Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Lettia Suchevich Interview
This is easily one of my favorite interviews so far, and that's out of hundred's. Lettia Suchevich is definitely a colorful personality and really put effort into answering these. Having seen her fight in person, she is also very talented, and while she thinks she is "old" as far as amateur MMA fighters, I think she can be as good as she wants for as long as she wants. She has a fight coming up in December, which I will be attending, and I can already tell going in, her fight will be a highlight. She has a style that both the hardcore fans, and the casual fans can really enjoy. SO I suggest you get to know Lettia Suchevich.
Q: First, Lettia I want to thank you for taking the time to do this.
A: Thanks for askin'!
Q: Can you start out by telling a little about yourself
A: Well, I'm kinda' old as far as ammy MMA fighters go...I'm 34. My son is 8, he's named after one of my favorite fighters, Vitor Belfort.
I live in Pittsburgh, a little town called Turtle Creek. It's kind of a working class town. I have been a tattoo artist for 10 years. I worked for other people for most of that time. There's ups and downs when you do tattoos, so I've also done construction and was a truck driver! My ex-husband and I opened a tattoo shop but it was kind of tough working together, so I left and now I work by appointment from my living room. I think it's more fitting to the spirit of what getting tattoos should be, so I'm happy about the change. It also makes home schooling my son easier and my dogs are happier we're home more! The tattoo shop is still there. It's actually in the gym that he and I also founded, Mad Dog Gym. We had a background in muay Thai. Our friends asked him to show them to a few moves. Once we realized we were foolishly paying other gyms to use their space, our friend helped us set up this space. We opened right before the first season of Ultimate Fighter in 2005. MMA has since exploded, other places have come and gone in our area, but we're continuing to grow with the sport.
Q: Were you especially athletic growing up? Play any sports?
A: My parents never let me do anything. When I visited the farm my dad grew up on, my cousins beat me up, but I played sports with the kids in my neighborhood and tried to put tackling into every sport. My sister and I were the littlest ones, but I was kind of rough.
Q: What initially got you started training for MMA?
A: My ex started doing muay Thai above a Thai restaurant, it was in their house in 1996. Sometimes when I would wait for him, I would watch fights on satellite with the father in the restaurant. They treated everyone like family, fed us always. A year later our pit bull attacked me and I had to be life-flighted to the hospital, I almost died! The Thai family was among the many nice visitors I had. I felt like the father, especially really respected me for surviving. It was quite a bloody battle! Although I had always been drawn to wanting to learn kickboxing, I was afraid that people would say I was only doing it because my boyfriend did it. At the time, I was also a waitress and I had a lot of anger. They treated me badly when I said I needed two evenings off a week to train. But I didn't want to look back on my life and regret passing up the opportunity of training with a world champion fighter. So I fell in love immediately. A high point certainly was when we watched Maurice Smith school Mark Coleman using muay Thai in UFC 14!! That was our shit!!
Q: Was the training something you picked up fairly easy?
A: I think I pick most things up pretty easily, but jiu jitsu was the most difficult. I trained with people much bigger than me. For the first year I felt like I was never going to submit anyone, so I just focused on my defense. I can understand a beginner's frustration more than anyone, so I think it has made me more patient when I'm teaching new people.
Q: How long did you train before your first fight?
A: It probably sounds scary...my first fight was on the 9th anniversary of the EXACT DAY I started training muay Thai! But I had long periods in between that I wouldn't train because I have a lot going on. I had done jiu jitsu for around 3 years by then also, I think. I just decided that there weren't many girls fighting in my weight class and the only way for it to grow was if I participated also. I went through 6 opponents to get my first fight, it almost didn't happen, then several for the next, but there's a lot more girls my size, now.
Q: Was fighting something your family and friends supported?
A: They're getting better. I'm sure most amateur fighters are sick of hearing their families say,"You don't even get paid...What are you thinking???" My sister and brother did muay Thai with us before, but I think they still think I'm crazy. It really doesn't make a difference. No one supported my tattooing career, but I'm very successful with that now. My boxing coach, Brian understands and supports me better than anyone I've ever met. I've been involved with this so long, my fighting friends and family are the most inspiring parts of my life. My son has been laying on the mats while we trained since he was 3 months old. He's with me coloring pictures for the fighters wherever we train and comes to all our fights.
Q: Where do you train at now?
A: I mostly train at MAD DOG GYM in East Pittsburgh. I usually get mad at my ex-husband and quit once a training camp LOL! It can be weird sometimes, but it's the only place in Pittsburgh that puts all the elements of MMA together in the way that I feel is necessary to prepare someone for what it's actually like getting in the cage. And my friend, Beau Clark opened his own jiu jitsu school in a Crossfit Gym , it's called FLOW Grappling. He started training with the Gracie family in Hawaii over 20 years ago. He was invited to abu dhabi in 2003. Everyone from Mad Dog pretty much goes there for jiu jitsu. He's the most knowledgeable person in the area we could train with. But, I try to hook up with anyone who is as enthusiastic me anywhere I can. I trained with my second opponent for my third and will probably train with both of them for the next one. I think a variety of training partners is the key to success!
Q: Can you give your overall record so far?
Q: Which fight so far is the one you are most proud of?
A: I am most proud of the way I put everything together in my last fight with Shawna Brown, but the fight before that with Jess Wolbert definitely got the most recognition!We ended up getting second runner up for "Fight of the Year" in NAAFS 2009. It was a huge honor because the other two were both pro fights. I think it says a lot that the fans picked us out of all the amateur fights (men or women) they could have picked! And it also ended up on Spike TV, on Knockout Sportsworld!! I was pretty geeked.
Q: What would you say is your biggest strength and the one thing you most want to improve?
A: Haha, well, I don't seem to mind getting punched in the face! I would like to try to win without having to take so much damage, but they keep giving me these chicks that are out for blood!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Q: What is the best and worst part of training and competing in the sport?
A: Well, I'm a very busy person. I already put 110% into every other thing I do, being a mom, tattooing, I'm also in school for ministry, etc. By the time I get to training, I'm worn out! I don't know how I could possibly have the energy at the end of the day for what each aspect of the game entails! But once I get there it's like the fuel that keeps me sane! I love the people I train with, it is closer than family. We all choose to be there. And we sweat and bleed and get banged up but it's the laughing and the way it challenges my brain that I love. Still, in the middle of my camp I will wonder why the hell I put myself through so much.. my friend told me once, "It's 'cause you're a beast!" Then, once I get to the show and I'm around these other "beasts" from other cities and states, I realize that I'm doing my part to encourage this sport that, I feel is a very positive activity for those involved and for those who will become a part of it in the future.
Q: Are there any fighters you are a fan of or love to watch?
A: I'm kinda' from the old school. I was a fan of the Tank Abbott era and days of PRIDE. My favorite fighters are the ones who are well rounded, but show a certain spirit that they would be fighting someone whether there was a ring or cage or audience or not. Bas Ruten is my favorite personality, I'd love to get drunk with him sometime! I love Alexander Emelianenko, and Crazy Horse and Wanderlei's energy when he was in his prime... I kinda' lean towards thugs and gangsters! Haha
Q: In your opinion, who are the top five female fighters in the sport pound for pound?
A: I wish I had more time to follow the up and coming people. I didn't get to see Bellator because it's not on my cable, but I heard Megumi Fugi was cleaning house. Also, I heard Sarah Kaufman just lost by armbar, but she's pretty awesome. And I love Cris Cyborg, I strive to be like her. She's like a machine! But honestly, I hate that Americans have to have lists of who's better than who. It's lame how fickle fans are when someone comes off a winning streak and they crawl right up the next big thing's butt! It takes a lot of work and courage to be a fighter and I think a person's heart needs to be respected most...Ranking is stupid.
Q: Do you ever see a major U.S. women's only company being viable?
A: I don't think it's important...I think Cyborg could fight a dude! I'd like to see that. I would rather be recognized as a "Fighter" over a "female-fighter". I don't think organizations should be exclusive according to weight classes or gender, but it's nice when they have an event now and then to showcase a division or with a tournament or theme.
Q: Often you watch a show that has one women's fight. Somehow that fight always turns out to be the most exciting fight on the card. Why do you think that is?
A:s I think the women's fights are so interesting because it takes much more for us to get there. We're usually the smallest ones in the gym and have to get punched in the face by 200lb men! I'm usually the only girl where I train and I think that's the case for most of us. I think women have a different mind set going in. Every girl I fought so far, and every girl I watched on Eve of Destruction came to win. A few years ago Bodog Fights had a pretty big women's division and it was the same thing...most girls would never want to sign up for this, the ones who do understand what it's all about and have the true warrior spirit. I love the men's division just as much, but I think guys sometimes are trying to prove something even if it's just to themselves. I don't think it's like that for us. We just do it.
Q: What is the biggest misconception about female fighters?
A: Maybe that we need special treatment. I, personally have wanted the dudes at the gym to treat me like just one of the guys. I didn't want special treatment when I did construction or drove an 18 wheeler, either. I just want to be respected as a good worker or a reliable training partner. And we can be just as crude. I don't find farts or talk about strip clubs offensive. I think most girls who are serious and not all prissified probably feel that way.
Q: If another woman told you she wanted to train for the sport, whats the biggest piece of advice you would give her?
A: I try to get people involved all the time! You just gotta make time. I think there's less girls fighting because our priorities are different. Going to the gym is more of a guy thing to do. You shouldn't be intimidated. It's awkward at first, but everyone I've ever trained with was very respectful. Most people have said it put them in the best shape of their lives and they were less stressed! And they really miss it when their schedule doesn't give time for it anymore.
Q: Outside of training and fighting, any other hobbies or activities you enjoy?
A: I love to paint or do anything art related. I'm pretty handy, I like to renovate my house and make stuff. I love TV, but don't watch a lot. I love music, it plays in my house pretty much 24/7. I love dirty rock n'roll, punk rock, psychobilly, old-timey honky tonk Jesus music and metal!
Q: Can you describe a typical day in the life of Lettia Suchevich.
A: I get up around 8-830, take care of my dogs, make breakfast and get things started for Vitor's school. We do his lessons and I usually finish up whatever masterpiece I have to tattoo that day. I usually have to yell at my dog, Chopper several times for peeing on the dryer or humping Cupcake. Then, I try to make lunch & dinner at the same time because after lunch the tattoo customers come. Vitor finishes his papers or works on the computer while I tattoo. I try to be done at a reasonable time so that I can sometimes take his great grandmother dinner and get to the gym. (Most days are not this organized, though). We then go to Mad Dog or to Beau's. We do any combination of learning new techniques, circuits, Thai pads, mitts, rolling, sparring, jump rope. Then, we get home around 10, take care of Cupcake and Chopper, tie up any loose ends with school and tattoo drawings. We usually watch Family Guy or Robot Chicken or Adventure Time while that's going on. Then, I usually fall asleep first around 1am to Shrek or Zombieland or Terminator.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: Well, let me first say that my friend, Diggs from Naafs said I was the first person who ever "skipped" out of the cage, I think I kissed the doctor after my next fight. I'm kind of a goof ball! Most people think I'm too wacky and little to be good at fighting. So, honestly most people are most surprised that I know what I'm doing. I have taught people at Mad Dog and until they see me on the pads or rolling, they seriously don't think I could possibly know what they see on TV.
Q: Describe Lettia Suchevich in five words
A: ummm I dunno
Q: So whats next for you? Any idea when you will be fighting again?
A: I'm fighting Jordan McDonald for the first 110 title in NAAFS December 4th (which is also my dad's birthday, but I probably won't tell him). But regardless what happens there, I'd like to take 1 or 2 fights as a pro because I'll be 35 next summer and unless some amazing act of God happens, I don't see myself being able to afford the cat scan. It would just be nice to say I made it that far. I'm very thankful for how well my fights have gone. I think this fight with Jordan will be interesting because our styles are more alike than the other girls I fought.
Q: Anything you want to take this time to plug or promote?
A: I'm actually working on starting a company for a women's line of fight gear. It's called Toxic Shock Syndrome. The name was kind of a little joke since it's a deadly disease women can get for wearing tampons for too long. Girls think the name is funny, guys are a little grossed out, but I have trouble finding shorts that fit me and I'm not a fan of how all the girl stuff mainly comes in pink! I kind of got a little launch at Eve of Destruction and made friends with a ton of awesome girls (including my next opponent, Jordan!) But I think it will be appropriate workout stuff for women who have other interests besides MMA as well. And apparently, men can die from TSS also, so it is actually a serious thing! (Not that they use tampons!) The website will be up soon Tssfightergear.com
Q: Are you looking for sponsors? If so, how can they reach you and what are they getting in Lettia Suchevich the fighter and person?
A: I'll take any help I can get! I'm on FB and my email is Redhotmama88@msn.com. If there's anything I can do to help someone who is like minded become successful by my support, I'd be glad to. I think I'm a pretty colorful person on the inside and the outside!
Q: Lettia again, I want to thank you for doing this. Any last words before you go?
A: I'm glad you asked me. Even though I think the theme of this interview is that "girls are just as capable as the guys", being appreciated is nice. So, thanks, Jason!