MMAOrient’s exclusive interview with Filipino American Bellator fighter A.J Matthews

A.J. Matthews is a welterweight prospect based out of San Diego, California. Training out of the Blackline Training Center, Matthews possesses well-rounded potential given the combination of his athleticism, strong striking arsenal and developing ground game.

Matthews is a very promising striker who looks to keep his fights standing. He shows a nice straight right, good kicks from both legs and is a heavy handed puncher with definite finishing power on his feet. Currently working on his standup at California Kickboxing with Joseph Del Real, Matthews holds exciting potential in his MMA striking game.

Biography:

AJ Matthews is a 23 year old Filipino/English/American fighter that has been around MMA for more than 10 years. He first was exposed to MMA when he moved away from his family in Rapid City, South Dakota for Carlsbad, California at age 15. His older brother Brian lived a separate life from AJ and jumped on the opportunity of having his younger brother move in with him and they could begin a relationship as brothers.

Brian had been training Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for years at the Harris Academy in San Diego under the guidance of professor Roy Harris. AJ, being new in town didn’t have much to do besides work, school, and soccer, so Brian introduced him to Jiu Jitsu. The two brothers would drive to Oceanside, California to their Matt Stansell’s garage which had wrestling mats and one side of a fence to train. For $10 dollars a session Matt taught jiu jitsu every Sunday and they would always have a good group of training partners including Former UFC fighter Jason Lambert, KOTC champ Manny Rodriguez, and sometimes, Roy Harris himself. This group of training partners turned into a fight team, and this forced AJ to learn wrestling and kickboxing to become a better training partner.

Years have gone by, AJ graduated college from CSULA as a dual sport NCAA athlete in soccer and track while becoming 4-0 as a professional MMA fighter. After recovering from a shoulder injury and his only defeat in MMA, AJ took his first professional boxing match and won via 3rd round KO. AJ was names a Sports Illustrated as top prospect in MMA by Josh Gross, and has created a buzz behind his name. This buzz caught the attention of Bellator FC and AJ signed a deal with this organization. Now 1-0 in Bellator, AJ is recovering from a broken foot to compete again for Bellator on Spike TV early 2012.

MMAOrient: What’s your martial arts background?

A.J Matthews:

 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu 9 years, Muay Thai 7 years, Boxing 7 years, Wrestling 9 years.

MMAOrient: Why did you chose mma over other sports?

A.J Matthews:

 I have felt that the reason I am on Earth was to be a fighter. This is because of the way my life has been laid out for me, everything has lined up.

MMAOrient: Do you have any nick name inside the cage?

A.J Matthews:

No Nickname (yet) i’s shooting for the flying filipino because I throw jump knees and will add jump high kicks like Remy Bonjasky soon.

MMAOrient: You are training at Alliance MMA in San Diego with some of the best fighters in the business. What is it like for you to be a part of a fight team that includes UFC Bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz, UFC Light heavyweight contenders Phil Davis and Brandon Vera, UFC Heavyweight fighters Joey Beltran and Travis Browne?

A.J Matthews:

Being a part of Alliance has been a huge part of me becoming the fighter that I am, Brandon Vera is my favorite MMA fighter of all time and I plan on rising up the same way he did. So for me to be able to around him means alot to me. Joey Beltran and Travis Browne and I have been together ever since those two giants started training. I was in the gym for Joey’s first day, and to see him where he is today is awesome.

I am thankful that I can still be a part of his training. When he was getting ready for Pat Barry, in sparring, I was Pat, which meant I would kick his leg as hard as I could. Needless to say, there were a couple of days that I couldn’t walk. Travis started training with us after Joey did but he always had such potential with his athleticism and attitude, if you ask him about me he would say I’m the Filipino GSP. All of those other guys have taken me into the team with open arms and we all feed off of the great energy at Alliance.

Alliance wasn’t the first gym I trained at with big name people though. When I was in college in Los Angeles I couldn’t make it all the way down to Chula Vista so I got hooked up with Mike “The Joker” Guymon at his place in Irvine. I owe alot of my MMA skills to Joker because he was always so good at putting it all together. My good friend Jason Lambert would come up from Carlsbad every day and we would get good work in. In one day we could have Joker, James Wilks, Lambert, Shields, Bobalu, Mark Munoz, Keith Barry, and many more. Thanks to Joseph Del Real (muay thai coach) Jokers MMA Alliance and Blackline I have become a real fighter.

MMAOrient:  Could you tell us more about Alliance MMA’s Fighters program and how it has elevated your averall game?

A.J Matthews:

 I only go to Alliance on Wednesdays and Fridays because those are the hard sparring days. I do most of my other training locally here in Carlsbad at Blackline Training Center. The training there  is the closest thing to feeling like a fight outside of fighting itself. All of those guys are good technically and are tough as nails. When I first started going down I would get nervous because I didnt know if I was on that level yet, but after the guidance of Coach Adrian Melendrez and Coach Eric Del Fierro along with the support of the team, we get down!

MMAOrient: How has being with Alliance MMA changed you as a person and as a fighter?

A.J Matthews:

 As a person I will always be the same, it won’t matter where Im training or who I am training with. As a fighter Alliance has made me more dynamic on the feet, I have turned into a rhythm fighter and they have been very good for my mental game. I am turning into a fighter both mentally and physically. Coach Eric gave me a book to read to help me with all of it. I see guys like Dominick Cruz and get inspired to be a champion.

MMAOrient: Your rise in the sport has been dramatic. With a 5-1 record in your professional mma career, you are training with a world class team. Tell us what it means to you to be competing with Bellator.

A.J Matthews:

 Competing in Bellator is great, I love the organization and they make me feel at home. They have been bringing in big talent in all of their weight classes and it is exciting for me because I want to fight the toughest guys.

MMAOrient: How has life changed after your Bellator win?

A.J Matthews:

My life changed big time after the Bellator fight, I went from training 3 times a day to sitting on the couch because I suffered a broken foot. Other than that, nothing is different, my life won’t change until I really start winning fights and start doing big things for myself and my team.

MMAOrient: What’s your ultimate goal in your fighting career?

A.J Matthews:

Ultimate goal in my fighting career is to hold the 170 and 185 UFC titles, beat the best guys, give back, and get a Calvin Klein ad.

MMAOrient: If you weren’t a pro fighter, what do you think you’ll be doing for a living?

A.J Matthews:

 If I wasn’t a pro fighter I think I would be working in PR because that’s what I got my degree in. I really dont even know what that means, but if I had to, I would figure that out.

MMAOrient:  We all know that all fighter have a busy schedule but for sure there are things you love outside the gym and cage. What does AJ Matthews do in his free time?

A.J Matthews:

This is no joke, but with all of my free time I sit on the couch. I love couches, and I watch tv or play fifa 12 with my brother. Other than that we eat out as a family alot. I need a hobby.

MMAOrient: What’s your favorite Submission/Strike to use in any fight?

A.J Matthews:

 Jump knee.

MMAOrient: Who is your biggest inspiration?

A.J Matthews:

Biggest inspiration is my brother Ian. Went from a life of drugs, crime, jail, and rehab to being a brother, best friend, strength coach, and positive character in society.

MMAOrient: If you could have one dream fight with anyone, who would it be?

A.J Matthews:

 I would like to fight Johnny Bones, thats a bad dude.

MMAOrient: What are your favorite Filipino Cuisines?

A.J Matthews:

  I love Lumpia.

MMAOrient: When was the last time you visited the Philippines?

A.J Matthews:

I was in the Philippines in 2004 with my family in Tacloban on the province of Leyte for 2 weeks then spent a couple of days with my two brothers in Manila.

MMAOrient: When is your next fight?

A.J Matthews:

 My next fight will be a professional boxing match in January, then Bellator in March.

MMAOrient: Any words for your fans especially to your Filipino supporters?

A.J Matthews:

 Stay tuned guys, I am very thankful for all of my supporters and I want to represent for the Philippines as best I can. I plan on getting back to the Philippines to train with Team Lakay in Baguio City soon, I have a good friend out there that I am trying to train with. 2012 is going to be a big year for all of us, LET’S GET IT!

Follow AJ Matthews on Twitter: @AJ_Matthews

Follow me on Twitter: @zikey09

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