out of football, so I took up Jiu Jitsu to stay in shape. With this new diet, I haven’t had to cut weight much, so I’m not worried about being drained from that, I feel really great.
Right now, this is my hobby, basically what I do is listen to my coaches, I listen to Chad and guys at the gym, they tell me what to do, and if they say maybe it’s time to take this to the next level, I’m ready to do it. Until then, I come in and bust my butt.
FT: What have you been doing since your last fight?
MF: Training hard, training hard, waiting for my rematch. It was little mistakes and hesitation, because a couple times it was clear I had him dazed and could’ve finished him, but I was too hesitant. I’d only been taking Jiu Jitsu for about two months, so I feel pretty good about the way the fight ended, by decision, he couldn’t finish. I’d take the rematch tomorrow.
Me and my buddy were looking for a gym and he came and found this gym, we came here and started training hard. The coaches started finding us fights and eventually we joined the team.
FT: What are some of your biggest strengths?
MF: My strength, my ability to take a hit [laughs]. I hit pretty hard myself. I feel like I need to work on everything, because I don’t want to just knock somebody out in the midst of a flurry, I want to make it look pretty. I want to end fights pretty.
I always criticize myself, even when I win, so I feel it might take a little while [to turn pro]. I feel like when the coaches tell me I’m ready, when they tell me I’m ready, that’s it.
My record is 1-1. Won my first fight with a guillotine choke about a minute in, lost the second one by armbar in the second round. I’m 21, I fight at 135. I prefer standup, I enjoy that the most. I’ve been with Team Xtreme since June and I enjoy coming in here after work, getting in here and training. I trained in muay thai for about a year before I came here.
I’ve been training a lot harder, working on my conditioning because I had some trouble breathing in my last fight and I don’t know what that was about. I’ve been doing a lot of rolling with Corey [Boyle], our Jiu Jitsu instructor, working from the bottom position, how to get out of ground and pound.
I’d like to pursue this as a career. I’ll be ready to fight again in the next month or two after the show on the 24th.
I started in January with the team. I started about a year ago training Muay Thai with Daihe [Haile], took some time off, now I’m back. A couple of my buddies, like Matt Egner, he got me to join. I want to fight in May. I used to fight a lot in the streets, but ever since I started here, I haven’t had any fights outside the club. Everything is great with the team, we have a great team here.
So there you have it. Thanks again to Chad and the guys for having me as a guest and letting me check things out. In addition to the nice things all the guys had to say about the team, it was evident from watching them practice that they work well together. Hinton was right, there aren’t any ego problems with guys on the team. I watched them work takedown defense for a while, switching partners every few minutes, and it wasn’t hard to notice that Hinton really does function as the Team Captain. In the midst of working on his own game, he was quick to dole out advice and answer questions when needed. He kept the guys working hard, but also wasn’t afraid to cut up with them during breaks.
From the first time I saw the Team Xtreme guys fight, it was easy to see they function as a team should, with a sense of uniformity and pride, ready to help each other when it’s needed and ready to lay it all out in the cage.
I’m looking forward to seeing them fight this weekend at ICF: Shattered – keep an eye out for my live blog and some commentary from the Team Xtreme guys after the event.