Few days before Nick Diaz and BJ Penn square off inside the Octagon, TUF 14 bad boy Hamid "Akira" Corassani stops by for an exclusive interview with LowKick.com. Corassani currently entertains the Mixed Martial Arts fans around in his SpikeTV-documented quest for contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship, representing Team Bisping somewhere in Nevada's deserts (I don't really know where the TUF Gym is).
Fighting out of Gothenburg, Sweden, Akira currently holds a professional MMA record of 11-3, with 3 Submission and 1 KO/TKO victories. Corassani has become a somewhat controversial figure in this edition of The Ultimate Fighter, thanks to countless pranks and the tap-or-not moment in his fight with the arch nemesis Dustin Neace. According to Corassani, it's all about the angle and what you want to see as a viewer.
One way or another, Corassani's character can be picked up by NASA satelites from outer space. And believe me when I say, LowKick'ers - you can talk to this guy for hours.
So there you go, Raw and Uncut - Akira Corassani speaks about the show, his past as a diver in the Swedish Army and the future as a Mixed Martial Artist. This is definitely one of the most interesting conversations I ever had with a fighter, and a must read to any fan out there.
Ok, straight to the controversy from the last episode, the tap, what really happened there? In my opinion, it wasn't even close to a tap. But, what about from your perspective?
When you end up in a heel hook, you know that you have two options: it's tap or your knee will snap - or MCL, ACL, you will be out and maybe your career will be on ice. So, I felt from the beginning, because I've been put in a heel hook, you have to remember I train at Renzo Gracie Academy. These are black-belts. If they put you in a heel-hook, you better tap right away because they're not going to yank it, but you know that your not getting anywhere. But, this grip was not in. It wasn't a good heel-hook. You can see the technique also, his legs were all on the wrong side of my body. So, he was holding my ankle and he was going 100% to yank it and I was like, "Holy S--- !" So, I raised my hand, I was going to tap. Then, I don't feel it. I don't feel it, so why am I going to tap? If you see the other camera angles I posted on my website, you see clearly that I raised my hand and then I take his leg and shove it to the side to escape. Then he slips, my heel pops out and I'm out. That's it. And Herb Dean is standing so close that it would be unbelievable that, if it was a tap, for him not to step in when he sees that I am in a heel hook and he's literally, his face is right there, he's right over it. So, hey, my job is to fight you know. I didn't tap, I continued fighting and I won the fight. Simple.
And credit to Herb Dean because he's a fantastic referee. There are many guys who would be scared because a kneebar, heel-hook, whatever it is, they are very dangerous submissions and they would have stopped it to put safety first.
Yes, exactly. Credit to Herb Dean. He was like, "Let me see, let me see." This guy, he trains himself and he's been reffing thousands and thousands of fights. I'm very happy. It it was another referee he may have stepped in right away and went crazy about it maybe. But, he saved me that one because I wasn't tapping. If you are familiar with the fighter Masakazu Imanari, you see when this guy puts people in leg-locks, they start crying and they just want the referee to come save their a--. I just feel that I can give many explanations, but I don't owe anyone an explanation. People who know MMA and people who have a higher I.Q., they know that it wasn't a tap. But, that aside, everybody can talk. Their still making me famous, so I like it.
You were talking about training at Renzo Gracie's Academy in New York. What kind of influence has that had on you as a fighter and how did you end up training at Renzo Gracie's?
When I got to New York, I had just lost a fight in Sweden and was feeling very miserable. So I decided I was going to go on a vacation. And on the vacation I ended up meeting a chick and falling in love. Then I was like, "Wow, we got Renzo Gracie here!" And I went there and I just immediately felt the energy. Renzo Gracie himself, he's got a special aura, ya know? So, I just got stuck there, like stuck in the environment. The whole Renzo Gracie Academy and all of the people there, if you come in and get into the right angle, they make you a better man, a better fighter, and all of that because the environment is just unbelievable. It's a great place to be.
Yea, really good guys. We at LowKick.com like Daniel Gracie a lot. He runs his academy in Connecticut. I've never met Renzo, but for Daniel, I can says he's one of the nicest people I've ever met in my life.
Yea, the whole Gracie family, they come from a background. Everybody knows it's like where the UFC comes from, from the beginning. It goes far back in time and there's a spirit in Renzo Gracie and all of the Gracie's that come in. You've got a lot of Gracie's, you've got Gregor, Igor, Rolles, Daniel comes in and then you see all of these guys around the world from the Gracie's and it's just a big, big honor to be a part of it and being accepted into the family, as well call it at Renzo Gracie.
In regards to The Ultimate Fighter, how important is it to fall into the right team? And do you feel Team Bisping was the right team or is there even such a thing?
As I said from the beginning, there isn't a right or wrong team. You see very early, it's not a team sport. People are selling each other out and eventually, when it goes down, everybody is going to fight each other. So, the whole thing was just a matter of what kind of fighter you are yourself. Like, what you bring to the table coming into the show. I felt very good on Bisping's team and made a super cool friends in that sense. So, it was more about what kind of fighter you are, what you had been doing for the last six or seven years training. I was happy being with Team Bisping.
Do you think the show helps you to improve as a fighter? Because, its a very short time and to me it seems like, you see one fighter on the show, and then he fights on the Finale like six months later and he's a totally different fighter, an improved fighter, because he got himself into a very good training camp.
Maybe it's that. Also, there's a lot of pressure being in the house, you've got to remember that. Like myself, I won the first fight, I won the second fight, and now I'm going into my third fight - that's three fights in six weeks. And if you're a heavy Featherweight, like I am, I cut normally like 20-pounds, it's three weight cuts in six weeks. You've got to keep your weight low and if you get inured, you got to keep your injuries to yourself and not tell everybody because then people will start talking about your injuries. Say his foot is hurt and they're going to kick your foot all day during the fight. So, with that said, I don't think it leaves so much space for an optimal performance on the show. But, when you get out of it, you realize that you've gotten an experience that you can carry on with yourself. It makes you so much tougher and all of that, it gives you a lot of experience in a short period of time. That's why I think they improve, because they go to their normal environment, they have their real coaches, they work on stuff that they need to work on and then they come back as improved fighters.
Also, something that most of the fighters have never experienced, is having a camera in their face all of the time.
After two or three weeks, they were invisible man. We couldn't see them anymore. This was a very strange, awkward, but fun experience. Everybody has to experience it to understand really how it goes and how it feels.
Are you happy that you did it?
Yes, yes, I'm very happy. It was like when I was in the Marines in Sweden. It's like, alright I'm happy I did it, but I'll never do it again (laughs). But, now when I think about it, it's kind of cool. You just hang out at the house locked in, order whatever food you want, everything is served for you and they drive you back and forth to training. So, it's a training camp, but I wouldn't live like that the rest of my life. I'm very happy I did it, very happy. But, it's far, far, far away from watching the show. I've been watching the show for seven years, and now experiencing it, it's like night and day. You will never realize how big of a difference it is between watching it and being in it yourself.
You served in the Swedish Marines?
Yes, I was in the Swedish Marines. I served as a diver, a reconnaissance diver for the Marines. And that was a part of the Swedish Army also because we were a part of the engineer troops. So, diving under the water and disarming mines, building and welding, working with dynamite, stuff like that.
Interesting. And how long is the service in Sweden?
The service for me was like ten-months. Intense - an intense ten-months. I mean, in the beginning you cannot see your family or anything, you're just locked in. Just like the TUF house (laughs). So, I already had that experience, but it was with no cameras and more strict.
So, you're basically joining the family of ex-military fighters out there...
Yes, (laughs). It was back to the troops.
You were talking about your weight. What weight do you normally walk around at? And might we see you at Lightweight in the future?
No, no, I'm not fighting at Lightweight. You see guys like Gray Maynard, they're kind of big. Frankie Edgar is doing a very great job. He just spits and goes to the bathroom and then he's 155-pounds. He doesn't have to cut that much weight. But, when I go into a camp I just lose my weight by training hard and eating good. So, I would say like 15-pounds is normally what I cut, or sometimes around 20. But, in the house, I would just cut weight and then your body wants to absorb as much as it can after the fight. So, I'd go right up to 22-pounds over and I would just continue eating and try to keep my weight low. But, my body did not want to release that. So, I fight at 145-pounds. It feels very good and I feel fast. If I want, I can walk around at 180-pounds, but good thing I'm staying away from the pizza and that stuff (laughs).
I won't pressure you to talk about what's going to happen next on the show, but what can fans expect from the remaining episodes of The Ultimate Fighter 14?
Alright, the fans have liked it this far from what I can see. It's a lot of craziness, great fights, as you have seen. You get quality, good fights. And the fans can expect more of the same, but it's going to get crazier and crazier because as we were in the house, every week was like a year. People are going to start getting more and more mental and maybe start touching that alcohol. I don't know, we are going to have to wait and see. It's going to get better and better - that I can promise.
As I'm sure you're aware, some fans have been a little bit critical of your behavior on The Ultimate Fighter. How do you respond to such critics?
Don't believe the hype! (laughs) No, but it's a house that is meant and perfectly structured to make people go crazy. And I like to have fun, so I'm pranking a lot. If you ask anybody in the house, they'll tell you, "Hey, it made time go by faster.." We were having a lot of fun and I made great friends. But, they choose to show the things that they want to show, and the things they show, that's what people see. And then it's up to people to decide how much they want to believe and go into it. Me, I recommend that you just sit back, have some popcorn and soda and just laugh. Because that's what it is. If you get to know me in real life, you will maybe have another opinion, but it's TV.
Speaking with you right now, and seeing you in other interviews, it's like, "Yea, this is the guy I want to talk to."
Well, we were picked for the show for a reason. We were not meant to just sit on the bed depressed and cry about missing our girlfriends. We had to find ways to have fun and some people did not like that fun, so controversy gets started. But, aside from that, I'm a nice guy. If you get to know me, I love people - I love everybody.
In addition to Alexander Gustafsson, who is currently doing quite well in the UFC, how much influence do you think that your appearance on The Ultimate Fighter could have on Swedish MMA?
What they're showing now? I think that a lot of people are ashamed (laughs). No, I'm just kidding. It's a big influence. I get so many emails and comments everyday. People love it. And I'm answering everything. I want to be there to answering these people because I was once that guy that was asking the questions. I still ask questions. I think that's the whole thing with MMA in general. The day you stop asking questions, that's the day to stop and ask yourself where you're going. Because this sport is ever-growing, it's non-stop. People ask a lot of questions and they tell me that I've influenced them in a positive way. The people who know me from Sweden and the European scene, I'm an inspiration to them obviously, and I've had a lot of people who were an inspiration to me. So, I'm just sending it back.
Would you like to mention anyone or thank your sponsors?
Yes. First of all, I would like to thank everyone who is watching the show. Whether it's bad comments or good comments, it doesn't matter to me, I just want to thank everybody for taking their time and being a part of MMA. I would especially like to thank Renzo Gracie Academy and all of the great people at Renzo Gracie's, including John Danaher and Renzo Gracie himself. I would like to thank my manager, Ali Abdel-Aziz, from Dominance MMA. I want to thank Frankie Edgar and all of those guys for putting on great fights and showing us the way - all of my training partners, everybody in New York. Especially Renzo Gracie Academy.